A globe-spanning collection that offers a keyhole view of mostly doomed relationships.

LOVE TODAY

STORIES

A German author makes his U.S. debut with 27 portraits of love dying on the vine.

Biller explores the quiet tragedy of relationships by focusing on those singular moments when spaces between lovers become chasms. As is the case of a pining lover and a reluctant fiancée, in “The Mahogany Elephant,” the sense of inevitable sorrow is palpable throughout the book. In “Seven Attempts at Loving,” the love of a pair of Czech nationals, who have been trying to stay together since childhood, survives the revolution but not the passage of time. Passion remains elusive for the book’s mismatched misanthropists who squander true love. One might think the brevity of the stories would work against them, but Biller has obviously taken to heart the lesson that less can be more. The intangible brunette who calls her contemptuous boyfriend “Tom-Cat,” in “The Maserati Years,” is defined only by two voice mails in which she first claims pregnancy and subsequently dismisses him: “Hi, had a fright? Just wanted to see how cold you really are. Don’t ever call me again. Miaow.” In the three pages of “Melody,” Biller captures the vacillating rhythms and insanity of love with the story of Thomas, who mourns his dead wife, converts to Judaism, marries a doppelgänger, has a child and drives his car into the East River before settling down with Melody, the woman he should have been with in the first place. “They’re doing fine,” Biller writes, and it’s hard not to hope that it’s true.

A globe-spanning collection that offers a keyhole view of mostly doomed relationships.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4165-7265-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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