Fairly exciting sci-fi catastrophism with some quirks; call it The Day the Earth Certainly Didn’t Stand Still.

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PRIMORDIAL THREAT

Eccentric, brilliant, and disgraced scientist Dave Holmes may be humanity’s only hope for survival when a black hole is detected on a collision course with Earth.

Rothman (Perimeter, 2018), an engineer, tackles the hard-science/apocalypse trope of a “Very Bad Thing” threatening Earth in the tradition of Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer’s epochal When World’s Collide and Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer. Focusing rather tightly on a small group of characters—from tough U.S. President Margaret Hager to a NYC cop recalled to active military service—the epic takes place in the year 2066. Humans routinely mine asteroids and have a thriving lunar colony, but that matters naught when the ultimate natural-disaster threat looms: a black hole, preceded by a cloud of debris. A long-shot solution may reside with Dave Holmes, a scientist who’s had a spectacular rise and fall in his discipline. He foresaw the oncoming doomsday and, working in obscurity, has secretly been researching an astounding, untested technology to save at least some of humanity. But other dangers abound—an end-times terrorist messianic cult called the Brotherhood of the Righteous. The Brotherhood make for rather pallid villains, and late in the narrative, a few colorful Vatican reps show up if only to underscore that not all religious folk are hellbent psycho death freaks. But a theme emerges that Earth’s real savior is “Big Science”—and, particularly, science spearheaded by social outcasts, misunderstood misfits, and mavericks. (One surprise supporting-cast hero turns out to be the Supreme Leader of North Korea.) The thickening techno-jargon is somewhat daunting though not entirely beyond a lay reader’s comprehension (“Detecting an acceleration of 20 meters per second squared...correction, the acceleration has increased to 40 meters...60 meters...holding at 60 meters per second squared”). In an afterword, Rothman fact-checks the realities behind his imaginative flights of physics and technology, though a cliffhanger ending points the survival narrative into an entirely different direction and feels a bit like a misalignment.

Fairly exciting sci-fi catastrophism with some quirks; call it The Day the Earth Certainly Didn’t Stand Still.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-983323-00-3

Page Count: 459

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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