A novel about a scheming president offers an excellent read for those who love thrillers or 21st-century history.

Divided We Fall

From the We, the Watched series , Vol. 2

In this dystopian sequel, the Underground races to expose a secret surveillance program before the Enemy’s final blow.

The Enemy has bombarded the Capital with airstrikes. The man known as Seven, who once worked for the government’s Elite Guard as Agent Jon Wyle, has evacuated the city with damning information on a flash drive. He aims to prove that President William Drake, his surveillance-obsessed administration, and the fearmongering Church want nothing less than complete control over the nation’s populace. He ends up sharing a car with a woman named Talia, and they head for Loganville, to her brother Shaan’s home. Naturally, Elite Guard Agent Eve Parker—Jon’s fiancee—remains on Seven’s trail. Seven and his cohorts narrowly escape into the arms of Daniel Alexander Young Jr. and the Underground, the freethinking “Heretics” battling the nation’s enforced division. As Young plans to expose the executive branch as corrupt, Drake uses the Capital attack to announce Patriot ID, a chip-based (and mind-invading) program that will “quickly separate the Heretics from the Patriots.” Then the Enemy contacts the Underground, claiming a too-good-to-be-true desire for a joint effort in taking down Drake. Do Seven and Young dare use the Enemy’s firepower to ignite revolution in cities across the country? In this sequel, Bender (We, the Watched, 2013, etc.) further filters the chaos of the George W. Bush presidency through a gripping dystopian narrative. At one point, Young explains, “We have four branches of government: executive, legislative, judicial, and the Church.” Bender expertly fleshes out Eve and Jon’s relationship through flashbacks. These scenes help fully realize the evolution of his characters’ hearts and minds as the moral terrain worsens. There are even critiques of U.S. empire building, as when Seven asks, “How can we be so sure that,” once the Enemy has defeated Drake, it won’t be “just as controlling as the Guard?” Overall, the author keeps the narrative fluid, never bogging it down in extended battle sequences or windy polemics. Bender’s sequel is a worthy delivery on the promise of his riveting debut.

A novel about a scheming president offers an excellent read for those who love thrillers or 21st-century history.

Pub Date: May 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4954-9212-9

Page Count: 328

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A huge, churning, relentlessly entertaining melodrama buoyed by confidence that human values will prevail.

LEVIATHAN WAKES

A rare, rattling space opera—first of a trilogy, or series, from Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).  

Humanity colonized the solar system out as far as Neptune but then exploration stagnated. Straight-arrow Jim Holden is XO of an ice-hauler swinging between the rings of Saturn and the mining stations of the Belt, the scattered ring of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. His ship's captain, responding to a distress beacon, orders Holden and a shuttle crew to investigate what proves to be a derelict. Holden realizes it's some sort of trap, but an immensely powerful, stealthed warship destroys the ice-hauler, leaving Holden and the shuttle crew the sole survivors. This unthinkable act swiftly brings Earth, with its huge swarms of ships, Mars with its less numerous but modern and powerful navy, and the essentially defenseless Belt to the brink of war. Meanwhile, on the asteroid Ceres, cynical, hard-drinking detective Miller—we don't find out he has other names until the last few pages—receives orders to track down and "rescue"—i.e. kidnap—a girl, Julie Mao, who rebelled against her rich Earth family and built an independent life for herself in the Belt. Julie is nowhere to be found but, as the fighting escalates, Miller discovers that Julie's father knew beforehand that hostilities would occur. Now obsessed, Miller continues to investigate even when he loses his job—and the trail leads towards Holden, the derelict, and what might prove to be a horrifying biological experiment. No great depth of character here, but the adherence to known physical laws—no spaceships zooming around like airplanes—makes the action all the more visceral. And where Corey really excels is in conveying the horror and stupidity of interplanetary war, the sheer vast emptiness of space and the amorality of huge corporations.

A huge, churning, relentlessly entertaining melodrama buoyed by confidence that human values will prevail.

Pub Date: June 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-12908-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

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THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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