new books

‘The Sun Walks Down’ Is a Poignant Story Set Against the Landscape of the Australian Backcountry

Lee Polevoi

In 1883, a child goes missing during a sandstorm in the barren landscape of southern Australia. This event sets in motion a range of actions and consequences in and around the small community of Fairly. The teeming cast includes (but isn’t limited to) Denny Wallace, the 6-year-old missing child; his mother, father, and five sisters; a priest undergoing a crisis of faith; two native trackers; a newlywed constable and his wife; and a Swedish exile painter and his wife.

Leaders Rise and Fall in Ian Kershaw’s ‘Personality and Power’

Lee Polevoi

Counterfactual notions like this occur throughout the book, though they hold little value either as conjecture or informed speculation. Obviously, every aspect of history (and not just in Europe) might be radically different had such-and-such not gone the way it did. For the most part, however, Kershaw moves adroitly through decades of turmoil in Europe. He’s skilled at connecting 20th-century leaders with our current crop.

Cyber Infrastructure: Who Are the Invisible Warlords?

Marc Gravely

The magazine referred to North Korea’s cybercrime program as “hydra-headed,” focusing on everything from hacking banks to stealing millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency from online exchanges. According to a United Nations report that made headlines in 2019, North Korea’s criminal cyberattacks have “generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs.” Meanwhile, China has done its share of stealing patents, and Russia has been accused of attempting to influence elections in several countries, including the U.S.  

How a Small, but Growing Movement in Japan Is Reimagining Community

Tsuyoshi Sekihara and Richard McCarthy

The moment my feet touched the ground in Tsuyoshi Sekihara’s village of Nakanomata, I was struck by the proportionality of the place. Very quickly, I understood his passion for right-sized communities. You can walk the circumference of the village within an hour. Wooden farmhouses, hundreds of years old, cluster beneath the canopy of trees along the river that runs from the mountains to the Sea of Japan.

Comedy and Tragedy Collide in ‘I Walk Between the Raindrops’

Lee Polevoi

Boyle's prose flits artfully around on the page, rich in imagery and colloquial phrasing, often delivered via first-person narrators as deeply flawed as any reader could hope for. Sometimes this makes for an awkward balance between comedy and tragedy, but in his best work, Boyle succeeds in nailing a particular vein of (usually) male rage. His latest story collection, I Walk Between the Raindrops, exemplifies the T.C. Boyle brand.

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.

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