BY NICO VREELAND
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon. Reviewed by Janet Maslin at the New York Times.
I remain a sucker for dystopian novels, so I perked up when I read about this super-hyped new futurist novel with its evocatively gritty (though, let’s face it, not exactly original) title. Mercifully, Maslin disabuses me of my blind interest immediately. The Bone Season has already been optioned by a movie studio, and it’s appeared on the Today show, despite the fact that nobody seems to know what it’s about, let alone like it. So what is it about? The Hunger Games with vampires, seasoned with teenage psychics and “a rigid, color-coded class system.” Excitement crushed, dreams dashed. Yeah, that stings. Quite possibly the nicest thing Maslin says about it is that it’s a “one-note dystopian portrait of London.” One note is more than zero, you know? Let’s pretend we never heard of it (although the review is quite amusing and worth checking out).
Necessary Errors, by Caleb Crain. Reviewed by Jane Hu at the Slate Book Review.
While Hu’s thesis is patently absurd (she claims that a plotless meandering Joycean novel “feels like a new model for contemporary fiction”), a sharply rendered, well-written novel—the only kind that can survive without a plot—is always a welcome thing. She calls Crain’s first novel “fervently alive and frequently hilarious.” Elsewhere at the Slate Book Review, Javier Marías’s characters discuss the unnecessariness of plot even as they are steeped in it.
Interaction of Color (for iPad), by Josef Albers. Reviewed by J.R. Biersdorfer at the New York Times.
An interactive biography of Van Gogh steals the headline of this iPad-book roundup, but most interesting to me—and the most simpatico with Biersdorfer’s thesis that art education books can be better on a tablet—is this rerelease of Josef Albers’s seminal 1963 color study book. It comes with the complete original text, dozens of extra “study screens,” and two hours of videos featuring artists and designers. Sounds like one of those rare cases where the app part of a book-app is actually useful.
In brief: Matthew Quick, writer of the “The Silver Linings Playbook” novel, has a dark new YA novel out that sounds not unlike Booker prize-winner Vernon God Little. … A witty memoir in which a daughter writes from her father’s perspective. Is that legal? … A piece in New York Magazine follows a writer (Boris Kachka, whose “journalism” isn’t exactly of the highest standard) who seeks and fails to find Thomas Pynchon. Good try? … Hector Tobar very much likes the latest Edwidge Danticat. … That didn’t take long: Washington Post head critic Ron Charles is already pimping Amazon books, less than a month after Bezos buys the WaPo. The book he’s talking about doesn’t even come out for 3 months. …