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APOCALYPSE BOUNTY

THE NORTHFIELD SAGA

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

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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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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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KLARA AND THE SUN

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

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Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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