FLAME WAR

Choppy, ditsy tale of a Gen-X slacker on the trail of a homicidal hacker who uses exploding floppy disks to eliminate fellow hackers who blunder through the ``back door'' of a data- encryption program. Coming off their nonfiction exposÇ of the hacker elite, Masters of Deception (1995), technology journalists Quittner and Slatalla deliver a cumbersome, talk-soggy cute-kids-in-peril adventure that often reads more like a niche-marketed YA. Harry Garnet, having failed to land a permanent job with a Syracuse firm after graduating from law school, is content to let another lazy summer slide by living in the Adirondacks and doing odd jobs around a nearby lakeside resort. One morning he innocently delivers a package containing a fatal floppy disk to math professor Frederick Ames and his slender, red-headed archaeologist daughter Annie. The disk explodes inside the professor's computer, killing him and putting Garnet in the hospital. Fascinated by Annie, Garnet later follows her to Manhattan, where he discovers an ``urban crypto militia'' that hangs out at Cafe Info, a computer-wired restaurant. There, he's befriended by the wealthy and pony-tailed Lionel Sullivan, a software designer who thinks that some madman is blowing up innocent computer geniuses who, like Professor Ames, have found a deadly flaw in a data-encryption program called Patriot, designed to protect user privacy on the Internet. Garnet agrees to use his untried legal skills to stop Patriot before a congressional subcommittee votes to impose it on the cyber community, while Sullivan helps him and Annie navigate a virtual- reality maze to find the killer. Quittner and Slatalla describe their hero's hapless heroics with a fey insouciance that becomes as cloying here as in their previous psychokiller whodunits (Mother's Day, 1993; Shoofly Pie to Die, 1992). Some fascinating cyber-scenes about how distinctive personality traits seep through the most impersonal computerized disguises, but abundantly clunky dialogue and cutesy asides stall the suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-688-14366-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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