The start of an exhilarating new series and a stirring addition to the zombie canon.

Hyenas

Sellars evokes both classic literature and classic horror in this post-apocalyptic debut novel.

Five weeks after the collapse of civilization, Jay Garvey doesn’t know if he’s waiting out the end of days or just waiting for his own end. Cowering in an abandoned bookstore and hiding from the zombielike maniacs he calls hyenas, he doesn’t have much to hope for. But an encounter with another survivor opens up a world of new possibilities, starting with a plan to escape the decaying streets of Liverpool by boat. But what at first seems to be a run-of-the mill zombie scenario, somewhere between the films Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later, masks a dynamic portrait of literature and disability. Before the Jolt, as Jay calls it, he and the other survivors had some form of speech or literacy impediment, and while everyone else became ravenous monsters, the survivors found that, for the first time in their lives, they could read. Meanwhile, the hyenas, insensate, paw at and even eat pages from books and magazines. Unlike in a traditional zombie novel, the hyenas aren’t dead per se, but their spite and anguish call into question what life really is in the absence of words. “Language left,” the prologue reads, and there’s a powerful sadness in those words—and even in the hyenas’ ghastly, horrifying laughter—that seldom gets its due in post-apocalyptic fiction. Of course, it’s not all William Blake and Northrop Frye, and fans of the adrenaline and gore of more traditional post-apocalyptic zombie fare will find themselves right at home here. The hyenas embody a genuinely frightening take on those familiar themes, and they’re backed up by a colorful cast of characters and a host of other threats, including a Beatles-obsessed militia leader referred to as Sgt. Pepper. While the novel lacks some of the expansive, atmospheric descriptions that are a hallmark of post-apocalyptic stories, the entertaining quality of the subject matter and the depth of the underlying themes create a vivid world.  

The start of an exhilarating new series and a stirring addition to the zombie canon.

Pub Date: July 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5151-5492-1

Page Count: 274

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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