In a word: mind-blowing.


Bannon's cutting-edge science-fiction and psychological thriller revolves around a terminally ill biosoftware scientist's attempt to upload his mind into the consciousness of an unborn baby to once again be with the woman he loves.

Powered by relentless pacing and jaw-dropping plot twists throughout, Bannon's debut novel is a science-fiction thriller of the highest order—but it's ultimately a heart-rending romance and a profoundly moving exploration into the frailty and preciousness of human existence. After pioneering neuroscientist Edward Frame realizes that he only has a short time to live, he and his assistant, Samantha—a woman that he has recently realized he is madly in love with—come up with a shocking plan: to impregnate Samantha and upload Frame’s essence into her child. But something goes horribly wrong: Frame is born again as Adam into a waking nightmare. His mother is his wife, Clara, his siblings are his two children, and his new father is a ruthless company rival who has not only taken over Frame’s business, but his family as well. Thus begins a downward spiral of an existence for Adam that eventually includes foster homes, illicit sexual encounters, hard-core drug addiction, gambling, murder and, ultimately, salvation. Adam Frame, the baby born with the fully cognizant mind of Edward Frame inside of him, is a simply riveting, unforgettable character—a complex, deeply conflicted person who, as he develops into a young man, becomes “two souls in one body and still only half a man.” Bannon doesn’t pull any punches with this narrative; the character development is intense, and the sex and violence is brutal at times, but the result is an utterly readable novel that’s almost impossible to put down.

In a word: mind-blowing.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983912439

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Banco Picante Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

An exemplar of storytelling and character-driven adventure.



Graphic novelist turned fantasy author Myrick (Feynman, 2011, etc.) releases the first installment of a promising trilogy that trails an elite warrior as he adventures through foreign lands, weaves magic and vanquishes his enemies.

Capt. Jorophe Horne survives a three-year war only to witness his country’s annexation to the mighty Kingdom of Graves. Worse still, he is reassigned to the enemy army that destroyed his homeland. Understandably reluctant to serve his new master, Jorophe reports for duty at the behest of his now-dethroned monarch. But when evil forces conspire against the kingdom, Jorophe’s oath drives him to action: He rises to become the most powerful weapon in the King’s elite 10-man force. Armed with two ancient dark blades, he hunts down devils from the Abyss who threaten the provinces. Myrick’s epic tale features assassins, dark priests, blue demons and an Amazon warrior as it chronicles the lives of more than six core characters. All are uniquely crafted, with intentions to either destroy or save the kingdom. Brief chapters juxtapose longer prose, fueling a high-paced storyline that flies from one end of the world to the other. As the author shifts from one point of view to the next, readers slide through a rich mosaic of betrayal, greed, loyalty and honor. Of its manifold strengths, the novel is fluid and full of surprises. Readers will question the characters’ loyalties to the king as they ponder the mysterious identity of the final member of the Ten. As the book draws to a close, the final lines are likely to send shivers up readers’ spines. The author masterfully crafts vivid battle scenes and heart-pounding chases across oceans, over snow-peaked mountains and into city sewers. Neither die-hard nor casual fantasy readers will be able to resist this trilogy’s rousing start.

An exemplar of storytelling and character-driven adventure.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2012


Page Count: 360

Publisher: Adept Books

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

An original voice that’s initially disorienting, but given time, Allison lyrically creates an intriguing world.


In a realm of virtual reality, “subscribers” hone in on the lives of others.

