A timely, winning adventure that brings up serious questions about technology and medical research.

SAPIENT

Kaczmarowski’s (Moon Rising, 2014) scientific thriller pits a medical researcher against the government.

Dr. Jane Dixon is a San Francisco Bay Area scientist studying animal intelligence. She conducts experiments on both a rat and a dog to see whether exposure to a particular virus will give them humanlike intelligence and other skills, such as the ability to use tools. Jane is struggling with other issues at work, however, such as dwindling research funding and a boss who’s romantically interested in her. On the homefront, she has an autistic son named Robbie, and she’s desperately trying to hold on to her latest nanny. After dark, her laboratory comes alive in an astonishing manner when the rat (suitably named Einstein) lets himself out of his cage to mix things up a bit. It turns out that Jane’s virus has enabled Einstein to communicate—not by speaking, but by typing into a smartphone. Bear, the dog, isn’t a great typist, but he’s also become an intelligent, sentient being. The animals’ eyes glow an electric blue—a haunting image that becomes a hallmark of infected creatures throughout the novel. As Jane realizes the significance of what she’s done—including the fact that the virus has become communicable—she wonders about its potential to help her son and others with autism. Unsurprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control takes an interest in her work and demands that the program be shut down. However, Jane can’t give up the hope of a cure for her son and plans to escape to Canada with Robbie, Einstein, and Bear. With government agents in pursuit, she makes a decision that will affect not just her son, but potentially all life on Earth. Over the course of the novel, Jane’s actions convincingly come across as earnest rather than foolhardy, and Kaczmarowski does a deft job of making all the characters sympathetic, which is no small feat when the cast includes both humans and animals. The novel’s focus on the desire for scientific advancement despite possible dire consequences is reminiscent of Michael Crichton’s work, and Jane’s run from the government has a classic adventure feel that’s equally satisfying. Overall, Kaczmarowski has written a smart, exciting thriller that draws on enough contemporary anxieties to make it an entertaining and chilling ride.

A timely, winning adventure that brings up serious questions about technology and medical research.

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0990410928

Page Count: 380

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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