An engaging triptych on the subjects of borders, climate change, and technology dependence.

WHEN NORTH BECOMES SOUTH

A superstorm switches Earth’s magnetic poles and shuts down electrical power grids all over the world in this novel by Bronson, author of A Life Well-Lived (2018).

Laurie is the mother of two grown sons , and she feels “smothered by the familiarity” of day-to-day life as an empty nester. Accustomed to a lifestyle powered by “smart”devices, Laurie worries that her teaching job will eventually be made obsolete by technology. Halfway around the globe, Laurie’s eldest son, Brendan, teaches high schoolers in the (fictional) West African country of Loscoaya. Life there is “less complicated in many ways” because residents don’t depend on any sort of tech; however, Brendan knows well that “simple” doesn’t mean “easy.” Meanwhile, his younger brother, Josh, has hit rock bottom after running away from home years ago in an effort to forget a childhood trauma, and he wanders the Western United States. When Brendan comes back from Africa, he discovers that Laurie has fallen prey to a conspiracy theory that the world’s power will soon go out due to a magnetic shift in the poles. Disgusted by his parents’ hoarding of goods to prepare for an alleged apocalypse, Brendan notes that it will take more than canned goods to survive in a world without power—it will take drastic action and long-term adaptation to the environment, as the people of Loscoaya have done. Inevitably, when the superstorm arrives, there are things that even survivalists aren’t prepared for. Bronson manages to give the proceedings a sense of eerie familiarity, which has the effect of making her story utterly magnetic. Over the course of this book, there are a few instances of formulaic dialogue here and there, but the author also provides a number of details that will hit readers close to home in a narrative that takes place in what is essentially a thinly veiled version of our own everyday reality—complete with pandemics, border disputes, and an omnipresent media. As if to emphasize this point, Bronson makes this even clearer with the words of one of her characters: “This is not science fiction. This is real.”

An engaging triptych on the subjects of borders, climate change, and technology dependence.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2020

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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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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