WEST PACIFIC SUPERS

RISING TIDE

In this first installment of Johnson-Weider’s planned series, superheroes battle villains for sponsors and media attention on an alternate-history Earth where supers are organized by city like professional sports teams.

Before the 2013 super-season begins, a fatal attack by an unknown evil-doer (some suspect a mole) drops the West Pacific Supers’ rank in the West Coast conference. To win the title and protect the citizens of West Pacific, Calif., Seawolf, White Knight, Starfish and their unflappable operations director, Dr. Sterling, need to rebuild the WPS quickly. Using draft picks and old favors, they manage to get a top-tier rookie and an aging ladies man under contract. Seawolf is even able to bully Nova Woman (who’s given up her secret identity and goes by “Camille” now) to move back to the coast. On top of the stress of finding commercial sponsors, doing PR events and surviving Sterling’s infamously depraved training sessions, the new members bring with them plenty of personal baggage—which is to say, they’ll fit right in with the other misfits and mutants. But there’s plenty of crime for everyone to fight this season—a geological expert with military-grade explosives and an offshore lair is out to literally change the face of the world, and a madman calling himself “Mr. Darwin” has decided that it’s time for the WPS to go extinct. As exciting as that sounds, the author (like the “superazzi” in the story) is so focused on the supers’ private lives that the villains’ plots are relegated to mere distractions until the final fourth of the book. That feeling is reinforced by the way the heroes undercut the dramatic impact of their heroics by treating the citizens like nothing more than faceless opportunities to boost their stats. Despite these missteps, the well-imagined world and strong cast of do-gooders save the debut novel and will keep readers interested through the epilogue by offering new takes on surprisingly human personal struggles, like a less cynical Watchmen with more likable characters. Clever, fun and occasionally tense, but in more ways than one the West Pacific Supers are their own worst enemy.

 

Pub Date: June 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983798415

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Blue Moon Aurora, LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2011

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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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Coelho's placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls.

THE ALCHEMIST

Coelho is a Brazilian writer with four books to his credit. Following Diary of a Magus (1992—not reviewed) came this book, published in Brazil in 1988: it's an interdenominational, transcendental, inspirational fable—in other words, a bag of wind. 

 The story is about a youth empowered to follow his dream. Santiago is an Andalusian shepherd boy who learns through a dream of a treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. An old man, the king of Salem, the first of various spiritual guides, tells the boy that he has discovered his destiny: "to realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation." So Santiago sells his sheep, sails to Tangier, is tricked out of his money, regains it through hard work, crosses the desert with a caravan, stops at an oasis long enough to fall in love, escapes from warring tribesmen by performing a miracle, reaches the pyramids, and eventually gets both the gold and the girl. Along the way he meets an Englishman who describes the Soul of the World; the desert woman Fatima, who teaches him the Language of the World; and an alchemist who says, "Listen to your heart" A message clings like ivy to every encounter; everyone, but everyone, has to put in their two cents' worth, from the crystal merchant to the camel driver ("concentrate always on the present, you'll be a happy man"). The absence of characterization and overall blandness suggest authorship by a committee of self-improvement pundits—a far cry from Saint- Exupery's The Little Prince: that flagship of the genre was a genuine charmer because it clearly derived from a quirky, individual sensibility. 

 Coelho's placebo has racked up impressive sales in Brazil and Europe. Americans should flock to it like gulls.

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-250217-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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