An intense thriller that’s promising, despite its flaws.

NANO-UNCERTAINTY

Software industry veteran Durbin’s debut novel captures what happens when technology outstrips the ability of humanity to harness it.

This complex thriller focuses on distributed processing on a large number of coordinated computers—the subject of one of the author’s real-life patents. Philippe Colbert, chief scientist at Distributed Nanotech, is murdered by grad student Alison Green, whose code he’d copied; later, a fellow student said that she hiked alone into the desert. Soon after Colbert’s death, Susanne Anderson, Nanotech’s CEO, hires freelance computer engineer James Forrest to investigate DNI’s Varabot system. While working together, the widowed Susanne and unlucky-in-love James fall for each other. Meanwhile, ineffectual detectives Alberta Lester and Frank Franken are adrift in the California tech industry, which is incomprehensible to them. Also lurking is Alison, who’s determined to erase her program. Susanne finds herself attempting to line up financing while peddling an unproven, and even suspect, system; meanwhile, James works to untangle Alison’s code to understand the artificial intelligence buried inside Varabot. He employs his own Visualizer program to do so, with terrifying results. Durbin takes the reader deep inside a tech startup in this novel, covering both its engineering and financial aspects. He does an admirable job of depicting the industry’s gamesmanship, and this gives the book a feeling of complex authenticity. However, this sometimes results in far too much detail, which bogs down the narrative as a whole. Durbin’s characters are a mixed bag; Susanne and James are well developed and believable, but others are stereotypes—an overreaching sales guy, a greedy venture capitalist—who exist solely as obstacles for Susanne to overcome. Alison, meanwhile, is a familiar mad-genius type who never feels threatening, despite the early murder, and the investigators’ sole role is to come to the rescue in the end.

An intense thriller that’s promising, despite its flaws.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-11806-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2019

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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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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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