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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more