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PRELUDE TO EXTINCTION

A highly engrossing and believable space-exploration novel.

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A crew investigating an Earth-like planet orbiting a distant star finds something truly unexpected in Karpf’s debut SF novel.

In 2124, Jack Harrison is the captain of the spacecraft Magellan, on its historic multiyear voyage to the Epsilon Eri solar system—the first manned interstellar mission in human history. Their destination is Epsilon Eri-D, a planet that has the potential for sustaining intelligent life. The mission is particularly tense, as the reconnaissance probe that they sent ahead of them appears to have crashed into a debris field that surrounds the world. Then, on a nearby asteroid, they discover a crater that seems fairly recent—and evidence of some sort of explosion. When they finally get to the planet itself, they discover a massive, unidentified, tubelike object floating around it. On the planet, they find a single settlement enclosed in a massive dome, although no trace of intelligent life remains. Inside it, they discover evidence of a massacre: “The wall in front of them was covered with dozens of charred blast marks. The floor was littered with bones—too many to count.” When the away-team investigating the object goes silent, Jack and his crew go to have a look for themselves—and that’s when the trouble really begins. Their ship is soon hit by a strange burst of energy, and the crew finds that they’ve traveled an impossible distance through space—and time. Karpf’s prose style is measured and often quite technical, which results in a rich, realistic world: “Jack drummed his fingers anxiously against the shuttle bay bulkhead. The IPV had reached the shuttle on schedule, however bringing the unpowered vehicle aboard proved to be a delicate and agonizingly slow task.” The technology is given more emphasis than the characters, who sometimes come off as a bit flat and predictable. However, the mystery at the center of the book is so intriguing, and Karpf unspools it in such a deliberative manner, that the reader will hardly mind the relative lack of characterization. Fans of hard science fiction will particularly enjoy this thought-out, well-paced tale of a small crew’s unintentional close encounter.

A highly engrossing and believable space-exploration novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68963-591-2

Page Count: 345

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE DARK FOREST

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 2

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Second part of an alien-contact trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, 2014) from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In the previous book, the inhabitants of Trisolaris, a planet with three suns, discovered that their planet was doomed and that Earth offered a suitable refuge. So, determined to capture Earth and exterminate humanity, the Trisolarans embarked on a 400-year-long interstellar voyage and also sent sophons (enormously sophisticated computers constructed inside the curled-up dimensions of fundamental particles) to spy on humanity and impose an unbreakable block on scientific advance. On Earth, the Earth-Trisolaris Organization formed to help the invaders, despite knowing the inevitable outcome. Humanity’s lone advantage is that Trisolarans are incapable of lying or dissimulation and so cannot understand deceit or subterfuge. This time, with the Trisolarans a few years into their voyage, physicist Ye Wenjie (whose reminiscences drove much of the action in the last book) visits astronomer-turned-sociologist Luo Ji, urging him to develop her ideas on cosmic sociology. The Planetary Defense Council, meanwhile, in order to combat the powerful escapist movement (they want to build starships and flee so that at least some humans will survive), announces the Wallfacer Project. Four selected individuals will be accorded the power to command any resource in order to develop plans to defend Earth, while the details will remain hidden in the thoughts of each Wallfacer, where even the sophons can't reach. To combat this, the ETO creates Wallbreakers, dedicated to deducing and thwarting the plans of the Wallfacers. The chosen Wallfacers are soldier Frederick Tyler, diplomat Manuel Rey Diaz, neuroscientist Bill Hines, and—Luo Ji. Luo has no idea why he was chosen, but, nonetheless, the Trisolarans seem determined to kill him. The plot’s development centers on Liu’s dark and rather gloomy but highly persuasive philosophy, with dazzling ideas and an unsettling, nonlinear, almost nonnarrative structure that demands patience but offers huge rewards.

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7708-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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