Mawkish prose and blatantly contrived plot developments make this a disappointing debut.

THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE

A pandemic, a catastrophic snowstorm, a massive power outage and social breakdown play out in the microcosm of a Columbus, Ohio, suburb.

Finally, the other viral shoe has dropped: an influenza strain that, like the 1918 flu, combines human, avian and porcine antigens to deadly effect. H5N1, which first manifests in mass die-offs of migrating fowl, is so virulent that it threatens to wipe out 50 percent of humanity. University research veterinarian Peter Brooks and his fetching Egyptian grad assistant Shazia are among the scientists playing a familiar losing game of vaccine catch-up when Ohio is quarantined and everyone is ordered to go into isolation at home with their families. But Peter lives apart from wife Ann and their two daughters; the marriage never recovered from their infant son’s unexplained crib death a decade earlier. Just after Thanksgiving, a blizzard strikes, followed by blackout. Fighting supermarket crowds, Ann hoards enough food to last weeks. Peter and Shazia move in, much to Ann’s discomfiture, although she never confronts Peter about his suspected affair, not even when Shazia starts showing signs of pregnancy. At first it seems their area will be spared. Then a neighbor’s child dies. Information filters through: The hospital is overloaded, the morgue has shut down and the local ice rink is being used to store bodies. The social fabric is shredding. Quarantine and paranoia preclude cooperation outside family boundaries, and there’s no Internet or cell-phone service. (Tellingly, the landline is the last to fail.) Ann’s best friend Libby, last seen trying to eject husband Smith from her SUV, shows up weeks later on the Brooks’ doorstep, coughing ominously and begging the family to take her six-month-old baby. Newcomer Buckley pulls many punches, downplaying in particular the chaos that could ensue following a total infrastructure collapse, and sets up the novel’s surprise final twists by deliberately misleading the reader.

Mawkish prose and blatantly contrived plot developments make this a disappointing debut.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-440-24509-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

more