We rate Kurt Vonnegut's ''Hocus Pocus,'' Howard Fast's ''Being Red,'' and more

Lies of Silence Brian Moore
Set in Northern Ireland, Lies of Silence is the story of an ordinary man trapped in a politically charged situation in which all his options are bad ones. Flawlessly plotted and written with a spare eloquence familiar to readers of his previous books (The Doctor’s Wife), Moore’s novel holds readers with its haunting evocation of the modern condition. A

Harry and Catharine Frederick Busch
Harry, an ex- reporter, is way beyond innocence. Catherine conceals her emotions with superficial shows of Modern Woman independence (she chops her own wood with gusto). In simple, moving prose, Frederick Busch describes all things a relationship between a man and woman can become as the years pass. Harry and Catherine aren’t star-crossed lovers. They’re the kind of allies that modern life, with all its complexities and disappointments, creates now. A

Boone Brooks Hansen and Nick Davis
If you don’t feel overwhelmed reading Boone, you will at least feel outnumbered. Two authors are company, but 24 narrators are a crowd. Boone — told in oral biography form, like Edie — is the tale of a misunderstood young genius — the tormented creative soul, the artist with entrails on exhibit. Unfortunately for the novel, he is also pretty much a cliché. C

The New Russians Hedrick Smith
When former New York Times Moscow bureau chief Hedrick Smith’s The Russians first appeared 14 years ago, the Iron Curtain was still intact, the Cold War was still raging, and reform, he concluded confidently, was quite impossible. Like a lot of other observers, Smith was wrong. He returned to Moscow in 1988 for the first time in more than a decade to see firsthand how perestroika had transformed a once peaceful and passive nation. His observations, published in The New Russians, are now out in paperback, updated to include a chapter on the failed coup. B

Hocus Pocus Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut’s 13th novel is his darkest and bitterest work yet. It is the year 2001, and in the author’s doomsday scenario, the U.S. has become ”a looted, bankrupt nation whose assets had been sold off to foreigners, a nation swamped by unchecked plagues and superstition and illiteracy and hypnotic TV.” The story is desultory, the pessimism relentless, but even at its most sour, the satire never loses its very American, very Midwestern, plainspoken honesty and unpretentious charm. A-

Being Red Howard Fast
In 1944 Howard Fast, who had already written his masterpieces, Citizen Tom Paine and Freedom Road, joined the American Communist Party. His history of that affiliation, which ended with his dismay at both Stalinism and McCarthyism, is one of the more detailed and absorbing chronicles of the period. Even though Fast’s prose has lost a lot of its verve, his political conscience is as finely tuned as ever. B