Pops with the liveliness of a young boy’s imagination but often lacks the sharper narrative focus to make sense of it all.



Debut sci-fi of sorts, spanning multiple dimensions and topics.

Born in a particularly multicultural area of Wisconsin, Oliver J. Oscar grew up with a group of friends from a variety of backgrounds, including Shu, a Chinese girl whose family runs a grocery store, and Judah, a Jewish boy whose father runs a hospital. The first half of the novel is devoted to Oliver’s childhood adventures with hints of the fantastical: a thwarted mugging; local football games; the loss of Oliver’s father, a Marine fighting in Iraq killed only after saving “three thousand children’s lives.” Attending MIT at the age of 16, Oliver goes on to a glorious life of charity and corporate work in New York City only to find himself entranced by a philosophy known as Verbum Victus—essentially, a movement aimed at the banishing of negative thinking as a key to success. Verbum Victus allows Oliver to enter a “Search World,” which manages to be even more fantastical than the real one. Adventuring with the same group of friends from his childhood, Oliver finds himself in the year 3500 A.D., making his way across a hostile land, facing everything from pirates on the Great Lakes to drug dealers in the New York Public Library. A whirlwind of characters and action, the story ranges from periods of slow development to furious portions of activity. Slowed occasionally by overwrought prose—e.g., “We were in need, and we could use the flying bikes, but we were scared because of our past, and we hated the flying bikes because of the kids who had always beat us up”—the book maintains a steady stream of creativity even if that imagination doesn’t always lend itself to a navigable story. With characters that tend to be good or bad and settings that swarm with flying saucers, lasers, CIA agents, militants, Native Americans and a host of prodigious young people, readers might get lost in the cascade of wild adventure.

Pops with the liveliness of a young boy’s imagination but often lacks the sharper narrative focus to make sense of it all.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9898675-9-7

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Infinite Dimensions

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2014

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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...


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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