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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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

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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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