A striking tale flaunting a strong protagonist who’s resilient in any time period.

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ASSASSIN 13

A TIME-TRAVEL THRILLER SET IN A DYSTOPIAN FUTURE AND 1927 PROHIBITION HOLLYWOOD

A 22nd-century assassin inadvertently travels back to Prohibition Hollywood in this sci-fi-infused historical thriller.

After losing her loved ones to violent men, Lauren Ramirez lives her life as the highly skilled killer-for-hire called Malinche. She handles jobs for the U.S. president, who in 2131 assigns her the task of assassinating the vice president, who’s allegedly planning a coup. With limited time, the off-planet job requires a quick exit, and Lauren’s descent to Earth ends in a spaceship crash-landing. She’s injured but rescued by Pauline Windsor, a renowned film actress in 1927 Hollywood. Lauren is soon aware of her 200-year journey and also that there’s a chance at returning to her own time, provided she can repair her downed ship. It’s feasible with help from Matt, the ship’s AI who’s downloaded himself into Lauren’s neurobots, becoming a voice in her head. Meanwhile, the typically apathetic assassin surprisingly befriends Pauline and acts as protector for her and her family. And Pauline will need defending: her boyfriend is gangster Benny Sorrentino, who’s caught up in a dangerous rivalry with the Colombini mob. Historical accounts furthermore cite Sorrentino as the most likely cause of Pauline’s death, which Lauren knows is imminent and is determined to stop. Reppert (The Captured Girl, 2016, etc.) proficiently amalgamates action and drama. The well-established protagonist endures tragedy as a girl, so that later she convincingly struggles with emotions while dispatching bad guys with cool efficiency. Characters are dynamic, especially headstrong Pauline, but Matt is a real surprise; he adds comic relief and Hollywood trivia to keep Lauren informed, even if she occasionally threatens to scrub the opinionated AI from her neurobots. The old Hollywood backdrop imbues the story with authenticity, including the name-dropping of classic film stars and the impending introduction of movie sound, a possible detriment to the current silent-era actors. Reppert wisely simplifies the time traveling, with its explanation decidedly less important than rich character development. Regardless, the oddly practical ending should appease fans of the subgenre.

A striking tale flaunting a strong protagonist who’s resilient in any time period.

Pub Date: March 15, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 227

Publisher: Helen's Sons Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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