A breezy, smart apocalyptic tale that makes sequels look tempting.

THE METAL WITHIN

In the opening installment of debut novelist Gizinski’s sci-fi series, survivors in a dystopian world encounter a covert organization that targets threats to citizens.

Jack Mathews lives in what remains of the mid-21st century United States, which has been ravaged by missile strikes, riots, and civil wars. He preaches at his own church, and although gangs are prevalent in the decimated country, Jack is on relatively good terms with members of the Razors. He hopes that they aren’t the ones pushing a dangerous street drug called Diamond. Meanwhile, private eye Melissana Trellan has taken on a new client: Elaine Martinez, wife of Justin Martinez. He’s known as “The Man Who Saved the World from Extinction” because his company developed synthetic foodstuffs to counter mass starvations resulting from the Grain Blight of 2029. Elaine thinks that her husband is cheating on her, but Melissana discovers some other information that may put Justin in peril. In a concurrent storyline, Corey Martin, in his late father’s armed-and-armored Sabretooth, makes his way to the Fortress Town of Hagerstown, Maryland, with a woman named Susan Blakeslee. They’ve been fleeing Iron Mike and his Steel Jackals ever since Corey saved Susan from them; the gang’s determination to ensnare the couple soon incites the townspeople to protect their home. Enter a clandestine agency with the resources to combat such menaces, which aims to recruit skilled people by whatever means necessary. Gizinski ably establishes his characters and the harrowing world in which they live; for example, just because Melissana’s pal Josanne Sinclair has aspirations to be an investigative journalist doesn’t mean that she isn’t also trained in self-defense and firearms. Most of the initial action is reserved for Corey and Susan alone, who find themselves in exhilarating predicaments, such as a high-speed pursuit and the aforementioned Hagerstown standoff. Details about the secret organization come much later, but the author saves some space afterward for characters to train, learn new tech, and even actively go after bad guys. There’s also a few surprises, including revelations of a villain’s identity and of a character’s pre-existing link to the covert group.

A breezy, smart apocalyptic tale that makes sequels look tempting.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4808-3864-2

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2017

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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some White people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only White avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, White people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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