A fast, fun, and intelligent SF thriller.

SCORPION

A CIA analyst hunts an erudite assassin across a high-tech world.

Quinn Mitchell is wounded: by the accidental death of her child, by her estrangement from her husband, by her deflated self-confidence and loneliness. But even wounded as she is, she is CIA Deputy Director Townes' best analyst, and when an analyst is needed to assist Interpol in catching the Elite Assassin, she is the choice. This establishes one plotline, but there's much more going on. The assassin Ranveer, a gentleman of impeccable taste and manners, globe-hops from job to job on Emirates Airlines, kills in a variety of high- and low-tech ways, and leaves each victim marked with a four-digit identifying number. He is revered and respected by all. Quinn's job is to try to find a pattern, or patterns, in his methods, travel, numbering, anything that might shape an AI analysis—and she has some success. Sent into the field, she gets close to him but is always a tantalizing step or two behind. Meanwhile, researchers, in particular physicist Henrietta Yi, a CIA contract employee, are attempting to decipher a coded message discovered in the Large Hadron Collider that appears to have come from the future. When Quinn traps Ranveer, the assassin reveals that he has deciphered the message and that in fact it's a set of instructions to assassinate specific individuals, sent from the future, apparently to avert or suppress misery and chaos then. The CIA is aware of this, and Ranveer, though not an employee, is acting in their interests. But it turns out there are crosscurrents in the future, too, and Dr. Yi may have something to say about the CIA's tendency to aid and abet established interests. All this takes place in an only slightly futuristic world that snaps and bristles with technological capabilities that may seem distant or improbable but which are in fact just around the corner. (Cantrell is a software engineer as well as a writer, and he knows the territory). There's snappy dialogue, sharp observation, and compelling characters in Quinn, Ranveer, and Henrietta; the technology sings, the physics is plausibly presented, and the suggestion of time travel fascinates.

A fast, fun, and intelligent SF thriller.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984801-97-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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