A satisfactory sci-fi sequel that promises more cues to send in the clones.



From the Space Operetta series , Vol. 2

In this second installment of a series, a rakish adventurer must unravel the riddle of alien technology while aboard a spaceship on an Earth cultural mission.

First-person narrator Jack Jones Jr.—actually a clone—is a randy, sybaritic youth, ready for lovemaking with all genders and species on the starship Shakespeare. The crew members are supposed to be Earth cultural ambassadors to various alien races, performing the classics in the ship’s theaters, but they are in reality conducting espionage on humanity’s behalf. In Smith’s (A Jack by Any Other Name, 2017, etc.) earlier novel, the protagonist discovered that his superspy clone sire—the original, 50-ish Jack Jones, presumed dead—had actually gone rogue and perpetrated all sorts of perfidy. With that mystery supposedly solved and the villain incarcerated on Earth, young Jack (and the book, for a while) feels a bit aimless, with little to do but have free-wheeling sex with gym-toned Shakespeare crewmates. But intrigue arises anyway. Jack is briefly abducted by an unidentified antagonist, and there is much unknown about the mysterious faster-than-light drive spheres that power the Shakespeare and other interstellar crafts lucky to get them. The machines are the result of shadowy ET trading and dealing. Nobody seems to know exactly how the FTL tech originates or works—except maybe nefarious “Old-Jack.” Smith’s lighthearted sequel continues her sci-fi Space Operetta series. The author is generous with the Shakespeare quotes (and, in places, David Bowie lyrics). As the tale grows more convoluted, though, Smith has to fall back repeatedly on a silly deus ex machina involving Jack’s “special skills,” a sort of quantum link he has with certain FTL drives that allows the clever clone to think unlikely events (like narrow escapes) into existence as needed. Even with this resourceful superpower, the smug, self-satisfied hero is on the shallow side, his distinguishing features including that he’s ever keen for rolls in the hay (or whatever) and he sometimes shows up for business naked. An abrupt cliffhanger ending announces this installment as a midchapter of the saga. While that’s a bit of a letdown, there should be genre readers prepared to keep up with the Joneses, much as a previous generation followed Keith Laumer’s dashing galactic diplomat, Jame Retief. 

A satisfactory sci-fi sequel that promises more cues to send in the clones.

Pub Date: April 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9973131-7-8

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Quarky Media

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2018

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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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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