A rich compilation, opening up territory for further exploration.

BEST AFRICAN AMERICAN FICTION 2010

Running the gamut from accessible crime fiction to experimental efforts by critics’ darlings, this ambitious anthology offers a snapshot of modern black culture without being tied to a single theme.

Guest editor Giovanni mixes predictable big names with relative unknowns in the second installment of a new annual series. Edwidge Danticat’s “Ghosts,” set in a Haitian slum, features an aspiring young journalist who learns the hard way just how relative notions of good and evil are in his world. Less exotic but just as sharply observed is Colson Whitehead’s “The Gangsters,” which depicts middle-class youths coming of age in the Hamptons during the summer of 1985. An excerpt from Jewell Parker Rhodes’ novel Yellow Moon takes on voodoo, murder and vampires in modern New Orleans, while Glenville Lovell’s “Out of Body” is told from the point of view of an urban crime lord. Slavery and its bitter legacy are the subjects of several pieces, most arrestingly the opening story, “The Ariran’s Last Life,” in which a young African captive awakens to her mystical power. Kim Sykes provides a welcome shot of levity with “Arrivaderci, Aldo,” narrated by a bored female security guard working at a TV/movie studio. The surprising final selection, “Mary Jane,” shows a young black girl, one of the first to integrate a Southern high school, persevering over shocking prejudice. Serving as a reminder of how far American society has come—in some regards—the piece surprises partly because it’s excerpted from a 1959 young adult novel and partly because the late Dorothy Sterling, who wrote extensively about African-American subjects, happened to be white.

A rich compilation, opening up territory for further exploration.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-553-80690-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2009

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JURASSIC PARK

Genetically engineered dinosaurs run amok in Crichton's new, vastly entertaining science thriller. From the introduction alone—a classically Crichton-clear discussion of the implications of biotechnological research—it's evident that the Harvard M.D. has bounced back from the science-fantasy silliness of Sphere (1987) for another taut reworking of the Frankenstein theme, as in The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man. Here, Dr. Frankenstein is aging billionaire John Hammond, whose monster is a manmade ecosystem based on a Costa Rican island. Designed as the world's ultimate theme park, the ecosystem boasts climate and flora of the Jurassic Age and—most spectacularly—15 varieties of dinosaurs, created by elaborate genetic engineering that Crichton explains in fascinating detail, rich with dino-lore and complete with graphics. Into the park, for a safety check before its opening, comes the novel's band of characters—who, though well drawn, double as symbolic types in this unsubtle morality play. Among them are hero Alan Grant, noble paleontologist; Hammond, venal and obsessed; amoral dino-designer Henry Wu; Hammond's two innocent grandchildren; and mathematician Ian Malcolm, who in long diatribes serves as Crichton's mouthpiece to lament the folly of science. Upon arrival, the visitors tour the park; meanwhile, an industrial spy steals some dino embryos by shutting down the island's power—and its security grid, allowing the beasts to run loose. The bulk of the remaining narrative consists of dinos—ferocious T. Rex's, voracious velociraptors, venom-spitting dilophosaurs—stalking, ripping, and eating the cast in fast, furious, and suspenseful set-pieces as the ecosystem spins apart. And can Grant prevent the dinos from escaping to the mainland to create unchecked havoc? Though intrusive, the moralizing rarely slows this tornado-paced tale, a slick package of info-thrills that's Crichton's most clever since Congo (1980)—and easily the most exciting dinosaur novel ever written. A sure-fire best-seller.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 1990

ISBN: 0394588169

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1990

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Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her...

DISTANT SHORES

Another middle-aged mom in a muddle.

After years of false starts and big hopes, Elizabeth’s ruggedly handsome husband Jack, a former football star, just landed a spot as a sportscaster on national news. He still loves her, even though much younger women are giving him come-hither looks. Heck, he doesn’t want to betray the love of his life after she helped him kick drugs and stuck by him even when he was a struggling has-been. And won’t it seem hypocritical if he fools around with his sexy assistant while he does in-depth reporting on a rape case involving a famous basketball center? Well, he fools around anyway. Elizabeth, nicknamed Birdie, knows nothing of this, but she withdraws from Jack when her hard-drinking, salt-of-the-earth father has a stroke and dies. Now no one will call her “sugar beet” ever again. Time to return home to Tennessee and contend with Anita, the sort-of-evil stepmother so trashy she wears pink puffy slippers all day long. Naturally, it turns out that Anita actually has a heart of gold and knows a few things about Birdie’s dead mother that were hushed up for years. Mom was an artist, just like Birdie, and an old scandal comes to light as Anita unrolls a vibrant canvas that portrays her secret lover. Perhaps, Birdie muses, her mother died of heartbreak, never having followed her true love or developed her talent. Has she, too, compromised everything she holds dear? Hoping to find out, Birdie joins a support group that promises to reconnect confused women with their passion. She and Jack separate, prompting a how-dare-you fit from their grown daughters. Will Birdie fly her empty nest? Will she go back to college for a degree in art? Will her brooding watercolors ever sell?

Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her previous tales (Summer Island, 2001, etc.).

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-345-45071-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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