Allison’s debut novel unfolds intricately, inundated with slang and jargon yet very little context—readers unfamiliar with cyber terminology may need to brush up on the language. Tenyen (just a handle, not his name) is in a virtual world with his love, Nether, but on his way home, he’s hit by a truck. He doesn’t die, though; instead, he’s downloaded to a “Shell”—an avatar of sorts—and taken to the Plant for repair. His trek leads him to a “dwarf” named Migaroy, who enlists Tenyen’s help in stopping a “twitcher,” which can turn people into a zombielike state. Nether, meanwhile, is searching for Tenyen and somehow infecting people just like the twitcher; masses of stumbling, empty and gray bodies lie in her wake. The story’s unreliable narrators (Tenyen, Nether, et al.) make the story sometimes hard to follow: Tenyen begins in a Mediapod (a “private room”), heads home but is still virtually connected to Nether; then he wakes up somewhere else after the truck accident. He and Nether are often besieged by memories and dreams, so most, if not all, of the story seems unreal. The focus is initially on Tenyen, but once the perspective shifts to Nether, the author sharpens the story. It’s almost a reboot, re-examining events that have happened to Tenyen, like when he was attacked by giant crabs with a fondness for gears. Other characters, including Migaroy and the twitcher, take the narrative reins to further illuminate the world, explaining, for instance, some of the players’ origins. The author’s prose can be poetic, which lends the story the air of a modern epic poem. Chandler-esque analogies (“You make love like razor blades”) and animated descriptions (“The blood drip, drip, drops on the floor”) also brighten the prose. A few recurring images in the novel, including panda bears and a toy monkey that speaks to Nether, are amusingly outlandish, although they are given deeper meaning as the plot progresses to its satisfying conclusion.

An original voice that’s initially disorienting, but given time, Allison lyrically creates an intriguing world.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2012


Page Count: 275

Publisher: J. D. Allison

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

An impressively original take on alternative history.

The Kronos Interference

In this time-travel thriller, debut authors Miller and Manas spin a clever, original variation on a classic alternative history premise: What if it were possible to travel back in time and kill Adolf Hitler?

Jacob Newman, a brilliant scientist and nanotechnology expert who consults with the CIA on projects of national security, receives a mysterious packet containing his German grandfather’s diaries from the 1920s, which detail a failed plot to poison Hitler at the beginning of his ascent to power. Although Newman’s wife is dying of cancer, a global crisis soon takes him from her bedside. An alien vessel has been found on the bottom of the ocean, off the coast of Chile. Inside the elegantly described “cavernous zeppelin shaped” space are eight giant floating monitors—arranged “like some sort of avant-garde Stonehenge”—that show images from horrific moments in human history, including the Crusades and the Holocaust. The ship also contains some strange pieces of alien technology; most notably, a small object the scientists dub the Kronos Device, which, as Newman discovers, facilitates time travel. The scientists soon come to the consensus that someone or something has been sitting in judgment of humankind—and an ominous verdict could be delivered at any time. Inspired by his grandfather’s diary and desperate to afford humankind another chance in the eyes of the mysterious alien power, Newman decides to go back in time and ensure that the plot to kill Hitler is successful, thereby—in theory—erasing the ensuing heinous acts from history. Sci-fi fans will be familiar with what happens next: By interfering with the past, Newman inadvertently creates a future that is far worse. But here the novel displays some unexpectedly creative plotting: Newman’s attempt to undo the damage he’s done involves him in his own mind-bending parallel life, as well as the prospect of a harrowing sacrifice. The prose is unfussy, the pacing appropriately brisk, and the past and future sequences show the authors’ admirable imaginative gifts. Miller and Manas’ tour de force packs plenty of entertainment value, and the ending tantalizes with the possibility of future past installments.

An impressively original take on alternative history.

Pub Date: June 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615651620

Page Count: 501

Publisher: Pop Culture Zoo Press

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

A fresh, compelling twist on fantasy, without magic or sorcery.


Co-authors McGarry and Ravipinto jump into the fantasy genre: “The time had come to leap before she looked,” with the rest of the book explaining the heroine’s dramatic decision.

