Contrived and dry, but resoundingly upbeat.



Can a few thousand well-intentioned engineers and scientists help 25,000 hearty, well-intentioned South Africans put the world back together after a comet wipes out most of the planet? You bet!

Instead of following the apocalyptic post-disaster scenarios of On the Beach or the Mad Max films, this fiction debut from technological apologist and scientific optimist Florman (The Introspective Engineer, 1996, etc.) more closely resembles B.F. Skinner's Walden Two. Before he can offer his cheerful take on humanity's ability to solve problems, however, Florman must wipe the slate clean by having technology seem to fail: in the year 2009, a missile fired from Earth with the intention of deflecting a comet goes awry, exploding its warhead in such a way that on Christmas Day the comet slams into the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of northern California. The fiery shockwave, massive tidal waves, and freezing rain are both horrifying and intriguing to an international convention of engineers aboard a cruise ship off the southeastern coast of South Africa, the one part of the globe where the comet's effects are minimal. When the ship hits something and starts to sink, said engineers calmly decamp to the mineral-rich tropical province of Kwa Zulu Natal, where some 25,000 others have also escaped extinction. Narrated in part by technological historian Wilson Hardy Jr., the story moves forward as a series of dialogue-heavy lectures in which Hardy and other characters pile on the fun facts about science, technology, and those plucky South Africans (Muslims and Hindus, as well as Boers and Brits), while the ship's high-tech brains form committees with the mid- to low-tech survivors to rebuild, restore, and make babies. A passing challenge from a marauding pirate queen is almost effortlessly rebuffed, and despite a lack of most 21st-century luxuries, life goes on.

Contrived and dry, but resoundingly upbeat.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-26652-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2001

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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