A steadily paced and exhilarating espionage tale involving the threat of galactic war.

THE RIVEN STARS

In this fifth installment of a sci-fi saga, a 47th-century intelligence agent spies on aliens who may have forged an alliance with a hostile race.

Sirius Kade of Earth Intelligence Services is enjoying his vacation with his girlfriend, Marie, notwithstanding an assassination attempt. The likely culprit behind that effort is Manning Thurlow Ransford III, who chairs a corporation funding the Separatist Movement. The group’s objective is to turn Earth’s colonies into “criminal fiefdoms.” Kade’s EIS controller, Lena Voss, calls him in for a mission, an unusual request from Tau Cetins, an “Observer civilization.” While they’re the nominal leaders overseeing a galactic treaty, they rarely intervene. Fearing a second war instigated by a race known as the Intruders, the Tau Cetins enlist Kade to keep an eye on the Xil, who may be in league with the aggressors. Kade, co-pilot Jase Logan, and engineer Izin Nilva Kren board the Silver Lining and trail a Xil envoy to the planet Valhalla. The trio helps a religious colony fend off attackers, including human Separatists, who are apparently getting chummy with Xils. Kade’s assignment takes him to other planets and star systems, where he encounters various civilizations and races and sets out to foil the Intruders’ secret, diabolical agenda. Though there are instances of blistering action, Renneberg’s (The Mothersea, 2016, etc.) novel is primarily a bracing espionage story. Someone tries both framing Kade for a crime and hacking the Silver Lining, while trust is scarce; even Marie, according to Lena, is a Separatist sympathizer. The futuristic backdrop is profuse: Humanity is in the midst of an interstellar civil war and a second probationary period to join the Galactic Forum. But readers will recognize the problems facing many of the arresting characters in the author’s densely plotted epic. Izin, for example, endures mistrust from others simply for being a tamph, amphibious “cousins” to the feared Intruders. Likewise, Renneberg aptly portrays strikingly different worlds: “Before me lay a vast, semi-arid savannah stretching to the horizon beneath a fierce white sun.”

A steadily paced and exhilarating espionage tale involving the threat of galactic war.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9941840-5-4

Page Count: 442

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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