An intense and often moving tale of a gang member’s life.

THE REALITY OF SAVING YOURSELF

A young African-American boy learns to be tough and ruthless to survive the entrapments of urban poverty in Curry’s debut novel.

Frank “Franky B” Smith is born in Chicago to a 16-year-old mother, who was the daughter of a teenager herself. His mom—whose name, Hope, vibrates with poignant irony—does her best to care for her son, but she succumbs to an addiction to drugs. Her downward spiral leads to a long string of short-term “stepdaddies” who abuse Franky. Eventually, the state authorities step in and, by the age of 7, Franky is in the foster system. Driven by a desire to get back home to his mother, he does his best to sabotage each foster situation. But every attempt only takes him deeper into the system, until he finally winds up at the Thomas Jefferson Group Home for Boys, where many employees are, in Franky’s words, “racist…burnt-out…abusive…sexual predators.” Facing violence from other young residents and from those in authority, Franky learns to respond with merciless brutality, which sets him on a very dangerous path. Along the way, however, his meaningful bonds with friends and family offer hope. Curry’s taut and insightful narrative skillfully evokes the development of a frightened child into an angry teenager and a criminal young man. The author’s depiction of the role of gangs as substitute families, and of the tangled alliances between gangs and their various chapters, is astute, and he renders the language patterns of working-class urban black people convincingly. Moments of homophobia among the characters unfortunately go unchallenged in the text, as when Franky’s friend and mentor tells him, “You didn’t hit like no fag, so I didn’t want to see you become one.” Readers may also wish that Franky’s redemption was more fully developed, but overall, it’s a satisfying portrait of a life reclaimed.

An intense and often moving tale of a gang member’s life.

Pub Date: April 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79602-677-1

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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The flashy, snappy delivery fails to compensate for the uninhabited blandness of the characters. And despite the many clever...

SNOW CRASH

After terminally cute campus high-jinks (The Big U) and a smug but attention-grabbing eco-thriller (Zodiac), Stephenson leaps into near-future Gibsonian cyberpunk—with predictably mixed results.

The familiar-sounding backdrop: The US government has been sold off; businesses are divided up into autonomous franchises ("franchulates") visited by kids from the heavily protected independent "Burbclaves"; a computer-generated "metaverse" is populated by hackers and roving commercials. Hiro Protagonist, freelance computer hacker, world's greatest swordsman, and stringer for the privatized CIA, delivers pizzas for the Mafia—until his mentor Da5id is blasted by Snow Crash, a curious new drug capable of crashing both computers and hackers. Hiro joins forces with freelance skateboard courier Y.T. to investigate. It emerges that Snow Crash is both a drug and a virus: it destroyed ancient Sumeria by randomizing their language to create Babel; its modern victims speak in tongues, lose their critical faculties, and are easily brainwashed. Eventually the usual conspiracy to take over the world emerges; it's led by media mogul L. Bob Rife, the Rev. Wayne's Pearly Gates religious franchulate, and vengeful nuclear terrorist Raven. The cultural-linguistic material has intrinsic interest, but its connections with cyberpunk and computer-reality seem more than a little forced.

The flashy, snappy delivery fails to compensate for the uninhabited blandness of the characters. And despite the many clever embellishments, none of the above is as original as Stephenson seems to think. An entertaining entry that would have benefitted from a more rigorous attention to the basics.

Pub Date: May 15, 1992

ISBN: 0553380958

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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