Fresh intelligence, danger, and complexity await sci-fi fans.

AMAZING GRACE

This third volume of a space station series reinvigorates a familiar villain and introduces new allies.

The medical space station Nelson Mandela serves the Union of Solar Systems by repairing and upgrading soldiers who have animal adaptations. After once again halting the deranged plans of Dr. Jeffrey Nestor, Dr. Grace Lord and the handsome, devoted android Bud no doubt deserve room to develop their friendship. Grace’s boss, the indefatigable Dr. Hiro Al-Fadi, believes otherwise and demands that she not encourage Bud’s romantic leanings. Elsewhere on the station, the sentient Plant Thing that’s merged with Dr. Eric Glasgow begins experimenting on its own by creating Little Bud, a humanoid plant capable of walking the corridors and shocking Nelson Mandela’s already colorful denizens. Dr. Mikhail Lewandowski, meanwhile, needs to examine Hiro’s mind for any lingering posthypnotic suggestions of violence from Nestor, creator of mind-link therapy. A more direct threat is the ship Inferno, captained by the suspiciously monikered Danté Alighieri, who wants to dock with the station and bring aboard six crew members suffering from a mysterious virus. And if Grace’s life wasn’t complicated enough, she stumbles across an injured man in stasis named Alexander Grayson Lord. Will she be able to focus on saving lives when an explosion strikes the Nelson Mandela? Sasaki’s (Bud by the Grace of God, 2016, etc.) third installment of the Grace Lord series, with its large and varied cast, hits many of the high notes from the previous volumes. But this time, a series of vicious murders overshadows the scientific aspects of the narrative, creating more of a thriller atmosphere. Plant Thing proves an indelible character through whom the author explores how something or someone’s appearance skews perceptions of the entity’s essential being. The relationship between two tiger-adapted Marines, Capt. Damien Lamont and Cpl. Delia Chase, is bittersweet and grounded by dramatic war visuals (“Black shrapnel and ash were raining down, a dark contrast to the brilliant electric streaks of deadly laser fire”). Though Sasaki revisits numerous motifs, she pumps such joy and energy into her world that it’s impossible to fly past without visiting.

Fresh intelligence, danger, and complexity await sci-fi fans.

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9947905-5-2

Page Count: 511

Publisher: Oddoc Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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