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Hope Never Dies starts with the protagonist lamenting not being in contact with his best friend of eight years, then that friend showing up one night, telling him that another of his good friends died under mysterious circumstances. They team up, try to patch their friendship while investigating, always asking questions and getting more questions than answers in return.
It just so happens that the protagonist is former Vice President Joe Biden, and his best friend is the Forty-Fourth President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
Through his investigation, Joe reflects on the friends he’s fallen out of touch with, with the life he once led, and on his successes and failures over time. There’s serious reflection on dealing with grief and a close look at how America’s opioid epidemic impacts his home town. And at one point there’s Obama, recovering from a moment of doubt, looking at Biden with renewed determination and saying, “Yes we can.”
With plenty of references to the eight years they spent in office together and their time on the campaign trail before that, “Hope Never Dies” draws you in with the prospect of a madcap caper as Joe and Barack, amateur detectives, bumble their way around blue-collar America, but the meat of the book – estranged friendships, an ever-deepening web of seemingly-disconnected evidence, and a vibrant cast of characters – is what keeps you invested, from the first page to the last. Recommended reading for anyone wanting to spend just a few more hours with America’s favorite bromance. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis
The Stars Now Unclaimed manages to combine two very common genres into something unique - post-apocalyptic space opera. The protagonist - unnamed until halfway through the book for some admittedly cheap mystery - is responsible for retrieving gifted children - telekinetic abilities and the like - made possible after a galactic calamity a hundred years ago, which has also rendered all of the planets of civilization incapable of supporting technological advancement to various degrees. (On one planet, any advancements after microcomputers would spontaneously break down due to "Pulse radiation"; on others, anything from the printing press on is unviable.) The protagonist and her latest charge end up gathering a broad smattering of misfits from across the galaxy as they get chased by the ruthless Pax - small-time militarized zealots who threaten the galaxy not because of any great skill on their part, but because they had the good fortune for their world to not get knocked back too far.
The unique combination of two often opposite settings works quite well within the book's own logic and I found it quite easy to slip in to the mindset of a colorful fantastic romp through space. The science is soft enough to cut with a butter knife, though only once to my personal detriment while reading, and always in the service of some fantastic imagery. Betrayal is a common theme, but in Unclaimed is dealt with in the past tense - this good companion, someone discovers, once did something horrendous. The characters have to work through that, to figure out if past misdeeds forever tarnish who a person can be, and of course, to try to come together and become the family that they each need. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis
Catana Comics slowly spread to take social media by storm. Every strip depicts something that feels unique to the artist's relationship, but resonates because every couple has their own language of love. Anyone in a relationship can pick at least half of the strips in this book, show them to their significant other, and exclaim, "It's us!" ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis
Stephenson literally and figuratively kills the ideas of "cyberpunk" in the first pages. There's no need for the old staples from earlier works like Snow Crash and the writing of William Gibson in this post-cyberpunk, post-scarcity world. But even when humanity wants for nothing, it still needs no excuse to keep causing trouble, as our signature Stephenson multiple protagonists have the misfortune of finding out. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis
Compiling some of the best answers from online as well as an assortment of fresh, print-only material, What If? has a lot to teach, hidden under its whimsical writing and simple - yet surprisingly helpful - illustrations. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis