An imaginatively veiled political allegory that will please the most generous science-fiction fans.



A political thriller-cum-science fiction epic about an alien conspiracy and a president who unwittingly facilitates the destruction of the American dream.

In 1984 Myanmar, an extraterrestrial from a warfaring race known as the Magals landed on Earth and began a desperate fight with the United States. This creature abandoned his post on Earth sometime thereafter, but left his sons with his father, Gozaren. These sons, Gozer and Malhavco, have since joined the military and use their near-invincibility for special operations, presumably not for the protection and promotion of America’s interests abroad, but for dark, ulterior motives. This really isn’t such an unfamiliar America—the many wars on terror are still raging, the Bush administration had its two terms in power and there’s a newly elected black president in the White House. However, readers will have a difficult time believing that geopolitical history would have unfolded the same way as it has today given the occurrence of an interstellar war that decimated America’s armed forces. Another problem is the aliens themselves. Presumably they look humanoid as they navigate easily through the corridors of power, but who knows? At least initially, there are few clues or thoughtful explanations, and too much is assumed of the readership. This lack of setup early on leaves readers unable to place the characters in the world they inhabit. Malhavco is a genuine evil, though, and once the hard work of piecing together this universe is over, his brutality is as engaging as it is shocking—not satisfied with simply ruining humanity, he rapes women and kills any man that he can. Luckily for America, Gozer has another mode besides wanton evil and he aligns himself against his brother for the sake of the American dream. The novel’s climax is much stronger than its opening, but the journey between the two is fraught with the highs of the novel’s hard-boiled prose and the difficulties of its breezy exposition. Despite this, the thematic tug of war between nihilism and hope is pitch-perfect for millennial America, and the novel offers a message that boldly aligns on the side of optimism.

An imaginatively veiled political allegory that will please the most generous science-fiction fans.

Pub Date: April 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-1434910059

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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


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 almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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