A fast-paced popcorn space opera with occasional hints of depth—easily digestible like its predecessor.

THE TINKER AND THE FOLD

PART TWO: THE RISE OF THE BOE

An adolescent inventor tries to rescue his brother from a power-mad alien, while Earth faces a controlled existence as a member of a galactic association.  

In this sequel, the Gordons (The Tinker and The Fold, 2015), a father-and-son YA sci-fi writing team, continue the breathless antics of the Javelins, a California household of scientific and alpha types in 2030. Jett Javelin Jr., aka “the Tinker,” became the most famous kid on Earth for creating the “quantum swapper,” a teleportation device that gained humanity an enrollment in The Fold, a co-op of thousands of spacefaring worlds. The dwarfish, officious Aaptuuans, who oversee The Fold, enforce its strict codes against violence and killing (the basis for the biblical Ten Commandments). Because Jett Javelin Sr. was a Gulf War veteran, he joins millions of human “murderers” exiled for reconditioning on Pluto. Jett Jr., in a rescue-mission attempt using the quantum swapper, accidentally scrambles his subatomic structure. Result: he acquires shape-shifting powers. His twin brother, Jack, is taken prisoner by the treacherous Hazborg, a reptile-eel monster. The Aaptuuans believed they had reformed the creature, but, with stolen technology, he masquerades as a god among the Boe, a primitive primate/feline tribe he plans to make into an empire. The Aaptuuans’ nonviolent solution sends super-charged Jett Jr. (plus a girlfriend and an AI) to the planet as a rival god to dethrone the villain. Amid the high-speed stuff is the back story of Earth’s conformity to Fold values, ready or not. Ethics, peace, and a vegan diet are coerced by the aliens—sometimes using methods of behavioral control not unlike those in A Clockwork Orange. A reader has a queasy feeling the authors don’t exactly object (well, Robert A. Heinlein preached some peculiar sermons, too), and this intriguing plot thread finally intersects with the frothier one in the cliffhanger ending. At one point, there’s a quick (nothing in the narrative moves slowly) pop-culture reference contrasting two Hollywood director-fantasists: action addict Michael Bay and the more thoughtful and complicated J.J. Abrams. The saga itself seems torn between which role model to follow—big ideas or just snazzy FX? But the nimble style is disarming enough to curb cynicism about the elastic science and Tom Swift-on-microchips tone. The sense of humor keeps things more in a comedic orbit than a mission of gravity.

A fast-paced popcorn space opera with occasional hints of depth—easily digestible like its predecessor.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9963574-5-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2017

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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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