The best of what science fiction can be: a thought-provoking, heart-rending story about the choices that define our lives.

THE VANISHED BIRDS

In this gorgeous debut novel, love becomes a force that can shatter space and time.

We first see Nia Imani through the eyes of someone she is always leaving behind: Kaeda, a boy growing up on a backwater planet visited once every 15 years by offworlders who come to collect its harvests. Nia is the captain of a faster-than-light ship that travels through Pocket Space. While Kaeda lives a decade and a half, Nia spends just a few months traveling between various resource-producing worlds like his, shipping goods for the powerful Umbai Company. It’s not until a mysterious boy falls out of the sky on Kaeda’s planet that Nia begins to form a connection she’s not willing to walk away from. The boy doesn’t talk, but he’s drawn to music, particularly a traditional workers’ song from Kaeda’s world: Take my day, but give me the night. Kaeda teaches the boy to play the flute, and the music speaks to Nia. But there’s something else about the boy, something that draws the attention of Fumiko Nakajima, the woman who designed the massive space stations that anchor this corporate-controlled empire. Something dangerous. Something that could change the universe. Spanning a thousand years, this sweeping novel takes the reader from the drowned cities of Old Earth to the vast reaches of Umbai corporate space but always anchors itself in human connection. Even characters whose lives are glimpsed only in passing, as waypoints along Nia’s time-skipping journeys, are fully realized and achingly alive on the page. This powerful, suspenseful story asks us to consider what we’d sacrifice for progress—or for the ones we love.

The best of what science fiction can be: a thought-provoking, heart-rending story about the choices that define our lives.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12898-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

THE WINTER GUEST

An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust.

Jenoff (The Ambassador’s Daughter, 2013, etc.) weaves a tale of fevered teenage love in a time of horrors in the early 1940s, as the Nazis invade Poland and herd Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. A prologue set in 2013, narrated by a resident of the Westchester Senior Center, provides an intriguing setup. A woman and a policeman visit the resident and ask if she came from a small Polish village. Their purpose is unclear until they mention bones recently found there: “And we think you might know something about them.” The book proceeds in the third person, told from the points of view mostly of teenage Helena, who comes upon an injured young Jewish-American soldier, and sometimes of her twin, Ruth, who is not as adventurous as Helena but is very competitive with her. Their father is dead, their mother is dying in a hospital, and they are raising their three younger siblings amid danger and hardship. The romance between Helena and Sam, the soldier, is often conveyed in overheated language that doesn’t sit well with the era’s tragic events: “There had been an intensity to his embrace that said he was barely able to contain himself, that he also wanted more.” Jenoff, clearly on the side of tolerance, slips in a simplified historical framework for the uninformed. But she also feeds stereotypes, having Helena note that Sam has “a slight arch to his nose” and a dark complexion that “would make him suspect as a Jew immediately.” Clichés also pop up during the increasingly complex plot: “But even if they stood in place, the world around them would not.”

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1596-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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