Mystery, sci-fi and political intrigue merge in this energetic, absorbing tale.

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Splintered Star

In Schuetz’s sci-fi novel, a man frozen in time is awoken in the far future to play his role in a mysterious destiny.

In the near future, the Alexander Virus—unleashed by brilliant scientist Miles Alexander—has killed millions. Now, 15 years after the outbreak, billionaire Douglas Worthington has summoned the scientist’s adult son, Alan Alexander, for something only he can provide: himself. Alan is the biometric key that will unlock his father’s research data on temporal stasis. Just as Alan arrives, chaos erupts. Alan is forced into the stasis field, and from one instant to the next, the world changes utterly. Rana, 15, a dancer and priestess-in-training, lives in the small fishing village to which a confused Alan is first brought. In her world, technology is highly advanced but scarce. When Rana is summoned to the capital to become a Guide—a human specially gifted with the Shepherd deity’s powers—Alan accompanies her small group to seek answers. Essentially, they’re off to see the Wizard. Along the way, as the group faces dangers, various memories and thoughts confuse Alan. In his debut novel, Schuetz provides an intriguing premise that hits the ground running and—via judiciously timed revelations—continually piques interest. Other points of view (a highhanded princess, a time-traveling villain) round out the story and give us further glimpses into this future world with its different cultures. The story becomes a bit confusing toward the end, and Schuetz doesn’t address some basic questions: Why is English unchanged after tens of thousands of years? Why doesn’t Alan ever wonder how the geography he’s traversing corresponds to the America he knows? But the issues Schuetz does combine here—selfhood, hubris, the ways technology or religion can be used for good or ill—make a meaty stew.

Mystery, sci-fi and political intrigue merge in this energetic, absorbing tale.

Pub Date: July 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463624699

Page Count: 510

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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