Occasionally brilliant but ultimately unsatisfying.

THE MEN

The author of The Heavens (2019) imagines a world inhabited solely by women.

At 7:14 p.m. Pacific time on Aug. 26, every human being with a Y chromosome disappeared. Jane Pearson wakes the next morning to discover that her husband and young son are gone. Later, she will learn that all the men, all the boys, all the transgender women…they’re all gone. This is not a new concept. Philip Wylie’s The Disappearance (1951) opens with these lines: “The female of the species vanished on the afternoon of the second Tuesday of February at four minutes and fifty-two seconds past four o’clock, Eastern Standard Time.” In Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man series of graphic novels—the first installment published in 2002—a virus kills every man on Earth except for one. A deadly illness that strikes only men also plays a role in Christina Sweeney-Baird’s debut novel, The End of Men, published just last year. What makes Newman’s take on this SF trope different is that this novel doesn’t seem to want to be science fiction. After setting the dystopian narrative in motion, the author pulls back to offer a detailed account of Jane’s life up to this point. After joining a dance troupe as a teen, she falls under the control of a man who abuses her by compelling her to abuse other, younger kids. She escapes jail by testifying against her abuser. This is a horrifying story compellingly told, but it feels like it belongs in a different book. We also get the full history of Evangelyne Moreau, Jane’s one-time friend. A philosopher-turned-politician, an ex-convict, and a former cult member, Evangelyne is a fascinating character, but Newman spends more time sharing Evangelyne’s history than exploring the strange universe she has created. By the last page, the connection between the realistic and speculative parts of the novel is clear, but the speculative elements feel woefully underdeveloped—which is too bad, because they’re inventive and chilling. Also worth noting: There will be readers who object to the gender essentialism upon which this novel relies and the way Newman handles the fate of people who aren’t cisgender when the “men” disappear.

Occasionally brilliant but ultimately unsatisfying.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5966-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 71

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 36

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more