A thoughtful and eventful sci-fi mystery that satisfies.

RENASCENCE

In this novel, a group of astronauts explores a faraway planet for colonization, but discovers it already has some inhabitants.

After the last Great War in 2054, the worldwide population was reduced to less than 100,000. By 2072, Earth is a wasteland that can no longer feed its people. Only finding a suitable exoplanet can save humans now, so the Order of World Leaders mounts an expedition to Arianrhod in the Triangulum Galaxy to see whether it can sustain life. The crew consists of three women, Xi, Rho, and Zeta—the narrator—and three men, Sigma, Omega, and Chi, all young scientists (their Greek letter tags are adopted for the operation). Their leader is Capt. Ralph Reynard, “a retired former United States Marine from back when the United States still existed.” It’s a dangerous mission uncertain of success, but if they triumph, the seven will earn early retirement and lifelong prosperity. But not long after their arrival, the undertaking goes haywire: Reynard acts suspiciously and a scientist disappears. Searching for the lost Sigma, Zeta discovers what seems to be an alien species—but they speak Russian. With everything at stake not just for themselves but for Earth, the team members make some desperate choices. Goodison (Limboland, 2016, etc.) entertainingly blends the sci-fi and mystery genres here; though Sigma’s death is made clear before long, other puzzles arise to be solved. Complicated strands in the plot include the early space race, the environment, and class/power struggles; these issues add thoughtfulness to the book’s exciting action scenes. Goodison keeps readers guessing about Reynard, OWL, their real motives, and how this can all possibly work out until the final pages. Although the Greek letter tags make it a little difficult to keep everyone straight at first, Goodison’s characterization is well drawn, and Zeta becomes an admirable heroine, a tough, smart cookie with a good moral center. This future world is usually presented with plausible changes, but to quibble, it’s annoying when years and months are renamed—for no discernible reason—“rotations” and “moons,” while days are still “days.”  

A thoughtful and eventful sci-fi mystery that satisfies.

Pub Date: May 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-945136-19-1

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Sheffield Publications

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2017

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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