Had Steele spent as much effort deepening the characters as he does explaining a plasma gun, Captain Future might have a...

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AVENGERS OF THE MOON

Captain Future and friends struggle to save the solar system from a separatist plot in a rebooted 1940s pulp science-fiction franchise.

Curt Newton—aka Captain Future—is the child of two scientists murdered by greedy Sen. Victor Corvo and raised by unlikely guardians: Grag, an intelligent robot; Simon Wright, his parents' sometime colleague, now a brain housed in a drone; and Otho, an android originally intended to be Wright's replacement body. Curt is trained as the typical action-adventure Renaissance man until Wright tells him of his parents' murderer. Curt sets out for vengeance but accidentally discovers—and foils—a presidential assassination attempt instead. Curt is drafted by the authorities to find the assassins' leader with the aid of obligatory love interest/space cop Joan Randall. The assassins are revealed as some of the setting's "aliens": humans genetically modified to settle other planets who identify now as Martians, etc. If all of this sounds familiar to pulp fans, it's because there's precious little new here. Steele's nostalgic devotion to the original leaves the narrative trapped in the 1940s. Curt is a Boys' Own hero who is cringingly immature around Joan, supposedly because of social naiveté (yet Otho, raised the same way, manages not to stare at Joan's breasts); Curt's character arc is the simplistic realization that you shouldn't murder people for revenge (but offing nameless thugs is fine); and the "aliens" are, awkwardly, drawn entirely from non-Anglo cultures. The cast of supposed geniuses are frequently idiots to further the plot, and whenever the story risks getting interesting—such as exploring the legitimate frustrations of the Martians—things quickly revert to bar fights.

Had Steele spent as much effort deepening the characters as he does explaining a plasma gun, Captain Future might have a future; as is, this effort flounders in the past.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8218-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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.

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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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

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