Slow-going sci-fi that culminates explosively.

CREATION ABOMINATION

Debut author Thompson’s sci-fi novel considers the long quest for stem cell research.

William Mears, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Southern California, is studying the regenerative properties of stem cells and experimenting on mice. Although using human embryonic stem cells is controversial, William is completely committed to his work. The young scientist could possibly revolutionize regenerative medicine and make a lot of money doing it. It’s the latter prospect that interests his fellow graduate student Don, who partners with William. Added into the mix is Don’s scheming girlfriend, Kim (who just so happens to be the roommate of William’s girlfriend, Tara). She has her own ulterior motives regarding William’s work. As William and Don go ahead with their research, Kim takes an active interest in the proceedings and begins to act strangely. Don comes home to find Kim in the midst of some kind of satanic trance. What exactly is she planning if the research is successful? The answer to that question takes years to unravel as William goes about his lab work, his dissertation defense, and beyond. As the reader comes to learn, scientific advancement isn’t quick. This long view of discovery adds a layer of realism, but unnecessary details further decelerate an already snailish pace. Likewise, dialogue is often mundane; when William is about to meet Tara’s father, he explains, “I want to be certain to make as good of a first impression as possible.” Nevertheless, the text has much to teach, particularly about the ethical issues surrounding embryonic stem cell research. Tara’s father happens to be a minister with his own opinions on William’s work, and the two engage in an informative discussion. But Tara’s father turns out to be the least of William’s hurdles.

Slow-going sci-fi that culminates explosively.

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-980562-38-2

Page Count: 442

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

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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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