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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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