An intriguing, if somewhat vague, speculative tale.

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THE DOOMED CITY

A mysterious story about a surreal city from Russian science-fiction masters the Strugatsky brothers, translated into English for the first time.

Andrei is a Soviet astronomer from the 1950s. He now works as a trash collector, but he no longer lives in the USSR—or in the 1950s. Instead, he lives in an unknown time in the City, a strange place where the sun is extinguished like a lamp each night. The City is bordered on one side by an impossibly high wall and on the other side, by an abyss. Within these confines, troops of baboons appear out of nowhere, and sinister buildings appear and disappear at will—or do they? An inscrutable group called the Mentors has populated the City with people they’ve extracted from 20th-century times and places: Fritz, for example, was a German soldier in World War II, Selma was from 1970s Sweden, and Donald was an American college professor in the ’60s. They’ve all been brought to the City to participate in the Experiment, but no one knows precisely what its goal is. In successive episodes, the book follows Andrei as he’s shifted from job to job: first, he’s a diligent trash collector, then a police investigator, a senior editor of one of the City’s newspapers, a counselor to the president, and, finally, a soldier at war, before he reaches a surprising end. Most of the book’s action, if it can be called that, consists of people sitting around together and talking (and, more often than not, drinking). However, many readers will find it psychologically gripping to puzzle over what the City is and what will become of Andrei, although others may be frustrated by the lack of resolution. In the foreword by fellow Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, he points out that Soviet science fiction “transformed into a means for at least hinting at the true state of affairs.” Unfortunately, the story only hints, without ever fully explaining, and readers unversed in Soviet politics may feel as though they are missing out on deeper meanings. That said, it doesn’t detract from what’s otherwise a thought-provoking read.

An intriguing, if somewhat vague, speculative tale.

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61373-596-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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

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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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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