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This sixth novel from Davis (The Thin Place) opens in a typical suburban setting, with tree-lined streets and duplexes housing traditional two-parent families as well as the single, middle-aged schoolteacher Miss Vicks. But there are soon clues that we are encountering something quite different. It is mentioned that one of the duplexes houses a family of robots and that Miss Vicks is dating a sorcerer known as Body-Without-Soul. What follows is a strange and mesmerizing tale that is simultaneously an exploration of 20th-century American social mores and dark surrealist fantasy. The central characters include Miss Vicks and her students Mary and Eddie. Explored in unexpected ways are our anxieties about love, sex, parenthood, and aging. While it's unclear whether the surreal elements of the novel are meant to be allegorical or taken literally, in the end it doesn't matter. -VERDICT Fans of Neil Gaiman and dark adult fantasy and adventurous readers of literary fiction will find Davis's offering a compelling read.-Christine -DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., -Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Davis's previous novels-most recently The Thin Place-blur the lines between magic and the mundane, and in this otherworldly novel those borders are eroded, with oddly mixed results. At first glance, Miss Vicks's grade-school class seems normal enough: there's delicate Mary, hyperactive Eddie, would-be writer Janice, and rich-kid Walter. But Walter is also a sorcerer, dealing in souls, who seduces Mary away from Eddie. And their suburban street, caught in the mysterious "Space Drift," seems to eschew the laws of physics. The new neighbors are robots; Miss Vicks walks her dog through a dreamscape; Mary's child, "Blue-Eyes," may be a monster; and the beach where Janice plays is home to "Aquanauts," strange sea creatures with eyes as "large and lustrous as plums." The book is less a novel than a dream, less populated by characters than by fantasy variations, less an experiment in genre than chaos, and Davis can't be faulted for her ambition, nor for prose that makes the sky seem like something you've never seen and makes robots' speech utterly quotidian. But where there is no gravity, there can be little pressure, and the result feels somewhat weightless. For all Davis's virtuosity, readers may have a hard time getting a grip on the story. (Sept. 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Characters do occupy duplexes in the latest mind-bending novel from the ever-provocative Davis (The Thin Place, 2006). But because this is a wildly imaginative tale of dualities, the seemingly simple concept of duplex is, like blown glass, superheated and stretched into astonishing shapes and dimensions. Humans and robots live together on an orderly suburban street. The robots look human by day but turn back into little needle-like entities at night. Large gray rabbits are everywhere. Miss Vicks, a teacher, regularly walks her dachshund and sometimes finds herself traversing a bizarrely morphing landscape. Everyone adores the neighborhood sweethearts, pretty Mary and baseball star Eddie; then strange and sinister things happen to them in encounters with a man known as Sorcerer. An older girl bewitches the younger girls with alarming stories involving a prophecy about a half-human, half-robot child and a catastrophic flood. Shrewd, wizardly, archly funny, and emotionally fluent Davis recasts fairy tales, warps time and space, illuminates the inner dynamics of robots, takes us to the beach and a creepy girls' boarding school, and subtly envisions the perils global warming will bring. The result is an intricately fashioned, wryly stylized, through-the-looking-glass novel of forewarning about the essence of being human, endangered souls and ancestral memory, and how stories keep us afloat.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist