A vigorous, intelligent reworking of familiar SF elements, featuring an American veteran who makes a long, international...

STARMAN'S SAGA

THE LONG, STRANGE JOURNEY OF LEIF THE LUCKY

An American on humanity’s first voyage to another star system discovers peril, romance, and considerable mayhem on the contentious project. 

It’s 2069 in Alexander’s (My Life, 2019, etc.) SF novel, and Leif Grettison is a Florida-based veteran who survived “the Troubles,” a Russian-Sino-United States war that scarred the mid-21st century. Now he’s a brainy graduate student with a girlfriend and an EMT job, neither valuing him very highly. Leif impulsively enters a high-profile lottery to select a civilian to go into hibernation for dozens of years at a time on the “starshot,” humanity’s first deep-space exploratory voyage (via a ramjet craft) to another, presumably habitable system, not returning home for nearly 30 years. To his surprise, Leif is told he is the winner—after a front-runner drops out. Leif is disturbed to find that the carefully selected 33-person multinational crew includes bellicose Russians and haughty Chinese still holding childish grudges. In fact, the entire project is largely propaganda, a NASA/International Space Commission gambit to make the world’s superpowers cooperate and expend their energies on a work of pure science rather than trying to kill one another over influence and territory. Leif realizes his own windfall as a token Everyman onboard was no random selection but a calculated move to place a former American soldier amid the team of squabbling, nationalistic scientists in case trouble develops. And trouble sure does. This maiden-voyage setup is a recognizable one, and it’s no secret from the start that Leif will find romance with the bunkmate who despises him the most: a laser-eyed, razor-cheekboned female Chinese pilot (who actually flew against his squad in combat). Still, the author skillfully steers the story. Alexander creates a good number of memorable jeopardy-in-space situations requiring steady nerves and know-how, and he evokes a nicely thought-out alien environment. The author even takes the story past the point where other writers might have pulled the curtain to ruminate on human society’s arbitrary evolutions and political-correctness pettiness (“snowflake” is a term used often here) and how being in suspended animation for long intervals doesn’t help. An opening prologue casting the tale as some sort of neo-Icelandic saga (paying tribute to Leif’s Nordic heritage), written in archaic language, is cute but, unlike the other rich material here, doesn’t really pay off.

A vigorous, intelligent reworking of familiar SF elements, featuring an American veteran who makes a long, international space voyage survivable. 

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9993257-6-6

Page Count: 353

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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