Be prepared to dodge lethal energy beams on every page of this rip-roaring tale.

THE SPAWN WAR

Masquerading as a merchant, an Earth spy takes refugees and a small crew into the midst of a gigantic interstellar war that could engulf the human race.

In this fourth installment, Renneberg (The Riven Stars, 2018, etc.) continues his rousing series of SF space operas and star wars. The setting is the year 4607. The human race, spacefaring but long quarantined by the regulating “Galactic Forum” of aliens, is barely a force in the pantheon of ancient, competing species. And humankind has problems of its own with an “Earth Separatist” revolutionary movement, heavy with malcontents and self-serving warlords. Humanity thus seems merely a bit player in a galaxy-spanning war between ancient civilizations. The formidable antagonists are the One Spawn—amphibian types with a hive structure of cruel matriarchs—using sinister robot weaponry and fearless troops in an all-out blitzkrieg against the dominant, more or less benevolent Tau Cetins. Recurring hero/first-person narrator Sirius Kade is an undercover Earth Intelligence Service agent, impersonating a merchant/adventurer of the Han Solo sort but secretly endowed with the cybernetic databases and nanotech reflexes of a supersoldier (though he also has a moral and ethics code all his own). Kade’s controller orders him on a mission to a besieged world—with the excuse of uniting a love-struck crew member with a girlfriend imprisoned on a bleak planet—that seems more key to the Separatist war than the One Spawn’s rampage. But in truth, it’s all to gain control of a much-sought item that could make a difference in the Spawn War. Soon, a veritable assortment of aliens and augmented Earth soldiers is on Kade’s ship, the Silver Lining. The ride is somewhat episodic (reminiscent of a vintage cliffhanger serial) but still an enjoyable roller coaster of battles, chases, “novarium” grenades, and narrow escapes, constantly reminding readers that plucky humans are just the small fry in this cosmic ocean of apex predators. But Renneberg clings to the genre trope that Homo sapiens’ fighting spirit, given a fair chance, would impress and intimidate even far older and more advanced ETs who discount the Earth interlopers. With action blasts right out of the gate, fun faux physics, stellar dreadnaughts bristling with guns, and fearsome, theoretical mega-weapons, this story is space opera as fans like it, sometimes feeling camera-ready for Lucasfilm but not at all Skywalker-derivative.  

Be prepared to dodge lethal energy beams on every page of this rip-roaring tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9941840-7-8

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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