Contrived and dry, but resoundingly upbeat.

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THE AFTERMATH

A NOVEL OF SURVIVAL

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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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