Delivers sci-fi action while maintaining a highbrow, character-driven narrative.

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DRONE PILOT 2061

In Diogenes’ sci-fi debut, a military drone pilot steps into a dystopian world to lead a murder investigation and clash with renegade robots.

On a casual weekend with potential love interest Anna, military agent Ray Alexander has to put himself back into work mode when robots arrive that have been reprogrammed to attack Anna and her uncle Cal. Before Ray has a chance to determine the robots’ specific target, he’s nearly killed by swarmers—small flying automatons that successfully murdered another drone pilot. Ray looks into identifying a person who fled the scene of the robot attack and is soon faced with more trouble when Anna disappears. The author permeates his story with delectable sci-fi bytes, like a peculiar time convention called “qhours,” each comprised of 10 90-second minutes, and Ray’s Panviewer headgear that allows for a panoramic “fullview.” The book further boasts stellar action, particularly the multiple swarmer assaults, as well as tech humor, including crash-landed, lucky-to-be-alive passengers complaining that they can’t access social networking; even Ray is upset that he has no time to peruse his backlog of emails. There’s a robust backdrop of inharmonious systems of government—the Constitutional Republic, for which Ray works, is set against the anti-freedom United Christian States and the Caliphate. Yet the novel’s most notable feature is its broad, fertile language; readers may want a dictionary handy, since uncommon words—“moue” and “pellucid,” for instance—appear in liberal doses. But the vocabulary, while certainly intelligent, occasionally has a dulling effect, as when Ray uses an aurally harsh word like “pulchritudinous” to compliment Anna’s beauty or in the frequent sex scenes between Anna and Ray (as well as Ray and fellow pilot Zinnia), which feature somewhat clinical descriptions: Ray “skillfully palpated all the plicae of her pudenda.” Their physical encounters have the same cold, detached feel as the virtual alternative. Still, it’s captivating following Ray’s exploits—he gets help from an old lover while finding a new lover and looking for his current lover—all the way to an ending that’s fearlessly unreserved.

Delivers sci-fi action while maintaining a highbrow, character-driven narrative.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-1492208235

Page Count: 442

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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