Nonviolent Orwellian sci-fi, somewhat prosaically told but asking good questions.

AMEARTH

In Dober’s (Ultimatus, a Gaming Corporation, 2014) novel, threats of alien attack from deep space unite humanity under a high-tech, American-led one-world government—but what if the hostile aliens are, in fact, a hoax?

In the year 2045, the planet is under siege, according to authorities. Aliens from distant Kepler 3763 contacted Earth via radio transmissions in the 1980s, but a paranoid President Ronald Reagan reacted with a barrage of long-range missiles. Because of the nearly 24-light-year distance, the 21st-century world can expect long-delayed deadly retaliation. Thus the nations of the world are persuaded to combine and cooperate under the U.S.–led “AmEarth” umbrella, sharing in the construction of a giant “honeycomb” shield above the stratosphere while putting aside old enmities. Only holdouts Bolivia and New Zealand challenge the new world order, denouncing it as imperialistic propaganda. One AmEarth citizen listening to the skeptics is Scott Johansen, the teenage son of well-liked politician Peter Johansen. Peter starts to share Scott’s doubts when AmEarth’s first president, Neil Chen Tyson, taps him as his successor in a rigged election and explains to him that AmEarth is secretly run by a superintelligent artificial intelligence of terrestrial origin. Dober isn’t the first author to imagine a sham alien-invasion scare as a self-serving con—there was a similar payoff in Alan Moore’s 1987 graphic novel Watchmen (which referenced a 1963 episode of The Outer Limits). But he thinks through the details well and tells his yarn in a measured voice that will appeal to adult sci-fi newcomers and YA genre fans who want to read about dystopias in which upholding the status quo is a defensible idea. Readers expecting chases and action-packed battles, though, may have their hopes deflated by the staff discussions, committee votes, and dinner-table dialogue. That said, Dober nicely presents the philosophical problem of a functioning, utopian-level society built on a lie. Characterizations tend to be lean, but there are cute cameos by Donald Trump, Sasha Obama, and New Zealander filmmaker Peter Jackson. The open ending points inevitably to a sequel.   

Nonviolent Orwellian sci-fi, somewhat prosaically told but asking good questions.

Pub Date: July 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9965491-1-0

Page Count: 362

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2018

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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