Vivid perils and well-realized characters and concepts fuel a space/time voyage.

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REAP 23

Four couples embarking on a one-way starship expedition aim to colonize a distant world—if their own psychoses and betrayals don’t kill them first.

A European project on a future Earth—beset by disasters and in danger of becoming uninhabitable—institutes a one-way, deep-space mission. Filled with automated systems, durable robots (humanoid and nonhumanoid), and hibernation capsules, an array of Repopulation, Expansion, Annexation Program ships is dispatched from the solar system, each headed for potentially habitable, faraway worlds. Aboard REAP crafts are couples of diverse ethnicities, backgrounds, and science expertise, selected to breed and raise descendants in new outposts to preserve the human race. But the dark sides of the voyagers emerge early as REAP No. 23 launches. A high-caste Hindu genius turns out to be a sociopath who bribed his way on to the crew (“He used his broad smile and a transformed happy face frequently, as a tool, as a weapon, as a distraction”). His faithless trophy wife is having an affair with the cheerful Chinese-American captain. Another man, moody and alienated, starts giving in to the worst Islamic fundamentalist traits in his Persian ancestry. As Earth recedes forever, lust and selfish mania threaten the onboard minisociety with doom before a fraction of the journey is even completed. Perry, who wrote Between Love and Money (2007) as Martin Filson, spins a taut, resonant tale based on one of the most familiar tropes in sci-fi. The author tightens the screws of claustrophobia and suspense with aplomb and well-conceived characterizations, which are concerned just as much with matters of emotion (maybe more so) as with circuitry and astrophysics. When the narrative crosscuts to Earth, it turns into another, less urgent story entirely. The chronicle leapfrogs over thousands of tumultuous years—thanks to Einstein’s theory of relativity—while nations rise and decay and humanity loses, regains, and loses again concrete memories of REAP and its meaning. The author provides an afterword detailing the future history inferred in the plotline, and it leaves readers with a sense that much material remains to be mined from the rich universe Perry has persuasively imagined. But readers should come away satisfied with this 18,000-year journey all the same.

Vivid perils and well-realized characters and concepts fuel a space/time voyage.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5434-2742-4

Page Count: 390

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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