Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the backissue database. PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital edition via our app or online. For more information on PW's new integrated subscription plan, click here. If you are currently a PW subscriber, click "Login" for full access to the site (if you have not done so already, you will need to set up your account for the new system by going here), or click the "Subscribe" button to become a PW subscriber. Email service@publishersweekly.com with questions.

Login or Subscribe
Sleep Donation

Karen Russell. Atavist Books, $3.99 e-book (110p) ISBN 978-1-937894-28-3

In 2013 Macarthur Fellow Russell's (Swamplandia!) speculative novella, a mysterious "insomnia epidemic" has become a national concern, generating 24/7 news coverage, as well as ubiquitous "Night Worlds" and sleep wards. Fortunately, a technology has also been developed whereby machines can siphon healthy sleep from donators for transfer to those in need. Trish Edgewater, Pennsylvania-based Slumber Corps' oldest and most valued volunteer, uses her deceased sister Dori's story of "terminal insomnia" to frighten potential donors into offering up their contributions. Her top recruit is the glorified Baby A, the infant daughter of Felix and Justine Harkonnen. Both parents have granted the necessary signatory consent, but Felix makes it known that he opposes his daughter's copious donations while Justine insists that it is an honorable concession. When the "sleep blend" supply is contaminated by the nightmare sleep of Donor Y, matters are complicated even further for the Corps. People become increasingly afraid to donate, and many of those who have contracted the nightmare turn into "elective insomniacs" as Donor Y's nightmare is so hard to bear that it leads some to suicide. The story raises questions of ethical conduct, personal responsibility, and free will as Trish begins to second-guess her own "pitch" methods and discovers that her bosses, former CEOs Jim and Rudy Storch, have been outsourcing sleep on the black market. Trish is left to figure out whether or not to blow the whistle on her employers, and whether the consequences of such actions are worth it. Narrated by Trish, the book succeeds in conveying her internal conflict, but the short length leaves a number of questions unexplored, including the motives and background of the supporting characters. As a whole, the story fails to shed much light on the world around Trish, making this novella somewhat hollow. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Blood Pact

David Hagberg. Forge, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2022-3

Hagberg's fast-paced 17th Kirk McGarvey thriller (after 2012's Castro's Daughter) finds McGarvey, a former CIA director and longtime field operative, trying to find normalcy in his new, quieter life as a philosophy professor at the University of Florida, especially in the wake of his wife and daughter's deaths in a failed attempt on McGarvey's own life. However, as many of his former colleagues note, trouble always finds him. A subsequent visit from a representative of the mysterious Voltaire Society sets off a chain of violent events that leaves McGarvey on the run, pursued by members of the society, the Vatican, the Spanish government, and a Cuban intelligence operation. Everyone is after the long-lost diary of a Catholic priest, supposedly containing directions to the location of four hidden caches of gold in the New Mexico desert. Plenty of action and an intriguing cast of spies and hit men will keep readers turning the pages. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
This Location of Unknown Possibilities

Brett Josef Grubisic. Now or Never (LitDisCo, North American dist.), $19.95 trade paper (342p) ISBN 978-1-926942-60-5

Frustrated with academic life, English Professor Marta Spėk takes the bold step of signing on as consultant to what begins as a historical film, shot on location in exotic Penticton, British Columbia. Armed with enthusiasm and a profound ignorance about the realities of the movie industry, Spėk leaps into a world where budgets implode, scripts leap from genre to genre overnight, where facts are cast aside in favor of drama and where reality matters less than appealing to easily bored nerds. Mentoring Spėk is the cheerfully amoral Jake Nugent, a man whose surface cynicism, driven by long experience with the film industry, is just part of his determined professionalism. The work is surprisingly warm, accepting its characters' foibles without meanness, happily cynical about the realities of the entertainment industry without being jaded or spiteful; the contrasting views of naļve Spėk and veteran Nugent grant the work greater depth. Absurd without being absurdist, the satire draws its strength from its verisimilitude, the impression that as ludicrous as parts are, none of this is impossible or indeed, particularly unlikely. Billed as a black comedy, the work proves oddly reassuring; despite unforeseen complications its characters remain determined to prevail. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (512p) ISBN 978-0-374-17562-7

