Daniel Kraus's young adult novel Rotters tells the unlikely story of Joey Crouch, a 16 year old boy from Chicago whose mother is killed by a bus; Joey is sent to live with his mysterious father in small-town Iowa, and that's when things get weird. Joey's father is taciturn, he smells bad, he lives in a shack, and he doesn't seem interested in being any sort of father (or even roommate) with his long-lost son. Joey is an instant pariah at high-school, subjected to tortures and humiliations thanks in part to his father's reputation as the town weirdo, and in part to the fact that Joey's home has no facility for washing clothes and its unique smell clings to him and all his possessions.
Thus far, it sounds like a story about a kid who's dad is mentally unbalanced, or neglectful, or sadistic, but when Joey stows away in the bed of his father's truck to see where the old man goes on his long absences, he learns the truth: his father is a grave robber.
Joey's intrusion into his father's secret life opens a floodgate in the old man, and before long, Joey has become his somewhat unwilling apprentice, though his reluctance turns to enthusiasm as he is inducted into the many mysteries and traditions of the ancient brethren of grave-robbers. Kraus takes us on a narrative tour of the science of putrefaction and decay, the economics of the funeral industry, the history of the Resurrection Men who plundered English and Scottish graves to fill the dissection rooms of hungry medical colleges.
But most of all, Joey learns about his mother's secret past, the strange circumstance that brought her and his father together and the tragedy that drove them apart, and as he unlocks his own history, Joey begins to master his bullies at school and the relationships in his life.
Rotters is an epic, 450 pages long, and it is as suspenseful and masterfully told as it is gruesome and terrifying. Kraus conveys the full horror and beauty of our bodies' inevitable return to the soil without playing for cheap thrills or easy gross-outs. You'd be hard pressed to find a coming-of-age story as satisfying as this in any YA novel. That Kraus manages this tour-de-force in the midst of liquefying corpses and maggoty dirt is a marvel itself, and marks him out as a writer whose future books I'll anticipate with impatient pleasure.
Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths’ Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions is pitched as a combination of personal advice and business book grounded in the lessons of computer science, but it’s better than that: while much of the computer science they explain is useful in personal and management contexts, the book is also a beautifully accessible primer on algorithms and computer science themselves, and a kind of philosophical treatise on what the authors call “computational kindness” and “computational stoicism.”
AJ Hartley’s new YA series opens with Steeplejack, a
whodunnit whose unlikely and welcome hard-boiled detective is a young
woman who has to beat class and race discrimination as well as the bad
Seanan McGuire is one of science fiction’s most passionate voices, no matter whether she’s writing under her Mira Grant pseudonym or her own name, you always know that you’re going to be reading a story that moves and inflames, illuminating the cause of the underdog and the overlooked with stories that are firmly adventures first and allegories second, the best kind of political fiction, and now, with her new novella Every Heart a Doorway, McGuire shows us that she can weaponize that talent and use it as a skewer to pin the reader, right through the heart.
Some people say magic tricks are nerdy and best left to your 12-year-old asthmatic cousin. But others see value in perfecting the slight of hand and showmanship associated with a perfectly executed routine. We’re firmly in the latter camp. And now, we’re giving you the ability to put a few parlor tricks up your sleeve with the Penguin […]
Bluetooth speakers may be convenient to use, but many of them just aren’t that powerful. Sure, it may be fine if you’re seated in front of the speaker. But move across the room, and you may strain to hear what’s coming from those tiny drivers.There’s a reason why the G-BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Boombox (now $79.99 in the Boing […]
If you’re working to build your web programming knowledge, you know you have a lot of ground to cover. With literally dozens of languages, platforms and environments available to coders, mastering all those technologies can be a daunting task.Up-and-coming coders can start learning some of the most fundamental programming study areas with this Web Hacker course bundle – and […]