A fun and often riveting novel that features mysteries of time, space, and unknown life forms.




Thuss’ (Fertility Zero, 2015, etc.) sci-fi novel tells the story of a small group of people trapped in a nightmarish town in the Nevada desert.

Every four years, Dale B. Yeager rides his antique BMW motorcycle 2,600 miles from Virginia to southern California so that he may place flowers on his parents’ graves. During his latest trip, at age 67, the divorced millionaire decides to stop in tiny NoTown, Nevada, which turns out to be aptly named, containing only a “cinder block motel,” a “gas station with two old rusted pumps,” and “an old rail car diner with a flickering red and blue neon sign.” The Rest Stop Motel seems to be a well-preserved but unremarkable relic of a bygone era. Upon check-in, Cyndy Ferguson, the young woman at the desk, makes some odd comments regarding the length of Dale’s planned stay. He takes a nap and wakes up to find that he looks 27 again. “You’re not crazy, Dale, and you’re not asleep,” Cyndy assures him when he returns to the lobby, alarmed. It turns out NoTown exists at an intersection where the 11 dimensions of time and space meet, and it’s impossible to leave the place by simply driving or walking away. Cyndy, like Dale, is in her 60s but looks as if she’s in her 20s; she’s a microbiologist who’s been trapped in NoTown for more than a year. Also, there are predators roaming the night that abduct humans and do unspeakable things to them. Dale decides to call them “Súls”: “what stood out most to me were the eyes, and Súl was the Irish word for eye.” With the help of other trapped travelers, Dale and Cyndy must find a way to escape the place before their wills are destroyed and they succumb to apathy, madness, or worse. The novel’s premise offers its readers a finely constructed puzzle that becomes increasingly and maddeningly complex as the story goes on, with rules that seem fixed but are revealed to be several degrees more complicated than they initially appear. Thuss’ prose effectively gets across the narrative shifts in tension, from long expositional conversations to more surreal moments, as in this passage, when Dale takes in his diner surroundings: “Everything was late 1940’s early 1950’s style: The plates, the silverware, all the decorations hung on the walls, and the red color of the vinyl in the booths. Everything but the small, decahedron shaped boxes mounted near the ceiling at each end of the rail car. We’re being watched, I realized.” The story is generally fast-paced and immersive, its twists are mostly surprising, and the ending comes before it overstays its welcome. Although the Súls are ultimately revealed to be a rather familiar foe, Thuss handles them well over the course of the novel, and he cultivates them into a truly terrifying adversary. Sequels appear to be planned, and they will be welcome when they arrive.

A fun and often riveting novel that features mysteries of time, space, and unknown life forms.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 173

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2019

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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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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.


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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