RENASCENCE Reviews:


"A thoughtful and eventful sci-fi mystery that satisfies." Kirkus Reviews

"In this novel, a group of astronauts explores a faraway planet for colonization, but discovers it already has some inhabitants.

After the last Great War in 2054, the worldwide population was reduced to less than 100,000. By 2072, Earth is a wasteland that can no longer feed its people. Only finding a suitable exoplanet can save humans now, so the Order of World Leaders mounts an expedition to Arianrhod in the Triangulum Galaxy to see whether it can sustain life. The crew consists of three women, Xi, Rho, and Zeta—the narrator—and three men, Sigma, Omega, and Chi, all young scientists (their Greek letter tags are adopted for the operation). Their leader is Capt. Ralph Reynard, “a retired former United States Marine from back when the United States still existed.” It’s a dangerous mission uncertain of success, but if they triumph, the seven will earn early retirement and lifelong prosperity. But not long after their arrival, the undertaking goes haywire: Reynard acts suspiciously and a scientist disappears. Searching for the lost Sigma, Zeta discovers what seems to be an alien species—but they speak Russian. With everything at stake not just for themselves but for Earth, the team members make some desperate choices. Goodison (Limboland, 2016, etc.) entertainingly blends the sci-fi and mystery genres here; though Sigma’s death is made clear before long, other puzzles arise to be solved. Complicated strands in the plot include the early space race, the environment, and class/power struggles; these issues add thoughtfulness to the book’s exciting action scenes. Goodison keeps readers guessing about Reynard, OWL, their real motives, and how this can all possibly work out until the final pages. Although the Greek letter tags make it a little difficult to keep everyone straight at first, Goodison’s characterization is well drawn, and Zeta becomes an admirable heroine, a tough, smart cookie with a good moral center. This future world is usually presented with plausible changes, but to quibble, it’s annoying when years and months are renamed—for no discernible reason—“rotations” and “moons,” while days are still “days.”  

"Radiation, pollution, lack of water conservation, and ultimately the inability to grow crops, rendered the planet a wasteland."

Earth is dying quickly, and scientists have been sent out on several missions to find habitable planets. Unfortunately, all the missions thus far have been failures. With predictions that Earth can only support three more years of human habitation, a final mission takes place to the planet Arianrhod to collect specimens and samples in the hope of making this new planet habitable for humans. A team of young, enigmatic leaders, headed by former Marine Ralph Reynard, are selected for this final mission and have a mere ninety days to arrive, collect, and return to Earth to save the human race. Upon landing on Arianrhod, these scientists discover they are not alone and that their true mission may be more than their leader Reynard divulged.

Goodison has created a fascinating and gripping novel by combining elements of space exploration, intelligent alien life, and the future possibilities of Earth’s demise. Using the history of the Lost Cosmonauts of the Soviet Union Space Program from the 1950s, Goodison offers a level of believability throughout the novel that makes the reader wonder what, if anything, we are doing to save Earth now. Could this realistically be our future? The author’s tale is a fast-paced page turner where each chapter leaves one wanting to know more and keeping the interest level high throughout the entire novel. Goodison has created the characters in her story to be very mysterious in both their private lives and on the mission. The reader must figure out who can be trusted and who cannot as the narrative moves toward its surprise ending. — Megan Bain, The US Review of Books. RECOMMENDED

"In 2072, Earth is quite a different place than we know it today. Nuclear strikes and pollution threats have done what no peaceful cooperative measure could have achieved: united the survivors in a new global world order and re-organized humanity.

Six scientists are sent to colonize a planet for future habitation; but when one vanishes, a terrible truth emerges: the past has caught up with them. A scientist is lost, a teammate is accused, a traitor emerges, and a message is sent back to Earth that the team has perished, setting the stage for a series of mysteries and events that date back to a time when Russia and the U.S. were countries.

That’s the basic story; but in truth, there's a lot more going on than first meets the eye. For one thing, links to present-day history keep the story on an unexpected trajectory. Readers won't anticipate that the Lost Cosmonauts, the unverified and undocumented Russian astronauts of the Soviet Space Program from the late 1950s to early 1960s, would have anything to do with a future apocalyptic scenario; but Leigh Goodison deftly weaves this fact and mystery into her story line to offer a plot revolving around both a real event and a fictional future mission.

This technique of tying the past to a futuristic plot presents some surprisingly delightful moments both in historical reference and in descriptive choice: "Planet A was probably the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. In the ambient light from the Astraeus and the Explorer, the abundance of hydrogen gas gave it a luminous blue glow along the horizon, while nearer us a gentle iridescent violet warmed the cool blueness of our suits. It was like being in the center of neon lights, reminding me of old photos I’d seen of a place that had long ago disappeared into oblivion called the Las Vegas strip."

