Exciting, heart-pounding action; genuine motivations; and vivid writing make this a compellingly entertaining coming-of-age...


A teenager who can grasp alien symbols becomes the key to resisting a megacorporation in this debut YA sci-fi novel.

In 2038, Earth is dense with huge, overcrowded apartment buildings populated by a workforce for enormous factories that cheaply manufacture goods sold at high prices in wealthy, luxurious off-world colonies. Militarized robots police the worker bees, and information is highly censored. Samuel Hughes sees only one way to help his unemployed father, William, and gravely ill sister: by working in Tricium Group’s off-world mines. It’s dangerous, and William warns Sam that stories of mining wealth are just propaganda, but the boy is determined, and at age 15, he’s old enough. But then he and other miners barely make it from their crashing transport ship to an escape pod, which lands on an Earth-like planet uninhabited by people or animals, although ruins are visible to the north. The survivors include nine men and eight women; the youngest are Sam and Rebecca Helmsford. The pod contains food and other supplies, but the survivors have to scatter when huge robots begin attacking. Sam and Rebecca flee with Tamrun Jones, a tall ex-soldier whose calm leadership is invaluable. After regrouping in the ruins, Sam discovers that he can perceive a symbol field, at first with pain and difficulty and then increasing facility, which will allow him to control the planet’s technology. In the mountains nearby, he can also get crucial guidance from the Sentience, a kind of wise computer. A ruthless Earth conspiracy at the highest reaches wants to use Sam to exploit the planet’s rich resources—but with help from the Sentience, his friends, and the resistance movement, Sam might pull off a dangerous bid to return to Earth and beard the all-powerful Tricium lion in his den. In his well-written novel, Flanagan tells an appealing story of the seemingly small and weak standing up to overwhelming forces. Though technology is in some ways at the center of the tale, the author takes care to underscore the human element, as in the tender relationship between Sam and his sister, Kara. Similarly, the attraction between Sam and Rebecca isn’t perfunctory or simply a matter of physical attraction but based on the qualities they’ve displayed. When Sam tells her, “I think the person you are is amazing,” it’s believable and touching. The extraterrestrial civilization seems truly—and captivatingly—alien, not just familiar elements in exotic dress. Flanagan does a fine job of establishing what’s at stake by first showing the dreary futility of life for most on Earth, a plausible haves/have-nots setup with resonance for readers today given widening wealth inequality. The plot is well-orchestrated, with several tense battle scenes, some surprises, and a growing sense of urgency as the narrative progresses that leads to a taut, deftly described, complex, and cinematic action sequence. The ending is well-judged, with an outcome that leaves room to grow.

Exciting, heart-pounding action; genuine motivations; and vivid writing make this a compellingly entertaining coming-of-age tale.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5423-6948-0

Page Count: 235

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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


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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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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