Hard-combat SF that delivers thoughtful alternative history speculation rather than ray gun stuff.


From the New Persia series , Vol. 2

In this sequel, the citizens of New Persia—on a distant planet—face an invasion by a rival nation as a natural disaster approaches.

The author follows up his New Persia: Before the Storm (2018) with a military-SF actioner whose technology is more retro-20th century than futuristic. That’s because the setting is a twin-sunned planet, circa the 34th century, settled by refugees from Earth, deep-space colonists overwhelmingly of Muslim/Baha’i background trying to recover from a harsh beginning and setbacks costing generations of progress. Territorial conflict now simmers continuously, chiefly between the Farsi (Iranian) kingdom of New Persia and the adjacent Azania, established by people of primarily North African descent (speaking Bantu and Swahili). The previous volume set the stage for the latest outbreak of hostilities launched by the Azanians against the Persians—whose own empire was slipping into petty internal power struggles. This installment offers little exposition in favor of mostly nonstop battlefield action, on land, sea, and air, as New Persia warriors engage the enemy’s armored divisions, navy fleet, and flying corps. Early defeats put the mighty Persian capital, Persepolis, at risk. Two characters crucial to the city’s defense are Suri Pahlavi and Nasrin Avesta, young women discontent with their devalued status in the conservative, male-dominated Islamic society. Suddenly granted official rank in a hastily concocted female auxiliary, the Bar Basiji, the pair far exceed the expectations of chauvinistic men when ground combat hits. Meanwhile, a background threat looms against both warring nations: a “seed storm,” a periodic calamity occurring in this alien ecosystem, when ubiquitous native plant life starts a chemical cycle of fiery holocausts     Genre readers hoping for fanciful mega-weaponry may have to dial back expectations; indeed, some of the technical details impinge on steampunk. A surprise advance sprung by the Azanians turns out to involve the helicopter. And cyberfans may get a frisson when they discover that Bar Basiji’s principal function is to tend the wheels and gears of a Charles Babbage/Alan Turing proto-computer. Lynch (Endemic, 2018, etc.) only drops hints about the backstory of his compelling, imaginary world, but he does mention that—in its millennia or so of human habitation—the spacefaring civilization here rose and fell to ruin more than once, climbing its way upward repeatedly from dark ages featuring seed storms and entrenched belligerence. On that note, the only Azanian character of consequence, a tank commander named Aran, turns out to be an ethical soldier (and a Christian disciple, at least in part), initiating a cease-fire to evacuate vulnerable civilians. Persians themselves do not savor causing casualties or terror, declaring it is God’s will whether or not an enemy survives. Genocide and atrocities are not driving forces in what is, for contemporary readers, a throwback to a more chivalrous theater of war than this genre typically evokes. Some readers may notice that a whole planet of displaced Middle Eastern societies, untroubled by such factors as Israel, America, or Russia, nonetheless winds up just as crisis-torn and bomb-cratered as the present Persian Gulf. But if the author intends religious or political critiques, they are safely locked in the armory during this installment of the saga. The theme of female courage and resourcefulness under fire does come through loud and clear.

Hard-combat SF that delivers thoughtful alternative history speculation rather than ray gun stuff.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.


Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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