Team productivity and interactions, politics, ambushes and aliens, and the search for sustainable ecosystems all coalesce into a story that toes the line between apocalyptic sci-fi and a mystery piece that neatly brings together past events and future possibilities.

The humans remaining under the command of the Order of World Leaders back on Earth face a major challenge: one that will shake the very foundations of the mission and call into question the foundations of humanity itself. What could be bigger than finding Eden itself? Readers will find themselves thoroughly engrossed in a story that revolves not just around survival and renewal, but on solving a mystery that comes full circle and delves into mankind's earliest history.

Readers who anticipate an apocalyptic survival story alone will be surprised at the wider reach of Renascence, but its delight lies in its ability to move its plot well beyond the borders of any anticipated story about space exploration, survival, or recolonization. Sci-fi followers looking for different twists with the addition of a healthy double dose of history and mystery will be well pleased with a story that holds no obvious direction right up to its surprising conclusion in a production that will leave readers thinking long past the final pages." — D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

LIMBOLAND Reviews:

“A tightly woven medical thriller fusing justice for abuse victims with the tapped power of the mind.­”—Kirkus Reviews

Goodison’s (The Jigsaw Man, 2015, etc.) second volume in the St. Augustus Chronicles centers on two half sisters who may be psychically linked.

In this family melodrama, an elderly driver strikes an 8-year-old girl named Chelsa who’s walking to school. The child becomes comatose, suffering permanent brain damage. In a classic war of wills over the welfare of their ailing daughter, Tim and Melanie Moran feud and eventually separate over a critical decision to terminate her life support. God-fearing Tim’s insistence on keeping his daughter alive prevails, but ultimately drives a wedge between him and his unscrupulous wife, who has been busy cheating on him with her boss to gain a job promotion. The couple separate, even as Melanie announces she is pregnant with a child that is not her husband’s. While Chelsa seems destined to live out the remainder of her years in a vegetative state, Melanie gives birth to a second daughter, Sienna, though the girl becomes plagued with mysterious fainting spells. Sienna’s malady confounds local Portland, Oregon, psychiatrist Rand Morrissey, who, from this early point in the swiftly paced novel, makes for an appealing hero. He anchors the plot, which develops further as hypnosis sessions find Sienna communicating through Chelsa’s disturbing memories. Meanwhile, Chelsa has been undergoing nerve stimulation treatments as a last-ditch effort to revive her brain functions, though it is Sienna who delves into her half sister’s mind and begins reenacting the violent physical abuse she endured. The varied histories of characters like Melanie and Morrissey add depth to the solidly written story. The doctor begins doggedly investigating Chelsa’s family’s past to verify the child abuse allegations stemming from Sienna’s hypnotically induced testimonies. And Melanie begins to unravel and falsely accuse the men in her life of random acts of abuse. The narrative gets even busier when Goodison incorporates arcane themes of human spiritual rebirth and the Christian theological theory of Limbo into the action, which culminates when Chelsa and Sienna are brought together in the same room. Though the psychic phenomena may be a stretch for some readers, the author does an admirable job of humanizing everything else in her rousing novel, making the entire ordeal an eerie possibility in real life.

 

Reviewed by D.Donovan, Senior Review, Midwest Book Review

 

Eight-year-old Chelsa Moran's life changes when she's forced to walk to school along a dangerous road and is involved in an accident that leaves her in a coma. But what does this event have to do with her five-year-old half sister Sienna, six years later?

 

Everything; as psychiatrist Rand Morrissey comes to find out when he is called in to consult on the puzzling case of a five-year-old's fainting spells, only to uncover a darker danger involving an irresponsible mother's secret, hypnosis, and a deadly connection between two sisters and their different circumstances.

 

Limboland is the kind of medical thriller on par with Robin Cook and the best of genre writers, holding an ability to grip readers with a variety of compelling personalities and emotions, right from the start.

 

From a career woman who is on a trajectory to the top (even if it means flirting and sleeping with her boss) to Rand's work on the pediatric ward of St. Augustus Hospital and his increasing involvement in one of his most puzzling cases yet, readers are pulled into a mesh of special interests, a whirlwind of events that increasingly point to some bizarre connections, and, ultimately, a race against time. Rand finds himself embroiled in assault charges, accusations and arrests, subconscious motivations, and lifestyle choices, while a young child's life lies in the balance.

