Still intriguing and worth pursuing, but the strain may be beginning to show.

READ REVIEW

THE WILL TO BATTLE

A stagnant, complacent Earth faces war in the 25th century in the third of an ongoing science-fantasy series (Seven Surrenders, 2017, etc.).

The world, now ruled by Hives affiliated with philosophical viewpoints instead of geographic nations, has had 300 years of peace, now coming to an end. Anger rises over various revelations that peace was maintained by corruption, secret assassinations, and government manipulation. The data suggest that war is coming, but no one seems sure precisely what the sides will be and what they will fight about. All the issues eventually coalesce around J.E.D.D. Mason, the young man who plays a major role in all the Hive governments and who has proclaimed himself a god from another universe, incarnated in human form as a Conversation with this universe’s Creator. There is something curiously compelling about Palmer’s narrative, but its success depends on whether the reader believes in this world of technological marvels that is purportedly our own but which also features two gods and a resurrected Achilles created from a toy soldier. It’s clear that the Hive system isn’t working, but should the only alternative be an autocracy directed by a supposedly kind and benevolent alien god whose two closest companions are a cannibalistic murderer and a sadistic serial kidnapper? The cannibalistic murderer is our narrator, the brilliant, brutal, and extremely broken Mycroft Canner, who in this volume is showing signs of extreme mental deterioration. What initially appears to be a literary device—Mycroft’s intense conversations with an imagined audience which includes a future reader of the book; the philosopher Hobbes; and Apollo Mojave, one of his murder victims—actually signals a growing madness that apparently no one is bothering to treat except in the most minimal way. Appreciating the book depends on whether one is willing to spend extended time in Mycroft’s pompous, servile, and erratic company. Some might also find Mycroft’s beliefs about gender in what is purportedly but not convincingly a gender-neutral society somewhat offensive.

Still intriguing and worth pursuing, but the strain may be beginning to show.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7804-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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