An engaging Armageddon space adventure with an angelic young hero; a religious course correction ultimately enters from the...

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PHASE RIDER

As an all-devouring menace approaches the solar system, Earth’s hope for survival rests on a dangerous mission that one brave pilot must undertake.

In Levin’s (Rue, 2015, etc.) sci-fi novel, a “phase transition” in space is sweeping across the universe, moving faster than the speed of light and annihilating every particle in its path. Advanced extraterrestrial civilizations fall before the catastrophe, their technology useless to escape. Earth scientists calculate the devastation is 11 months away from their planet and brainstorm a long-shot solution; a warhead carrying a special heavy-element payload striking the disaster at just the right point of impact could stop it. But steering the delivery vehicle through intense radiation will make it a virtual suicide mission for any pilot. Despite the apocalyptic threat, humanity finds few volunteers among the astronaut elite. But in Houston, a controversial experimental program has set up a school where children with Down syndrome receive genetic treatments to restore impaired brain function. For patient Bobby Alderson, the cure means he rapidly develops a 196 IQ with incredibly accelerated math/science abilities—coupled with the innate goodness and eagerness to please supposedly typical of Down kids. Bobby has the right stuff in many ways, but will the miracle boy be sacrificed among the stars to save the universe? Fortunately—or not, depending on whether readers desire their “Flowers for Algernon” pathos served straight up or watered down—the author throws in some super-science twists to be merciful to saintly, personable Bobby when things take flight in the third act. Eventually, a strong religious angle comes into play, with disclosures of the phase transition’s true nature. While the message is not linked to the book of Revelation, evangelical-minded readers should approve. Levin offers a fast-paced narrative not weighed down by a slablike page count, despite galaxy-spanning scale and the gravitas of an ultimate-doom epic. But even with the overall brevity, there are asteroid fields of STEM-heavy passages (“Bright points blurred while others disappeared as gravitational lensing distorted cosmic optics. Phase Craft Two began to vibrate. Its antigravity engines hurtled the spaceship along a tangent Bobby had calculated to escape the star’s deadly radiation and avoid empyrean bodies within three light years”). The author wisely navigates these portions via crosscuts to the hand-wringing on Earth. 

An engaging Armageddon space adventure with an angelic young hero; a religious course correction ultimately enters from the wings.  

Pub Date: July 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73383-510-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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