Once Duchess’ situation is understood, one can’t blame the 16-year-old for jumping. Originally an aristocrat and now an orphaned bread girl, she lives in a murky city called Rodaas in an unspecified setting that suggests medieval Earth. The world is run on a system resembling modern gang wars—classes manipulate each other and use identifying colors. In fact, life in Rodaas is often described as a game; those who understand have the best odds of survival. When the Grey—a shadowy group that operates between the power elite and the peasants—invites Duchess to join them, she knows this opportunity might save her. The invitation comes via a token that leads her to a contact who assigns her the dangerous mission of stealing a dagger from an evil lord whom unseen players want eliminated. Duchess’ survival instinct screams to reject the mission, but that instinct also knows it’s her only chance to escape the slums and learn why her family was murdered. She can’t do it alone, so she persuades her friend, the beautiful Lysander, to help. Their plan is as dangerous as daily life in Rodaas, where the stones have ears and transgressions can be fatal. McGarry and Ravipinto portray this world in deft prose that weaves back story and plot into a smooth narrative peopled with credible, appealing characters. Although it takes perhaps too long to figure out the story behind the Greys, as well as to understand Duchess’ motivation in undertaking her mission, Rodaas is so deeply realized, and the conflicts so captivating, that the patient storytelling pays off. The story pulls in the reader from the first sentence and doesn’t let go.

A fresh, compelling twist on fantasy, without magic or sorcery.

Pub Date: March 2, 2012


Page Count: 207

Publisher: Peccable Productions

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

The gripping pursuit and protection of the love of a lifetime.


The petrifying tale of a chain of reincarnations that can only be broken by finding true love.

Kim is a blind college student who’s in a relationship with her biology teacher. When they get engaged, he urges Kim to contact her estranged mother, Astra, a psychiatrist who didn’t come back after leaving Kim at a school for the blind when she was 6 years old. For Astra, having a child was a failed attempt to feel love—the only way for a Repeater to conclude his or her string of lives. Finding herself incapable of the emotion, Astra abandoned Kim; but over a decade later, Astra finds the motivation to monstrously destroy her life as part of their grisly mother–daughter rivalry. The destruction bleeds into 16-year-old Lucy’s life as well; she’s a new patient who’s been having blackouts and flashbacks from another life. Lucy doesn’t yet understand that she, too, is a Repeater. With prose so poetic, it’s easy to forget this is a horror story: One evil action collides with the next as a cursed Repeater ruthlessly seeks the true love she hasn’t yet found in the hundreds of lives she remembers—love that would finally end her streak of reincarnations. More than a battle of good and evil, Ferencik’s (Cracks in the Foundation, 2008) story is rich with layers, well-developed characters, and moments of gruesomeness and tenderness. The loveless malice contrasts sharply with characters—some Repeaters, some not—who feel love so deeply that they seem to glow from it on the page.

The gripping pursuit and protection of the love of a lifetime.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0981574110

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Waking Dream Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

An exciting, well-written and compassionate eco-thriller with real heroes and a mission worth caring about.


An American biospherist and a Chinese nanoengineer risk everything to save Earth’s climate in this thriller set 40 years in the future.

By 2050, Earth’s climate is in crisis. Increasing carbon dioxide levels have flooded coastlines, created deserts and worsened political instability. A few biospheres protect vanishing species, but even these preserves are threatened by corruption and graft. When biologist Tania Black is unexpectedly appointed Chief Biospherist to the U.N., she wonders if she can even make a difference. Tian Jie, a Chinese nanotechnologist, has invented a material that—if everything goes right—could make an enormous glasslike sun-shield in space, helping cool the Earth. Amid various dangers and with everything at stake, Tania and Jie (with help from supporters) risk their lives to bring the shield to reality. In his debut novel, Perren draws in the reader with a well-rounded, sympathetic set of characters grounded in an all-too-possible future world. Unlike many thrillers, what’s at stake is real; it matters right now as much as it will in 40 years. Climate change could be a preachy subject, but Perren’s characters are so lifelike that their issues are inseparable from the story, making for a deeply emotional, compelling read. Tania, Jie and friends (including Ruth, the redheaded Green Army member, and Rajit, a math genius) are distinct, funny and smart. Best of all, they’ve got heart. Jie is asked why he’s risking so much; does he have a hero complex? “Jie flexed his arm to show the lack of muscle. ‘A hero? I’m here because I have a 9-year-old son.’ ” Perren’s 2050 is also believable, with many well-thought-out technological and cultural details around the world and on the moon. Some items in this version of the future are intriguing, while some are appalling or amusing, like the ubiquitous burger chain that offers “deep-fried fiber flakes” that contain “zero percent of your daily nutrients.” Perren’s sense of humor helps balance the book’s serious concerns, and the well-explained science, including some helpful diagrams, respects the reader’s intelligence. Pacing, too, is well-handled, with events rushing to a finish that brings together several moving parts and packs an emotional punch.

