A sci-fi tale that will stay in readers’ minds as they ponder the value of human connection in times of crisis.


The Communication Room

In this futuristic, psychological horror novel, aliens control and victimize members of the human race.

Aresty’s (Recovery, 2013) novel starts off with a bang: in 2120, Leonard Ackerman, a science officer in a world infiltrated by aliens, is running for his life. In this scene, the author writes with a delicious urgency, placing readers in the middle of the action as Ackerman is tracked by a violent human co-worker: “He had to get somewhere safe, and then he’d be able to breathe.” Ackerman’s escape attempt is short-lived, however, as he quickly becomes trapped in the titular communication room, a place in which he can call humans in the past and warn them before they encounter alien-controlled “conscripts” for the first time. The room is an attempt by Ackerman’s fellow science officers to help mankind fight against the initial waves of conscripts in the distant past, increasing humanity’s chances of later survival. Conscripts can appear to be anyone; they’re humans who came in contact with meteor shards, allowing the aliens to take over their bodies and make them kill others. Aresty allows readers to gradually learn the entire history of this extraterrestrial conflict as each communication unfolds: all of humanity’s greatest atrocities were due to the efforts of the conscripted, from the Civil War to World War II and beyond. The author places immense power in the hands of humans who are willing to reach out to one another, who cling to a small moment of hope and spread it to those around them. Overall, the book’s most terrifying details are its quietest: dull thuds of fists on doors, a corpse’s single open eye, the dead air of a call after a child is killed.

A sci-fi tale that will stay in readers’ minds as they ponder the value of human connection in times of crisis. 

Pub Date: April 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-66479-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Strange Fictions Press

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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