A rousing, if familiar, actioner that squarely hits its target coordinates.

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SENTINEL STAR

An international expedition to meet alien soldiers exposes Earth to the possibility of apocalyptic war in Barone’s (Jettisoned, 2014, etc.) sci-fi novel.

In 2052, astronauts watch in shock and awe as a wormhole near Jupiter disgorges a fleet of spaceships and a giant juggernaut in pursuit; during a spectacular dogfight, the latter destroys half of the smaller craft before they annihilate it. The mysterious winners of the battle head for the solar system’s inner planets, and Earth’s superpowers—the United States, Russia, and China, who are barely at ease with one another—launch a team of specialists to meet the potential threat. Brooklyn, New York–born U.S. Marine Capt. Joe Delano, a linguist and tactician, is tapped to intercept and interpret for the invaders, and the humans open tentative lines of communication with what turns out to be two related alien species. The hirsute, tough Tarlons (imagine Star Wars’ Wookiees, with long ears) and the Halkins have fought running battles with the marauders in the bigger ships—the Ktarrans, described as an empire of sadistic predators. The newcomers gravely inform Delano and his comrades that Earth should expect a savage Ktarran attack and enslavement. But are these aliens telling the truth—and what can humanity do about it? Some readers may expect a few twists involving characters from Barone’s previous novella, but they figure little in the big picture. Overall, though, this is a wildly entertaining riff on the old Flash Gordon idea that, when multiple species confront a powerful menace, only earthlings have the nerve and cooperative ability to rally and go on the offense. And, indeed, the combat finale, with its long-shot strategies, unfolds cinematically, like a well-told caper film. Barone’s prose sometimes recalls that of a Cold War–era techno-thriller: “These are not basic Glocks....These are modified, match-quality weapons with longer barrels. The extra length increases the bullet’s velocity. The armor-piercing +P ammunition is quite powerful as well.” Also, Delano’s multiple relationships with foreign women puts him in James Bond/Matt Helm territory. However, even genre fans who are well-acquainted with these formulas will salute this yarn’s finesse.

A rousing, if familiar, actioner that squarely hits its target coordinates.

Pub Date: July 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-98300-3

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Eskkar Enterprises

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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