An exciting, well-written and compassionate eco-thriller with real heroes and a mission worth caring about.

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0987913609

Page Count: 329

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

A stylish reimagining of the psychic mystery genre.


Influence peddling—the telepathic kind—fuels the big city in this hard-boiled but soulful fantasy thriller.

After years spent conveying the thoughts of small-town coma patients to their relatives, 20-something psychic Calder heads for Manhattan, where he’s snapped up by a man named Sotto and his crew of psychics-for-hire. Like everything else in New York, ESP is a racket: By telepathically sussing out potential blackmail fodder or implanting irresistible commands in a target’s mind, Sotto’s contractors will, for a reasonable fee, convince a client’s troublesome tenant to move, a boss to confer a promotion or a business competitor to close up shop. Unfortunately, Calder’s first assignment—swaying a city councilman’s vote on a real estate development—bogs down when the pol proves to be a rare “stone”—someone impervious to psychic manipulation. Mentored by a psychic amateur boxer who doesn’t mind dishing out the occasional old-school beating-as-persuasion, Calder resorts to ever more frantic mental string-pulling as he fends off a rival crew trying to lobby the council in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, he drinks in an atmospheric demimonde—New York City is in many ways the novel’s beguiling antagonist—that includes a stripper with a heart of gold, a priest with a taste for demented violence and thuggish psychic twins who try to run him out of town with an excruciating headache. Connell (Counterfeit Kings, 2004) pulls the psychic scenario out of the usual mystical dungeon and gives it a bracing, noir-edged urban naturalism. For all their supernatural powers, his characters are prosaic working stiffs: hardened, on the make and embroiled in murderous criminal turf battles, yet reigned in—sometimes—by a modicum of professional ethics or Catholic guilt. Despite their direct links to other minds, they reveal themselves mainly in long, discursive conversations that meander through offbeat observations, half-remembered anecdotes and curlicued philosophical ruminations, all phrased in a fluid, punchy, endlessly entertaining vernacular. The engrossing result feels like an ESP-themed mashup of The Sopranos and The Wire as scripted by Quentin Tarantino.

A stylish reimagining of the psychic mystery genre.

Pub Date: April 23, 2012


Page Count: 434

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

A stellar sequel that can stand on its own.



A rollicking interplanetary tale of cunning, gumption and the human spirit.

In the not-too-distant future, Earth is environmentally wracked, with much of its population corralled in refugee (i.e. prisoner) camps or dispatched to colonies on far-flung planets. Wireless-network monitoring and mind-reading scans are the norm, tactics for totalitarian “Patriots” to both rein in rebels who revere the Constitution and to keep earthly ethnic and geopolitical loyalties alive in outer space. After one outpost goes down in flames, spacecraft arrive on the planet Tenembras with a doomed settlement’s few remaining vestiges—the exact nature of which must stay off the Patriots’ radar. The band that rallies to protect the payload is wide-ranging enough to warrant the introduction’s playbill-like character list. At the group’s core is Elise t’Hoot, a gutsy technological genius and all-round survivor with a knack for bridging language and cultural barriers between peoples, not to mention between her species and the nonanthropomorphic aliens who are infinitely better-intentioned than most humans. Not immune to the ravages of harsh politics and terrains, t’Hoot succeeds as a poster child for girl power. Wall’s (The Distant Trees: An Elise t’Hoot Novel, Pre-Elise, 2012) Kentucky roots and pride help illuminate her heroine and the folksy, fast-moving narrative, which pits greed and oppression against ingenuity and the basic goodness of humanity. Her high-spirited, irresistible storytelling extrapolates an all-too-possible future from current political and environmental conditions. She fleshes out this could-be world with pitch-perfect dialogue and characterizations, song lyrics that enhance the plot instead of stalling it, and an astute yet accessible command of technology, science and human nature. Despite its length, this unflagging novel invites a one-sitting read.

A stellar sequel that can stand on its own.

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469942995

Page Count: 428

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

A stellar thriller that handily juggles its formulaic elements to achieve near-perfect liftoff.

Sea of Crises

Debut author Steere shows off his air-and-space mastery in this swashbuckling tale of Apollo 18, the moon landing that never was.

In Steere’s version of 1976, astronauts Bob Cartwright, Mason Gale and Steve Dayton head toward the moon to explore the lunar feature known as Mare Crisium, but the landing team of Cartwright and Gale discovers something out of place. Water? Aliens? A black monolith? The world never finds out, since the crew isn’t heard from or seen again until their capsule, a charred wreck containing three crisp corpses, plunges into the Pacific. Thirty years later, Nate, Peter and Matt—the sons of mission commander Cartwright—find themselves tangled in the investigation of what really happened. Peter, a journalist, starts it all by ferreting out NASA documents and questioning Gale’s surviving relatives in Minnesota. Now he’s being followed. Oldest brother Nate, a crack legal consultant, comes to the rescue in LA by using his organizational skills to execute evasive maneuvers against bad guys who send impolite warnings in the form of animal carcasses. The two escape to Idaho in search of Matt, Peter’s twin, who was once attached to an off-the-grid military-intelligence unit known as the Organization. Things get devilishly complicated, conspiratorial and dangerous as the brothers are pushed toward the Atlantic coast amid a series of revelations in the form of flashbacks to the lunar sea. Steere’s high-octane suspense tale takes off with all the intrigue and honor of the best Space-Age Westerns and political thrillers. Good guys, bad guys, damsels in distress, secret tunnels, sexy aircraft, heavy ordnance and gadgets galore are set handsomely by Steere’s deft renderings. A bit of melodrama and some boilerplate dialogue don’t derail this solidly built module whose commanding verisimilitude will enthrall space and tech enthusiasts as well as anyone ready for adventure.

A stellar thriller that handily juggles its formulaic elements to achieve near-perfect liftoff.

Pub Date: April 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0985401405

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Penfield Publications

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

For fans of noir-laden science fiction in the vein of Philip K. Dick that is in equal measures suspenseful, gripping, darkly...


Against a backdrop of dystopian urban sprawl and human suffering, a morally questionable scientific corporation hunts for the gene responsible for the soul in O’Donnell’s debut novel, the first in a planned sci-fi trilogy.

As the novel begins, the chronology bounces forward and backward from the late 1980s—when scientist Jonathan Campbell flees from the “Exodus” project he has been working on after he discovers the horrifying human experiments authorized by his employer, Mr. Morrison—to a grim 2015. In the not-too-distant future, Morrison has nearly reached his goals, which involve genetic experimentation and test-tube humans, and Campbell has spent the past 30 years hiding among a secret order devoted to cultivating the soul, part of which involves rescuing Morrison’s human collateral damage. Meanwhile, the novel also tracks a troubled, drug-addicted young man, Dylan Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s father was once a promising presidential candidate before committing suicide when Dylan was a boy—a thread that dovetails with the main arc in surprising, harrowing ways. O’Donnell captures the darkness in humanity and the world, particularly in such elegantly composed passages as this one: “Morrison imagined women and children packed into…overcrowded refugee camps…mistaking the deployment of a Predator missile for a shooting star, making a wish as a $40 million toy dealt death from impossible heights.” The overall effect is a taut, brilliantly conceived thriller with impeccable pacing bursting with ideas.

