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LET THEM WHIMPER

A FULLY JUSTIFIED (IN NO WAY PERSONAL) ARGUMENT FOR THE ABANDONMENT OF HUMANKIND

An epic, entertaining fusion of hilarity, unease, and memorably eccentric characters.

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In this debut satire, people in a dystopian nation unwittingly cross paths with a fiendish being who’s crusading for the Apocalypse.

Park ranger Trent Taphor cares for his twin brother, Calvin, who has Down syndrome. That doesn’t mean that Trent is too preoccupied to notice that his fellow Californians are evacuating their homes on account of the “anomaly” popping up on the Doppler radar. On the same night that the mass of “goopy dots” appears, Calvin vanishes, soon after encountering creepy, perpetually smiling Mr. Moony. Not far away, a local cult, certain this event spells the impending end of days, names member Don Philly, a writer who’s actually undercover for research, as the “Chosen” one to face whatever doom awaits. Ten years later, the U.S. has become the Divided States of America while a series of calamities, including merciless storms and another civil war, have shaken the country. Calvin is effectively imprisoned with others whom Mr. Moony dubs “the significants,” while Trent and Philly, both having apparently swallowed one of those dots (which are even worse than they initially seemed), are affected in a disturbing fashion. The twins and this so-called Chosen writer most assuredly have links to a diabolical plan that Mr. Moony has brewing, in which he’ll ensure the Apocalypse transpires. Doing so requires more people whom he draws together—hacker and former reality TV star Love; her psychedelic therapist and former best friend, Yew; and high school principal Gary Mustafa. Combine all of them with recently christened Eden’s End, a quasi-utopia on the DSA’s West Coast, and Mr. Moony may very well get the Apocalypse he’s craving.

The first third of Enterante’s 446-page novel, which centers primarily on Trent, Calvin, and Philly, leans toward horror. This element comes courtesy of Mr. Moony’s chilling introduction in the pitch-black night, the inexplicable “storm” aimed at California, and Trent’s eerie tendency to converse with his meat cleaver, Dex. But the story changes direction following a time jump and the corresponding exposition that the narrative sprints through. The original trio sadly fades into a gradually expanding cast, with the plot becoming more devoted to unraveling mysteries and connecting characters in sometimes surprising ways. Of course, this new focus also prompts darkly comedic turns that lampoon such topical issues as America’s political polarization and the prevalence of social media and technology. For example, the DSA’s three politically charged “Zones”—Red, White, and Blue—abide by the oxymoronic Treaty of the Divided Alliance. Such drollness runs throughout the book, from Philly on the phone with his wife in Florida and oblivious that she’s clearly enjoying someone else’s company to Yew taking a call during a therapy session and convincing her patient that the ringtone was an LSD hallucination. Enterante takes advantage of the futuristic setting, with robotic Skeeter-5000s joining the cast and someone using tech to provoke a tragedy. This work’s curious structure employs an unknown narrator who adds periodic asides to an omniscient narrative (“Mind You, I’m nearly finished with my tale’s whole setup—just so You know”). While most readers will work out who this figure is, the narration leads to an unforgettable and truly worthy ending.

An epic, entertaining fusion of hilarity, unease, and memorably eccentric characters.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2023

ISBN: 9798987733806

Page Count: 458

Publisher: Oblivion Press

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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SWAN SONG

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

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A stranger comes to town, and a beloved storyteller plays this creative-writing standby for all it’s worth.

Hilderbrand fans, a vast and devoted legion, will remember Blond Sharon, the notorious island gossip. In what is purportedly the last of the Nantucket novels, Blond Sharon decides to pursue her lifelong dream of fiction writing. In the collective opinion of the island—aka the “cobblestone telegraph”—she’s qualified. “Well, we think, she’s certainly demonstrated her keen interest in other people’s stories, the seedier and more salacious, the better.” Blond Sharon’s first assignment in her online creative writing class is to create a two-person character study, and Hilderbrand has her write up the two who arrive on the ferry in an opening scene of the book, using the same descriptors Hilderbrand has. Amusingly, the class is totally unimpressed. “‘I found it predictable,’ Willow said. ‘Like maybe Sharon used ChatGPT with the prompt “Write a character study about two women getting off the ferry, one prep and one punk.”’” Blond Sharon abandons these characters, but Hilderbrand thankfully does not. They are Kacy Kapenash, daughter of retiring police chief Ed Kapenash (the other swan song referred to by the title), and her new friend Coco Coyle, who has given up her bartending job in the Virgin Islands to become a “personal concierge” for the other strangers-who-have-come-to-town. These are the Richardsons, Bull and Leslee, a wild and wealthy couple who have purchased a $22 million beachfront property and plan to take Nantucket by storm. As the book opens, their house has burned down during an end-of-summer party on their yacht, and Coco is missing, feared both responsible for the fire and dead. Though it’s the last weekend of his tenure, Chief Ed refuses to let the incoming chief, Zara Washington, take this one over. The investigation goes forward in parallel with a review of the summer’s intrigues, love affairs, and festivities. Whatever else you can say about Leslee Richardson, she knows how to throw a party, and Hilderbrand is just the writer to design her invitations, menus, themes, playlists, and outfits. And that hot tub!

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780316258876

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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