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UPGRADE

Recommended—even for reluctant science fiction readers.

When a government agent is exposed to a virus that modifies his genetic code, he must consider whether to share these enhancements with the world or eradicate the virus.

Logan Ramsay works for the Gene Protection Agency in a world where genetic modification has wreaked havoc on the ecosystem. His mother, a brilliant scientist, was responsible for the “Great Starvation” nearly two decades before, when she tried to improve the resistance of a rice plant to a particular virus and instead devastated the world’s rice supply. Two hundred million people died, and Logan went to prison for his role in the catastrophe; his mother took her own life. Now he investigates and takes down people who are running “dark gene lab[s]” and otherwise seeking to change the human genome. During a raid, Logan is exposed to a virus, and while the initial side effects seem to ease after a few days, he soon begins to notice unusual things: the fact that he can read incredibly complex books in just a few hours and retain all of the information; the fact that he can beat his daughter in chess, which hasn’t happened for years; the way he can remember every moment of his life in perfect detail. Government agents lock him up and run test after test as Logan becomes stronger and more intelligent by the day. It is revealed that, before her death, Logan’s mother promised to release “a viral gene drive” that would offer a “significant upgrade” to the human species. When someone arrives to break him out of the containment facility, Logan will be forced to make a decision: allow the genetic upgrade to spread through the human species, even though a certain percentage of the population will die horrible deaths, or destroy the virus. High-octane action, some moral complexity, and a surprisingly emotional ending elevate this novel.

Recommended—even for reluctant science fiction readers.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-15753-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE MINISTRY OF TIME

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

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A time-toying spy romance that’s truly a thriller.

In the author’s note following the moving conclusion of her gripping, gleefully delicious debut novel, Bradley explains how she gathered historical facts about Lt. Graham Gore, a real-life Victorian naval officer and polar explorer, then “extrapolated a great deal” about him to come up with one of her main characters, a curly-haired, chain-smoking, devastatingly charming dreamboat who has been transported through time. Having also found inspiration in the sole extant daguerreotype of Gore, showing him to have been “a very attractive man,” Bradley wrote the earliest draft of the book for a cluster of friends who were similarly passionate about polar explorers. Her finished novel—taut, artfully unspooled, and vividly written—retains the kind of insouciant joy and intimacy you might expect from a book with those origins. It’s also breathtakingly sexy. The time-toggling plot focuses on the plight of a British civil servant who takes a high-paying job on a secret mission, working as a “bridge” to help time-traveling “expats” resettle in 21st-century London—and who falls hard for her charge, the aforementioned Commander Gore. Drama, intrigue, and romance ensue. And while this quasi-futuristic tale of time and tenderness never seems to take itself too seriously, it also offers a meaningful, nuanced perspective on the challenges we face, the choices we make, and the way we live and love today.

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781668045145

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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