In this debut novel of ambitious scope, Rahman crafts a portrait of a post-9/11 world from the perspective of a man who is simultaneously an insider and an outsider among the rich and powerful. When Zafar, an Oxford-educated Bangladeshi mathematician from humble beginnings, shows up at the door of an old friend, an investment banker whose career and marriage are falling apart, he begins a circuitous confession of a mysterious crime, a confession that takes us through Zafar's life from his career in law to his courtship of a woman from old money to his foray into the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Zafar tells his story out of chronological order, in meandering fragments full of digressions about history, mathematics, cartography, and cognitive science; as interesting and thoughtful as these asides are, they create a narrative with an unclear trajectory and stakes that are shadowy and ill-defined for much of the book. Only late does the novel's purpose become clear and Zafar's narrative gain resonance. Beneath it all, Rahman has written a simple human story about the betrayal of friends, the disappointment of lovers, and the pain of class identity, though this story is often lost amid Rahman's intellectual pyrotechnics. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Every Day is for the Thief

Teju Cole. Random House, $23 (162p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9578-7

Novelist Cole's Open City brought him international attention, but this novel, first published in Nigeria and now currently being republished in the U.S. and the U.K., was actually his first. Set in contemporary Lagos, Nigeria, the novel follows a nameless narrator's visit to his homeland after a lengthy stay in the United States. Estranged from his mother and unemotional about his father's death, the protagonist seeks his humanity and redemption in art. Cole's crisp language captures how Lagos—the home of numerous Internet scams and frequent power cuts—possesses a violence that both disgusts his protagonist and fascinates him. With journalism-like objectivity, Cole by way of his narrator details a Nigeria that is violent and corrupt, but also multi-cultural and alive. This pared-down writing style comes at the cost of character development. (For example, the narrator's training as a psychiatrist is never really explored.) As a result, the novel reads more like a beautiful work of creative nonfiction. The structure is loose, a collection of observances of daily life in Lagos in which Cole presents the complexities of culture and poverty. In addition, Cole sprinkles dramatic black-and-white photos throughout the book, but it's his willingness to explore so many uncomfortable paradoxes that sears this narrative into our brains. Agent: Andrew Wylie, The Wylie Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Madness in Miniature: A Miniature Mystery

Margaret Grace. Perseverance (SCB, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (246p) ISBN 978-1-56474-543-9

Even this cozy series' longtime fans may find that miniaturist and retired teacher Geraldine "Gerry" Porter's seventh outing (after 2012's Mix-up in Miniature) lacks some of its predecessors' charm. Summer in the Northern California town of Lincoln Point has already been disturbed by the imminent grand opening of crafting superstore SuperKrafts, before being shaken by an earthquake and by the murder of SuperKrafts executive Craig Palmer III. Gerry has inside knowledge of the case thanks to her nephew, LPPD detective Skip, and her position as community liaison to SuperKrafts. With help from Maddie, her 11-year-old granddaughter, Gerry looks into such suspects as local ceramics store owner Bebe Mellon and local-made-good Catherine Duncan, a SuperKrafts representative. Grace also explores developments in Gerry's family, including an upcoming wedding and a tween-age crisis for Maddie. However, the likable characters and setting don't fully compensate for the slight, repetitive mystery plot. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Autism War

Louis Conte. Skyhorse, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-62636-563-6

Those opposed to vaccines will best appreciate Conte's polemical first novel. Capt. Tony Coletti, of the Winston-on-Hudson, N.Y., PD, can only wonder at the soaring autism rates plaguing communities like his. For scientists like Dr. Robert Bangston, director of the Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation, there is no mystery. He knows that the manufacturers of vaccines and their allies in government are determined to keep the truth about the cause of autism from an ignorant population. Those supporting vaccination appear to have all the power, but they've not reckoned with the determination of grieving parents and a single researcher unable to resist his conscience any longer. Readers should be prepared for pro-vaccine characters who are nothing more than preening villains, a lack of tension, and melodramatic prose (e.g., "Portnoy's hands shook. ‘You think I'm a monster, don't you? I'm not. I'm a diagnostician'"). (May)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Triangle

