An engaging, albeit unoriginal, premise, laid low by uninspiring storytelling.

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Wings of the Pegasus

Kirsch’s debut sci-fi adventure novel tells a story set in a colossal starship containing 52 massive biospheres called Cylinders, inhabited by human colonists escaping an overpopulated Earth.

Lucy Natsumi is a 31-year old agricultural laborer who lives in the Cylinder of Arkadia and works for Lord Takeda. While toiling away in the fields, she dreams of something greater—something beyond the confines of her lowly existence. When a strange aircraft called Cordwainer Bird crash lands in Arkadia, Lucy, who’s always dreamed of flying, sees it as an opportunity to somehow escape her normal life. After meeting the craft’s inhabitants—Haruhi, the artificial intelligence of the plane, and Fuyuki, a mysterious man who may be a smuggler—Lucy decides to join them on their quest to elude the police and find their way back to their home Cylinder. Their journey takes them through numerous Cylinders filled with various cultures and beings—one is ruled by Apes, for example—but their quest is complicated when they realize that the supercomputer running the starship, Central Intelligence, may in fact be using them all as pawns in a grand-scale experiment. In broad generalities, this story is similar to that of John Varley’s Gaea trilogy (1979’s Titan, 1980’s Wizard, and 1984’s Demon). But more concerning than the story’s likeness to a genre classic is its unfinished quality: the characters are all two-dimensional, the worldbuilding is superficial at best, and there’s a conspicuous lack of tension throughout, which gives the reading experience an empty and emotionally flat feel. In a story of this nature, the potential for offering readers wondrous, visionary backdrops is virtually limitless—as it is in Varley’s novels—but this storyline is almost devoid of immersive description, which is terribly disappointing.

An engaging, albeit unoriginal, premise, laid low by uninspiring storytelling. 

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 380

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2016

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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