For fans of noir-laden science fiction in the vein of Philip K. Dick that is in equal measures suspenseful, gripping, darkly funny and philosophically challenging.

Pub Date: May 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615553184

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Tiber City Press

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

A classic in the making, this collection of time-traveling sci-fi stories mixes gripping human narratives with provocative...



A dazzling collection of time-travel–themed sci-fi that stands with some of the classics of the genre.

In Whose Time, the novella that opens this collection, distills complex theoretical physics into an attention-grabbing yarn. According to the story, particular moments in history create focal points from which new universes in other dimensions branch outward. Ambassadors from two different futures created by one such focal point—the launch of a seemingly innocuous communications satellite—travel back in time to the Earth days before liftoff. If she can ensure that the satellite isn’t launched on schedule, Sha’raelon’s timeline begins; if it’s launched on time, the universe of Jarren Canto is ascendant. Each timeline has its attractions and perils, and it’s up to the people of the Earth to choose their future. Unfortunately, neither ambassador has been completely honest about what’s in store for humankind....There are big ideas in this story—grandfather paradoxes, temporal loops—yet the pacing never flags, and the plot’s contortions of time and space are original and thrilling. The title story is a gritty future noir about two cops on a mission to deliver a warrant in a lawless city. The twist at the end of this short, brutal tale—a nightmarish vision of penal system privatization—delivers the satisfying impact of a classic Twilight Zone episode. “Crossover,” the final story, has a similarly surprising conclusion. A husband grieving his wife’s death becomes intrigued with a scientist friend’s research: experiments involving separating the soul from the body by means of extreme physical experiences. The husband devises his own test to see if, once freed, a soul could re-enter its body at an earlier time and change the future. The results are literally as well as figuratively breathtaking. All three of these stories are brightly and engagingly written, with solid dialogue, compelling characters and scenarios that, no matter how elaborate, never undermine the momentum of the stories.

A classic in the making, this collection of time-traveling sci-fi stories mixes gripping human narratives with provocative scientific speculation.

Pub Date: May 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475053890

Page Count: 272

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

A compelling narrator drives this strong, sympathetic tale that begets metaphysical soul-searching.


In a future where artificial humans have become common household helpers, a government-employed therapist must question his faith in the system he has long supported.

Orphaned at a young age, Jay was raised by a “humaniform,” a robot programmed as a caretaker. Jay’s older brother, Ian, was 18 when their parents died. Jay loved his robotic mother, and he feels abandoned and betrayed by Ian, who hates humaniforms. When Ian reappears in Jay’s life, he asks Jay to testify that Ian is a responsible enough father to take custody of his children without the help of a humaniform. Jay hopes that Ian might learn to accept humaniforms. But Ian persists in trying to prove that the robots and the government that provides them—the government that Jay works for—are both corrupt and dangerous. As Ian tries to influence Jay’s life, Jay realizes that his wife, Sasha, may not be as sympathetic toward his work as she had always appeared. In order to defend his own position, and protect his childhood memories, Jay must probe into the workings of his world—and he begins to see that there is a sinister element behind his apparently benevolent government. Though Tsui’s setting may not hold up to deep analysis, Jay’s imperfect understanding of it allows readers to see the world through a filtered lens—and share Jay’s horror as he unravels the truth behind the system he thought he knew. His relationships, with humans and humaniforms alike, are genuine in their complexity, and as Jay begins to understand the truth, he ultimately learns how much he values his loved ones. Questions of human identity, illusion versus reality and the types of sacrifice required for true caregiving continually move the story forward.

