Perhaps something of a retread but still interesting and worth following to its conclusion.

ANCILLARY SWORD

From the Imperial Radch series , Vol. 2

Leckie proves she’s no mere flash in the pan with this follow-up to her multiaward-winning debut space opera, Ancillary Justice (2013).

Breq used to be One Esk Nineteen, an ancillary, or human-bodied extension, of the Artificial Intelligence that powered the ship Justice of Toren. Two decades after the ship's destruction, she is Fleet Capt. Breq Mianaai, envoy of the many-bodied Lord of the Radch empire, Anaander Mianaai. Or a tool of part of her: The Lord is a mind divided against itself, and the dissension among herselves has brought the empire to the brink of civil war. One faction has sent Breq to Athoek station to secure it. Once there, Breq discovers that the station and the planet below are a microcosm of corruption and conspiracy, another symptom of the empire's decay. After the literally explosive finale of the previous installment, one might have expected the novel to have a broader, more action-focused sweep. But Leckie doesn't seem concerned with space battles—the core of the story she wants to tell is more intimate, personal. As in the previous volume, she offers the groaningly obvious moral that those who are considered of lesser breeding frequently display far nobler behavior than the cardboard villains who believe themselves to be their so-called betters. She manages to retain interest, however, by cutting Breq and her friends and allies from more richly patterned cloth. The AI who proves to have more insight, more compassion and a greater sense of justice—who is, in fact, more human—than the humans around it is a common sci-fi trope. But Breq intriguingly defies that trope in one key sense: AIs of that sort usually aspire to be human, while Breq feels lonely and limited in her single body, desperately, painfully missing what she once was.

Perhaps something of a retread but still interesting and worth following to its conclusion.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-24665-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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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

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