A rousing SF tale that stars a warrior hero with a strong moral center.

APOCALYPSE BOUNTY

THE NORTHFIELD SAGA

A freelance armed security guard in a post-apocalyptic North America tries not to lose his humanity—or his life—as he becomes embroiled in violent action against the power-hungry, ruling “Network.”

Fisher’s debut SF combat novel has a hero in Mark Northfield, a former military man who survived a vaguely described attack on the United States 10 years earlier that effectively destroyed most of the world’s civilization. The globe is shrouded in a deadly yellow atmosphere that kills in seconds. But in North America, populations manage to survive in cities ruthlessly overseen by the Network, an organization that outfits people (the ones who can pay, anyhow) with breathing masks and filters. Haunted by recurring thoughts of his dead young wife and the horrors he has seen, Northfield dwells on the dangerous outskirts of Network territory, taking occasional mercenary gigs to provide security escorts from community to community. He is especially on guard against “Yellowbacks,” a cultlike bandit gang with its own respiratory apparatuses. Yet even in battle, Northfield still strives for altruism and ethical behavior—one of the few to do so in a savage milieu. Then, he is tricked into accepting a Network task to assassinate a stranger—to refuse the job means Northfield's elimination by the dictatorship’s unsubtly named “Death Corps.” It is no surprise when Northfield learns his target happens to be no ordinary, enemy-of-the-state dissident but one who holds the key to reversing the deadly climate change (the lethal airborne toxin is not chemical but rather a nanotechnology smart weapon). Once Northfield decides which side he is on and where to go, the plot becomes a rather basic A to B mission, albeit with much cinematic action and scintillating John Woo–style gun battles. And the hero, a conscience-wracked Lutheran, argues at length with other characters or in interior monologues with his beloved’s memory and a silent Almighty about moral equivalency, mercy, and the right thing to do. (“Everyone’s a dog that eats each other out here,” a man says to Northfield. “Sometimes you don’t have a choice in it all. Sometimes doing bad things is what you gotta do.”) Even if the straightforward plot makes few deviations, newcomer Fisher’s prose is sure-footed, and the combo of God, guts, and guns should especially appeal to readers of “prepper” SF.

A rousing SF tale that stars a warrior hero with a strong moral center.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7923-4656-9

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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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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