An earnest if overzealous examination of the side effects of technology on humanity.


Adrift in her personal life and career, a professor of future studies discovers that an ex-student might be a homegrown terrorist—and that she too might have skin in the game.

In 1996, the FBI ended one of the longest manhunts in its history by arresting Theodore Kaczynski, a Harvard-educated math genius, who railed against the ill effects of technology and systematically mailed bombs to select targets across the United States to underscore his point. More than two decades on, the drumbeat about the perceived dark side of technology has only become louder. It makes sense then that Pollack (The Bible of Dirty Jokes, 2018, etc.) uses the Unabomber as the scaffolding for this novel, which unfolds primarily through the lens of Maxine Sayers, Director of the Institute of Future Studies at the University of Michigan. Max has lost her husband (and fellow professor), Sam, who has been dead for eight years, and her engineer son, Zach, who once worked for a Silicon Valley startup and has gone off the grid and cut off contact with Mom. What’s worse, funding for the institute that Maxine Kickstarted is drying up. Against this backdrop, she reads a “Technobomber’s” manifesto and worries that the author sounds like one of her former students. As Max unravels the various layers, she and her family get sucked into the maelstrom created by the Technobomber’s sensationalism. Maxine too is ambivalent about technology, and the plot sags under the weight of her frequent expositions: “If intelligence meant an awareness of one’s self, how could a machine become aware? Of what? That it had no self to be aware of?” Stilted similes—“The eighteen-year-olds who make up the majority of Ann Arbor’s population are like stem cells: put any two in a petri dish, squirt on nutrient solution, and each will take on the characteristics of the other”—don’t help the cause, either. The straitjacketed characters miss emerging into their true selves. Perhaps the narrative would have been better served as a short story than a full-fledged novel.

An earnest if overzealous examination of the side effects of technology on humanity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-883285-82-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delphinium

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.


Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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