SHOCK WAVE

Cussler's most adult, least comic-strip-y entry yet in the Dirk Pitt sea sagas. Gone is the outlandish plotting of Treasure (1988), when Dirk found Cleopatra's barge in Texas, and of Sahara (199), which unearthed Lincoln's body in a Confederate sub—buried in the desert sands. Now, in his 11th outing, Dirk Pitt and his National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) fight villainous megalomaniac Arthur Dorsett, head of Dorsett Consolidated Mining, which holds the world's wealthiest diamond-mine empire. Pitt and his team must fight as well Dorsett's three daughters, the coldly beauteous Amazonian Boudicca, whose giant strength dwarfs Dirk's; the elegant but heartless Deirdre; and the star-crossed zoologist Maeve, whose bastard twins are held captive by grandfather Arthur so that Maeve will infiltrate NUMA and report on its investigation of his holdings—even though Dirk recently saved Maeve and Deirdre's lives in the Antarctic. First, however, Cussler takes us back to 1856 and a typhoon-battered British clipper ship, the Gladiator, that sinks in uncharted seas off Australia; only eight survive, including Jess Dorsett "the highwayman," a dandyish-looking convict, who discovers raw diamonds when stranded on an uninhabited island. From this arises the Dorsett empire, bent on undermining the world market in diamonds by dumping a colossal backlog of stones and colored gems into its vast chain of jewelry stores and, with one blow, toppling De Beers and all rivals. Worse, Arthur Dorsett excavates by high-energy-pulsed ultrasound, and when ultrasound from all four of his island mines (one on Gladiator Island, near New Zealand, another by Easter Island, the last two in the North Pacific Ocean) happen to converge, a killer shock wave destroys all marine and human life for 30 kilometers around, and now threatens over a million people in Hawaii—unless Dirk Pitt's aging body can hold it back. Tireless mechanical nomenclature, but furious storytelling.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-80297-X

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1995

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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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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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