A book that strikes a rare balance between SF philosophy and workaday feeling all while whirling through space.

THE EMPLOYEES

A WORKPLACE NOVEL OF THE 22ND CENTURY

A workplace drama set in the 22nd century on a spaceship orbiting a distant planet.

Aboard the interstellar spacecraft the Six Thousand Ship, Earth-born humans and their bioengineered humanoid counterparts work together according to well-established company protocols. Their mission is to curate and tend the mysterious, alluring, and perhaps even sentient objects brought up from the surface of New Discovery, the Earth-like planet whose exploration is the Six Thousand Ship’s mission. The ship itself is tightly run, with employees in place for every conceivable need—be it laundry, reeducation, or cremation—and the labor does not seem to be difficult. It soon becomes apparent, however, that something is disrupting the workflow on the Six Thousand Ship. The objects are impacting their human and humanoid caretakers in different ways; eliciting erotic responses in some, paranoia in others, an uneasy sense of maternal responsibility or a near catatonic state of existential quandary in still others of the crew. In concordance with, or perhaps as the result of, the growing sense that the objects exist “in communion” with the employees, a rift between the human, and therefore mortal, and the humanoid, and therefore capable of being endlessly “reuploaded,” workers is having deleterious—even dangerous—effects on workplace productivity. To address this problem, a committee of impartial mediators has spent the last 18 months interviewing crew members and compiling the resulting recordings into the document of this book. The result is both familiar in its petty irritations and clandestine attractions (“In the line in the canteen I suddenly realize I feel a kind of tenderness for Cadet 14”) and unsparingly strange confessions (“I dream that there are hundreds of black seeds in my skin, and when I scratch at them they get caught up under my nails like fish eggs....I feel this has something to do with the objects in the rooms”) that bode ill for the increasingly fractious crew. In place of a dedication, Ravn gives thanks to installation artist Lea Guldditte Hestelund for the material inspiration for the book, yet, even without knowing what Hestelund’s work looks like, the world Ravn has created is familiar enough in its tropes and human(oid) emotions to infect the reader’s imagination.

A book that strikes a rare balance between SF philosophy and workaday feeling all while whirling through space.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8112-3135-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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