Dense but enthralling entry, with a bevy of new, potential narrative directions.

THE ENIGMA BEYOND

From the Enigma series , Vol. 11

The latest installment of this long-running technothriller series finds a next generation cyber security team facing off against unprincipled artificial intelligences.

MAG is an organization of technical leaders signified only by M, A, and G. They’re intent on controlling technology and using AIs to harvest people’s information. One such AI, JOAN, uses I-Drones to attack and overtake the North American Defense System in Colorado. Lt. Tony Bough, per his superior’s order, flees the facility, with the hopes of telling officials in Washington, D.C., what’s happened to NADS. Meanwhile, the R-Group, a family-run cyber security team that’s existed for decades, is training its young descendants to take the reins someday. Students in R-Group hacker Quip’s class gather intel when JOAN’s targeting of U.S. military and weapons-grade satellites proves understandably suspicious. But other AIs have seemingly gone rogue as well, including one holding sway over a Brazilian village and another on a Chinese space station. MAG’s nefarious plan ultimately affects R-Group members and students, like Juan Jr. on an assignment in São Paulo with Uncle Carlos, and Juan’s sister, Gracie, in a new job at Global Bank in Manhattan. The R-Group, with help from its own AI, ICABOD, works to put a stop to the AIs’ felonious deeds. Breakfield and Burkey jam-pack the 11th entry in their Enigma series with subplots, although some recurring characters, like Jacob and Petra, take a back seat. These storylines, however, including a politician that M has compromised, ultimately intersect in some capacity. The authors’ tech-savvy prose is typically sharp, but the story also has breaths of fresh air, from the still learning students to Tony’s off-the-grid run with new friend (aka romantic interest), Rose, that’s free of contemporary technology. Villains may be largely anonymous, but they’re well rounded, as personal agendas turn them against one another. They’re likewise topical: Most readers will easily link well-known companies to M, A, and G. As in previous installments, there’s an open ending and a strong possibility of further sequels.

Dense but enthralling entry, with a bevy of new, potential narrative directions.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-946858-40-5

Page Count: 382

Publisher: ICABOD Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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