An imaginative but difficult tale that cares more about its underlying scientific theories than its plot.

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TETRASTATUM

A debut sci-fi novel spins a tale about a government researcher sucked into an interdimensional quest regarding the nature of time and space.

Everyone thinks that Dr. Tim Smith’s job is winding up atomic clocks at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. In reality, he is assigned to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, where he leads the Quantum Teleportation Project, the goal of which is to “teleport matter across space-time at a speed exceeding that of light—contrary to” the basic tenets “of known physics!” His colleague there is Dr. Richard, an eccentric scientist who wears a red lab coat resembling Hugh Heffner’s smoking jacket and insists that the temperature always be kept at 69 degrees. Richard is also the pioneer of Psychothotonix, a complex theory involving the ways human perception shapes reality. Still reeling from the death of his wife and daughter in a car accident three years ago, Tim exists on the cusp of a breakdown: driving his car at night with the headlights turned off, sustaining himself on Scotch, and talking to the ghost of the banker who once owned his house. One morning, he decides to transport himself through space and time in order to save his family, though it doesn’t go quite according to plan. Tim wakes up in a sanatorium, where a hallucination of Richard continues to speak to him about the history of physics. Electroshock treatment zaps Tim to an alternate dimension, where he meets Ahura Mazda, the manager of a cosmic garden supply store. Mazda reveals that Tim Smith is actually a Time Smith and that his destiny is to protect the space-time continuum from the interference of humanity. Can Tim rise to the occasion, right the wrongs he’s done, and save his wife and daughter? First, he’ll have to convince everyone he isn’t insane. Authors Dr. Richard and Smith (which are pen names) tell their cerebral story with a heady mix of dense theory and absurdist humor. Sometimes, particularly when Tim is narrating, they manage to translate the science into intriguing vernacular: “The brain fills in the blank spots….After working in this place for over four years, I can tell you with certainty there is a hell of a lot more out there that the brain is incapable of visually assimilating, yet exists.” But elsewhere, in-depth discussions of physics bring the plot to a frustrating halt. The characters are rendered with an appreciable dose of personality, though the authors tend to sexualize every woman to a cartoonish extent. Accompanied by impressive ink illustrations by Krekeler (Dry Spell, 2015, etc.) and 90 pages of appendices going into great scientific detail, this book should satisfy a particular sort of sci-fi reader who is deeply interested in quantum physics and related fields. More casual sci-fi fans, even those who like a good mind-bender, will likely find themselves in over their heads.

An imaginative but difficult tale that cares more about its underlying scientific theories than its plot.

Pub Date: June 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948796-67-5

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Epigraph Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2019

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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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