Some will quibble at the Da Vinci Code–like deconstruction of papacy and Church, but most will applaud a brisk, elegant...

ARTHUR THE KING

Historical novelist Massie unrolls the familiar knightly yarns with some fresh, unusual twists.

Offering a vaguely postmodern take not merely on Arthur himself but on the whole of British history, the author picks up his narrative thread where he left it dangling in The Evening of the World (2003). Noble legionary Marcus, having subdued the warring tribes of Britain into a peaceful outpost of the Empire, returns to Rome on a quixotic mission to save the Empire itself, which is collapsing before the barbarian hordes. Upon finding that the Empire has been usurped by a cabal of upstart bishops (i.e., the popes), he dies a broken man, and Britain reverts to civil war. Marcus’s son Uther Pendragon keeps a precarious hold over his father’s erstwhile subjects, but he is beset by squabbling Picts, Saxons, and Caledonians who unceasingly challenge his rule. When Pendragon dies, his will stipulates that the next king shall be whoever draws his sword Excalibur from its rocky sheath—and that, of course, turns out to be the lad Arthur. But who is Arthur, and where did he come from? The answer lies with Merlin, Marcus’s shadowy adviser, who sees to the boy’s education and presents him to the Court, as it were. Most readers know the story already, so suffice it to say that all the familiar faces—Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawaine, Mordred, and Morgan le Fay—are here, although the relations between some of them are not quite what you would expect. And, naturally, there are more than a few unanswered questions at the end.

Some will quibble at the Da Vinci Code–like deconstruction of papacy and Church, but most will applaud a brisk, elegant narrative free of the New Age gibberish that infects most modern Arthurian sagas.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7867-1384-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 47

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

Did you like this book?

more