THE CHAIN OF CHANCE

As you might guess, this "novel of suspense" from Europe's favorite deep-think science-fictioner is rather light on the suspense, rather heavy on the philosophical implications. True, the first 50 pages or so do generate some tension—since we haven't the slightest idea what's going on, as the narrator, an American ex-astronaut, drives from Naples to Rome, wearing electrodes on his chest, apparently going through some sort of predetermined schedule, and then (not on the schedule) trying to foil a terrorist bombing at the super-secure, super-modern Rome airport. In Paris, however, where the narrator consults computer scientist Philippe Barth, all is explained: a series of mysterious disappearances, psychotic attacks, and deaths have Occurred around Naples (mostly to American tourists), and the narrator-detective has been recreating the route and the actions of the most recent victim—a decoy "simulation mission." Since this mission has failed to smoke out the evil forces, the detective has come to his last resort: Dr. Barth and his crew of logicians. They study all the case histories (including some similar deaths which pop up in Paris), and the culprit is deduced to be. . . Chance. "There's no such thing as a mysterious event. It all depends on the magnitude of the set. . . . The victims were the result of random causality. Out of the realm of infinite possibilities. . . you chose a certain fraction of cases that exhibited a multifactorial similarity." Obviously not for most fans of the suspense genre; Lem is just playing, seriously, with the form, and the result is tightly moody in that only half-translatable continental manner, alternately witty and scary and ponderous.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 1978

ISBN: 0810117304

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1978

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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