An unsettling tale that downplays its sci-fi elements to great effect.


The Conveyance

In Matthews’ (Revelation, 2015, etc.) sci-fi-tinged thriller, a string of bizarre events leads a psychologist to an alarming secret that he may not live long enough to expose.

Dr. Bradley Jordan has his share of hurdles in the small town of Rock Mills, Michigan. He works with a troubled young patient, Doug Belle, and he’s not quite over his wife Toni’s infidelity from six years ago, even as they try to conceive a child; then he’s almost killed in a car accident, which certainly doesn’t help matters. Later, he and Toni discover nearby Emersville, a quaint city full of touristy shops. There, a store owner, Annabelle St. Crux, has an apparent seizure in front of them while muttering cryptically about, among other things, her hatred of water. Brad purchases a Raggedy Ann-type doll named Thumbkin at the store, which unsettlingly seems to stare at him with its button eyes. Later, Brad finds a strange, metallic item hidden inside it. Toni adds to Brad’s unease by mentioning a “Green Queen” who “wants the world” and then promptly forgetting that she said anything about her. When Brad brings Thumbkin to his office, Doug is inexplicably hit with an electrical surge. Shadowy figures subsequently attack the psychologist at his house, looking for the doll. Soon, other people go missing, and Brad and his detective pal, Frank Swinicki, believe that answers lie in Emersville and its strange, unblinking townsfolk. The author peppers his tale with hints of science fiction, such as Brad’s dream of perpetually sailing in outer space. Still, much of the fun is in the story’s uncertainty; is the eerie Thumbkin, for example, making cinematic images appear in Brad’s head, or is he merely remembering movies about dolls that scared him as a child? As the revelations stack up, Matthews amps up the violence, making the story consistently unnerving. This tension diminishes a bit after it becomes clear what’s actually happening, although the main characters effectively remain in danger. Readers will likely surmise most of the final act’s revelations before they occur, but the plentiful plot turns still offer a few surprises before the unforgettable open ending.

An unsettling tale that downplays its sci-fi elements to great effect.

Pub Date: June 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-945373-00-8

Page Count: 260

Publisher: JournalStone

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2016

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


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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This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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