PanThe GuardianIt's a big, sloppy, nostalgic homage to the kind of unsubtle doorstoppers of the late 1980s horror boom, in which a good (but possibly flawed) character encounters some emblem of supernatural evil against a backdrop of working- or middle-class America. Like most of those novels, [NOS4A2] has energy, plenty of narrative hooks, and a brash intensity. It's also overlong and clumsy – not the kind of narrative vehicle that can make abrupt turns around tight corners … For the most part, [NOS4A2] exists in a pleasantly naive bubble of time and space, within which events such as the Iraq war and global warming have had no visible influence. This is a legitimate stance for a novel that wants to have fun with monsters: but Hill could have offered readers more complicated villains and more genuine surprises.
The GiftBarbara Browning
RaveBookforumIt would be easy to get lost in these generous meta references, except The Gift’s other gift is that whoever wrote this novel—Andersen or Browning—has a magnificent sense of play, and does a superb job of dropping her doppelgangers and social and aesthetic analysis in among the rhythms and travails of the narrator’s life, which include the failing health of her mother, her friendship with the reclusive Sami, and what you might call performance or just daily acts of 'creative faith' ... There is a lovely grace and beauty to the arc of the novel despite the complex granularity of the ideas that contaminate what I guess I’m going to have to reduce to calling, crudely and in direct contradiction of Browning’s clear wishes, the plot ... the entire book is bursting with the intertwining of the physical and the philosophical, storytelling and sensuality ... a beautiful meditation on art, and a balm for readers in these difficult times.
The Book of JoanLidia Yuknavitch
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe Book of Joan has the same unflinching quality as earlier works by Josephine Saxton, Doris Lessing, Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin and J. G. Ballard. Yet it’s also radically new, full of maniacal invention and page-turning momentum ... But while Herbert’s writing, especially in the later Dune books, was marked by an airless abstraction, Yuknavitch’s prose is passionate and lyrical, very much in the moment. Fusing grand themes and the visceral details of daily life, she offers a revisionist corrective that shows the influence of writers like Clarice Lispector and Angela Carter. Like Carter, Yuknavitch writes about the body with an easy intimacy ... a rich, heady concoction, rippling with provocative ideas. There is nothing in The Book of Joan that is not a great gift to Yuknavitch’s readers, if only they are ready to receive it.
American WarOmar El Akkad
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesThe reader grows attached to Sarat and Simon not merely because of their perilous situation but because El Akkad is skilled at capturing the details that make them into real, flesh-and-blood people. Working against this nuance are jumps in time as long as a decade that interrupt the arc of the narrative ... The pacing trucks on at the same steady rate whether there’s action or conversation, while frequent transcripts of diaries, political speeches and journalistic accounts attempt to add more context for the civil war. Most of the time, however, entries like [these] are dishwater dull. These sections also seem oddly beholden to the original Civil War, and not in an illuminating way ... Despite these flaws — which may register to some readers as quibbles — American War is a worthy first novel, thought-provoking, earnest and mostly well-wrought ... El Akkad’s formidable talent is to offer up a stinging rebuke of the distance with which the United States sometimes views current disasters, which are always happening somewhere else. Not this time.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesRobin Sloan’s delightful new novel, Sourdough, the follow-up to his runaway success Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, displays both lightness and a yearning for escape, but only in the best sense. It is that rare thing: a satire that has a love of what it satirizes while also functioning as a modern fairy tale about, of all things, the magic of certain carbohydrates … Despite the proliferation of many interesting Loises in Sloan’s story, though, there is really only one Lois for me: the narrator, Computer Lois, who tells a sure-footed and lovely tale of being gifted with a strange sourdough starter … Once we’re past the setup, Sloan continues the high-wire balancing act of including satire with his fairy tale, all with an astounding conciseness and sure-footedness.
MixedThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewLepucki’s main characters, the 20-somethings Frida Ellis and Calvin Friedman, live in a near-future in which the most privileged have withdrawn to communities (called Communities) defended by private security forces. The less fortunate — those of them who haven’t died from the flu, anyway — eke out an existence in failing cities … Because the wilderness doesn’t hold much threat, the book derives most of its tension from the friction that exists between Frida and Cal when they’re not blissful in bed. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why they’re arguing, though, and other times it’s equally difficult to understand why they’re not … The last chapter of California, with its emphasis on security over freedom, supports a reading in which Frida and Cal never had a chance, still unable to make the connection between the ills of a runaway consumer society and environmental devastation.