Will certainly leave sci-fi fans elated, but should attract all readers.

NAKED BRAIN

In Hunt’s debut sci-fi thriller, one man must stop the launch of a spacecraft that might lead to the extinction of humankind.

The U.S. government sees Duke Nolan as a threat: Officials have surmised that he was taken by an alien race many years ago, so his recent knowledge of military secrets must mean that he’s either abetting aliens or is one of them. Duke, however, has another purpose. He’s been gifted with God’s Light—the same energy force used to create the universe. His mission? To prevent the completion of a ship designed after an alien spacecraft that is powered by a particle accelerator with the strength of God’s Light—and which could lead to catastrophic results. The notable presence of aliens makes it easy to define Hunt’s novel as sci-fi, but religion and (modern) science are also integral to the plot. In fact, Duke, intending to educate humans, says that God and science are “one and the same.” It’s a fascinating concept, asserting that evolution is part of God’s plan in lieu of a naturally occurring progression. The book is respectful to both sides of the debate; it does lean more toward religion, especially Christianity, but is never heavy-handed. Particularly compelling are the understated themes of the Crucifixion, the Great Flood and a clever reimagining of Adam and Eve. And Duke, despite his “power,” is kept human. When his family is killed in an attempt to get to him, readers can’t help but wonder if revenge is his true drive, especially after he dedicates some of his kills to family members: “This is for….” Hunt maintains suspense with a constant reminder of the impending launch—the book’s chapters are in descending order, like a countdown—and the final act blazes with solid action, a few surprises and an inspired way of tying together some of the lingering minor plots. Perhaps most significantly, readers are provided with an early taste of the particle accelerator’s destructive capabilities—planes falling from the sky, an entire country lost—so there’s no question of what the characters should fear.

Will certainly leave sci-fi fans elated, but should attract all readers.

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1470013592

Page Count: 356

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2012

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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 unique if occasionally overreaching novel for lovers of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

FLORENCE ADLER SWIMS FOREVER

In a darkly comic debut, Beanland tells the story of a Jewish family on the New Jersey coast in 1934.

It begins with tragedy: Florence Adler, while working toward her ambitious goal of becoming the first Jewish woman to swim the English Channel, drowns off the coast of Atlantic City. Shifting ambitiously among seven different third-person perspectives, the novel explores the aftermath of the tragedy as experienced by three generations of the Adler family and those adjacent to it. Florence’s older sister, Fannie, is on bed rest as she prepares to give birth to her third child a year after having lost her second. The Adler family matriarch, Esther, decides it would be best to keep the tragedy from Fannie in order to minimize her risk of losing the baby. As the family fights against all odds to keep this huge secret, other issues are brought to light, from jealousy to hidden romances to shady business dealings. Remarkably, the plot feels coherent despite the seven points of view, but the novel falters thematically; it could have been a sensitive exploration of the sometimes-absurd lengths we'll go to protect the people we love, but it turns into a diffuse attempt to do too much. The novel's events take place in the shadow of the approaching Holocaust, but the author fails to engage meaningfully with it and so it reads like an afterthought. Perhaps Beanland thought writing a story about Jews set in the 1930s that doesn't deal with that tragedy would be frivolous or insensitive, but the result of her half-baked approach is an “add-Holocaust-and-stir” effect that lacks emotional verisimilitude. In addition, some of the Jewish details in the novel are historically dubious if not incorrect. In this regard, it is reminiscent of the hit show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; also in this regard, the particularity of the setting may nonetheless be enough to buoy it, particularly for those interested in little-known pieces of American Jewish culture.

A unique if occasionally overreaching novel for lovers of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982132-46-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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