THE THIRD PANDEMIC

A plague novel, chockablock with microbiological weirdness and humans who behave at times with about as much conscience as microbes: a story as absorbingly ambitious as Ouellette's debut fiction (The Deus Machine, 1994). Uni, a worldwide conglomerate of companies, is largely a relay system of computers, a global megabeast. Its main cytoputer, based in part on human cytoplasm (a far more reliable conductor of electrons than the finest wire), is more powerful than any other computer system on the planet. At Uni's Virtual Surgery Center, Dr. Elaine Wilkes discovers that Agent 57a, a theoretical bacillus she has extrapolated from molecular descriptions of Chlamydia psittaci, has a very good chance of coming into being within the next ten years and halving the world population—though the cytoputer's gigantic capabilities might devise an antidote within the next two years. Uni decides to keep the upcoming outbreak a secret, stockpile vast reserves of the antidote, and make a superfortune when the bug hits. Little does Uni know that the plague, incubated in and carried by parrots, pigeons, and other birds, is already afoot in Third World countries and spreading swiftly. Elaine, dismayed, steals the cytoputer's plague disks and plans to get copies to world health organizations. Uni, however, sends its bad guys after her, and she's arrested in Seattle. There, she falls in with Lt. Philip Paris, a detective obsessed with finding a nutcase who has been spreading E. coli in Seattle restaurants and has put Paris's wife into a permanent coma. Paris springs Elaine and hides her on his boat in Puget Sound. While pursuits and showdowns hold the reader in a vise grip, as do descriptions of American cities in bacterial meltdown, the novel's most awesome power comes from Ouellette's smiling descriptions of colonies of Chlamydis psittaci on the move, pages potent enough to shock any reader into a severe health regimen. Very scary, a fabulously grisly amusement not to be read in bed. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-671-52534-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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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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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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