Stross at the top of his game—which is to say, few do it better. Pounce!

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THE RHESUS CHART

From the Laundry Files series , Vol. 5

Fifth in the Laundry Files series (The Apocalypse Codex, 2012, etc.), Stross’ stunning incarnation of magic as a branch of applied mathematics. As always, of course, the devils are in the details.

Literally, that is—since advanced computation attracts the interest of bloodthirsty entities from other realities. The British government’s countermeasure is known as the Laundry, a department so secret that anybody that stumbles upon its existence is (one way or another) silenced. Applied computational demonologist Bob Howard, whose boss is James Angleton (an Eater of Souls—and you really, really don’t want to know), has acquired some of Angleton’s occult powers. Bob’s wife, Mo O’Brien, also works for the department: She’s a combat epistemologist whose weapon is a demonic violin. Fast-tracked into management after recent successes, Bob grows suspicious when a whiz-kid team of investment bankers which calls itself the Scrum discovers an algorithm that promises to make its members billions in profits but whose unfortunate side effect (via the aforementioned hyper-reality nasties) is to turn them into vampires. (The supreme irony of this will be lost on few readers.) An added complication for Bob is that the Scrum’s ringleader, Mhari Murphy, is an ex-girlfriend. More peculiar yet, why is everybody in the Laundry convinced that vampires don’t exist? Bob’s superiors take prompt action—and form a committee. Laundry regulars by now will be familiar with Stross’ trademark sardonic, provocative, disturbing, allusion-filled narrative. And, here, with a structure strongly reminiscent of Len Deighton’s early spy novels, the tone grows markedly grimmer, with several significant casualties and tragedies, perhaps in preparation for Angleton’s feared CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

Stross at the top of his game—which is to say, few do it better. Pounce!

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-425-25686-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ace/Berkley

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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

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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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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