While overly long and sometimes confusing, this sci-fi tale remains thoughtful and emotional.

MATRYOSCHKA

From the Matryoschka Heritage series , Vol. 1

Alternative pasts and genders arise from a failed quantum energy experiment in this debut novel.

Alexandria Jane Merk is a white Army veteran who, “at twenty-six, had left her soul on the streets of Tikrit, Iraq” when she couldn’t save two young boys. She’s now attending a university in Pullman, Washington, accompanied by friends Quentin Khan, a chubby, Arabic “man-child,” and Katie Jo Parker, a very tall black woman and fellow vet. Alex Jane becomes affected by a physics experiment that causes her to lose “contact with herself,” creating alternative pasts for two separate identities into which she splits. One is college freshman Sarah Beth Merk, who generally feels that life is good, although she has almost-buried memories of a horrifying childhood event. The other is Alexander “Alex” James Monroe, an Army vet with disturbing childhood memories of his own centering on his great-great-grandmother—“Babushka”— and the mental gymnastics she forced him to undergo with a set of matryoschka, Russian nesting dolls, covered with mysterious writing. And Sarah Beth/Alex are similar to these dolls, because she seemingly exists as a “flesh-hued thing” that slips on and off; in fact, she’s “pure energy” and “the most dangerous thing on Earth.” The dual entity, their friends, and government researchers must race to solve mounting puzzles before Sarah Beth loses control. In his sci-fi series opener, Gene posits a complex, what-if scenario with intriguing (if somewhat vague) links to quantum physics. The gender what-if is central and has a remarkable twist, but Sarah Beth/Alex could be expected to explore their state with more curiosity. The nesting-doll image is also captivating although sometimes overly abstract. While the novel is divided into three parts (“SARAH,” “ALEX,” and “SARAH BETH”), plotting gets hard to follow amid the story’s changing identities and past lives; everything seems to happen in a big swirl. Gene’s dialogue is naturalistic, although characterization sometimes falters, as with Katie—too much the cliché of the scary, angry black woman.   

While overly long and sometimes confusing, this sci-fi tale remains thoughtful and emotional.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72392-691-4

Page Count: 566

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

Hilderbrand’s portrait of the upper-crust Tate clan through the years is so deliciously addictive that it will be the “It”...

THE ISLAND

Queen of the summer novel—how could she not be, with all her stories set on an island—Hilderbrand delivers a beguiling ninth (The Castaways, 2009, etc.), featuring romance and mystery on isolated Tuckernuck Island.

The Tate family has had a house on Tuckernuck (just off the coast of swanky Nantucket) for generations. It has been empty for years, but now Birdie wants to spend a quiet mother-daughter week there with Chess before Chess’s wedding to Michael Morgan. Then the unthinkable happens—perfect Chess (beautiful, rich, well-bred food editor of Glamorous Home) dumps the equally perfect Michael. She quits her job, leaves her New York apartment for Birdie’s home in New Canaan, and all without explanation. Then the unraveling continues: Michael dies in a rock-climbing accident, leaving Chess not quite a widow, but devastated, guilty, unreachable in the shell of herself. Birdie invites her younger daughter Tate (a pretty, naïve computer genius) and her own bohemian sister India, whose husband, world-renowned sculptor Bill Bishop, killed himself years ago, to Tuckernuck for the month of July, in the hopes that the three of them can break through to Chess. Hunky Barrett Lee is their caretaker, coming from Nantucket twice a day to bring groceries and take away laundry (idyllic Tuckernuck is remote—no phone, no hot water, no ferry) as he’s also inspiring renewed lust in Tate, who has had a crush on him since she was a kid. The author jumps between the four women—Tate and her blossoming relationship with Barrett, India and her relationship with Lula Simpson, a painter at the Academy where India is a curator, Birdie, who is surprised by the recent kindnesses of ex-husband Grant, and finally Chess, who in her journal is uncoiling the sordid, sad circumstances of her break with normal life and Michael’s death.

Hilderbrand’s portrait of the upper-crust Tate clan through the years is so deliciously addictive that it will be the “It” beach book of the summer.

Pub Date: July 6, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-04387-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more