The Circuit

EXECUTOR RISING

In this first installment of a new sci-fi saga, a brilliant inventor/statesman secretly plots against his own totalitarian regime with the assistance of an advanced robot.
In Bruno’s (Isinda: Curse of the Sleeping Dragon, 2013, etc.) vigorous, often violent narrative of interplanetary intrigue, Earth has been reduced to an uninhabitable cinder by mankind’s rapacious mining of the resource Gravitum, which enables deep-space travel. Humanity has therefore spread throughout the solar system, particularly to asteroids and gas-giant moons, using hyperspeed travel provided by a series of conduit-stations called “the Kepler Circuit.” Most of these spaceways and colonies have been taken over by the New Earth Tribune, an authoritarian empire which exerts its will using a religion focused on worshipping the tortured Homeworld. Cassius Vale is a war hero and scientist who’s prominent due to his authorship of the Tribune’s security precautions, but he’s never forgiven the Tribune for its offenses against him, particularly the loss of his son. Secretly and illegally, he’s constructed an advanced artificial intelligence robot called ADIM (Automated Dynamic Intelligence Mech), an appearance-shifting droid of frightening destructive prowess and ruthless logic who also serves as Vale’s surrogate offspring. The engaging narrative follows not only Cassius and ADIM, but also Sage Volus, a bionic beauty and zealous Tribune agent who’s also, as it happens, a valued piece in Cassius’ anti-Tribune conspiracy. ADIM seems to be a bit of a riff on the killer cyborgs of the Terminator films (though without the time-travel gimmick), and the story walks a line between vintage pulp and more hard-edged, combat-oriented sci-fi. But as a series launch pad, its plotline is lean and satisfying. That said, there do seem to be some gaps in the future-history mythology that are more frustrating than thought-provoking, especially regarding the 500-year-old Kepler Circuit, its origin and function. One assumes that Bruno will provide these details in forthcoming installments. As it is, this kickoff ends with lots of dangling subplots—not to mention a few equally errant limbs.
A hard-charging opener to a promising, if bloody, space-opera series.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1606594049

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Mundania Press LLC

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2014

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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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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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