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SO QUICK BRIGHT THINGS COME TO CONFUSION

A short, sardonic alien-human love story.

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Left on an alien planet to supervise an automated mining operation, an earthling has a complicated cohabiting relationship with a local woman in Gussoff Sumption’s SF novella.

An Earth corporation is inspecting the distant planet of Zil for potential resource exploitation. The testy environment there, which features long dry seasons followed by tsunamilike rainstorms, is home to a remarkable, intelligent, silicon-based life-form. The Zills dwell in subsoil hibernation for long periods and are roughly humanoid but with large, flat tails and scales. Their society is at a preindustrial level, and the Zills appear to take the presence of humans in stride. As the story opens, human geologist James Blackthorne is supervising robotic mining/exploration operations. As per arrangement with the locals, a single Zill lives in the base camp with him. Aveliin is a smart and inquisitive Zill woman who eagerly absorbs James’ maladroit lessons on Earth culture, mostly by playing time-killing board and card games and watching videos of his favorite comedy films, Caddyshack and So I Married an Axe Murderer (and readers should be advised that watching the latter may be required to fully grok the plot dynamics here). James, meanwhile, tries to learn the ways of the Zill, but Aveliin’s answers in simplified English (“Zinglish,” as James calls it)aren’t sufficiently illuminating. James, it turns out, had a recent breakup with a human co-worker, and as he and Aveliin grow closer, things take an unexpected turn. Of course, readers of classic SF will know that. Philip José Farmer’s 1952 work The Lovers(which, like this material, is a short story later expanded to novel length) is the genre groundbreaker in terms of xenosexuality. Gussoff Sumption’s novella takes this closest-of-close-encounters idea a step beyond that tale. The narrative’s undefined vernacular (“Aveliin turns to the window. She touches the glass. ‘Wal chok mon,’ she says. ‘Chok mon chok wal.’ ”) will leave readers as oblivious as the ill-starred James. However, there are some nice, sidelong kicks at capitalist imperialism and the pitfalls of making assumptions, all wrapped up in a dark little Valentine’s Day package.

A short, sardonic alien-human love story.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-952283-21-5

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Vernacular Books

Review Posted Online: June 10, 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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