Sci-fi as it should be: engaging, moving, and grand in scope.

SEEING FOREVER

McCarter (Of Things Not Seen, 2017, etc.) returns with a tale of a man who defeats the limits of mortality only to question the worth of indefinite existence.

Paul Cruz once lived as a human being on 22nd-century Earth. At the time, the planet was recovering from elevated sea levels, displaced populations, and the resulting disease and wars that came with them, collectively known as the Shift. He was married to a woman named Viola, who took increasing comfort, as they grew older, in religion and its promised afterlife. Paul, however, wanted to become a “Singular” and upload his human consciousness to a technological platform called the Singularity. He did so at age 90, after learning of Viola’s death; they’d divorced some years before. After living in virtual worlds of varying quality and design for decades, Paul is now ready to settle at a place called “Home.” It’s a quaint virtual-seaside environment that feels real, even giving him the illusion of a sunburn. There, he meets a person named Simon, who has eyes that seem familiar. Paul recounts the story of how he and other Singulars once wrested their fates from the corrupt Osiris Corporation, which had been deleting people after invoking “obscure clauses in their contracts.” Paul’s history as a Singular is also entwined with the story of Hugh Rice, an architect of the Singularity who became his lover. In this quiet but far-reaching thriller, author McCarter explores the essence of what it means to be human. On worlds where one might become an animal, or even the wind, he shows how virtual existence could become “tiresome”: “If everything was THE BEST, then nothing was,” Paul narrates. McCarter doesn’t bog down the narrative with hard-science jargon, instead cleanly and clearly explaining how the upload process works: “they stop your biological functions, they take your brain apart a cell at a time, mapping each and every neuron.” The first half of the story is rather sinister, with Paul’s fellow Singulars June Grunwald and Kendall Rothschild vanishing, but concerns of the heart quickly take center stage as Paul discovers that “Love shouldn’t be contained or constrained by the accident of gender.” The ending, which brings the discussion of the afterlife full circle, hints at a sequel.

Sci-fi as it should be: engaging, moving, and grand in scope.

Pub Date: April 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-941153-01-7

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Little Hummingbird Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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