Dialogue-soggy, overcute, featherweight YA space-opera, a mix of light fantasy with coming-of-age themes about social...

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ACORNA’S SEARCH

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE UNICORN SEARCH

The YA adventures of the girl with the unicorn horn sticking out of her head continue (Acorna’s World, 2000, etc.), as the telepathic Acorna, her traumatized “life-mate” Aari, and others on two and four legs to heal their shattered homeworld. Having vanquished those nasty Khleevi bugs and put Aari on the road to recovery (a tiny, inch-long horn is growing out of his forehead), the Linyaari, the psychic humanoid crossbreed with unicorns, return to Planet Vhiliinyar and find an ecological disaster of fetid swamps, polluted streams and carnivorous plants that nearly devour the feisty cat Roadkill. The Linyaari are considering a big loan from the wealthy, somewhat untrustworthy Hafiz Harakamian in order to terraform their world back to what it was before the Khleevi ruined it. While taking preliminary surveys, a handful of Linyaari, including Aari, vanish mysteriously. Acorna and friends consult their four-legged unicorn ancestors, who show them fragile hand- (hoof?-) written records, and drop enigmatic hints that imply that these disappearances might have to do with a hidden cave carved out by the Ancestor Friends, who originally rescued the unicorns from Earth and brought them to Vhiliinyar. With the help of the loquacious android Mac (who has outfitted himself with a series of mechanical horns), Acorna discover the cave, which is filled with old carvings and lined with a substance that dampens communication gear. One of the missing Linyaari turns up, but before Acorna can find out more about what happened, she and her explorers are menaced by a pair of bear-like “hairy monsters.” The cave leads to an ancient buried city that predictably reveals secrets about the Linyaari past, adds an ethical complication to the terraforming question, and includes additional plot threads for the next installment.

Dialogue-soggy, overcute, featherweight YA space-opera, a mix of light fantasy with coming-of-age themes about social responsibility and solemn respect for elders.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97898-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Eos/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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