UNDER A WHITE SKY by Elizabeth Kolbert (Crown). Hard to say whether this deeply intelligent, enlightening book on human fiddling with the natural world—its benefits and its inevitable, sometimes …
UNDER A WHITE SKY by Elizabeth Kolbert (Crown). Hard to say whether this deeply intelligent, enlightening book on human fiddling with the natural world—its benefits and its inevitable, sometimes but not always terrible, side effects—is optimistic or pessimistic; but it isn't depressing. Mind-expanding, rather, and more contemplative than enraging. It would be within our powers to put a stop to global warming, the title example shows us, but it would mean changing the sky from blue to white; would some future generation find it regrettable, but necessary (not far in the future, that would be)? (Putting a vast array of parasol-like objects in orbit would be that solution.) There are a lot of such choices we're going to have to make, soon enough; many of them (not all, surely) introduced and discussed here, reasonably and calmly.
ZORRIE by Laird Hunt (Bloomsbury). Laird Hunt can accomplish as much in the short novel form as other artists manage at great length. This is beautifully written (as always with him) full-dimensional narrative art, not dense in the sense of difficult to penetrate, but rich; not filling but fulfilling. There's a fully realized life in these pages: after this hour or so, you'll believe you've lived for some decades, a lifetime, with this Hoosier woman, and you'll be glad of that gift.
COMES THE WAR by Ed Ruggero (Forge). Ruggero is a respected military historian, and a terrific historical novelist. This is a very much a World War II novel and an Army novel—but not combat action; rather a murder mystery and espionage thriller, set in London during that war (the war was, of course, very present there, from the sky, especially). It's neatly managed as a suspense novel, with a terrific series lead, a U.S. Army investigator, but fully attentive to the requirements of historical fiction, too: atmosphere vividly evoked—and this was one of humanity's, both Britain's and America's, finest hours by any reckoning. A fine time and place to go live in, and a fully engaging and satisfying mystery.
THE WIFE AND THE WIDOW by Christian White (Minotaur). A second novel that more than fulfills the seemingly extravagant promise of his first one, THE NOWHERE CHILD, which the column told you a couple of years ago signaled a great career. Again, an ingenious but credible setup and a stunning twist near the end.
AN EXTRAVAGANT DEATH: A CHARLES LENOX MYSTERY by Charles Finch (Minotaur). The 15th of this by now classic historical series, and an ingeniously integrated, surprising turn: the great Victorian detective is dispatched by the Queen to America—to New York, where a different, rougher sort of royalty ruled, then: the robber barons. Brought to life as convincingly as Finch's London always is.
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