While convoluted in parts, this impossible-mission tale features an appealing hero.

CHALLENGES OF THE GODS

From the Challenges of the Gods series , Vol. 1

A comedic sci-fi novel focuses on one man’s undercover quest to destroy Earth.

Debut author Hofsetz presents Mike Pohlt: a brilliant, young astrophysicist who has just come out of a coma. The problem is that, upon awakening, Mike suffers from amnesia. He cannot remember any of his friends, and many aspects of life on Earth baffle him. This is true because Mike is not really Mike. Unbeknown to those around him, the body of Mike is inhabited by a man named Zeon from the planet Jora. Jora is a lot like Earth, only more advanced in many ways. For instance, on Jora the idea of getting in a car that is not a self-driving vehicle would be ridiculous. Zeon’s task (while he impersonates Mike) is simple: He must destroy Earth. Due to circumstances put in place by creator Gods (along with some components of multiverse theory), either Earth or Jora must be obliterated if the other is to survive. Zeon doesn’t really want to annihilate this world of colorful cars and American football, but he must if his own people are to live. So Zeon, along with Mike’s friend Ravi Chandrasekhar, goes about developing technology that makes him very rich. This technology could also result in an end to Earth. Things are complicated further by a dreamlike realm populated by people called Protectors. In the world of the Protectors (which Zeon, as Mike, also traverses), humans from Earth battle warriors from Jora. Who will emerge victorious? Hofsetz delivers an intricate setup for a complex story. But despite Gods, Protectors, Messengers (who explain all), and the rules of different worlds, everything boils down to kill or be killed for Zeon. Later chapters incorporate odd twists and action scenes full of explosions and military maneuvers, yet the energetic tale is at its most memorable when focusing on Zeon. He always maintains a sense of humor. This is the case when he reflects that “Earth has some crazy people, and they’re good at their craziness.” He is altogether likable and self-effacing despite the fact that he has been sent to terminate everyone around him. Throughout it all, readers are kept in suspense about how such a struggle will end.    

While convoluted in parts, this impossible-mission tale features an appealing hero.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5092-2432-6

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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

FLY AWAY

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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