Hisaki Matsuura, trans. from the Japanese by David Karashima. Dalkey Archive, $15.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-62897-026-5

The latest addition to Dalkey Archive's Japanese Literature Series is a suspenseful and phantasmagorical work by Matsuura (The Jest of Things). The curtain rises on an already ominous setting with Otsuki, a recovered drug addict and college dropout who lives a parasitic life in Tokyo and engages "in a kind of fantasy to see how far [he] could let [him]self go, how deep a hole [he] could wallow in, before reaching nothing." A coincidental encounter on the street with Sugimoto, a former colleague who "oozed madness," brings him back in tune to his troubled past, leading him to a job with shady Koyama, a master calligrapher. Otsuki is shown a screening of an unfinished, explicit pornographic film starring the master's granddaughter, spliced with images of insects and is relegated the task of filming the rest. His involvement results in an extended labyrinthian nightmare introducing double moons, exposing the seedy underbelly of the criminal underworld, characters who are not what they seem, and delving into a metaphysical and philosophical conundrum on the nature of time. Fans of Murakami will find this an esoteric and experimental read that will leave them pondering the book's unanswered questions long after reading. (May)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Symmetry Teacher

Andrei Bitov, trans. from the Russian by Polly Gannon. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-27351-4

Blending elements of Nabokov, Calvino, and Percival Everett, Bitov’s (Pushkin House) shape-shifting novel is not really a novel so much as a narrative puzzle that revels in its own language. The premise: the author, Andrei Bitov, remembers a novel he translated into Russian long ago while he was bored on a geological expedition; the book, by an obscure English writer named A. Tired-Boffin, is called The Teacher of Symmetry. The problem: he can’t find the book anywhere. And so, the meat of this novel is not Bitov’s translation of The Teacher of Symmetry, but simply his memory of The Teacher of Symmetry. In Bitov’s recollection, the eight chapters in Tired-Boffin’s novel may each be read as a standalone work. Each chapter echoes the others in both plot and theme (obsessions of various kinds abound), and one gets the sense, while following Bitov’s winding remembered translation, that we are in the presence of one of literature’s most formidable unreliable narrators. Chapters stop and start, as well as misdirect. In one, the peculiar friendship between a town idiot and a doctor in Taunus, Germany, is recounted for 50 pages; on the final page, the story is revealed to be the reason why the doctor later speaks out against the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. In another chapter, writer Urbino Vanoski (the main protagonist here, at least as Bitov remembers it) travels to an island inhabited by a dog named Marleen and by either one woman or a woman and her twin (one of the two might also be named Marleen). Bitov, a pioneer postmodern writer, packs physics-defying deaths, mysterious doorbells, and space aliens into this lively literary feat. (July)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Target America: A Sniper Elite Novel

Scott McEwen, with Thomas Koloniar. S&S/Touchstone, $19.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4767-4719-4

At the start of bestseller McEwen and Koloniar’s riveting sequel to 2013’s Sniper Elite: One-Way Trip, members of the Riyad us-Saliheyn Martyrs’ Brigade are smuggling a Russian RA-115 “suitcase” nuke through a tunnel underneath the border between Mexico and the U.S. The mission doesn’t go as planned, and the American government learns that another RA-115 is already somewhere within the country. The CIA turns for help to Navy SEAL Gil Shannon, recently pulled out of retirement by Bob Pope, the loose-cannon director of the CIA’s Special Activities Division, to track down two terrorists involved in the real-life attack on the American mission in Benghazi in 2012 that killed two SEALs. To locate the second nuke, Shannon puts together his old unit, SEAL Team Six Black, filled with the usual colorful characters. Meanwhile, various weenie government officials are quaking in their boots. A deadly terrorist attack on Gil’s wife and her mother on their ranch in Montana is as good as any fictional battle scene in recent memory. Readers will want to see a lot more of SEAL Team Black. Agent: Ian Kleinert, Objective Entertainment. (June)

Reviewed on 04/11/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.