Tony Kuehn

There is a perfect future. No disease, no hunger, no war. Zed is a time-traveler, come from this utopia. He is one of the few from his time who know the quagmire humans slogged through in order to arrive at their perfect present, and he has been sent to guarantee that our darkest night, worst of the worst—the genocides, disasters, assassinations, all of it—happens just the way history says it did. It’s the only way to ensure humanity is led to the perfect future born from the flames of the past.

Naturally, this isn’t as simple as watching ships sink and planes crash, since there is another faction determined to avert the horrors of the past, regardless of what this may do to the future.

Superficially, this is a time-travel book, and as such the attendant paradoxes and questions of parallel timelines and determinism are all in the back of one’s mind, but forget about that for a moment. What The Revisionists really offers, at its heart, is a chance to see our crazy, mixed-up world at arm’s length. The observation is often keen, even razor-sharp, and author Thomas Mullen—whose previous books have been historical novels—manages the deft trick of the insider writing as an outsider without sounding smug or disingenuous, or falling into any of the other traps that have snagged lesser observers of human nature.

The Revisionists meanders through the interconnected lives of Zed and those around him, each one in turn struggling with the Big Questions of morality and absolutes. Of course, the reality presented within its pages is one of nuances, and is ultimately far less simple than we like to pretend, but Mullen makes no bones about that. When all the layers are peeled back, this novel is about choice and consequences, and it just so happens to involve time travel. This is an excellent, thought-provoking read that checks boxes for sci-fi lovers as well as students of humanity.

There is a perfect future. No disease, no hunger, no war. Zed is a time-traveler, come from this utopia. He is one of the few from his time who know the quagmire humans slogged through in order to arrive at their perfect present, and he has been sent to guarantee that our darkest night, worst […]

Set in fictional Port Bonita, on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, West of Here is no less than epic. The narrative covers a timeline that is split between the late 1800s and the early 2000s, two periods that are united by the sublime power of the wilderness that surrounds the novel’s characters. The early settlers of Port Bonita are presented with a vast expanse of harsh land on the cusp of statehood, but blessed with what appears to be nearly limitless possibility—if only they can survive long enough to grasp it.

Fighting to maintain a hardscrabble existence on the very edge of the American frontier, bounded on one side by unconquerable mountains that threaten to push civilization into an inhospitable sea, the early frontiersmen and women of West of Here are truly on the very edge of a newly explored country. In contrast to their ancestors, the contemporary denizens of Port Bonita are watching their small corner of the world slowly erode as they attempt to undo the ambitions of their predecessors, chiefly a massive dam that, though it once brought power and progress, now chokes valuable fish runs and threatens to capsize the civilization it engendered.

The twists of the plots in West of Here are manifold and far too extensive to cover in any one review. Regardless, the journey down the paths author Jonathan Evison has created is so delightful that anyone who has taken it is loath to spoil it for another. This book is a living, breathing testament to Evison’s singular talent for creating portraits of people who may be fictional, but nevertheless are so vital that one is certain their names must be in a historic register somewhere. Like the people in his book, Evison’s grand ambition seems to have been snatched out of thin air and made real in a way that is simply undeniable. 

Set in fictional Port Bonita, on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, West of Here is no less than epic. The narrative covers a timeline that is split between the late 1800s and the early 2000s, two periods that are united by the sublime power of the wilderness that surrounds the novel’s characters. The early […]

Bruno Littlemore is a chimpanzee. A thinking, speaking chimpanzee engaged in an epic diatribe regarding what it means to be human. Bruno plays with language the way lesser animals would with a stick, a ball or some other oddity that intrigues them. His capacity for innovative and unexpected turns of phrase (standing on the very capable shoulders of author Benjamin Hale, naturally), his frank and sometimes vulgar language and his daunting vocabulary all come together in a very cogent, sometimes rambling, treatise on all things human. Make no mistake, this is a work of fiction, however, Bruno’s unflinching look at his journey towards humanity and lessons learned from the humans around him hold a very real mirror up to the reader and force a more than superficial reflection into what it means to be human.

