A unique SF romance, though less free-wheeling than earlier books in its series.

JUNGLE BEAUTY GODDESSES

DIRTY BALL

Semimythological sisters return—and one may get too close to humans—in the lusty third book in George-Sturges’ SF series.

A group of sisters from the far-flung place called Ventopia tended to the delicate planet known as Earth in the first two books in this series. Earth was created by the girls’ parents—their father, DeMatter, and mother, Nebula—though it was their job as young goddesses to be “responsible for creating, protecting, and guiding various life forms” on the planet. One of the sisters, a girl named Afar, became a little too involved with humans; this book is, for the most part, her story. Simply put, Afar may be too attached to Earth’s first man, a figure known as Mada whose “masculinity was magnetic.” She experiments with Mada sexually (though avoiding intercourse) and, as he explains it, “stimulated me orally, extracted my DNA seeds, mixed them with her own, and planted them around the earth.” Afar even guides him to “Trees of Knowledge,” each of which holds “a secret that can be used for good or evil.” Mada was taught that a ruler should know how to control the masses, and after Afar makes him powerful, jealousy and murder erupt. The book ultimately revisits Afar’s sisters as well, taking up their stories where the second volume in the series left them. This installment, however, has a more earnest tone than the first two books, which involved horrors like rape and murder without losing their whimsical nature. The narrative here exchanges much of the earlier whimsy for the kind of heartfelt sentiment evident in Afar’s early feelings for Mada: “The more she watched him, the more she found herself falling in love with him.” As the romance develops, such passions can become tedious, though the sexual and other action keeps things lively. What will become of this man and his goddess? Though readers familiar with the previous books know that what will eventually happen won’t be good, how the story gets there proves a strange, lust-filled path.

A unique SF romance, though less free-wheeling than earlier books in its series.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-70706-532-5

Page Count: 153

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2020

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

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KLARA AND THE SUN

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. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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