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Tipping Point: Our picks and pans ('The Eater of Gods,' 'CODA')

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BOOK TIP

The Candy House

Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan is one of my favorite novelists working right now. The fact that shepenned the traditional but epic "Manhattan Beach" as well as the unconventional "A Visit from the Goon Squad" shows an inventive mind and a skillful writer. Her latest, "The Candy House," is a sibling of sorts to "Goon Squad." Its chapters are devoted to different characters who are often intertwined, with some reappearing from "Goon Squad." Tying the tales together is the creation of a technology that allows people to "externalize" their minds, so other folks can access their memories and feelings. Among the stories: A woman who was a spy worries that the government is still controlling her with technology. A tech titan is haunted by the death of an acquaintance. High-strung neighbors, against the advice of their concerned families, feud with increasing fury over their boundaries. A teenager struggles with friendship and the quest for popularity during a day at a country club. On occasion, Egan tries a different presentation: A chapter existing solely of emails sparked by a searching adult daughter could serve as just a gimmick, but Egan makes it work fluidly. She makes it all look easy in "The Candy House."

— Kristina Dorsey

BOOK TIP

The Eater of Gods

Dan Franklin

Just so's you know up front: In this superb short horror novel, we are NOT going to the sands of the Libyan desert on an archaelogical junket that will unleash any mummies. However, Professor Norman Haas HAS learned the secret location of the tomb of Kiya, the heretical lost queen of Akhenaten. Haas is neither mentally or physically prepared for the arduous task of unearthing the resting place, but it was his recently deceased and much-loved wife's life's work, and he and his fellow researchers are determined to follow through. They're gonna wish they were dealing with mummies. Franklin's slowly advancing sense of dread, claustrophobia and menace in "The Eater of the Gods" is calibrated with a bomb maker's precision, and the atmospheric descriptions are stunningly done. There's a bit of folk horror here with the theme that the Olde Gods are never quite extinguished as long as someone remembers them. What's disconcerting is how this fact seems to make Franklin gleeful. "The Eater of Gods: is a limited edition title from Cemetery Dance Publications, which might be thought of as the McSweeney's of dark fiction. https://www.cemeterydance.com/the-eater-of-gods.html

— Rick Koster

MOVIE TIP

CODA

This is a heartwarming movie: funny and touching, without overreaching. Is it worthy of a Best Picture Oscar? I wouldn’t say so — the tone is a bit TV movie, and the technical side feels too small — but that doesn’t take away from how effective the result is. Emilia Jones is utterly winning as a hearing teenager whose parents (Oscar winners Troy Kotsur and Marlee Matlin) and brother are all deaf. She works with her fisherman father and brother in Gloucester, and they need her for her ability to communicate between them and the hearing world. She loves to sing and wants to leave home to attend Berklee College of Music, encouraged by a high school teacher. Complications ensue. While “CODA” provides an illuminating look at the world that deaf people have to deal with, the plotline runs pretty much as you’d expect. But did I tear up when Jones sang “Both Sides Now,” and did I smile at the film’s ending? I plead the Fifth.

— Kristina Dorsey 

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