A lengthy but mostly engrossing story of worldwide chaos and smaller-scale upheaval.

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THE OMEGA PROJECT

A U.S. Army officer at a subterranean military base is challenged by security breaches and potential refugees from aboveground disasters in Hodgson’s (By Strength and by Guile, 2016) thriller.

When higher-ups decide to move Lt. Col. Jon Frasier out of Delta Force, he earns a position at a secret underground facility called Omega 11. It’s part of Project Omega, the government’s plan to safeguard Americans in the event of nuclear war. During Frasier’s first day as ground-forces commander, he’s ambushed by a group of armed men, whom he fights off. Omega 11’s deputy commander was recently murdered, and after its commanding general suffers a suspicious heart attack, Frasier suspects that assassins have infiltrated the base, likely with inside help. He also learns that experts are predicting that an earthquake will cause California to fall into the sea, causing a tsunami that will devastate multiple countries. As Omega 11 and other sites prepare for refugees, Frasier leads the search for the assassins and moles running loose on his base. He receives assistance from Klavia, a Belgian shepherd that he helped recertify as a military working dog after its previous handler’s death in Afghanistan. One of its many skills is sniffing out explosives, which comes in handy. Hodgson effectively establishes the isolated facility, where people admire the realistic artificial sky and hear constant updates about increasingly dire global calamities, including terrorist activity and volcanoes on the verge of erupting. The characters are plentiful and distinctive, including some incompetent officers and others who are downright villainous. However, the author’s descriptions of women too often resort to superficial characteristics, such as a “pleasant chest,” “a smallish but very nice breast,” or “very feminine shaped butt and legs.” The depiction of Klavia, though, is exceptional; instances told from the dog’s perspective reveal its fierce loyalty and protectiveness; for example, it’s prone to frustration when a “female two legs” distracts its Alpha, Frasier. The ending doesn’t resolve everything, though, which leaves things open for a possible sequel.

A lengthy but mostly engrossing story of worldwide chaos and smaller-scale upheaval.

Pub Date: July 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4575-5536-7

Page Count: 646

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 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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