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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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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