A sci-fi adventure with plenty of action and character intrigue.

ENDEMIC

In this novel, a covert team investigates an unexplained outbreak of a deadly virus in Africa.

A secret organization strives to protect the people of Earth from things “that are not supposed to exist,” such as aliens. This outfit recruits Hugo Valentine, who leads a team of operators that is currently in Africa on an undercover mission. The other members include French physician Thelmia; Cid, a cyborg armed with alien technology; and Chuck, whose biological modification provides him with unparalleled speed. But soon they welcome a new associate, Rajiv, a scientist from the Research division who has details on their latest assignment. Over in Congo is an outbreak of what Research believes is the Marburg virus, although it may be Ebola. Posing as a World Health Organization team, Hugo and the others head to the community of Watsa to investigate the hemorrhagic virus. Once there, they don hazmat suits to examine the specific village where the epidemic apparently originated. Surprisingly, they discover mutilated bodies of people who appear to have died violently and not necessarily from the disease. This soon precipitates the additional threat of cannibals in the area. Although the team is combat-trained, taking care of a group of cannibalistic killers coupled with stopping the spread of the virus may be too much for the band to handle. But finally identifying the real enemy leads the team to the pathogen’s shocking genesis while a hefty gunfight culminates in missing colleagues. Lynch’s (New Persia, 2018) action-laden sci-fi tale certainly delivers the goods. As part of the clandestine organization, team members undergo three “Phases” of rigorous training, and Chuck isn’t the only biologically modified one in the band. There are copious particulars on the group’s weapons, along with countless flying bullets and the occasional explosion. But the author also excels at describing suspenseful scenes, such as the team stealthily tracking killers in the jungle. Thelmia, for example, slowly and carefully sets up an explosive while “Chuck partially unsheathed his throwing knife, and Rajiv screwed a suppressor onto his PDW” (a submachine gun). Moreover, Lynch incorporates into his novel a subtle theme of science versus religion. Hugo, a practitioner of voudoun, represents the latter, and his invocation of spirits can trigger an apparent trance or even a seizure. This worries Thelmia, who views his episodes as a doctor and believes Hugo not reporting them (presumably to the organization) puts the whole team in danger. Readers learn only fragments of information regarding the organization and the training it provides as well as the alien encounter that ultimately led to Cid’s new plastic-skinned body. Other characters are likewise mysterious, as their backstories are largely unknown. This nevertheless has a benefit: The narrative, minus extended exposition or flashbacks, rarely slows down. This book is furthermore the first installment of a series, and follow-ups will surely attract readers hoping to learn more about these skilled, enigmatic players.

A sci-fi adventure with plenty of action and character intrigue.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61309-637-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc.

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2019

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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