Unhurried but engrossing novel in which characters are more enticing than otherworldly technology.

THE BEASTS OF ELECTRA DRIVE

In Quine’s sci-fi tale, a game designer, aided by the physical manifestations of his game characters, fights back against a company trying to sabotage his work.

Jaymi Peek’s programming skills land him a gig at a games development company—Bang Dead Games. But his high-position LA job is soon less than ideal. He realizes that Bang Dead favors profit over originality, often sparking trite concepts. He calls the ones responsible for this nose dive “the Dreary Ones.” Jaymi leaves to design his own games, but when a drone invades his property on Electra Drive, he assumes it’s a personal attack by the Dreary Ones. Conceptualizing and coding a character, or Beast, from one of his games-in-progress, Jaymi gives life to Amber, a male (in appearance) who literally crawls out of a computer monitor into “meat-space.” As Jaymi develops additional Beasts, including Evelyn and Shigem, the Dreary Ones continue their affronts, attempting to infect code or damage the Beasts’ code. Consequently, Jaymi sends Beast incarnations after the Dreary Ones (one attack involves a cockroach). Soon the physical confrontations move into the digital realm. Jaymi targets in particular Bang Dead’s tawdry game Ain’tTheyFreaky!, an open platform in which the public votes on certain people’s attractiveness or lack thereof. Hoping to counter the ugliness this game inflicts upon the world, Jaymi relentlessly battles the Dreary Ones, a war that ultimately intensifies when at least one individual winds up dead. Quine’s novel centers more on an interesting cast than fascinating sci-fi traits. Some characters are computer code in bodily form but still have depth. For example, Jaymi created Kim, in part, to be Shigem’s lover. (A nice touch: both Beasts are male.) There’s likewise a rather sublime religious theme. Though one Beast kneels in prayer in front of “his creator,” Jaymi, there’s an understated notion of free will. Jaymi assigns missions to Beasts (e.g., wreak havoc on Bang Dead) but often leaves them “to [their] own devices.” The author’s lyrical prose is profound and sometimes surreal, especially in character descriptions. “Inside Kim,” Quine writes, “there is a lonely savage from the caves, bent on pure first-degree survival, blown by chance and the primal drives of instinct and emotion, alone and uncertain on a dart from birth to death.” The plot, however, can grow repetitive. Every new Beast design leads to Bang Dead’s attempt to hack the code, and large sections of narrative repeat. This book is a prequel to the author’s earlier works whose titles are the same as Jaymi’s prospective games, and the ending neatly sets up the succeeding installment.

Unhurried but engrossing novel in which characters are more enticing than otherworldly technology.

Pub Date: April 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9927549-4-5

Page Count: 326

Publisher: EC1 Digital

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2018

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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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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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