A bold sci-fi tale that delivers an absurdist paradise.

PIPER ROBBIN AND THE AMERICAN OZ MAKER

This debut novel sees Earth’s best wielders of magic defending humanity against a space-born evil.

In the year 2038, Piper Robbin seems like your average mango-haired barista. The Brooklyn native loves Cambodian khor stew takeout and the idea of singing on Broadway. But she is in fact Bianca Elise Cappello, a centuries-old Grand Sorceress of the Holy Roman Empire. Her father is an immortal World Maker named Edison Godfellow, aka Leonardo da Vinci and Hercules. He’s come back from a future in which the War for Utopia has been won but at the cost of the human race. Phase 1 of the Grand Human Transfiguration has already begun, killing off the world’s population of sociopaths and narcissists. In two days, a kinder humanity will merge into a “million ton mass of flesh composed...of super brutes and...beautiful divas.” But that mass organism must not fall victim to a cosmic predator that waits in the Orion Nebula. When Piper’s apartment explodes with Tao energy (on which magic runs), she knows that World Maker Catherine Romanova, her father’s nemesis, is responsible. Piper must defeat Catherine so that Edison can create his protective Oz-scapes—or place major cities like New York and Berlin inside magical domes and atop vast towers. Once Gleeson cracks open his frothy imagination, all manner of conceptual madness rushes forth. If Thomas Pynchon wrote an episode of Doctor Who, there might be a scene where “the hyper-velocity shells” of Catherine’s Glock generated “a blinding burst and a noise loud as July 4th in Disneyland compressed to one second.” Jaded sci-fi and fantasy readers should flock to this fearlessly inventive narrative that sprinkles pop-culture references (like the David Bowie line “We could be heroes, just for one day”) on unflagging optimism about humanity’s potential. The author’s daring plot devices include moving Earth to safety and changing his protagonist’s gender. The downside to this kind of full-throttle wackiness is the difficulty in creating believable danger when seemingly anything can happen.

A bold sci-fi tale that delivers an absurdist paradise.

Pub Date: April 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9998425-4-6

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Del Sol Press

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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

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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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