Heralds a new voice with certain staying power.

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WHAT IT MEANS WHEN A MAN FALLS FROM THE SKY

Nigeria serves as a prism refracting the myriad experiences of both former and current inhabitants.

In two different stories in Arimah’s debut collection, characters have the supernatural ability to drain emotions from other people, for good or for ill. In “Who Will Greet You at Home,” a Nigerian woman participates in a tradition of making children out of inanimate materials and having them blessed by older women in hopes that they will become real. But these blessings come at a price—in her case, "Mama" blesses the child in exchange for the protagonist's own joy, “siphoned a bit, just a dab…a little bit of her life for her child’s life.” In the title story, figures known as Mathematicians are able to use precise algorithms and equations to relieve negative emotions from customers who can afford it. This power over feelings is as good a metaphor as any for storytelling. And Arimah has skill in abundance: the stories here are solid and impeccably crafted and strike at the heart of the most complicated of human relationships. Against a backdrop of grief for dead parents or angst over a lover, Arimah uses Nigeria as her muse. The characters exist in relation to a Nigeria of the past—the ghost of the Nigerian civil war, especially, looms over many of the stories—as well as present-day Nigeria, either as citizens or expats. Arimah even imagines a future Nigeria in which it has become the “Biafra-Britannia Alliance” in a massive geopolitical shift resulting from devastating climate change. This speculative turn joins everything from fabulism to folk tale as Arimah confidently tests out all the tools in her kit while also managing to create a wholly cohesive and original collection.

Heralds a new voice with certain staying power.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1102-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A mixed bag of stories: some tired but several capable of poetically piercing the heart.

THE HIDDEN GIRL AND OTHER STORIES

Science fiction author (The Wall of Storms, 2016) and translator (The Redemption of Time, Baoshu, 2019) Liu’s short stories explore the nature of identity, consciousness, and autonomy in hostile and chaotic worlds.

Liu deftly and compassionately draws connections between a genetically altered girl struggling to reconcile her human and alien sides and 20th-century Chinese young men who admire aspects of Western culture even as they confront its xenophobia (“Ghost Days”). A poor salvager on a distant planet learns to channel a revolutionary spirit through her alter ego of a rabbit (“Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard”). In “Byzantine Empathy,” a passionate hacktivist attempts to upend charitable giving through blockchain and VR technology even as her college roommate, an executive at a major nonprofit, fights to co-opt the process, a struggle which asks the question of whether pure empathy is possible—or even desired—in our complex geopolitical structure. Much of the collection is taken up by a series of overlapping and somewhat repetitive stories about the singularity, in which human minds are scanned and uploaded to servers, establishing an immortal existence in virtuality, a concept which many previous SF authors have already explored exhaustively. (Liu also never explains how an Earth that is rapidly becoming depleted of vital resources somehow manages to indefinitely power servers capable of supporting 300 billion digital lives.) However, one of those stories exhibits undoubted poignance in its depiction of a father who stubbornly clings to a flesh-and-blood existence for himself and his loved ones in the rotting remains of human society years after most people have uploaded themselves (“Staying Behind”). There is also some charm in the title tale, a fantasy stand-alone concerning a young woman snatched from her home and trained as a supernaturally powered assassin who retains a stubborn desire to seek her own path in life.

A mixed bag of stories: some tired but several capable of poetically piercing the heart.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982134-03-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Saga/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Screenplay prose.

THE LIONS OF LUCERNE

Debut thriller from the host of PBS’s Traveling Lite proves its own title. The sole survivor of a ski-slope nabbing of the US president, Secret Service Agent Scot Harvath is America’s latest cookie-cutter superspy to be vaulted into international intrigue by terrorism. All evidence points to the Mideast’s largest terrorist organization, but Harvath’s not fooled—he knows that Middle East groups “are not tacticians. . . . Essentially, they’re cowards. They don’t do in-your-face operations.” “Call it an ingrained bigotry,” but Harvath just knows that a Mideast terrorist group could not pull off a scam of this magnitude. Turns out he’s right—it was the Swiss. Aided by a pair of conniving senators and a squirrelly vice president, a crack Swiss commando unit has snatched President Potus and stuffed him away inside a mountain. When Harvath’s investigation starts to get warm, he’s framed—and won’t be able to clear his name unless he can free the president. Oh, yes, there’s also a Swiss agent named Claudia who’s hot and knows how to handle a 9mm SIG-Sauer 229 semiautomatic. Thor’s tangled writing often interferes with the plot-drenching: “The uncomfortable hog tie position in which he was restrained threatened to drive him insane”; “He lay in a trance like state in the warm void half-way between sleeping and waking until his mind began to assemble different explanations for what he was hearing and he felt himself being forcibly dragged upward toward the surface world of the wakeful.”

Screenplay prose.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7434-3673-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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