Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, October 4, 2013

Week ending October 4, 2013

Jeschke, Wolfgang. The Cusanus Game. Tor. Oct. 2013. 544p. tr. from German by Ross Benjamin. ISBN 9780765319081. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429988711. SF
In a post-nuclear-disaster Europe where large portions of Germany have been rendered uninhabitable owing to radiation and global warming has spurred sandstorms and mass human migrations, botany might seem an unlikely savior of humanity. Student Domenica Ligrina finds that her studies in the subject make her an ideal candidate for a project taking place in Venice that involves time travel. As scientists manage to tunnel incrementally further into the past, they seek to preserve plants that have gone extinct and protect architectural wonders like the city of Venice by using nanobots to replicate seemingly lost materials. These gains come with risk as Domenica discovers the danger of time travel, where humans traveling time are like dogs riding the subway: semi-intelligent creatures walking across a threshold into a technology they can’t understand and hoping to arrive where they intended to.
Verdict Time travel is a risky concept to use in sf because of all the paradoxes and advanced science involved. While the German sf author (The Last Day of Creation) does an able job, the book makes for a dense read, with a lot of explanation and reexplanation of concepts. There’s some interesting speculative science, including failed trips to Mars and genetically modified dogs that can talk, but it gets lost among all the explicating. Recommended for hard-core fans of the science in science fiction. [Previewed in Kristi Chadwick’s genre spotlight feature “New Worlds To Explore,” LJ 4/15/13; ow.ly/poF36.—Ed.]—Peter Petruski, Cumberland Cty. Lib. Syst., Carlisle, PA

Jiles, Paulette. Lighthouse Island. Morrow. Oct. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780062232502. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062232526. F
Nadia Stepan grows up an orphan in a far future in which population explosions coupled with extreme drought have led to a world of class extremes, an endless city, and water rationing. To maintain calm among an increasingly desperate populace, calendar dates, street names, and all the identifiers of time and place have been abandoned and television dramas are the preferred entertainment. Nadia, always an outsider, reads instead of watches TV, and when a rival sets her up to be captured in a population sweep, she evades arrest to leave the megalopolis and walk to Lighthouse Island, a utopian dream.
Verdict With the lack of quotation marks to denote speech, the style becomes part of the dystopia, as if even basic grammar has devolved. The barrier between thoughts and spoken word is broken without those grammatical queues, making the text dreamlike. Nadia’s wandering journey maintains that hopeful anticipation of deep sleep. This is not a fast read, but if readers take the time, Jiles (Color of Lightening; Stormy Weather) has created a fascinating dystopic vision of a future world. [See Prepub Alert, 4/22/13.]—Jennifer Beach, Cumberland Cty. P.L., VA

Sallis, James. Others of My Kind. Bloomsbury. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9781620402092. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781620402108. F
Acclaimed writer Sallis (Drive; the Lew Griffin mystery series) has written a sparse, disturbing novella set in a near future America. The narrator, Jenny Rowan, was abducted as a child and endured years of horrific abuse. After escaping her captor and then navigating through the social welfare system, Jenny creates an insulated life for herself as a production editor at a news station. Her self-imposed barriers begin to dissolve when a policeman asks her to befriend a young woman who has just been rescued from a brutal captivity.
Verdict Weighing in at a meager 116 pages, this story feels decisively incomplete. There is neither suspense nor mystery, just bleak descriptions of this future America and gruesome flashbacks of Jenny’s imprisonment. The highly improbable ending, which attempts to merge the political upheaval of the story with Jenny’s inherent goodness, simply rings false. An optional purchase at best for libraries that have a strong following for Sallis. [See Prepub Alert, 3/11/13.]—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI

starred review starThomas, Sherry. The Luckiest Lady in London. Berkley Sensation. Nov. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780425268889. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBNS 9781101631119. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Felix Rivendale, orphaned and the new Marquess of Wrenworth at 17, is emotionally scarred by the outwardly perfect but insidiously poisonous family environment in which he was raised owing to his mother’s enduring bitterness at being forced into an unwanted marriage. Felix vows to outdo his mother in social perfection and never repeat his father’s mistake of falling victim to love. By the age of 25, Felix is one of London’s most eligible bachelors and is convinced he’ll never be tempted by that emotion. Then he encounters Louisa Cantwell, a woman who refuses to act as he expects, fascinates him beyond reason, and seals his fate.
Verdict Deep, insightful character development, a beautifully unwrapped love story that evolves in tantalizing detail, a backstory that is both heartbreaking and infuriating, and conflicted protagonists who take over your heart make this a thought-provoking, flawlessly written romance. One to savor—and remember. Thomas (Tempting the Bride) lives in Austin, TX.—Kristin Ramsdell, libn. emeritus, California State Univ.–East Bay

Wan, Helen. The Partner Track. St. Martin’s. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250019578. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250019585. F
Ingrid Yung is a “two-fer,” an Asian American woman on the partner track at a major Wall Street law firm in New York. Just a few weeks before the meeting at which her suitability for partnership will be voted on, Ingrid is tasked by one of the mergers and acquisitions partners to rush through a billion-dollar deal, and her success could be the influencing factor in her becoming the first “woman of color partner” at a major law firm. At the same time, in response to a racist incident at the firm’s annual summer party, Ingrid is asked to serve on a diversity committee to improve the firm’s reputation. Despite the pressures of the merger, the diversity committee, and the looming partnership meeting, Ingrid finds a thwarted romance with another senior associate suddenly blooming.
Verdict Making her fiction debut, lawyer Wan has written a sensitive story of discrimination faced in “old boy” law firms in particular but also in the world in general. The book, which could have been ponderous or didactic, instead is intriguing and entertaining. This reviewer is looking to Wan’s next novel. [See Prepub Alert, 5/13/13.]—Lisa O’Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs., Winnipeg

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"