A prospective technology-driven future enriched by an endlessly funny protagonist.

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HENRY PASH AND THE BOTZEC REVOLUTION

In Goorha’s witty debut novel, the world adjusts to a company’s revolutionary computerization of businesses, an efficient method that leaves some people shortchanged.

Henry Pash laments his failure to patent his idea (not immediately revealed to readers). According to the Chief Patent Officer, his idea isn’t ideal since it’s not likely to result in something tangible. Henry later encounters the more successful George Wells, CEO of Wellspring, the company behind Botzec technology. A Botzec is a computer designed to take over the role of business executives, often replacing multiple execs and reducing costs so substantially that employment actually increases. Not surprisingly, the chiefs rebel and respond by launching the Save the Executives Movement. But Henry also witnesses the unexpected fallout of Wellspring, which moves into the education sector and leads to teachers losing their jobs. The company continues to grow into what’s practically a global takeover: purchasing banks, automating traffic, and creating a new legal tender of Well-credits, or W-creds. Moreover, aiding governments in establishing a new regulatory system prevents individuals or groups from identifying Wellspring as a monopoly. Henry fortunately has a bit of good news. His pal Kevin inadvertently discovers that Henry’s algorithm (his idea that the patent office dismissed) generates quality music, including rather poignant lyrics. Though its original purpose was entirely different, it turns out the algorithm might be better at maximizing business productivity than Wellspring. This could precipitate serious competition for Wells’ company, regardless of Henry’s reluctance to monetize his algorithm. Despite much of it resembling a cautionary tale of a technology takeover, Goorha’s story is persistently amusing. This, in large part, is courtesy of Henry’s first-person account. He has a tendency to interrupt people, sometimes with a mere thought or, as in one scene, by munching loudly on a piece of toast. But while he may be an annoyance to other characters, he’s a veritable comic gem as a narrator. In one scene, Henry finds friend Stephanie’s presentation on Botzecs so tedious he counts the bricks in a wall and ducks out for a coffee. He still manages to drop snippets of insight, even when he’s verbose: “You cannot look kindly on a friend who asks you about the make and design of the dagger stuck in your back, when you are telling him how profusely it makes you bleed.” The story, meanwhile, steadily progresses, complemented by a refusal to either laud or rebuke technological advancement. Wellspring, for example, does occasionally provide humans with paid positions, while a few sympathetic characters may be more avaricious than they initially appear. Lighter narrative touches are further improvements: Henry’s older brother, Guy, makes not a single appearance but displays a bold personality via reports of his insults (simply seeing Henry evidently turns his stomach). The ending befits the story’s overall subdued tone; it’s quiet but indelible, a denouement steeped in irony and a weighty notion or two for readers to ponder.

A prospective technology-driven future enriched by an endlessly funny protagonist.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-84897-966-6

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Olympia Publishers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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