A riveting, thought-provoking story disguised as a fast-paced thriller.


A debut novel spins a tale about studying killer whales to find hope for the future.

Tech billionaire David James Parker is close to introducing a cutting-edge artificial intelligence named Soti. But his estranged father, James, dies, sending DJ off on a new path. DJ’s younger brother, Jonathan Joseph, is an autistic savant so James named DJ as the executor of his estate. James was wealthy, made rich by his OneWorld Marine Park franchise. In a video, James explains to DJ that what he really wants him to do is to continue the research he had begun into how orcas (killer whales) communicate. With the aid of Soti and the sensitive JJ, DJ’s research determines that the orcas use telepathic resonance (linked by thoughts over long distances). DJ believes he can transfer this form of communication to humans and plans to offer it free to everyone. But officials of the Kremlin-connected Neftkomp company, which is seeking to buy OneWorld, steal one version of Soti, hoping to figure out how to use telepathic resonance so that Russia can regain global superiority. Attempts to squelch the Russian scheme result in a rising body count. Meanwhile, the orcas resist DJ’s plan to give their secret to humans and leave him to wrestle with whether he is trying to open a Pandora’s box. Swanson is a marine naturalist who has long studied the Washington state-based orcas known as the Southern Resident Killer Whales, which are featured in his novel. He even includes the thoughts of the orcas, as translated by JJ or Soti. The author deserves credit for having good guys and bad guys among both the Americans and Russians rather than heavy-handedly favoring one side. His protagonist is thorough and conscientious, and he’s surrounded by a Greek chorus of associates who force DJ to consider every angle of his potentially world-changing decision. This clever thriller is effectively paced, as both sides race to crack the orcas’ code, one working for humanity and the other striving for domination. Swanson leaves readers debating whether DJ makes the right call in the end.

A riveting, thought-provoking story disguised as a fast-paced thriller.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73270-250-9

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Pendrell Sound Press

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2019

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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