An intriguing, if somewhat vague, speculative tale.

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 huge, churning, relentlessly entertaining melodrama buoyed by confidence that human values will prevail.

LEVIATHAN WAKES

A rare, rattling space opera—first of a trilogy, or series, from Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).  

Humanity colonized the solar system out as far as Neptune but then exploration stagnated. Straight-arrow Jim Holden is XO of an ice-hauler swinging between the rings of Saturn and the mining stations of the Belt, the scattered ring of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. His ship's captain, responding to a distress beacon, orders Holden and a shuttle crew to investigate what proves to be a derelict. Holden realizes it's some sort of trap, but an immensely powerful, stealthed warship destroys the ice-hauler, leaving Holden and the shuttle crew the sole survivors. This unthinkable act swiftly brings Earth, with its huge swarms of ships, Mars with its less numerous but modern and powerful navy, and the essentially defenseless Belt to the brink of war. Meanwhile, on the asteroid Ceres, cynical, hard-drinking detective Miller—we don't find out he has other names until the last few pages—receives orders to track down and "rescue"—i.e. kidnap—a girl, Julie Mao, who rebelled against her rich Earth family and built an independent life for herself in the Belt. Julie is nowhere to be found but, as the fighting escalates, Miller discovers that Julie's father knew beforehand that hostilities would occur. Now obsessed, Miller continues to investigate even when he loses his job—and the trail leads towards Holden, the derelict, and what might prove to be a horrifying biological experiment. No great depth of character here, but the adherence to known physical laws—no spaceships zooming around like airplanes—makes the action all the more visceral. And where Corey really excels is in conveying the horror and stupidity of interplanetary war, the sheer vast emptiness of space and the amorality of huge corporations.

A huge, churning, relentlessly entertaining melodrama buoyed by confidence that human values will prevail.

Pub Date: June 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-12908-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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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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