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The Starchild Compact

From the Starchild Series series , Vol. 2

A skillful example of hard sci-fi that boldly considers outer-space life and an Islamic state.

In Williscroft’s (Operation Ivy Bells, 2014, etc.) latest novel, a journey into space arrives at the crossroads of extraterrestrial life and jihad.

Aboard the Cassini II spacecraft, U.S. Navy Capt. Jon Stock and his crew embark on a historic voyage to Saturn’s moon Iapetus, which may be an artifact. At the helm of a multicultural team of engineers, communications officers, and one Barbarella-esque second officer (“by any measure,” writes the author, Ginger Steele “was a beauty”), Stock and company travel 1.5 billion kilometers from Earth. Complicating matters, a stowaway named Saeed Esmail, a fanatical Shia, is bent upon preventing the Cassini II from reaching its destination by any means necessary. Acting on behalf of Caliph Ayatollah Khomeini’s proclamation that the voyage to Iapetus poses a threat to Allah as “master of Heaven and Earth,” Esmail’s mission is swiftly derailed after he’s poisoned by radiation. Now he’s in the care of medical officer Carmen Bhuta, and Stock must decide what to do with him, knowing full well that Esmail’s death could cause the caliphate “to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, or even Europe, Asia, or the U.S.” The story’s parallel between Esmail and Stock is suspenseful and intelligent. It’s preoccupied by the clash, rather than peaceful alliance, of civilizations, and the contrast between Islamic fundamentalism and American pluck is unmistakable. For example, Saeed is introduced lying prostrate, his face toward Mecca “nearly 400 million kilometers back in the direction of the Sun,” as he vomits blood on his prayer mat and wonders why Allah has abandoned him. Jon, meanwhile, is described as a steely-eyed pragmatist with “a craggy, clean shaven face that testified to his fifty years.” The author also shows how the difficulty of space travel and a revelation about Iapetus overwhelms Esmail; Stock, on the other hand, is “cool and collected—unaffected” by any challenges that come his way.     

A skillful example of hard sci-fi that boldly considers outer-space life and an Islamic state.  

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9821662-9-1

Page Count: 396

Publisher: Starman Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2015

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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