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THE ENIGMA THREAT

Another clever, energetic addition to an appealing series.

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In the 12th installment of this techno-thriller series, a fiendish organization policing online activities targets members of R-Group, a cybersecurity team.

The Special Artificial Intelligence Task Force raids the R-Group’s Zurich operations center. As supercomputers are illegal, the team annihilates the group’s resident AI, ICABOD, and arrests hacker Quip. Once other members of the family-owned R-Group initiate a prison break, they’re fugitives. That doesn’t stop them from stymying the nefarious MAG group, which is spearheading the hits against AI–enhanced supercomputers. They thwart MAG’s attempt to destroy one particular AI, which the R-Group can then secretly utilize to “reassemble” ICABOD. As MAG is already fearful of R-Group’s building another artificial intelligence, they send an anatomic biped programmed to assassinate any remaining members if necessary. They moreover set their sights on Gracie Rodreguiz in New York, suspecting (rightly so) that she’s part of the cybersecurity family. R-Group adamantly avoids detection using ancient devices from last century—pagers. With luck and resolve, the family might be able to revive ICABOD, which they can use in their inevitable confrontation against MAG. Like Breakfield and Burkey’s preceding installment, The Enigma Beyond (2020), their latest novel brims with cool technology. In one instance, the R-Group covertly bounces signals off of still-orbiting, seemingly abandoned zombie satellites. There’s also up-to-date tech that some readers may recognize, including deepfakes. The authors masterfully handle a sizable cast while maintaining momentum. These players, many of whom are recurring, land in various engrossing circumstances; Gracie, for example, finds both peril and romance. Despite returning enemies, this novel could be a stand-alone. But myriad delightful characters mean endless story possibilities for additional sequels or spinoffs.

Another clever, energetic addition to an appealing series. (bibliography, acknowledgements, author bios)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-946858-48-1

Page Count: 340

Publisher: ICABOD Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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HORROR MOVIE

A fever dream about despair and regret that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

When an unreleased cult movie is rebooted, the surviving member of the original film’s crew grapples with psychic whiplash.

Even though it’s not steeped in horror lore like the bangers being cranked out by Stephen Graham Jones or Grady Hendrix, this captivating take is tailor-made for fans of Stephen King and Jordan Peele alike. A cautionary tale with elements of indie movie darlings The Blair Witch Project, Blue Velvet, and River’s Edge, this chronicle of hometown kids trying to make a cheap slasher flick is shockingly memorable and deeply disturbing. Our unnamed narrator is the last survivor of the eponymous movie, filmed in the summer of 1993. Their Horror Movie concerns teens who torture one of their own—the narrator’s role is that of the Thin Kid, akin to the Slender Man of urban legend—and suffer the consequences. In the mix are the film’s obsessive director, Valentina; a handful of cast and crew; and the film’s ethereal screenwriter, Cleo, whose presence is most fully felt within the pages of her unusually personal screenplay. After a bewildering tragedy, the film was never released. Decades later, Valentina uploads a few scenes, some stills, and the screenplay to the internet, inspiring the modern-day reinvention. With his crewmates long dead by mostly natural causes, the narrator reluctantly agrees to capitalize on his infamy, eventually agreeing to participate in a hot horror reboot. Revolving between the original production and the big-budget reimagining, Tremblay deftly sidesteps genre tropes and easy laughs for a truly disturbing experience inside some very troubled heads. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be a great movie,” cautions our Thin Kid. “You’re all going to see it. Most of you are really going to like it.…Will the movie be something you take with you, that stays with you, burrows into and lives in a corner inside you? That, I don’t know.”

A fever dream about despair and regret that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780063070011

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2024

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