Enjoyable but no blockbuster.

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DARK EDEN

Like Daniel F. Galouye’s Dark Universe or Jack Vance’s The Blue World, Beckett’s (The Peacock Cloak, 2013, etc.) newest is a story of survivors in an alien environment who have more or less forgotten their origins.

Planet Eden has no sun. In its place are huge trees pumping hot water up from subterranean volcanic rivers, which power the ecology. Both flora and fauna make their own tiny lights (but why wouldn’t they adapt to the perpetual dark by evolving different senses or capabilities?). Two humans, Tommy and Angela, were stranded here, and now, six generations later, have incestuously bred a large family plagued by genetic disorders, held together by a deteriorating law and oral culture, which remembers without understanding such terms as lecky-trickity and Rayed Yo. Family members long for the bright sun of Earth (but how would they know? All lights on Eden are dim and feeble) and, since they believe Tommy and Angela’s three companions returned to Earth to bring help, cling to the spot where the Landing Veekle will touch down, even though the valley they inhabit is too small to accommodate the growing population and starvation looms. Young John Redlantern wonders what lies beyond the ice-covered mountains that confine the valley and attempts to persuade the family’s female rulers that they must migrate or die. In a bold yet calculated act, he destroys the circle of stones that mark the landing spot and is exiled for his trouble. John, though, has his supporters, including love interest Tina Spiketree, Gerry (who follows John like a dog), and club-footed, highly intelligent Jeff. Thus the stage is set for a parting of ways, exploration, conflict, murder and the erasure of accepted truths. The narrative unfolds via several first-person accounts, which allows Beckett to develop a perspective on his archetypal main characters. Absorbing if often familiar, inventive and linguistically adept but less than fully satisfying—there’s no climax, and a sequel seems assured. Despite all this, the book was extravagantly praised in Beckett’s native U.K.

Enjoyable but no blockbuster.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8041-3868-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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