Good work from a writer—never less than authoritative (The Ice Curtain, 2002, etc.)—who, with a little less techno and a bit...


A solid, Arctic-set technothriller in which a cold war—cold as icebergs—breaks out when a pair of inimical subs (one US, one Russian) take each other on.

Oh, that Baikal! Not only is the Russian sub humungous—big as an aircraft carrier—but it’s supposed to be defunct. Originally, six Typhoon class submersibles, Baikal and her sisters, were built by the Russians, their number steadily diminished by a variety of mishaps. And then there was one, which the US paid the Russians to scrap. “Those son of bitches took our money and kept the boat,” fumes the captain of the U.S.S Portland, the sleek nuclear sub that suddenly comes upon this formidable monster. In an act both rash and characteristic, Commander James Vann decides to pursue the Baikal and blow it out of the water if he can—never mind the very real risk of WWIII. Fortunately, there are some cooler heads on the Portland, belonging to Lieutenant Commander Willy Steadman, Vann’s exec, and Senior Chief Jerome Browne, the very model of a seasoned, savvy career enlisted man. Also on board , for the first time in US submarine history, is a woman: the pretty, plucky, and cool-headed Lieutenant Rose Scavullo, a crack Russian translator. Vann hates everything about her, including the aroma that stems from soap a tad more delicate than standard issue. Most of all, however, he hates the fact of her: an alien presence, he decrees, on what was obviously meant to be an all-boys bastion. Vann’s hunt for red Baikal persists, growing ever more obsessive until, it becomes clear to Steadman, Browne, and Scavullo, intervention is inescapable. Shades of Bligh and Queeg.

Good work from a writer—never less than authoritative (The Ice Curtain, 2002, etc.)—who, with a little less techno and a bit more thriller, might have nudged this up to outstanding.

Pub Date: March 10, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-14935-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.


Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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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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