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

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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.

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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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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