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RADIANT TERMINUS

A landmark of modern dystopianism, portending a time to come that no one would want to live in.

French “post-exoticist” Volodine (Bardo or Not Bardo, 2016, etc.) returns with a dark view of the near future, where science fiction meets a certain kind of horror.

It’s fitting that in Volodine’s latest, a corpse should figure as one of the first characters we meet—well, not quite a corpse, not yet, though 30-year-old Vassilissa Marachvili is passing on quickly enough that Volodine refers to her as “the dying woman.” Perhaps, as the post-Heideggerians would say, she is always already dead, but what does it matter? In the remote Siberian outpost that is the setting for Volodine’s yarn, a kind of Chernobyl on steroids in a post-apocalyptic time, following the fall of the Second Soviet Union in a nuclear shootout, the living envy the dead. But, that said, there’s not much distinction between the categories in this hell, a place of “machines constantly humming. Fuel rods regularly sizzling as they tried to get several degrees hotter….The radioactivity at its peak puffing almost silently.” Overseeing this domain is Solovyei, a kind of Col. Kurtz for our time (think Marlon Brando with even more of a glow), who certainly has a godlike complex and maybe even some godlike powers and who does what he can for Vassilissa: “She’s gone into a dark tunnel. She’s neither dead nor alive,” he explains, helpfully. That’s one of his easier-to-comprehend statements; as our hero, Kronauer, reflects, Solovyei is a master of conjuring “images of shadowy eternity and worlds with indecipherable rules of existence.” Indeed. There can be no Kurtz without a Marlow—or a Capt. Willard trying to terminate his command, though deposing a man half dead is easier said than done. Volodine himself is a master at painting grim, infernal scenarios that seem fit for a neoarctic retelling of Mad Max, and with just the right atmospheric touches: can there be, after all, a Russian story without its wolves?

A landmark of modern dystopianism, portending a time to come that no one would want to live in.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-940953-52-6

Page Count: 468

Publisher: Open Letter

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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 THREE-BODY PROBLEM

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 1

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

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. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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