A sci-fi series opener with ADHD as a key component that deserves all the attention it can get.

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THE ANGRIEST ANGEL

A brilliant, reckless troublemaker appears to be the only person immune to the mind-control camouflage of benign aliens dwelling incognito on Earth.

An intro by the author’s psychiatrist explains that Halt (Pillars of Amorum, 2018, etc.) has ADHD and channels that disability into the protagonist of this opener to a sci-fi trilogy. That foreknowledge sets up expectations of a disease-of-the-week TV movie (or something akin to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vs. the Flying Saucers), which prove happily inaccurate. Caelans are not monstrous space invaders but a human-appearing alien race, both technologically and morally advanced well beyond Homo sapiens. Hidden in elite positions in society, they’ve studied humankind with fascination for more than 50 years. A vital distinction between Caelans and earthlings: the aliens’ mental “psy” powers that they can use for protection and persuasion. This ability has kept the extraterrestrials’ secret—until they meet Chase Madison, an unstable Chicagoan diagnosed with ADHD. Chase has a history of violence but is also smart and fearless when it counts. Avery, a beautiful (but terribly naïve) Caelan scientist, and Nathan, her stolid fiance, try to evaluate Chase’s resistance to psy. An even bigger threat, however, is that Caelans on Earth are falling prey to negative traits—jealousy, thirst for power, and especially anger—that their species seemingly overcame eons ago. The Caelan “Regulus,” or leader (the author cleverly substitutes high-minded Latin for a purely invented alien language), having lost his wife, has literally gone mad with grief and is planning the unthinkable. The author’s premise may remind genre readers of Zenna Henderson’s humanistic The People stories. Halt sets up rich, emotional character minefields and conflicts without letting his antihero’s pathology take the focus off the bigger picture. Much remains unresolved at the end (only the beginning of this saga). But readers of international sci-fi who revere (deservedly) the Arkady and Boris Strugatsky classic Hard to Be a God will want to check out Halt’s thoughtful take on what can go wrong when incredible and supremely ethical outsiders try to blend in with the coarse natives. If Chase is a protagonist as volatile as Randle Patrick McMurphy, Halt’s prose stylings throughout are steady, sober, and finely honed, refraining from dropping Hollywood FX whammies in a manner more befitting Cylons than Caelans.

A sci-fi series opener with ADHD as a key component that deserves all the attention it can get.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72624-158-8

Page Count: 443

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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