ROUGH BEAST

A biotech thriller by Goshgarian (Atlantis Fire, 1980), undone by cardboard characters and an overblown plot. English professor Calvin Hazzard and wife Terry have just sold their suburban Boston house for an astonishing $600,000—a figure more than six times what they paid for it. This unheard-of profit, along with Calvin's lucrative new teaching post in New York, makes life indeed seem good—until the couple's 12-year-old son, Matty, turns moody, irritable, and, in literally a few weeks, possessor of a grown man's physique. Moreover, while Matty is becoming ever more aggressive, at one point savagely attacking his schoolmates, the family's trees and flowers are dying or mutating, and small animals in a local wood are on a vicious rampage. An eternity later, the Hazzards figure out that something is wrong. Calvin thinks they're living atop the next Love Canal, but all water and soil tests come back negative. Meanwhile, sadistic hit man Jerry Mars (the novel's best-realized element) becomes suspicious over the contracts he gets to kill three aging and seemingly harmless microbiologists. Before he murders one of them, the victim reveals that all three worked on a secret government project during the Vietnam War to produce a ``genocide virus'' through a company called BiOmega Labs. A failure, the project was discontinued, but not before containers of liquid virus were buried under what is now the Hazzard property- -containers that have begun to leak. Eventually, Mars's backtracking leads him to the White House, where he'll attempt to blackmail officials who were once involved with the president's heading-up of the project. Doomsday chemicals and government cover-ups, potentially fearful, are made silly and unintentionally comic more than once. Despite its earnestness, third-rate Crichton.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1995

ISBN: 1-55611-464-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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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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