 

Some things never change; and sometimes a single case can rock a doctor's world. In Rand's situation, Sienna and her family provide such a scenario, and Rand 's choices and struggles may lead him directly back to his own family ties.

Gripping, packed with powerful characters and motives, and steeped in conundrums, Limboland is a highly recommended medical thriller that provides seat-of-your-pants reading that's hard to put down.

Reviewed by Joe Kilgore, Senior Reviewer, US Review of Books

 

"Losing the soul completely would kill either child. Or if one came out the victor, the other’s death was inevitable."
 

Goodison has penned an interesting thriller jam-packed with treachery, recriminations, guilt, and guile. All her major characters have locked something away in their pasts that they don’t want to revisit but must if there’s to be any hope of saving the children they love.


Walking to school, an eight-year-old girl is hit by an automobile. The attending doctor tells her parents that she’s basically brain dead with no chance of recovery. After a period of time the mother wants to pull the plug. The father doesn’t. The couple divorces. Nine months later the woman has another daughter—fathered by a different man. Five years go by and the second daughter begins to experience fainting spells. An attending psychiatrist using hypnosis discovers that the second child is revealing information as if it were coming from the first child—who is still alive in a vegetative state. If you think that’s weird, even stranger things are in store.
 

The author does a good job of delineating her characters and making it clear that while some are basically good and others creepily bad, none are perfect and none are without their share of secrets. A tendency toward repetitiveness does not materially diminish the intricate way she peels back each layer of the onion to expose secrets that must come to light for the sake of the girls. Some readers might find it difficult to adhere to a willing suspension of disbelief relating to the psychiatrist’s diagnosis and proposed cure, but if they’re sufficiently compelled to see how this latticework of lies plays out, they’ll be rewarded in the end.

THE JIGSAW MAN Reviews:

 

Reviewed by D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

 

Readers who enjoy good, solid suspense thrillers with  thought-provoking premises should muse on what they would do if they woke up one morning to find they were someone else … but the story doesn't begin here; it actually begins with an impromptu murder conducted by a professional supposedly on the side of the law.

 

Thirty years later a revolutionary surgical approach to reconstructive surgery based on 3D laser printing and DNA allows a doctor to flawlessly produce a realistic, changed face, opening the door to applications and ethical conundrums she could never have dreamed of.

 

A partnership between a doctor on the cusp of a revolutionary new treatment and an entrepreneur who sees its possibilities as something more than helping the disfigured is only the surface action in a story that takes many unexpected twists and turns.

 

At what point does altering a face alter a personality? By what means are monsters created? The thought of a Frankenstein creator's unintended result from manipulating life comes to mind as The Jigsaw Man evolves in complexity. What seems to be a murder mystery changes direction to become a medical thriller and becomes something much more, opening a can of ethical worms in the process.

 

As masks come off, literally and figuratively, the plot turns into something even more compelling, on the lines of a Robin Cook medical mystery: replete with powerful protagonists, special interests, and a healthy inspection of underlying motivations.

 

The result is a powerful, top recommendation for readers who relish unpredictable, believable medical murder mysteries fueled by both high technology and solid protagonists.

 

 

 

 

Reviewed by Joe Kilgore, Senior Reviewer, US Review of Books
 

"Although it hadn't been much more than a peck on the lips, the kiss was almost as blasphemous to a doctor/patient relationship as a kiss between a priest and his parishioner. Forbidden territory."
 

An unusual quandary is at the axis of this involving whodunit. Has a physical medical procedure so altered the patient’s mental state as to render him irrevocably different than he was before his operation? In this instance, looks may not only be deceiving; they might also be deadly.
 

Thea Donovan is a brilliant reconstructive surgeon who has developed a synthetic skin application dubbed Reflesh. It promises heretofore unheard of help for patients who have been hideously scarred by burns or other forms of facial trauma. The process provides a surgically applied mask that literally renders the victim’s looks as good as new—perhaps even better—or perhaps excellent on the outside but evil on the inside.
 

When Thea’s inaugural patient begins to show signs of near schizophrenic behavior, a psychiatric colleague sets out to scuttle her breakthrough. Soon the patient vanishes and the colleague is murdered. As the hunt for the human guinea pig ensues, other bodies begin to turn up. Is a freshly minted serial killer now on the loose? Or is something even more disturbing at play? Hoping to right the wrong she might have unintentionally caused, Thea sets out to learn more about her patient’s past. Her quest uncovers tangled relationships and long buried secrets that put her own life in imminent danger.
 

As with some thrillers, you may unravel the mystery before the heroine does, but the pace is brisk, the story entertaining, and the dénouement satisfying enough to make this fictional puzzle worth solving.

 

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