A respectful, Islamophobia-free take on Muslim thought and culture in a sci-fi setting that also delivers shock-and-awe...



On a planet settled by colonists from Earth’s Muslim cultures (whose true history has receded into myth), young soldiers in “New Persia” find their incipient romances—and lives—jeopardized by impending war.

Lynch (Endemic, 2018) isn’t alone in imagining Islam, or something very much akin to it, flourishing in deep space; Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) should come to mind straightaway. But Lynch’s vision centers more on the rigid codes and intrigues of conservative Bahá'í culture rather than monster sandworms. In ancient times, a distant planet with a twin-star system was settled principally by colonists/refugees from Earth’s Muslim peoples (the true history of those spacefaring days has receded into near myth). A thousand years after the early, arduous days of establishing a human foothold, the planet’s single continent hosts technology, folkways, and politics approximating those of the mid-20th-century Middle East (minus Israel). Imperial ambitions and religious divisions have arisen between the colonists’ descendants—who have established an Iranian New Persia and a Bantu-speaking North African/Arab nation of Azania—resulting in a series of wars. Talky opening chapters set the stage at a New Persian royal ball, with humble-born Capt. Basir Turani and his cousin, fighter pilot Farad Hashemi, becoming entangled in budding romances complicated by strict laws governing conduct. Basir catches the fascination of rebellious aristocrat Suri Pahlavi, who chafes at her restricted existence (one character notes: “Persian women were taught to fear men from an early age. Everything about their society was designed to protect women. Everything betrayed a deep anxiety about what would happen if men and women were free to meet”). Farad is attracted to Nasrin Avesta, from a family still tainted by association with an attempted coup against the monarchy. After that, however, the formal narrative transitions from Tolstoy to Tom Clancy. Basir and Farad head for their assignment—a border city that immediately becomes a key battleground in the latest Azanian attack. In Lynch’s novel, tank, air and ground skirmishes are crisply described while the background threat of a seasonal alien natural disaster, a fiery biochemical “seed storm,” supplies what often comes across as a token sci-fi quotient. Alternative-history fans are the ideal readership. Many readers may also appreciate (especially in the post–9/11 era) Lynch’s sympathetic portrayal of Islamic values and mores in a nuanced, layered world. In fact, we are told, the imperiled border town of Kerman predates most of New Persia and operates by its own liberal and progressive rules, and even Persepolis, the capital, tolerates Christians and nonbelievers. But adherence to dictates of the faith loom large in almost every affair, although the author is not one to criticize shortcomings of theocracy here. While principal plot threads are tied up at the end, it’s clear (even without the subtitle) this is just the promising beginning of a larger “New Persia” saga.

A respectful, Islamophobia-free take on Muslim thought and culture in a sci-fi setting that also delivers shock-and-awe combat action.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61309-641-3

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc.

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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

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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.


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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