A smart, lively genre mashup that confronts past horrors and explores future heroics.

SPACE TAXIS

In A. Frosh and H. Frosh’s SF debut, a Brooklyn cab driver finds himself on an unfamiliar alien world.

It's 1977, and Mike Redolfo drives a taxi in a crime-ridden New York City. One night, after a strange passenger stiffs him, he’s summoned before his boss, Mallinson. It turns out that Mike has a tendency to rescue helpless people, which makes him a liability, so Mallinson arranges to have his hack license suspended.The now-jobless cabbie drives to the Fulton Ferry district to drink. Suddenly, a bright light appears, and Mike and his cab float into the air. He awakens on the planet Vost, where it’s revealed that he was taken from Earth because his DNA resembles that of a wanted “renegade.” This mistake has stranded him in the alien city of Catuvell. To get home, he’ll have to work for decades at one of the only jobs available: cab driving. He soon discovers that Catuvell, filled with flying vehicles, bizarre citizens, and soaring crime, isn’t too different from ’70s Brooklyn. In a parallel narrative in 1944 Prague, Marianna Kravová is a pregnant Jewish woman secretly living with Dominik Kominsky. When the Gestapo arrive, the pair escape with the help of resistance fighters; as they head to Budapest, Marianna sees that Dominik possesses a frightening hidden ability. The authors offer a tale that combines playful SF and harrowing historical fiction. Mike’s adventure on Vost is endlessly inventive, as when he upgrades his taxi in order to be able to maneuver in the incredibly congested traffic. Comments on present-day life abound, as in the line, “With driverless technology, the government can easily snoop on exactly where everyone is going.” World War II buffs will be fascinated by Heinrich Himmler’s presence in the story and his connection to other characters; the authors’ prose also shows an impressively dark streak as it satisfyingly portrays the infamous Nazi’s death. Although the plot sometimes feels conceptually crowded—the Celtic god Cernunnos appears at one point—it’s a chaos that’s endearing, and it leads to a joyous finale.

A smart, lively genre mashup that confronts past horrors and explores future heroics.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-916212-68-8

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Burton Mayers Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2020

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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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A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.

TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS

A curious scientist stumbles on mysterious ruins in the opening chapters of this science fiction epic.

Things are really turning around for Kira Navárez. A xenobiologist, she’s finishing up a stint doing research on the large moon Adrasteia with a small team of other scientists, and her boyfriend, Alan, has just proposed to her. Instead of continuing to spend months apart, working on different planets and waiting until they can be together, they'll be able to ask their employers to make them part of a colony as a couple. As Kira performs a few routine last-minute checks before their team leaves the system, something strange catches her eye. She decides to check it out, just to be thorough, and finds herself in the middle of an ancient structure. When her curiosity gets the better of her and she touches a pedestal covered in dust, a bizarre black material flows out and covers her entire body. She passes out as she's being rescued by her team, and when she comes to, she seems to be fine, and the team reports her findings to the government. But soon a kind of strange, alien suit takes over her body, covering her with black material that lashes out violently against Alan and the other scientists, forming spikes that jump out from her skin. A military ship comes to collect what's left of the team and investigate the reports of an alien discovery. When an alien species attacks the ship, presumably because of Kira’s discovery, Kira will have to learn to harness the suit’s strange powers to defend herself and the rest of the human race. Paolini, best known for the YA epic fantasy series The Inheritance Cycle, makes his adult debut in another genre that welcomes long page counts. This one clocks in at close to 900 pages, but the rollicking pace, rapidly developing stakes, and Paolini’s confident worldbuilding make them fly by. Perhaps not the most impressive prose, but a worthwhile adventure story.

A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-76284-9

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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