A speculative compilation that acknowledges humanity’s long struggle ahead.

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TIME IS FOR DRAGONFLIES AND ANGELS

Erickson’s (Afterlife Code, 2018, etc.) collection of sci-fi stories explores parallel worlds, rogue planets, alien intervention, and more.

Primarily set in the Boston, Cambridge, and Merrimack Valley areas of Massachusetts, these tales often follow a male protagonist who finds that humans don’t understand the laws of the universe as well as they think. In “Recount Our Dreams,” widower Jack Martin is a test subject for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s restricted environmental stimulation therapy project. When an electron accelerator experiment elsewhere on campus goes awry, Jack’s deprivation chamber shunts him into numerous alternate versions of Earth, including one in which meteor collisions depopulate the planet. “Rogue Event” depicts humankind’s decadeslong preparation for the passing of an enormous rogue planet through the Milky Way—an occurrence that will shatter fragile orbits and decrease the sun’s life span; at this point in Earth’s history, corporations fully control society—and displays of emotion are taboo. “The Gray” takes the furthest imaginative leap in its tale of Amber the Elder, “an intersex Cani hominid” who debates whether to eliminate a warring species on Terra Nova Seven, a planet that’s under observation. The stories “Neurogenesis” and “To See Behind Walls” showcase the author’s love of classic literature; the former is an homage to Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon (1966) and the latter to James Thurber’s 1939 story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Throughout this collection, Erickson connects his tales in surprising and delightful ways. Events in “Recount Our Dreams,” for example, seem to occur down the hall at MIT from where the developmentally challenged Robert Wright works in “Neurogenesis.” Some ideas beg for deeper exploration, such as the planet in “Rogue Event” that “is linked to our time and space, but its physical science and laws of nature are operating on another plane of existence.” Readers may also be divided on “The Gray,” in which genocide is made to seem like the least of several evils.

A speculative compilation that acknowledges humanity’s long struggle ahead.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-942708-25-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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