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

CIRCLES OF SURVIVAL

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 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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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