FLASH POINT

A political and military thriller that details the relationship between the global economy and the fallout of its wars, both figurative and real.

This exceptionally detailed, believable account of the Iraq War and its many corporate symbionts and leeches transverses the globe in the popular style of Clancy and his ilk. This novel, however, is written with a more critical gaze on the corporations and independent contractors that feed off global insecurity. Despite this view, it remains blessedly objective in its characterizations of the individuals who work within the economy and on the frontlines of 21st-century warfare. Risher has a keen eye for the cinematic and happily owes debts not just to his literary forbearers but to intense, personal war films like The Hurt Locker. The book’s opening sequence, with its sympathetic mother and baby turned martyr and improvised explosive device, is effective and chillingly rendered. The kaleidoscopic array of characters and actions—from hardnosed special-ops studs, to back-dealing manipulative fund managers, such as the not-so-subtly named Jake Gamble—is handled with grace and confidence. For example, a business decision in Venezuela leads to dead men and women thousands of miles away. While the book is solid topical thriller genre through-and-through, introducing no new character prototypes, the prose sets this story apart. Amid scenes of battle terror and corporate intrigue, Risher refuses to be anything but detailed and sometimes even florid in his writing, giving the world extra dimension. However, there are times when the reader is overloaded with detail, including when Jet Maier, an operative and resident badass, is overly sketched almost to the point of parody. Yet this is a rare misstep in an otherwise surefooted novel. By the time Gamble starts to navigate the labyrinth of consequence of which he has always been the overseer, a stunning metamorphosis of character from potential villain to sympathetic protagonist is achieved. Readers will expect Gamble to get a vicious comeuppance, but as in any good novel, his relationship to himself and his world changes as much as our relationship to him as a character. This seems to be the novel’s thesis—that it might not be too late for the world to change its ways. A surprisingly complex novel with a simple, urgent message about corruption and redemption.  

 

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kindle Edition

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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