This solid actioner with heart follows in the tank treads of a well-worn genre.


Two decades after the collapse of civilization, two resourceful survivalists try to protect a new city-state persevering in a savage future dark age.

“The end had not come as one defining gestalt moment; rather it had come as a slight change in the wind” begins Catlin’s post-apocalypse action debut. In the not-too-distant future, a combination of factors—climate change, resource and food depletion, wealth inequality, plagues, and, finally, wars—has destroyed organized society. Twenty-two years later, in the remains of California, Thomas Wolf, a savvy survivalist roaming the urban wastelands haunted by predator gangs and cloistered holdouts, finds a natural ally in Allen Damewood, another gentleman warrior with helpful talents in weaponry and technology. They set up housekeeping in a fortresslike dwelling where Wolf’s armaments include a thoroughly armored, weaponized, and computerized airport-facilities vehicle dubbed the Rig. The two imagine themselves isolated among roving packs of enemies and small, subsistence-level colonies. They are thus amazed when a reconnaissance helicopter crashes nearby. Though the crew perished, the copter seems to come from an advanced and functional human settlement somehow rising from the ashes nearby, and the two men take the Rig to investigate. Indeed, they do discover the future equivalent of an impossible Shangri-La. But they also encounter a deadly threat to the stronghold. The rest of the series opener turns into a fairly exciting battle, enough to keep pages turning. Catlin breaks little new ground in the “prepper” military-Armageddon genre, but he tells the muscular story well, with a couple of likable and smart bromantic leads—think Butch and Sundance with RPGs, battleground strategy, and combat software moxie. In some quiet spaces, characters persuasively lament the tragic yielding of community and goodwill to barbarism and total war, a cautionary tale for contemporary readers. The Rig itself is a cool creation, if a bit of a deus ex machina in the most literal sense. In addition, a ravishing redhead in the oasis is predictably available for Wolf. Enough loose ends hint at sequel possibilities, although this rousing volume can be read as a stand-alone.   

This solid actioner with heart follows in the tank treads of a well-worn genre.

Pub Date: May 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-79267-4

Page Count: 607

Publisher: Out Reach Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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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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