A novel about a scheming president offers an excellent read for those who love thrillers or 21st-century history.

Divided We Fall

From the We, the Watched series , Vol. 2

In this dystopian sequel, the Underground races to expose a secret surveillance program before the Enemy’s final blow.

The Enemy has bombarded the Capital with airstrikes. The man known as Seven, who once worked for the government’s Elite Guard as Agent Jon Wyle, has evacuated the city with damning information on a flash drive. He aims to prove that President William Drake, his surveillance-obsessed administration, and the fearmongering Church want nothing less than complete control over the nation’s populace. He ends up sharing a car with a woman named Talia, and they head for Loganville, to her brother Shaan’s home. Naturally, Elite Guard Agent Eve Parker—Jon’s fiancee—remains on Seven’s trail. Seven and his cohorts narrowly escape into the arms of Daniel Alexander Young Jr. and the Underground, the freethinking “Heretics” battling the nation’s enforced division. As Young plans to expose the executive branch as corrupt, Drake uses the Capital attack to announce Patriot ID, a chip-based (and mind-invading) program that will “quickly separate the Heretics from the Patriots.” Then the Enemy contacts the Underground, claiming a too-good-to-be-true desire for a joint effort in taking down Drake. Do Seven and Young dare use the Enemy’s firepower to ignite revolution in cities across the country? In this sequel, Bender (We, the Watched, 2013, etc.) further filters the chaos of the George W. Bush presidency through a gripping dystopian narrative. At one point, Young explains, “We have four branches of government: executive, legislative, judicial, and the Church.” Bender expertly fleshes out Eve and Jon’s relationship through flashbacks. These scenes help fully realize the evolution of his characters’ hearts and minds as the moral terrain worsens. There are even critiques of U.S. empire building, as when Seven asks, “How can we be so sure that,” once the Enemy has defeated Drake, it won’t be “just as controlling as the Guard?” Overall, the author keeps the narrative fluid, never bogging it down in extended battle sequences or windy polemics. Bender’s sequel is a worthy delivery on the promise of his riveting debut.

A novel about a scheming president offers an excellent read for those who love thrillers or 21st-century history.

Pub Date: May 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4954-9212-9

Page Count: 328

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 1

Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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