Ellen Ullman's Close to the Machine, a memoir of her time as a software engineer during the early years of the internet revolution, became a cult classic and established her as a writer of considerable talent; with her second book, The Bug, she became an acclaimed and vital novelist; By Blood is her third. She lives in San Francisco.
A thrilling page-turner of a book... By Blood is what you should be reading. Ullman is someone we all should be reading Newsday A literary inquiry into identity and legacy... A gripping mystery... The storytelling is compelling and propulsive... Ullman is also a careful stylist Los Angeles Times Delicious and intriguing Daily Telegraph Like the best novels, it's irresistible-twisty-turny, insightful, revelatory-funny when it's tragic, and complicated when it's funny NPR Smart, slippery ... Ullman arranges her players efficiently. But what astounds is how she binds them to one another ... It's a narrative striptease. And Ullman has such fun with it The New York Times Book Review What is most distinctive about Ullman's voice ... is the way it sounds fully formed, mature both intellectually and emotionally Slate Rewarding ... Deep, lengthy and rewarding therapy is as close as most people get to reading their lives as a novel. Here is a novel that offers itself as a deep, lengthy and rewarding version of a therapy. The memory of reading it remains quite intense San Francisco Chronicle "Marvelously creepy ... A tricky thing to pull off but Ullman does it beautifully ... [By Blood] speaks volumes about the way we think about the Jewish past Tablet A dark, brooding, and marvelous novel that doesn't really resemble anything else, though disparate elements of it remind me of so many stories I love. The book combines a disturbing confessional intensity, as in Coetzee's Disgrace, Lasdun's Horned Man, and Tartt's The Secret History, with a paranoid claustrophobia akin to that of The Conversation, Coppola's surveillance masterpiece. Surprises from strange and terrible historical alleyways bring to mind Schlink's The Reader and Juan Gabriel Vasquez's The Informers. And the philosophical underpinnings recall, in their unobtrusiveness and urgency, the best of Iris Murdoch. -- Maud Newton The writing is as sharp as the intellect it reveals, with a tension bordering on the manic SFArts.org A noir gem ... Creepy-exciting and skillfully ironic at almost every turn ... We jump into Ullman's prose so we can be carried downstream, over the falls, into the past, rolled and jostled here, then there ... [An] amazing novel. Lambda Literary Ullman first earned praise for her memoir Close to the Machine (2001), about her experiences as a female programmer in the formative years of Silicon Valley, and followed that with an ambitious, Kafkaesque debut novel, The Bug (2003), which also drew from her experiences in computer-human interface. Nine years later, her second novel thematically interweaves fate, identity, obsession and genetics into a propulsive page-turner that shows a profound understanding of character. It's a multilayered mystery (in the same way that Dostoyevsky was a mystery writer) and an inquiry into the subjective nature of narrative ... A first-rate literary thriller of compelling psychological and philosophical depth -- Starred Review Kirkus An irresistible Hitchcockian page-turner Publishers Weekly Extraordinary...Proceeding in bursts of hydraulic prose, By Blood evokes San Francisco in all its stagflation gloom: the erotic danger of its nightlife, the coded nature of its transactions...Riveting Boston Globe A mesmerizing tale that probes the very heart of personal identity More Ullman's sentences are lithe and sinuous, her language evoking the seedy, depressive milieu of a run-down city convincingly and poetically ... compelling ... masterfully-written, suspenseful Booktrust