This sci-fi debut thrums with creative juice.

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FACTION 9

In this sci-fi novel, a government bureaucrat learns the strange truth of his parents’ deaths.

The year is 2041, and Jack Tone works for the Federal Security Agency in Manhattan. He’s an exemplary employee, writing detailed assessments on citizens, legal residents, and noncitizens of the United States. He’s miserable, however; one day after work, he nearly walks in front of a delivery truck. When Peter Andronicus, an accountant, saves him, they agree to have some drinks. Jack lies about his sensitive job, telling his new friend that he’s a U.S. Customs inspector. In turn, he suspects that Andronicus is also lying about his profession. Two weeks later, Jack runs into him at Penn Station, and they head to The Cock and Bull for more libations. This time, Andronicus lays some strange cards on the table—including his knowledge that Jack wanted to be an archaeologist in high school. He then reveals Jack’s true position within the “Corporate-Government alliance” and asserts that “America must be re-founded anew, this time on the pure ideals of liberty and life.” He invites Jack to a meeting, in Pennsylvania, of the Friendly Neighborhood Political Discussion Group, aka Faction 9. The bureaucrat is reluctant to attend, but Andronicus says, “I have information about the circumstances of your parents’ deaths.” Jack eventually learns that 17 years ago, his geologist parents discovered a secret so unsettling that its revelation would have reshaped the fabric of human society. Ultimately, Jack must decide if he’s willing to use his FSA position to help these revolutionaries. For his debut, author Firelocke marries modern politics and the outré to hypnotic effect. In the novel’s opening salvo, he parodies America’s current obsession with surveillance and data collection—and the notion that it can only intensify. Among Andronicus’ Faction 9 colleagues is the chilly, ruthless Karin Polyvox. After she saves Jack from a genetically bastardized human called a Plutocroid, the narrative starts careening across bracingly weird landscapes. Fans of classic authors like Wells and Lovecraft will revel in Firelocke’s tight fusion of strange ideas, including divergent races of humanoid earthlings and giant insects frozen in time. Though his core subject matter is that of a citizenry perpetually distracted by pharmaceuticals and entertainment, Firelocke maintains a tongue-in-cheek atmosphere, like when two recent presidents are referred to as “the Idiot Ape of Texas” and “the Tower Ape.” He saves his darkest critiques for today’s incarceration industry. Prisoners of the Freedom Fortress have an arm amputated upon entrance to reinforce cooperation and eat a nonfood called Ploop. Events remain tense and fascinating as Faction 9’s violent goal—revolving around the megarich Gregory Randolph Reid—crashes against some unexpected emotional subversion. The author also wedges Jack between Polyvox’s fantastic origin and Andronicus’ grounded focus on the mission, which makes for a dreamy kind of madness that sweeps audiences along. There’s plenty of room for pop-culture references, too, including nods to the film Blade Runner.

This sci-fi debut thrums with creative juice.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9995682-9-3

Page Count: 482

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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