A worthy, rich and thoughtful sequel.

DREAMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE

Is covert manipulation a better parental and corporate tactic than overt pressure? Vaughn’s superpowered sequel to After the Golden Age (2011) attempts to answer that.

Celia West wasn’t born with superhuman abilities like her parents were, but her dedication to her home, Commerce City, is no less fierce. She did inherit the family business, West Corp, and she works tirelessly to use her wealth to better the city, not merely to profit from it—to the dismay of her rivals. She also keeps a keen but surreptitious eye on all of the descendants of Commerce City’s superhumans, waiting for them to show powers of their own and secretly encouraging their vigilantism when they do. Naturally, she’s wondering if her teenage daughters by telepath Dr. Arthur Mentis, Anna and Bethy, will be among them. Meanwhile, Anna struggles with figuring out how her ability to psychically locate people fits in with the more battle-ready powers of her friends (all members of the vigilante team she’s secretly formed) and concealing her activities from her parents. As in the previous volume, the superhero narrative is a framework to explore the different ways in which children establish their independence from their parents and the degree to which parents can actively support that endeavor—and to what extent parents can and should accept support from their children. The story also examines the considerable reach of financial and legal power and how one’s good intentions when wielding those powers may not be enough to justify one’s actions. Finally, it serves as a strong argument for open, honest communication—even, or perhaps especially—in a milieu of disguises and secrets.

A worthy, rich and thoughtful sequel.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3481-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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

DUNE

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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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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