Skulduggery, sex, and Shakespeare abound in a sci-fi tale full of sound and fury, signifying fun.



From the The Space Operetta Series series

A murdered secret agent is cloned and sent back to the stars to undertake more missions—including investigating his own killing—in the first installment of Smith’s (Kat Cubed, 2016) Space Operetta series.

Fifty-year-old Jack Jones was a spacegoing entertainer—not only Earth’s greatest singer, but also its cultural ambassador to other civilizations in deep space, bringing them such things as Gilbert and Sullivan tunes. But while onboard the mighty starship Shakespeare with his wife, Gina, and a troupe of performers, Jones had another, more sinister role as an undercover assassin. After bullets cut him down, he’s quickly cloned by the Terran Cultural Committee—but in his downloaded memories, the last 32 years of recollections are somehow missing. Physically and mentally, he’s now a strapping, sexually active 18-year-old who must relearn his training and, if possible, solve his own murder. His masquerade as “Jack Junior,” his own long-lost son, doesn’t last long, though, especially with his baleful wife. Soon there are more mysterious deaths as the ship goes from planet to planet on a show circuit. Overall, Smith serves up a lot of sex, derring-do, and Shakespeare references in this pulpy sci-fi title. It’s certainly a lighthearted lark (complete with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shoutout), although it overdoes the adolescent humor, even if it is by design. In one twist, a faulty starship drive based on “quantum entanglement and improbabilities” may be causing unlikely events and out-of-character behavior—a cute idea but one that Douglas Adams hit first and better in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Still, there’s a great last-act reveal regarding Jack’s antagonist and even a concluding nonfiction essay on the physics used in the story, as polymath Smith has a doctorate in particle physics.

Skulduggery, sex, and Shakespeare abound in a sci-fi tale full of sound and fury, signifying fun.

Pub Date: April 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9973131-3-0

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Quarky Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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