A compelling narrator drives this strong, sympathetic tale that begets metaphysical soul-searching.

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0985667603

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Onieros Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

A sci-fi novel that soars along with a teenage heroine whose imperfections help make her believable and endearing.


A 17-year-old pilot with a history of crashing her craft holds a planet’s fate in her hands when a human settlement on Mars runs low on food.

Flight-obsessed Jessamyn Jaarda faces the biggest mission of her life in the fourth YA sci-fi novel from Swanson (Unfurl, 2012, etc.). Fired from pilot training for crashing one craft and praised for doing the same to another, Jess inspires unpredictable reactions in people. Maybe that’s because Jess lives, as she flies, by pure instinct, and no one knows whether that trait will enable her to save her planet when, because of potential starvation for a human settlement on Mars, she must fly to Earth on a food raid. Along with her brother, however, the red-haired teenager has the courage to attempt the mission and stick with it when it goes terribly wrong. Swanson paces this story beautifully, weaving exposition tightly into the plot as disaster interrupts everyday routines. Despite the strangeness of the Martian environment, the novel quickly establishes the humanity of Jess and other characters, as when Jess tries and fails to help her brother resist a bout of claustrophobia or when she first locks eyes with her planet’s only dog and feels something sweep through her: “A something that reminded her of taking her craft toward breaking day or of watching Phobos as the swift moon zipped across the night sky. The dog was...wondrous.” At first, Jess sees everything through the lens of her obsession with flight, but she becomes far too multifaceted, distractible and passionate to be mistaken for an archetype. Watching her grow and struggle to survive makes this book hard to put down.

A sci-fi novel that soars along with a teenage heroine whose imperfections help make her believable and endearing.

Pub Date: July 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-0983562160

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Williams Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

Exciting, immersive and authentic.


This historical novel, set in sixth-century Scotland, relates the struggles of St. Columba to establish his monastery and of Aedan mac Gabran to gain a kingship.

In 563, Columba, an exiled abbot (and future saint), arrives with his monks on the west coast of Scotland, hoping to establish a monastery. The pagan King Conall agrees to give them the isle of Iona, if they can wrest it somehow from the Picts—a seemingly impossible task. Aedan mac Gabran, a dispossessed cousin of the king, befriends Columba; as a prince of Ireland, the abbot could make a good ally. When the woman Aedan loves marries someone else, he sinks into a meaningless life dedicated to taking on all comers: “They could devise no feat to best him.” Meanwhile, Columba struggles with spiritual darkness, and the monks’ temporary home is invaded in a bloody raid. Columba devises a bold scheme: exchange an important Pictish hostage for Iona. Aedan—feeling he has little to lose—agrees to help. On the long, dangerous journey, Aedan proves to be an expert warrior and Columba, having regained his hopeful sense of wonder, directs them through several tight spots through miracles he performs. As a medieval historian, de Fougerolles is deeply informed: Her novel includes historical notes, a glossary and a chronology, as well as hand-drawn maps. Throughout, the reader learns of the Dark Ages’ complicated cultural scene, as when, for instance, Columba wonders about Aedan’s status: “Were the young man a high lord, his clothing would have been far more gaudy: back home, in Hibernia [Ireland], a slave was permitted to wear only one color, and a farmer two, but a king could sport as many as six colors at once.” But this is no textbook: The characters come alive with complex inner lives, and Columba’s spiritual struggles take on a fully rendered significance that matches Aedan’s love affair. The hazardous journey sparks with rescues, magic, monsters, escapes and miracles. Through it all, de Fougerolles writes well: “Could Aedan tame Draig, stallion of the Visigoths, killer of men…unridden because of his ferocity? (Not hard: Aedan whispered it words of comfort and love and, head bowed, the grateful, terrified beast came to his hand.)” The first in a planned series, this historical novel will leave readers eager for more.

Exciting, immersive and authentic.

Pub Date: May 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615602547

Page Count: 394

Publisher: Careswell Press

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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