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ASCENDING

From the Vardeshi Saga series , Vol. 1

Thoroughly enthralling, thanks to humanity’s representative—a perceptive, tireless protagonist.

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In this sci-fi debut, a graduate student’s ability to speak an alien language makes her essential to the prospective alliance between humans and the extraterrestrials.

Avery Alcott was born in 1993, the same year Earth had first contact with the humanoid Vardeshi. But the peaceful aliens left shortly after arrival, offering the vague reason that humans were “a volatile race.” More than two decades later, Avery’s professor Dr. Alistair Sawyer at a California graduate school offers her a unique opportunity. Having spent years translating the Vardeshi’s native tongue from various recordings, Sawyer teaches it to Avery. When the Vardeshi subsequently return, Avery is the primary choice for a cultural exchange. In fact, she won’t merely be living among them; she becomes a low-ranking member of their fleet for a one-year, round-trip journey to their home planet, Vardesh Prime. Acclimating to the Vardeshi aboard the ship, Pinion, is strenuous: It takes time for Avery to master nuances of language and customs. But the ship’s commander, Khavi Vekesh, isn’t interested in exchanging cultures, as he orders others not to converse in English with Avery. It’s soon clear someone on Pinion opposes a human/Vardeshi partnership and enacts a dastardly scheme to ensure its failure. In her series opener, Pechenick aptly parallels the human/alien relationship with the real-life diversity of world cultures. For example, in this book there are some, including certain groups on Earth, who protest the alliance while Avery strives to immerse herself in Vardeshi traditions without losing her own. The story’s steady pace meticulously develops characters, such as Zey Takheri; he shares the same low rank as Avery and becomes a loyal friend to the often lonely woman. Along with a touch of suspense (a threat to the ship and crew near the end), there’s humor: The aliens’ initial visit ultimately produced Vardeshi-obsessed fans, called Vaku, as well as popular Vardramas on TV. Though the narrative is predominantly in English, the author adds a few choice Vardeshi words and includes a glossary.

Thoroughly enthralling, thanks to humanity’s representative—a perceptive, tireless protagonist.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73231-230-2

Page Count: 490

Publisher: Ink Sigil Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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