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.
In 2012, Kim Stanley Robinson published 2312, imagining how the world and its neighbors might look in 300 years, loosely coupled with the seminal Red Mars books, a futuristically pastoral novel about the way that technology can celebrate the glories of nature; in 2015, Robinson followed it up with Aurora, the best book I read that year, which used 2312’s futures to demolish the idea that we can treat space colonization (and other muscular technological projects) as Plan B for climate change — a belief that is very comforting to those who don’t or can’t imagine transforming capitalism into a political system that doesn’t demolish the planet. Now, with New York 2140, Robinson starts to connect the dots between these different futures with a bold, exhilarating story of life in a permanent climate crisis, where most people come together in adversity, but where a small rump of greedy, powerful people get in their way.
Last December, I published my review of Andrew “bunnie” Huang’s astoundingly great book The Hardware Hacker: Adventures in Making and Breaking Hardware — without realizing that the book’s release had been delayed because the published decided to do some very fancy and cool stuff with the printing process.
It’s been fifteen years since the first edition of educator Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes was published; now in its third edition — updated with current, timely material about social media and other fast-moving subjects, as well as reflections from girls who were raised on the techniques in the previous editions — the book is a compassionate, aware, and intensely practical guide to navigating the toxic, gendered lives of young girls in a diverse, politicized world.
Maybe it’s entirely because of podcast ads, but drag-and-drop tools like Squarespace have gotten immensely popular in recent years. While it’s definitely a great tool for any non-coders who want to get a small website up and running quickly, managing content with a primarily visual interface can become a pain once you have more than […]
When you can’t wait for the world’s longest meeting to end, the mindless leg bouncing makes your boredom obvious and just annoys everybody else. Everyone knows the TPS reports need the damn cover sheet, but some sadistic colleague keeps forgetting, probably on purpose just to eat into your lunch hour. Enough is enough!While serving a […]
What could be more fun than a slingshot that shoots tiny airplanes? A slingshot that shoots tiny glowing airplanes of course! These toy planes are outfitted with ultra-bright LEDs, so you can fly all night without losing them in the trees.Whether you are a regular-sized child, or an overgrown adult one, these light-up flyers offer […]