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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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