EMBASSYTOWN

A major intellectual achievement that, despite all difficulties, persuades and enthralls.

A new venture into science fiction from the talented British author (Kraken, 2010, etc.) best known for his extraordinary steampunk-style fantasies.

Avice Benner Cho returns to her childhood home, the remote planet Arieka, after many years of working in the immer, a weird hyperdimension that permits passage among the stars. Arieka's indigenous Hosts have a remarkable, entirely biological technology and maintain a bubble of human-breathable atmosphere above Embassytown. The Ariekei have two speaking orifices and utter their language through both simultaneously; for them, language, thought and reality are inseparable, hence they cannot understand the speech of individual humans, tell lies or speculate. The only way they can express things that haven't happened is by performing a ceremony in which a human is declared a "simile," an honor for which young Avice was chosen. The Ariekei hold contests to see which of them can come closest to uttering an untruth; by human standards, their efforts are laughable. Humans, however, developed Ambassadors: clone-twins so alike in appearance, thought and experience that when they speak simultaneously, the Ariekei can comprehend them. Then Embassytown's overlords send a new type of Ambassador, EzRa, dissimilar in appearance and thought. Somehow, they can speak and be understood—yet the Ariekei don't react as expected. Instead, they show every sign of being intoxicated by EzRa's speech; not only that but they turn out to be hopelessly addicted. As their civilization begins to crumble, Avice must team up with Bren, a former Ambassador whose clone-twin died, to unravel a most unpleasant conspiracy. Much of this is far too formidably dense and complex to be summarized, and Miéville further blurs matters with a difficult, almost hallucinatory narrative structure. Conceptually, though, it's utterly astonishing.

A major intellectual achievement that, despite all difficulties, persuades and enthralls.

Pub Date: May 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-345-52449-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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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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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

RED RISING

From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Set in the future and reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this novel dramatizes a story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power.

In the beginning, Darrow, the narrator, works in the mines on Mars, a life of drudgery and subservience. He’s a member of the Reds, an “inferior” class, though he’s happily married to Eo, an incipient rebel who wants to overthrow the existing social order, especially the Golds, who treat the lower-ranking orders cruelly. When Eo leads him to a mildly rebellious act, she’s caught and executed, and Darrow decides to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of this outrage. He’s recruited by a rebel cell and “becomes” a Gold by having painful surgery—he has golden wings grafted on his back—and taking an exam to launch himself into the academy that educates the ruling elite. Although he successfully infiltrates the Golds, he finds the social order is a cruel and confusing mash-up of deception and intrigue. Eventually, he leads one of the “houses” in war games that are all too real and becomes a guerrilla warrior leading a ragtag band of rebelliously minded men and women. Although it takes a while, the reader eventually gets used to the specialized vocabulary of this world, where warriors shoot “pulseFists” and are protected by “recoilArmor.” As with many similar worlds, the warrior culture depicted here has a primitive, even classical, feel to it, especially since the warriors sport names such as Augustus, Cassius, Apollo and Mercury.

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53978-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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