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

A JACK IN THE DARK

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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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