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

THE WILL TO BATTLE

From the Terra Ignota series , Vol. 3

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

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DEVOLUTION

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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This is quintessential Gibson: gonzo yet cool, sharp-edged, sophisticated—but ultimately, vaguely unsatisfying.

THE PERIPHERAL

While placed firmly in the sci-fi genre of his earlier works, Gibson's latest retains the social commentary from his more recent novels (Zero History, 2010, etc.).

Most Gibson plots essentially concern a race for a particular piece of information—one side seeks to possess it, the other to suppress it. (Although to be fair, isn’t that the plot of most thrillers?) What sets each book apart is the worldbuilding that surrounds that plot kernel. This time around, it’s particularly intriguing. Flynne, a young woman living in a poor, rural American county (probably Southern, though it’s never specified) in the near future, believes she’s beta testing a video game, witnessing the “death” of a virtual character in an urban high-rise. In fact, Flynne has gotten a view into a possible London existing decades in the future and has seen an actual woman get murdered. The two timelines can exchange information and visit each other virtually, via the androidlike “peripherals” of the title. That ability is enough for various future factions to hire killers to go after Flynne and her family or to protect them from that fate, as well as to change the events of her timeline sufficiently enough to ensure that it will never become that future, where, despite considerable scientific advancement, a cascade of disasters has eliminated the majority of human and animal life. Gibson’s strength has always been in establishing setting, while his characters tend to seem a bit blank and inaccessible; for example, alcoholic Wilf’s constant attempts to reach for a drink read more like an annoyingly persistent quirk than a serious psychological problem. Gibson seems to leave his characters’ motives deliberately obscure; due to that and his tendency to pour his energy into the chase, not the goal, the story’s resolution basically fizzles.

This is quintessential Gibson: gonzo yet cool, sharp-edged, sophisticated—but ultimately, vaguely unsatisfying.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-15844-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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