The Matrix meets Dante’s Inferno in an overloaded (Holy) ghost story.

THE HAMLOCK WORLD

AN ODYSSEY THROUGH LIFE, DEATH AND ETERNITY

In Thomassen’s unwieldy sci-fi debut, technology goes berserk and threatens to enslave the human race.

On the brink of an invention capable of changing the world forever, a British “doctor-engineer in the field of energy safety,” Roger Hamlock, dies in a head-on collision while driving his Ford Tacoma to work. At first, he thinks it’s just a dream, but when he encounters an otherworldly female presence, or “Watcher,” named Pantha Maria, he begins an adventure to find his killers, part of a worldwide mafia, led by “His Holiness BIG Pa, the Millennium Dragon, Antichrist personified,” seeking to control the world by brainwashing the human race. Reincarnated in the body of a Norwegian infant named Roger Amundsen, Roger grows up to study astrophysics and, at the age of 25, sets out to fulfill his mission to destroy Holochryne, a holographic cyborg intent on annihilating mankind through World War III. From an abyss below the Caribbean island of Cram, the “transparent house-sized robot” controls BIG Pa and the marauding armies of the Moogoo Empire, led by Yuk Chow and the general of New Russia. Joined in his battle by a “supergroup of well-trained clairvoyants,” Roger journeys through this dreamlike world, “dead as a salted herring,” and learns the true meaning of life. Woven through his winding tale of redemption are reflections on the true identity of UFOs, electromagnetic hypersensitivity, “Christ consciousness” and the Holy Spirit as an “information channel.” Thomassen balances precariously between derivative sci-fi and Christian dogma. Numerous characters are introduced; many turn out to be irrelevant, many simply confusing. The narrator detracts from the plot by engaging in supremely complex subjects. Acknowledging the abundance of scientific jargon, his own fantastic creations and endless religious references, Thomassen provides a detailed 9-page glossary. “Physical reality is a form of virtual reality,” one character wisely observes. “You cannot see the quantum soup” that holds everything together. Perhaps that’s Thomassen’s main problem: He fails to establish at least one reality for the reader to believe in.

The Matrix meets Dante’s Inferno in an overloaded (Holy) ghost story.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477229781

Page Count: 336

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

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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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Combine Straub's usual warmth and insight with the fun of time travel and you have a winner.

THIS TIME TOMORROW

A woman who's been drifting through life wakes up the morning after her 40th birthday to discover that she's just turned 16 again.

Alice Stern wouldn't say she's unhappy. She lives in a studio apartment in Brooklyn; has a job in the admissions office of the Upper West Side private school she attended as a kid; still hangs out with Sam, her childhood best friend; and has a great relationship with her father, Leonard, the famous author of a time-travel novel, Time Brothers. Alice's mother left her and Leonard when Alice was a kid, and father and daughter formed a tight, loving unit along with their freakishly long-lived cat, Ursula. But now Leonard is in a coma, and as she visits him in the hospital every day, Alice is forced to reckon with her life. After a drunken birthday evening with Sam, Alice returns to her childhood house on Pomander Walk, a one-block-long gated street running between two avenues on the UWS—but when she wakes up the next morning, she hears Leonard in the kitchen and finds herself heading off to SAT tutoring and preparing for her 16th birthday party that night. Straub's novel has echoes of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town: Every prosaic detail of her earlier life is almost unbearably poignant to Alice, and the chance to spend time with her father is priceless. As she moves through her day, she tries to figure out how to get back to her life as a 40-year-old and whether there's anything she can do in the past to improve her future—and save her father's life. As always, Straub creates characters who feel fully alive, exploring the subtleties of their thoughts, feelings, and relationships. It's hard to say more without giving away the delightful surprises of the book's second half, but be assured that Straub's time-travel shenanigans are up there with Kate Atkinson's Life After Life and the TV show Russian Doll.

Combine Straub's usual warmth and insight with the fun of time travel and you have a winner.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-525-53900-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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