"...a truly unconventional ending makes for a worthy trip."– Kirkus Reviews
When a dimension-hopping spacecraft ventures beyond the boundaries of the universe, literally ending up nowhere, strange and disturbing events play havoc with it.
Carr (Messages, 2013, etc.) has a real talent for constructing living, breathing characters: Cermeno, a Queeg-like captain with a questionable past who, through nepotism, has bumped De Vegas, a more competent officer, to second-in-command; Jervis, a womanizing reporter; Teal, a drunken priest; and Nunn, a disfigured loner. Add to this a pedophile and a crew with a surfeit of jealousies, gripes, and motives; toss them all aboard untested space-faring technology heading off into the unknown and….What could go wrong? After a tantalizing, action-filled prologue, Carr takes time to establish these volatile characters. He cleverly uses a mission press conference to quickly introduce the cast before sending them on their way. The craft, aptly named the Santa Maria, makes use of a new technology harnessing the science behind supernatural phenomenon such as a poltergeist, which are caused by dimensional glitches. It works flawlessly on the way. Once the ship leaves the universe for a perfect vacuum, however, all hell breaks loose. In a quantum nothingness where anything can happen, everything does, from personal demons come to life to interdimensional kidnappings. As systems fail, the crew dwindles, and survivors must overcome one impossibility after another. Part sci-fi, part psychological drama, part zombie apocalypse, the thrillfest starts early and continues till the end. The author slowly showcases his cast, lighting them from different angles. Nunn is first given her own extended scene interacting with her cat and Wilson, the computer she designed. But Carr can also sum up a character like Cermeno in a few brush strokes: “his slightly self-deprecating humor—a tactic with which he was not totally comfortable but that his consultants assured him would be good for his image.”
This is a rollicking adventure with religious, philosophical, and technological overtones; for science fiction die-hards.
A pandemic helps humanity destroy itself in this wry apocalyptic thriller.
In 2015, John Cruz wakes up in a hospital in Las Vegas. He’s surprised when a pair of orderlies quickly restrains him, as if he’s capable of violence. He soon discovers that he’s one of only three patients at the mental hospital, and Dr. Marcia Keenan tells him he’s been there since his 2011 attack on a co-worker. The facility is largely empty because most mental illnesses seem to be vanishing. A disease called Sudden Onset Psychosis Syndrome has been on the rise, however, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t have any answers. When John befriends fellow patient Scooter, he learns that frequent gun massacres have swept the United States, and the planet teeters toward World War III. Once he’s deemed stable, John goes home with his loyal wife, Maria. From there, they watch TV media dispute what’s causing the spread of SOPS—which propels many victims into bloodthirsty rages. The gigantic Comet Filipov, streaking past Earth, is a cause that seems preposterous until it’s argued that comets have heralded doom throughout history, and science can’t fully explain the universe. Author Carr (Messages, 2013) does an exemplary job portraying the media circus surrounding the comet and the possibility of flesh-eating mobs; when asked about zombies, a leader from the CDC says the organization “vehemently rejects that term, and would strongly condemn any news reporter...using it in reference to victims of this crisis.” Early on, Carr employs jet-black humor reminiscent of Vonnegut, as when Scooter says: “I’ve got about another two months to live….Wanna play checkers?” But John becomes less sympathetic as the narrative progresses. Chaos envelopes the city, so he takes charge, telling Maria that he wants no “backtalk, no argument, no questions.” Later, the flight from civilization is handled well, and a truly unconventional ending makes for a worthy trip.
A great case made for the idea that the end isn’t nigh—it’s already here.
Journalist Carr’s (A Journal of the Crazy Year, 2013, etc.) accomplished debut novel takes readers into the world of local newsroom politics, rendering that world in elaborate, Dickensian detail.
Here are the petty turf wars over stories and bylines, the venal and greedy ad-people willing to do anything to increase the station’s revenue, the brainless and bullying newsroom bosses whose screw-ups make life miserable for the hardworking writers and reporters. Here are the pompous news-readers enjoying their local celebrity and the real stories reporters have to fight to get told. Arrow Henley, an ace reporter at WDIK-TV’s Action News in Knoxville, Tenn., had been told by his station’s general manager to go get sensational footage of a young man threatening to commit suicide by throwing himself off a bridge. Remembering the assignment sends Henley on a drinking binge, but his dilemma—an old-fashioned, story-oriented newsroom being taken over by ratings-and-numbers-driven mindless media—is shared by all of Carr’s main characters, including Dexter Drimmel, a caustic newsman from WIMP in Little Rock, who’s tired of seeing his station run preprogrammed “content” (bought in two-hour blocks from a West Coast company) rather than actual local news reported by actual local reporters. Reporter Dan Price, whose copy gets rewritten by his overbearing bosses and who dreams of somehow fighting back, feels the same way. These workplace stories are rendered by Carr in such intricate detail and with such smooth skill that readers will easily gain a vivid sense of what it’s like to work in a local newsroom—the technical problems, the industry jargon, the multitude of quick decisions that need to be made every day. Against this backdrop, Carr weaves a theme of corruption that provides most of the book’s considerable comic energy and fast-paced dialogue.
A spirited, lavishly detailed behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a newsroom.