A trilogy of exuberant and lucid tales that exhibits a fear of the future, regardless of the time period.




In this sci-fi series, an alien species secretly on Earth tries to prevent humanity’s extinction.

This collection opens with The Chaos Machine, which describes freight haulers from the planet Shoomar landing on an unknown world in 5342 B.C.E. Their ship, capable of traversing the space-time continuum, experienced a “Bad Jump” that has left crew members stranded on Earth. Fortunately, they can live comfortably on the planet, which is comparable to Shoomar. But according to projections from the ship’s navigational system, earthlings will be wiped out in a thousand years, and the Shoomarans want to ensure that doesn’t happen. Millennia later, in the present day, California billionaire Allen Brookstone mysteriously vanishes. He’s been taken by an eccentric group with advanced technology, including the Chaos Machine, which has predicted the imminent end of the world. The band needs Allen’s assistance in stopping the apocalyptic event. Second Contact takes place in “5342 AB,” when Cassiopeia, a 19-year-old human living on the planet Perseus VII, learns about one of her ancestors who aided the Shoomarans in saving Earth’s inhabitants. Cassiopeia subsequently spearheads the fight for humans to be admitted into the intergalactic Universal Alliance, but some in the Shoomaran Empire have trouble believing in the strange race of Homo sapiens. The final and shortest novel, Mankind 2.0, takes readers back to Allen’s time period. He concocts a drastic plan to safeguard humanity from a Chaos Machine–predicted superstorm as well as other potential doomsday scenarios. Hamilton’s (Goddess of the Gillani, 2018, etc.) three books skillfully complement one another. While each novel is a self-contained narrative, this collection feels like one lengthy story divided into a trio of sections. There’s the occasional recap of preceding events, but it never overwhelms the saga or slows the overall steady pace. In the same vein, both technology and popular sci-fi notions are relatively simple. Portable notepods, for example, are familiar devices, described at one point as “computer tablets on steroids.” Even the more exotic Chaos Machine is comprehensible. Any intercession based on the machine’s predictions calls forth the butterfly effect, a phenomenon the author wisely assumes sci-fi fans already know. The author’s true focus is the story’s emotional core, including the Shoomarans’ ultimate decision to help humans; Cassiopeia’s exploration of her origin; and the very real possibility that a particular cataclysm will be unavoidable. Unfortunately, dialogue among so many characters is sometimes too interchangeable. Though Hamilton clarifies that he’s essentially translating the alien Universal language into English, the aliens and humans mostly sound alike, as one of the Shoomarans even drops a Star Wars–inspired line. But characters are otherwise distinctive. Tireless Cassiopeia is a standout: Securing admission into the alliance requires outsmarting the Shoomaran prime minister, who’s 69,000 years old. The book likewise boasts a bit of mystery, particularly throughout Contact. It entails a few references, like the Final Blackout, that aren’t clear until Mankind hops back in time.

A trilogy of exuberant and lucid tales that exhibits a fear of the future, regardless of the time period.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-979168-77-9

Page Count: 646

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 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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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.


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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