A timely, and timeless, satirical novel.

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DYSTOPIA NOW

Hiestand’s debut sci-fi novel is a disturbingly plausible vision of a future America in economic and political upheaval—and a satirical gem reminiscent of the work of Philip K. Dick.

In a near-future Los Angeles plagued by a worsening recession, Everyman Zeno Jacobs is the newly appointed personnel director at HRW International, a bizarrely bureaucratic corporation that, due to a tax-credit loophole, essentially hires and fires employees for profit. The skyrocketing cost of living makes it increasingly difficult for many people to live, so it comes as no surprise when the Hundred Days Riots begin. Unruly mobs loot grocery stores, burn down banks and raze entire neighborhoods. Jacobs and his love interest, Shasta MacCalistaire, watch the proceedings from the relative safety of the HRW building as Los Angeles plunges into bloody chaos. Even after the Army establishes martial law, no one in the city is safe. Adept readers will find thematic depths in the novel’s more striking imagery; for example, the HRW building’s deadly labyrinth, where a deliveryman got lost and died, effectively symbolizes the unfathomable complexity of corporatocracy, as well as the difficulties that normal people have navigating a normal workday. (The paintings on the labyrinth’s walls offer up additional profundities.) At the same time, the cleverly constructed narrative is briskly paced and utterly readable. Like the best Philip K. Dick tales, the story works on multiple levels simultaneously—as a breathtakingly bleak vision of the future, a cautionary tale replete with social commentary, and, above all, an unlikely and unforgettable love story.

A timely, and timeless, satirical novel.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989314985

Page Count: 482

Publisher: Air Raid Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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