Despite many agreeable details, there’s little to be done with such a far-fetched and overelaborate setup; practically from...

BUILDING HARLEQUIN’S MOON

First full-length outing for these long-time collaborators, in Niven’s (Ringworld’s Children, 2004, etc.) world-building tradition—literally.

With Earth succumbing to rampant nanotechnology and rogue Artificial Intelligences, starship John Glenn (the first of three) headed for distant Ymir, an uninhabitable planet that could be terraformed. When its engines malfunctioned, however, John Glenn had barely enough fuel to limp to the gas giant planet, Harlequin. In order to create more antimatter fuel, the crew needs a base—so they set about constructing a moon, Selene, from Harlequin’s orbiting debris. Children are trained to work but told little of the true circumstances. Kindhearted Gabriel undertakes to teach the Moon Born, singling out smart, beautiful Rachel as a future leader. But council leader Liren ensures that Rachel learns only what the council wants her to know. Slowly, Rachel realizes that she and the other Moon Born are slaves, that Selene will never be stable enough to support them in the long term, and that Liren is coldly determined to abandon them once the fuel is ready (there’s not enough room for them on the ship) and proceed to Ymir. Rachel becomes acquainted with other dissidents: old Treesa on the ship, the artificial intelligence called Astronaut (more self-aware than the council suspect, it fears reprogramming) and Astronaut’s secret copy, Vassal. Despite her growing comprehension and increasing collection of allies, Rachel can see no way to break the council’s iron grip.

Despite many agreeable details, there’s little to be done with such a far-fetched and overelaborate setup; practically from page one the narrative settles into a comfortable rut and thereafter stays its entirely predictable course.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-765-31266-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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