A fine, intriguing hybrid of satire and thriller.

THE THING IN THE SNOW

Snowy, nearly uninhabitable living conditions drive a team of caretakers stationed in a deserted research facility to the brink of madness.

The Northern Institute rests in a remote expanse of snow that purportedly never melts and is hazardous to one’s health. When an unnamed incident causes the facility to lose its research funding and shut down, the sole remaining researcher—a shrewd, cold man named Gilroy—hires a crew of three to maintain the facility since he deems it “cheaper to hire a small team to look after things than to make the anticipated repairs were the building simply left vacant until research could resume.” With Hart, the team’s supervisor, as our narrator, we experience time passing in this strange, lonely facility, days filled with the completion of laughably mundane tasks: testing doors for noises or chairs for their stability. Tension rises between Hart and the other caretakers when the three spot an unidentifiable object out the window lying in the snow. Cline, a painter with an eye for light, and Gibbs, who is skilled in the powers of description, are beguiled by the object, growing more and more fixated on its nature, while Hart—who prides himself on his leadership ability and powers of efficiency—perceives the distraction as a threat to his faltering authority. Time, though, begins to distort for all three, days blurring together, day and night becoming indistinguishable. And after tireless observation, Cline and Hart agree with certainty that the object is changing color, that it is moving. Is the object responsible for the slipperiness of time and the sense that gravity itself has destabilized? The novel gains momentum and intrigue as new mysteries arise and discord between Hart and the others rises to a head. Dry and sometimes-unsettling workplace humor adds delight and levity to a novel whose themes explore the drudgery of the modern workplace and the depths to which the mind in isolation can tumble.

A fine, intriguing hybrid of satire and thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-325775-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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A more adorable plea for rationalism and gender equality would be hard to find.

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LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY

Two chemists with major chemistry, a dog with a big vocabulary, and a popular cooking show are among the elements of this unusual compound.

At the dawn of the 1960s, Elizabeth Zott finds herself in an unexpected position. She's the star of a television program called Supper at Six that has taken American housewives by storm, but it's certainly not what the crass station head envisions: “ 'Meaningful?' Phil snapped. 'What are you? Amish? As for nutritious: no. You’re killing the show before it even gets started. Look, Walter, it’s easy. Tight dresses, suggestive movements...then there’s the cocktail she mixes at the end of every show.' ” Elizabeth is a chemist, recently forced to leave the lab where she was doing important research due to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Now she's reduced to explaining things like when to put the steak in the pan. "Be sure and wait until the butter foams. Foam indicates that the butter’s water content has boiled away. This is critical. Because now the steak can cook in lipids rather than absorb H2O.” If ever a woman was capable of running her own life, it's Elizabeth. But because it's the 1950s, then the '60s, men have their sweaty paws all over both her successes and failures. On the plus side, there's Calvin Evans, world-famous chemist, love of her life, and father of her child; also Walter Pine, her friend who works in television; and a journalist who at least tries to do the right thing. At the other pole is a writhing pile of sexists, liars, rapists, dopes, and arrogant assholes. This is the kind of book that has a long-buried secret at a corrupt orphanage with a mysterious benefactor as well as an extremely intelligent dog named Six-Thirty, recently retired from the military. ("Not only could he never seem to sniff out the bomb in time, but he also had to endure the praise heaped upon the smug German shepherds who always did.") Garmus' energetic debut also features an invigorating subplot about rowing.

A more adorable plea for rationalism and gender equality would be hard to find.

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54734-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

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FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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