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DEFENDERS OF RADES

Readers in search of complete originality could skip this journey, but they’ll miss Blackhurst’s smooth prose in an...

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In Blackhurst’s debut, love, treachery and adventure await the questing band of heroes responsible for saving their planet in this science-fiction tale dressed in fantasy garbs.

Mass destruction looms on the horizon for the world of Rades. Hedron, a mystic obsessed with forbidden magic, learns of a secret weapon with the power to obliterate large populations in a single strike. The weapon, though, is not magic—it’s science. When humans first came to Rades centuries ago, they brought enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet. With the weapons lost, Rades became a sword-and-sorcery world controlled by mystics and kings, but Hedron’s discovery threatens that existence. Ghyle, another powerful mystic and Hedron’s former master, must assemble a band of skilled adventurers to stop Hedron’s plans. At first glance, these heroes seem unoriginal—any reader remotely familiar with Tolkien’s classic high-fantasy series will likely note undeniable similarities between Middle Earth’s famous adventurers and many of Blackhurst’s: two friends known for causing mischief; a dutiful soldier with a dark cloud hanging above him; a short, “almost dwarfish” man with a gruff attitude but a heart of gold. Delph, by far, has the most recognizable features. As prince of the Endemi, the native people of Rades, he possesses superior senses and agility, pointed ears, long blonde hair and immense skill with a bow and arrow. But despite their unoriginal basic character stats, each adventurer quickly develops his own distinct personality. Moreover, the character Vitora stands on her own from the start—without her, the novel couldn’t get very far. The mysteries surrounding Vitora’s origin and her developing love for a certain Endemi prince steal attention away from the underlying save-the-planet plot, but rather than weighing down the adventure, their budding relationship strengthens it and blushes with charm.

Readers in search of complete originality could skip this journey, but they’ll miss Blackhurst’s smooth prose in an engaging, easy-to-follow plot driven by highly accessible characters.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463798116

Page Count: 344

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2012

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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