The skilled, perpetually poised detective shines brightly in this series, be it a novel, comic book, or any other format.

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DENVER MOON

METAMORPHOSIS

An ultracool Mars private eye works a case of robocide in this sci-fi prequel.

Destroying a robot, or botsie, on Mars is akin to murder and consequently a felony. When Jard Calder, a botstringer who runs botsies for prostitution, loses several of them to robocide, he hires Denver Moon. Someone has pulled only a part or two from each botsie and stolen its chip as well. With help from Smith, an artificial intelligence installed in Denver’s gun, the detective surmises the murder weapon is a mining tool. As Denver injected Smith with a copy of her grandfather’s memories, the AI often treats her like a beloved granddaughter and is protective of her. And she may need protection when her search for a murder suspect leads her to Blevin’s Mine, where someone from Denver’s past is invested in seeking revenge against her. Fighting to stay alive soon takes precedence over the case before she ultimately ends up in Mars City’s precarious lower levels. This is where Denver unravels the mystery, though the motive for robocide is not as straightforward as she may have anticipated. This graphic novel by the team of Hammond and Viola (Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars, 2018, etc.) is a collection of three comic-book issues. It’s an adaptation of the authors’ short story, which is included at the volume’s end, along with a gallery and concept art. Though the fast-paced narrative is brief, it proficiently displays Denver’s laudable qualities. She’s coolly apathetic, suggesting Jard find another investigator if he’s unhappy with her efforts, and composed even when certain she’s in danger. Smith is a stellar companion, convinced that, despite being an AI, it loves Denver. Furthermore, the classic Smith & Wesson revolver’s “cannon mode” transforms it into a more powerful weapon. The dialogue is often brief but witty. Denver, for example, promises to buy Smith a new battery if they survive men out for her blood. The short story’s descriptive prose is akin to the novel’s illustrations: A shot from Smith “sliced through” people, “scattering their lifeless bodies across the floor.” Lovett’s (Boomer and Friends!, 2017, etc.) exemplary artwork makes the white-haired Japanese heroine look both formidable and chic. Panels are likewise vibrant, from the shadowy, blue-tinged lower levels to Denver’s monochromatic perspective in sharp black and white.

The skilled, perpetually poised detective shines brightly in this series, be it a novel, comic book, or any other format.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997736-5-9

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Hex Publishers

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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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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