By turns entertaining, poignant, and heady, a thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride powered by jolts of philosophy.

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Nightscape: Cynopolis

From the Nightscape series , Vol. 2

Through contact with interdimensional beings, a former Black Power activist releases a “thought-virus” that turns dogs wild and people into jackal-headed creatures resembling the ancient Egyptian god Anubis.

Edwards’ (The Dreams of Devils, 2012, etc.) second installment of the Nightscape series is a thinking man’s horror tale replete with associative memories, literary allusion, intellectual discourse, and references to Hegel, Plato, Malcolm X, Amiri Baraka, Sartre, and Athanasius Kircher, to name a few. Unlike some run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypses, this well-written, multilayered tale has depth and complexity; when people transform into monsters, it feels more like Ionesco’s Rhinoceros than Night of the Living Dead. The narrative begins by introducing various groups of characters, from cops to gangsters, dogcatchers to street people, all crafted into empathetic personalities, each ultimately facing the catastrophe. Sick and dying, Gaston, aka “Mister,” spends much of his time in a dream state in which he claims to communicate with telepathic aliens from the Sirius star system. Though even Mister doubts his own sanity, he hopes to trick the aliens and use their powers for some kind of race revolution, a plan he discusses with Khonsu, a street person who dispenses cerebral books to various inhabitants of the inner city. Meanwhile, as Detroit descends into a seething hellscape à la Hieronymus Bosch and the military begins shooting everyone on sight via drones, a supersecret black ops team with extensive knowledge of alien and interdimensional goings-on is working to remedy the situation while other cognoscenti attempt to foil them. Ultimately, from all this confusion and mayhem, an unlikely hero emerges. Edwards is a master of character building, and as random people morph into beasts, those left behind tend to ponder their inner landscapes as much as their outrageous circumstances. The intriguing, sometimes-confusing highbrow discourse adds a shade of believability to the pseudo-scientific psychobabble used to explain the unfolding chaos.

By turns entertaining, poignant, and heady, a thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride powered by jolts of philosophy.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9897487-3-5

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Imperiad Entertainment

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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