Born in Lincoln Park Zoo to two unremarkable chimp parents, Bruno did not always have the capabilities he so fluently displays in this memoir. Taken from the zoo by Dr. Lydia Littlemore, Bruno travels a path that takes him across the country, from research subject to, graphically, love interest of Dr. Littlemore, to escapee and murderer, and finally detainee once more at Lincoln Park Zoo. More than anything, Bruno’s explorations into his burgeoning humanity are what make this novel sparkle, the plot seems almost secondary to the world we are presented through Bruno’s eyes.

Driven by playful, daring and wholly unexpected language, Benjamin Hale has created in The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore a book that challenges its readers in a way that few contemporary novels have before. In every sense, Bruno is human but for his origins, yet he views our society and the human condition through the lens of an outsider. This unique viewpoint is enough to ask the questions that many people will be uncomfortable asking, let alone attempting to answer. What is it to be human? Is our knowledge of our own mortality the true source of religion and superstition? What is the true form of romantic love, and is this a question that is possible to, or even worth answering?

This may not be a book for everyone, but for the brave and willing soul, it will provide a challenging, engaging and often high-spirited look at the lives we make for ourselves and this tribe we call humanity.

runo Littlemore is a chimpanzee. A thinking, speaking chimpanzee engaged in an epic diatribe regarding what it means to be human. Bruno plays with language the way lesser animals would with a stick, a ball or some other oddity that intrigues them. His capacity for innovative and unexpected turns of phrase (standing on the very capable shoulders of author Benjamin Hale, naturally), his frank and sometimes vulgar language and his daunting vocabulary all come together in a very cogent, sometimes rambling, treatise on all things human.

It’s often said that history repeats itself, and it would appear that literary history—at least where Dennis Lehane is concerned—is no exception. In the world of private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, it’s been 12 years since four-year-old Amanda McCready vanished in Gone, Baby, Gone, only to be returned to her neglectful and conniving mother by a morally and ethically conflicted Kenzie. Now 16, Amanda, whip-smart and hardened by chronic parental neglect, has once more disappeared into the swirling eddies of Boston’s organized crime cartels. Her aunt Beatrice yet again appeals to Kenzie and Gennaro to find out what happened to Amanda, by extension offering a chance to lay to rest the demons that plagued them after the resolution of Amanda’s first disappearance. Kenzie is no longer a young man; now married (to Gennaro) and raising their own four-year-old daughter, he has more at stake personally than ever before, and the myriad complications of Amanda’s latest disappearance, along with the ghost of her previous kidnapping, have a personal immediacy that he can’t escape. As with any tale of crime and intrigue, there is far more at stake than Kenzie can guess, and he is quickly drawn into a situation that far outstrips his aging sensibilities and capabilities.

The sixth book in the Kenzie and Gennaro series, Moonlight Mile is as much a meditation on what it is to love another person as it is a slyly woven action tale, in which the heroes are getting older while the challenges they face seem only to become more morally fraught and powerful as time passes. What is left for someone when the life they once lived and loved, full of danger, blood and excitement, is no longer one they can sustain? How do you do right by the world when every choice hurts either those you love or those you strive to help? Lehane manages to address these weighty questions, deftly skirting tired moral platitudes and all the while keeping the reader’s pulse pounding. Those who enjoyed the previous books will certainly enjoy this one, while new readers will have the opportunity to enjoy the crackling chemistry Kenzie and Gennaro share, all the while being drawn into tightly plotted action that keeps the pages turning. Snappy dialogue, questions with morally ambiguous answers, a sense of the enduring humanity that manages to draw people together despite their situation, and a winking acknowledgement of the ironic comedy that is life all come together to give this book a sense of reality that is both rare and refreshing.

The sixth book in the Kenzie and Gennaro series, Moonlight Mile is as much a meditation on what it is to love another person as it is a slyly woven action tale.

