Deft storytelling and a riptide of action propel this cataclysmic narrative along, regardless of its eco-religious ballast.

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EXODUS 2022

Young priest Joe Stanton is hunted by a vicious military-industrial conspiracy when he becomes the latest man afflicted by mystic—and very likely fatal—visions of strange marine environments and parental loss.

Bennett’s (Battle for Cascadia, 2011, etc.) sure hand keeps this apocalyptic yarn from sinking in outsized action and borderline-cartoonish characterizations. Joe Stanton is a handsome, compassionate yet two-fisted Episcopal priest with a girlfriend, Ella, who everyone agrees is stunningly gorgeous. Joe is suddenly seized by panicked visions of a deceased daughter he never had and overwhelming emotions of grief and loss. When amateur video of Stanton’s public meltdown goes viral, the incident draws the attention of Erebus, a rogue international military-security contractor (think Blackwater). Two of their divers suffered identical symptoms and died with what appeared to be brain tumors. Sheldon Beck, psychopath scion of the alpha-predator family that runs Erebus, wants to know the connection. Beck and his sadistic mercenaries, amoral doctors and ex–Special Forces killers have Joe and Ella under surveillance on the Washington state coastline, as the couple realizes Joe is telepathically linked to an astounding event unfolding in Earth’s oceans. Sci-fi fans may sense parallels with the comedic plotlines of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) or Douglas Adams’ So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984); this time, though, it’s played straight. Yet Bennett, after a neat Dean Koontz–style curtain-raiser, keeps raising the stakes. And, like a clever magician, he diverts the reader’s attention while taking the ecological-end-times scenario to the next level. The tone is consistent with much Christian-oriented fantasy fiction—the title apparently refers not only to the year this takes place, but also to a biblicalchapter and verse—and there are functional equivalents of a deity, the devil and a Christ-like sacrifice. But the emphasis is on environmentalism more so than evangelism. Indeed, except for the ever virtuous hero and heroine, Homo sapiens don’t seem to be deemed a species worth saving.

Deft storytelling and a riptide of action propel this cataclysmic narrative along, regardless of its eco-religious ballast.

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Booktrope Seattle

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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