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DRAGON

Ninth installment in the Dirk Pitt ocean-bottom salvage saga (Raise the Titanic, Cyclops, Treasure), with a dramatic upgrading in the writing. This time out, Cussler keeps a tight plot under a favoring wind and does not fill out his 416 pages with a surplus of subplots—though, to be sure, the story builds on Saturday-matinee cliffhangers and has the usual aircraft blueprints, as well as the Cussler clangor of underwater hardware, for bolting down fantasy. (A character barely picks up a telephone without our getting its specs, including holographics—we're into 1993—and distant speakers facing each other in 3-D.) The story: In 1945, a third plane carrying an atomic bomb to Japan is shot down and sinks off a Japanese island. The waterproof bomb lies down there for 50 years. In 1993, Dirk Pitt mines the sea-bottom with a colossal submersible tractor near the lost plane when a huge Japanese automobile-carrying cargo ship miles above him blows up, destroying two other ships nearby. It seems that a secret Japanese crime cartel, set on raising Japan to world trade dominance starting with a takeover of the US, has been making A-bombs. Lacking missiles, the cartel smuggles its small A-bombs in Japanese automobiles into various US cities and is now ready to blackmail the President for their big takeover. The cartel works out of Dragon Center, the island near where the US A-bomb sank. Dirk Pitt, now drawn into a US secret agency for locating the Japanese bombs (the cartel explodes one bomb in Wyoming for demonstration purposes), is given a new submersible tractor, since his last was destroyed in the accidental A-bomb explosion of the automobile cargo ship, and is sent down to blow up the US bomb in the sunken bomber, thus causing an earthquake and tsunami that will wipe out Dragon Center. Naturally, blowing up an A-bomb poses some threat to Dirk's life—but he does it, and his submersible sinks under a tremendous mudslide into a huge trench. Next we are reading deathproof Dirk's obit. Can he really be. . .? More surpassingly improbable than Indiana Jones, but much fun, crisply told, with exciting special effects. By now, Cussler has spent nearly 5,000 pages mucking around in oceanic blackness. Obsessive?

Pub Date: June 4, 1990

ISBN: 1416537805

Page Count: 609

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1990

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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