A highly engrossing and believable space-exploration novel.

PRELUDE TO EXTINCTION

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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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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