A capable sci-fi novel, more The West Wing than Kim Stanley Robinson, that focuses its thrills on the political maneuvering...

Excessive Entanglement

In d’Arbelloff’s debut sci-fi novel set in the early 2030s, an overpopulated Earth finds hope when Cerulea, a new, inhabitable planet, is discovered.

The book’s title refers to the separation of church and state—a relevant issue when a new off-world colony’s constitution is being written. Second-term U.S. President Virginia Belknap supports colonization to the new planet, but religious conservatives fear that “’a determined minority of Ceruleans will . . . rid this new society of what it should hold most precious: its faith in God.’” A dangerous, violent conspiracy of conservatives soon threatens to sabotage the mission, and when a conservative wins the next presidency, compromises must be made. Readers who chiefly love the awe-inspiring aspects of science fiction—the brave new worlds of never-visited planets, the shared human enterprise of venturing into outer space—may find this novel a bit disappointing, but those with a taste for behind-the-scenes horse trading, debates, cloture, contracts, points of order and dirty tricks, will thoroughly enjoy the book. Although d’Arbeloff develops his characters effectively, he often seems more interested in how things work. For example, he lovingly describes technology, in a manner reminiscent of Tom Clancy: “The V-90 Dragonfly tiltrotor aircraft streamed through the sky. . . . An offshoot of the V-22 Osprey, this was the next generation; with a top speed of 425 mph, it was 30% faster than its sibling.” When the novel renders the spacecraft environment, beauty takes a backseat to form and function: “Before them stretched a small, narrow, forested valley, rich green on either side with a long, thin, crystal blue lake in the center. Within the trees [were] the building units that would serve as the living quarters and recreational facilities for the ship’s crew.” Overall, while some readers may find this style intriguing, others may wish for a bit more wonder.

A capable sci-fi novel, more The West Wing than Kim Stanley Robinson, that focuses its thrills on the political maneuvering required for a new Earth.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479352258

Page Count: 412

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Densely plotted and replete with incident if you can overlook the insufferable narrator.


Memo to fans who’ve longed for Windsor Horne Lockwood III, the moneyed, omnicompetent buddy of sports agent Myron Bolitar, to snag a starring role of his own: Beware what you wish for.

Nothing would connect privileged Win with the murder of the reclusive tenant of an exclusive Upper West Side building if the police hadn’t found a painting inside Ry Strauss’ apartment—a Vermeer belonging to Win’s family that was stolen long ago while on loan to Haverford College—along with a monogrammed suitcase belonging to Win himself. The two discoveries tie Win not only to the murder, but to the Jane Street Six, a group of student activists Strauss led even longer ago. The Six’s most notoriously subversive action, the bombing of an empty building in 1973, left several innocents accidentally dead and the law determined to track down the perps. But except for Vanessa Hogan, whom Billy Rowan tearfully visited soon after the bombing to beg her forgiveness for his role in bringing about the death of her son, no one’s seen hide nor hair of the Six ever since. The roots of the outrage go even deeper for Win, whose uncle, Aldrich Powers Lockwood, was killed and whose cousin, Patricia, to whom he’d given that suitcase, was one of 10 women kidnapped, imprisoned, and raped in an unsolved crime. These meaty complications are duly unfolded, and gobs of cash thrown at them, by the ludicrously preening, self-infatuated Win, who announces, “It’s good to be me,” and “I can be charming when I want to be.” As if.

Densely plotted and replete with incident if you can overlook the insufferable narrator.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4821-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


Berry delivers a taut and compassionate thriller as young mother Tessa is drawn into working as a double agent in the Irish Republican Army to protect her sister.

It's been years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, but tensions in Northern Ireland remain at a constant simmer. Tessa moves through the simple motions of her life: taking care of her infant son, working at the BBC News Belfast bureau, spending time with her mother and sister. The physical isolation and beauty of her home village hint at the possibility of a world in which one doesn’t always have to be alert for terrorists; Tessa is old enough, however, to remember the Troubles, and she fears that the IRA will never truly surrender. Still, it comes as a shock at work one day when she sees a video of her sister participating in an IRA robbery. But even more shocking is the revelation that comes from Marian herself once she is able to reach out to Tessa: She's been a member of the IRA for seven years, drawn in by their talk about economic inequality, and has recently begun feeding information to MI5 in order to create space for peace talks. After a bomb she created for the IRA failed to blow up, though, she's under constant surveillance and can no longer meet with her British handler. And so Tessa joins her sister as a double agent: She's accepted by Marian’s crew and asked to do increasingly dangerous tasks for the IRA, which she then reports to her handler. Days of espionage are balanced by quiet moments with her son as Tessa comes to realize that putting herself in danger is justified, even necessary, if she wants him to grow up in a safer Ireland. Berry's use of short chapters, often divided into several smaller episodes, is particularly effective in reflecting Tessa's fragmented sense of loyalty and safety. This is not a book of action, though there is plenty, but instead a greater reflection on personal choice and consequence.

A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522499-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet