A well-written, fiery sci-fi tale about human warriors battling an alien regime.

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THE OPPRESSED

A ragtag but determined army of exiled human soldiers faces strategic and moral dilemmas while trying to wrest a conquered Earth from an alien empire.

In this sci-fi debut, humanity’s successful technological leap into becoming a space-going culture has brought calamity to the planet. First, contact with nomadic aliens called the Ahai, willing to share “wormhole” technology, triggered the ruinous “Corporate War” launched by human mega-capitalists trying to protect their interests. Then came the threat that placed the Ahai into perpetual drifting exile: a warrior species with insect and reptilian aspects called the Hetarek, who wiped out upward of 90 percent of humanity and turned Earth into a (fairly minor) mining colony in their empire. It is now over 20 years after the subjugation, and the remaining humans toil as slave labor, administrated by long-captured Ahai who are the Hetareks’ puppets plus designated human go-betweens who have mastered the Hetarek language. (Traitorous though they seem, some of these quislings try to avoid unnecessary bloodshed by the occupiers.) An eager force of humans with military training who fled with the accommodating Ahai is rearming and starting to retake old possessions. An elite away team infiltrates the Pacific Northwest to foment resistance and rebellion. But among a generation of humans (and Ahai) who have known nothing but the Hetarek jackboot (or, more accurately, foot claw), the would-be liberators find themselves facing unexpected distrust and treachery. In this series opener, characterizations tend to be pushed to the margins by the intrigue, action, and military jargon–laden dialogue. But Thomas has thought through the mindsets of victors and vanquished, skillfully shading in the psychologies of the opposing forces before small feints and ambushes bloom into full-scale war. The semi-open ending leaves the tale, which at times recalls L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth, open to many further possibilities (most of them promising dire mayhem). Readers may discern in the story’s three-way species conflict parallels to real-life invasions and occupations (quagmires in the Middle East come to mind). But if a metaphor is at work here, it doesn’t overshadow the essential heroics.

A well-written, fiery sci-fi tale about human warriors battling an alien regime.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 521

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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