A journey that’s uniquely informative, though hampered at times by overbearing prose.


Debut author Ripley presents a sci-fi thriller about apparently friendly visitors from another planet.

Indian-American teenager Rohini Haakonsen is in the United Nations headquarters in New York City as part of the Youth Assembly program, when a group of robed strangers appear—space aliens who assure the audience that they come in peace. They insist on being called the “Elders,” and they offer assistance to an Earth that’s in environmental peril, facing rising sea levels. They request that a number of young people be sent to the Elders’ unnamed world to study and learn their ways. Obviously, the sudden appearance of aliens at the U.N. is a shocking event, and not everyone trusts the Elders’ motives. Rohini, for instance, has suspicions about the whole affair, but she winds up being handpicked by the Elders (with approval from the president of the United States) to be one of Earth’s ambassadors. Rohini won’t go unprepared, however, as a government agent named Sinéad McGowan, alias “Jane Smith,” trains her for a few months before she’s scheduled to leave the planet, so that she can stand up to any sort of confrontation. But after an incident in Washington, D.C., leads to tragedy, Sinéad and Rohini flee to China to plan their next move, where more about the Elders is revealed. There, Rohini, along with the reader, also learns much about Chinese history and culture, including about the 13th-century painter Chen Rong and the dongtian fudi system of nature preserves. This information is, however, not always woven seamlessly into the story; for example, the narration heavy-handedly notes that Rohini “had found in the past that learning how people from other cultures viewed life often gave her deeper insight and more appreciation for her own.” There are some occasionally bland descriptions, and some of the obstacles that Rohini runs into along the way, such as conniving FBI Special Agent in Charge Edward R. Rooney, fizzle more quickly than they should. Still, the narrative takes readers to unusual places in a whirlwind of activity that’s difficult to predict.

A journey that’s uniquely informative, though hampered at times by overbearing prose.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-939548-90-0

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Calumet Editions

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

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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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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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