Deft dialogue, crisp plotting, and a likable central figure make this multidisciplinary scientific adventure an exuberant...

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The SHIVA Syndrome

A professor and parapsychology researcher discovers a key to mankind’s evolution or destruction in this debut thriller.

Beau Walker is a man without a field. Teaching at a backwater university after being dismissed from a government project because of his ethical concerns and bureaucratic maneuvers on the part of a one-time friend, Walker is an academic pariah until two soldiers appear one day. His former friend needs Walker’s expertise, and the professor—who is haunted by both his empathic abilities and the memory of the one time they failed him—has little choice but to cooperate. In the Russian city of Podol’sk, a project partially based on Walker’s work has gone horribly awry, killing thousands and leaving traces of mysteries that threaten humanity’s scientific understanding. Discovering what occurred, and how to prevent it from happening again, falls on Walker and his new friends, who are initially perplexed (in a meeting, Walker confesses, “There’s something I can’t grasp, like trying to grab a slippery ball in a swimming pool. Always just out of reach”). But as secrets and revelations accumulate, the team’s combined knowledge and abilities may be inadequate to stop what’s coming. Throughout the investigation, Walker, a complex intellectual, struggles with the duality of his heritage—African-American mother, Mohawk father—as well as the divide between the rigorous scientific experiments in neurophysiology and psychopharmacology and the intuitive, imaginative aspects of his psychological and cultural studies. Joshua writes with a sure hand, managing to squeeze in many discussions and esoteric concepts, ranging from mythic structures to neuropsychology to remote viewing, while keeping the dialogue realistic and sharp. Although the author leans on slang a bit heavily at times, particularly with the British geologist Gareth (whose dialogue self-consciously uses British colloquialisms such as “munted” and “Bollocks!” at every opportunity), the pace rarely flags, and Joshua allows the surfeit of information to proceed naturally from the characters’ words and thoughts. Because of this fluidity, the characters react in believable ways even when the plot developments, which borrow from quantum physics, anthropology, and psychology, inspire incredulity. In addition, Joshua has crafted an appealing protagonist in Walker. Short-tempered, kind, thoughtful, yet impulsive, he is a flawed but ultimately heroic character and serves as a narrative linchpin throughout this absorbing story.

Deft dialogue, crisp plotting, and a likable central figure make this multidisciplinary scientific adventure an exuberant and involving read.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77155-206-6

Page Count: 474

Publisher: Champagne Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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