A creative and brisk meditation on a tech-obsessed society.




Ray (Kecia’s Secret: Revised, 2017, etc.) delivers a sci-fi novel about a murderous quest for control in the world of big business.

In the opening pages of this loose, paranoid tale, a number of businesspeople attend a meeting in New York City. Although the purpose of the gathering is vague, it’s clearly not a social event; those assembled “could care less about each other, it was all about accumulating more wealth.” Later, they come up with a plan to murder an as-yet-undiscovered lyricist and steal his or her brain. The victim, they say, must be “more than a poet, more than a rapper, with a limitless imagination,” and once the brain is in their possession, they plan to connect it to a computer for sinister purposes. Meanwhile, all over the world, people are willingly being implanted with radio-frequency identification chips—an action that the first-person omniscient narrator says will “be their doom,” although the reasons why aren’t immediately clear. What is clear, though, is that those in control seek to tighten their grip on the population through ever-evolving means. Is there any room for hope in a world that relinquishes more and more of its freedom to technology? The story waxes on a wide range of subjects, from cryogenics to police shootings to cloning, as it ruminates on current and near-future events. Along the way, this brief book maintains a free-wheeling and meandering style. The plot gets a bit thin at times, and the characters tend to be flat and underdeveloped (such as the ever-greedy businessman Jack Sloan). That said, Ray is at his best when he’s examining his story’s strangest and most conspiratorial elements. He also entertains its sci-fi concepts briefly enough that they don’t become tiresome, such as the fact that any present-day civilian can travel to outer space—as long as they have enough money. His economical style allows the book to move freely and pointedly toward his broader theme that “there seem to be no limits to the unthinkable acts that mankind conjures up.” Indeed, the story’s ending is indisputably fantastical.   

A creative and brisk meditation on a tech-obsessed society.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Rise Above

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2017

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.


When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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