The London Natural History museum houses a God, and Billy Harrow is its keeper. Of course, Billy has no idea about any of this until the day the God—a preserved giant squid—vanishes without a trace. Suddenly a London Billy never knew emerges as growing furor and concern swell around the inexplicable disappearance. Was it the Church of the Kraken? Was it Tattoo and his army of anatomically impossible goons? Did it have anything to do with the secret division of the London police devoted to cults and magic?

As the list of occurrences that Billy’s scientific mind knows are impossible in a world without magic (or “knack” as those in the know refer to it) grows longer, he is drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery surrounding the first thing that all the prophets and portents have been able to agree on since time immemorial: The ends, plural, are near. Very near, in fact; and something or someone is threatening to end things in a way that no one foresaw. And at the center of all this—pursued by ageless goons Goss and Subby, whose reputation for brutality and raw power is the stuff of legends—a hapless Billy is quickly learning that some very powerful people are very interested in what is inside his head.

Within Kraken, China Miéville manages to weave a story that seems to touch many genres without ever settling on one, and includes nods to many of the pop-culture sci-fi and fantasy memes that permeate our culture and inform our perspective on the subject of the fantastic. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, he manages to write a book that defies easy categorization and keeps even the most well-read appreciator of the fantastic on their toes. Add a dash of Jasper Fforde’s inspired punning and wordplay, Philip K. Dick’s taste for altered states, theology and conspiracy, and you begin to come close to what reading this book is like. While Miéville’s writing is evocative, it is by no means derivative—and it’s easy to say that these titans of non-traditional fiction are in very good company indeed.

The London Natural History museum houses a God, and Billy Harrow is its keeper. Of course, Billy has no idea about any of this until the day the God—a preserved giant squid—vanishes without a trace. Suddenly a London Billy never knew emerges as growing furor and concern swell around the inexplicable disappearance. Was it the […]

FBI. CIA. LSD. JFK. USSR. If an acronym associated with the 1960s comes to mind, it’s likely to make an appearance in Shift. From acid-induced mind control to covert operations in Cuba, from a missing nuclear weapon to mass hallucinations, Shift runs a gamut that your inner conspiracy theorist will find delightful and provocative. Ever wonder if Timothy Leary was more than just a drug-addled ’60s cliché? Want to know who supplied JFK with his acid? All these, and many more, questions are considered with a wry aplomb that will keep skeptics on their toes and give the “what if” crowd enough ammunition for years to come.

Melchior, one of three “wise men” recruited by a CIA operative known as The Wiz, claws his way out of a newly sanctioned 1963 Cuba and back to his “Company” progenitors, only to find that he has been quietly swept under the rug and forgotten. Meanwhile, a Persian prostitute blackmailed by a CIA operative into giving various government targets covert doses of LSD finds that her latest mark—a career student with family ties in high places—holds the key to vast mental powers unlocked by the mind-altering properties of LSD. Add to this a freshly minted—and recently disenfranchised—FBI agent blindly seeking an answer to a question he doesn’t understand and you have the recipe for a massive, out-of-control conspiracy so unreal it almost sounds credible.

With its disparate but always converging narratives, reading Shift is like fighting a featherweight boxer. Always moving, constantly on its toes, it peppers you with small punches until, eventually, you succumb and it delivers the knockout. But oh, what a fight, and certainly one that is enjoyable and frenetic from start to finish. Written in deceptively simple language, luscious descriptions of everything from hallucinations to childhood memories to the fit of a dress on the Persian temptress spring from the page in a way that is evocative of the ’60s while also managing to stay out of the way of the sheer mania contained within the pages. For an engaging romp through the ’60s that never were, look no further than Shift.

 

FBI. CIA. LSD. JFK. USSR. If an acronym associated with the 1960s comes to mind, it’s likely to make an appearance in Shift. From acid-induced mind control to covert operations in Cuba, from a missing nuclear weapon to mass hallucinations, Shift runs a gamut that your inner conspiracy theorist will find delightful and provocative. Ever […]

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