A multilayered protagonist and stellar setting help guide this sci-fi narrative to an unforgettable coda.

Amanojaku

From the The Brulle Mosaic series , Vol. 3

In 2040, a former convict with an implant to stave off violent impulses finds himself in the midst of a plan to take down a corporate empire in Lutz’s (Book Hunter, 2015, etc.) sci-fi thriller.

It’s been a year since Andre Cross left prison early after agreeing to get a device implanted in his neck that counters his destructive urges by inducing euphoria. He works at a farm that produces Neura, a drug that’s part of a health plan for wealthy citizens in a place called Upper Brulle. Andre’s maintenance job pays him in credits and doses of Neura, but because the implant prevents him from taking the drug, he sells it legally for even more credits. He’s hoping to earn enough to buy a ticket to the utopian city of Anchora. And there’s a chance he could expedite his departure: his preferred customer, Finn, suggests that Andre could swipe a large haul of Neura for a bulk sale. Andre’s subsequent attempt results in his capture by members of the Heart of Grace, a cult that opposes Neura’s owner and creator, a company called Titan. The cultists force Andre to help them infect Upper Brulleans with zilla, a potentially lethal Neura/painkiller combo. The ex-con draws on whatever he can, including his newfound feelings for a female PrePAC (android) named Mo Da, to ensure he lives to see Anchora. Lutz’s story tackles the common sci-fi theme of a robot experiencing emotions. But Andre’s apparent tenderness toward Mo Da is equally complex; he also struggles to subvert the “dark thing” that drives him to violence, even as the implant practically turns him into a zombie. His back story, which involves a not-so-nice older brother, is dramatic and laced with mystery. Characters range from pleasantly ambiguous to dangerously blunt; for example, Kade, cult leader Elron’s right-hand man, doesn’t even try to hide his animosity toward Andre. Technology circa 2040 is chic but believable, particularly Andre’s harness for handling maintenance, which is constructed out of robotic arms. This tech is the subject of one of many visually enticing illustrations, courtesy of Lutz and debut illustrator Gray.

A multilayered protagonist and stellar setting help guide this sci-fi narrative to an unforgettable coda.

Pub Date: June 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9946275-0-6

Page Count: 380

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2016

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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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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