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

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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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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