Books & Fiction

A Guided Tour of MAGA Country in ‘The Storm Is Here’

Lee Polevoi

Of the many so far unaccounted-for crimes of his administration, few are as pernicious as the way Donald Trump and his corrupt ilk have warped reality and called basic truths into question. Whether Trump caused the right-wing wave or expertly rode it, his shamelessness and grifter tendencies have diminished the office of the presidency. He also hastened the collapse of civility and any impulse among his followers to cooperate with so-called “enemies of the state” (that is, anyone who disagrees with him).

Environmental Collapse and the Future of the Planet Hang in the Balance in ‘Orphans of Canland’

Daniel Vitale

It’s sunny, the sky’s vibrating like it can’t wait, and AB’s face is split with laughter. Then the clouds move in and AB’s laughter turns to shaking worry. The yellow light turns white and AB starts to cry. Their tears become rain. The light dies. I put my face to theirs so they’re all I see. Their face is pressed against mine, and they’re calm like a baby. I try to speak, to apologize, but I have no voice. They start to pull away, their face happy, then unhappy.

‘Atoms and Ashes’: What Happens When Nuclear Power Goes Wrong?

Lee Polevoi

In Atoms and Ashes, Plokhy leads us on a “guided tour” of disasters besetting nuclear power in the past 70 years. These include the Castle Bravo nuclear test on the Marshall Islands (1954); the explosion of a nuclear waste tank at Kyshtym, in the Ural Mountains of the Soviet Union (1957); a fire at the Windscale Works in England (1957); Three Mile Island in the U.S. (1979); Chernobyl, still the standard-bearer for everything that can go wrong with nuclear power (1986); and the Fukushima multiple reactor meltdown in Japan (2011), among the most calamitous of those under scrutiny here.

Manhunt in the New World in Robert Harris’s ‘Act of Oblivion’

Lee Polevoi

In Act of Oblivion, “real time” overtakes what could have been a more conventional (and time-limited) story of pursuit and capture. Years pass, people age, and some die in obscurity, rather than at the hands of the law. Harris makes readers complicit in this passage of time. We closely follow the desperate efforts by Whalley and Goffe (known more commonly as Ned and Will) to evade capture, while we’re also caught up in Nayler’s obsessive, years-long quest to apprehend them.

In ‘Otherlands,’ a Look at Life on Earth Before the Mass Extinction Event

Lee Polevoi

It's a colorful survey of life before the mass extinction event, based on extensive studies and the use of ever-improving technology. Halliday is careful to note that the contents of his book are “grounded in fact, either directly observable from the fossil record, strongly inferred, or, where our knowledge is incomplete, plausible based on what we can say for sure.” Otherlands is comprised of 16 chapters, each centered on a specific locale (Africa, Alaska, Chile, Antarctica, and elsewhere) and geologic era (Pleistocene, Cenozoic, Mesozoic, etc.).

In ‘Learning to Talk,’ Hilary Mantel Conjures a Troubled Childhood

Lee Polevoi

All the stories here are closely observed, showcasing the author’s exemplary skill at painting secondary characters with a simple literary flourish: “Myra was little, she was mere, rat-faced and meager, like a nameless cut in a butcher’s window in a demolition area.” Also, Mantel reliably locates the right sensory details to evoke a childhood disrupted by arcane family dynamics and the ambition to escape provincial life in the North of England.

Forecasting the End of Cold in Porter Fox’s ‘Last Winter’

Lee Polevoi

What he conveys clearly to readers adds to a growing array of dire global scenarios, wherein mankind must somehow learn to live with huge spikes in the frequency of forest fires and, among other things, higher sea levels because of the unrelenting release of carbon into the atmosphere.In his reporting, Fox isn’t motivated solely by a general anxiety about where the planet is headed. His very young daughter Grey, whom he anticipates growing up to have her own family sometime around 2060, will face a world of frightening change.

Beguiling Tales of County Mayo in Colin Barrett’s ‘Homesickness’

Lee Polevoi

In these beguiling stories, we are for the most part steadfastly situated in County Mayo, Ireland. As in Young Skins, this hugely talented writer immerses us in a remote part of the Emerald Isle, serving up (with great sympathy) characters who display his signature mix of humor and melancholy. Life is hard for County Mayo residents, eased only occasionally by flashes of love and warm feelings.

Straddling the Wilderness Between Russia and China in Colin Thubron’s ‘Amur River’

Lee Polevoi

During his travels, Thubron crosses more than 1,100 miles along this vast waterway—not only on horseback, but by train, car, and boat. His trek encompasses visits to desolate villages and decaying monasteries, with encounters that range from friendly and well-meaning, to more sinister interactions with local police. Who says no one is intrepid anymore? Colin Thubron is intrepid.

In Praise of Life in the Last Frontier in ‘Nobody Gets Out Alive’

Lee Polevoi

What emerges most strongly in Nobody Gets Out Alive is Newman’s love of and appreciation for this last frontier—its wildlife, topography, and the skewed, rugged psyches of those who choose life in such a remote and challenging environment. The author of a memoir set in Alaska called Still Points North, she demonstrates a keen understanding of what it takes to survive in this state.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Books & Fiction