Not always easy to follow, but earnest and wholeheartedly entertaining.

MARSHAL BOOK III

OUT OF THE COLD

In this superhero sci-fi adventure, Minnick’s (Marshal Book II: Superstar the Harbinger, 2011, etc.) lanky, blue-skinned alien hero returns to battle vampires in space and exploding penguins in Greenland.

Marshal and members of the HERO (Heroic Emergency Response Organization) team are sent to Greenland to rescue a research station that lost contact soon after reporting that penguins were attacking. The team, which includes Heather (aka Superstar), who has super strength and speed, verifies the existence of the hostile penguins—of the explosive variety—and also faces polar bears and untrustworthy Eskimos. Before long, the rescue team might need to be rescued itself. The novel is really two stories: HERO in Greenland, and officers viewing a recording of Marshal’s memories to learn what happened to a space station where Marshal was once posted—a station that, along with its 157 residents, was lost. Some of the story feels as if it were written with the assumption that readers are familiar with the two previous books in the series—the origins of HERO and its members aren’t made clear, for instance—but that shouldn’t distract readers from enjoying the taut action scenes, as when Marshal and the station crew combat vampires that can take the form of humans. Minnick wisely keeps his multiple narratives moving, and the stories bounce back and forth quite often; it’s a frenzied approach that largely works. However, with few breaks or indications of a transition, it can sometimes be disorienting: A scene in the snow with HERO member Dauntless is immediately followed by a scene with Marshal and a vampire pinned to a wall. Numerous grammatical and spelling errors are hard to ignore—Eskimo becomes “Eskimoe,” for instance—and characters can be superficial, particularly the women, whose descriptions are almost exclusively physical: e.g., well-endowed, “voluptuous” and in possession of an attention-grabbing “tush.” But Minnick excels in the action/sci-fi genre, dishing solid one-liners—“No one is authorized to die on me today”—fun references to other works (a Gen. Solo makes an appearance), and more than one “Kapow!” straight from 1960s Batman.

Not always easy to follow, but earnest and wholeheartedly entertaining.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2008

ISBN: 978-1477266366

Page Count: 396

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2014

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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