CHILLER

Cryonics medical technifiction in the Michael Crichton vein but—despite the title—more thriller than horror chiller. A ``chiller'' is the dismissive name for frozen folks who await resurrection when medical science can deal with their once- fatal problems. Biochemist Alex Cowell runs Immortality Incorporated in Orange County, California, and has about 36 clients on ice, including his dog Sparkle. But he and Dr. Susan Hagerty—a researcher who's developed a transglycerol that avoids cell rupture (or freezer burn) during superdeep frigidity—bring Sparkle back from the dead after first having alleviated his spinal tumor with surgery that the dog could not have withstood while alive. Sparkle is the first major success in cryonics. Vitality Incorporated, meanwhile, a rival group that secretly has the bodies of John Wayne, Howard Hughes, Peter Sellers, and others on ice, is a registered archival tissue bank that does cryopreservation research—except that it's really a scam run by two religious phonies out to sucker millionaire celebs. Its chief phony, Dr. Lomax, once revived 12-year-old George, an orphan who drowned in a frozen lake. Then patches of George's brain went blooey, and as George grew older in foster homes, he became a body-builder, a credit-siphoning computer hacker, a religious fanatic, and at last a serial killer. The two phonies finally get terminator George under their control and sic him onto Immortality Incorporated. The reader may well wonder what's happening after George murders Alex, Susan, and their assistant Kathryn. But then the story leaps ahead 38 years, and the trio of dead researchers is brought back to life in the next century! And crazy George, much older, is still around, as are the two phonies, who've managed to join Immortality and Vitality into one group.... A nicely paced debut that holds up throughout, though George's misdeeds as a credit thief are far more compelling than his kill- sprees.

Pub Date: July 12, 1993

ISBN: 0-553-09376-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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

FLY AWAY

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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