Action-laden tale of characters with special talents and equally interesting problems.

THE BAD GUY WINS IN THIS ONE

Borders’ debut adventure features a world of feared people with powers and various factions searching for those behind a major city’s destruction.

Eighteen-year-old Jared Butler is traveling with fellow high schoolers to the country of Redarctica. Military types stop their bus for a supposed routine check, taking blood samples to see if anyone has special abilities. Surprisingly, someone does, and an explosive confrontation with the soldiers leaves a few students dead and Jared unconscious. He awakens in the company of Dr. Mirkov, who’s recruiting the teen into an army because of his power to heal, which is news to Jared. After a gunshot or two validates his newfound ability, Jared trains with Patrick, another survivor from the bus incident, and the mysterious May. Mirkov forces them all to cooperate, via imbedded “pain chips,” with the government agency Grey Snow. The doctor believes something must be done about the growing population of individuals with abilities. In fact, someone’s ability run amok is the alleged reason for a calamitous energy release in Sunlight City, where Jared lives in the Consolidated States of Newland. He has a chance to return to his home country, but he’ll have to assassinate someone at Grey Snow’s order. This will help the agency aid powerful organization Black Rain in covering up its involvement in the city’s devastation. Unfortunately, the assassination doesn’t go smoothly for Jared, Patrick, and May, pitting them against others with abilities, including a man who shoots projectiles from his hands. Jared also hopes to cure his comatose little sister, Lilly, somewhere in the C.S. Though brimming with superpowers, Borders’ story often concentrates on the characters’ human sides. Jared, for one, faces the dilemma of completing a mission for Black Rain, which, if the organization is responsible for destroying Sunlight City, has also caused his parents’ deaths. Many struggle to understand the abilities: Jared learns he’s capable of more than simply healing, and he and others like him have assorted labels: “specials,” the “Empowered,” and “The Gifted.” The wide-ranging abilities are fascinating even if readers have seen them before. May, for example, can send clones (or surrogates) to fight while she’s relatively safe elsewhere. The abilities do occasionally swamp the dramatic potential: more than one reputedly dead character turns up later irrefutably alive. The second half, meanwhile, is rife with action and suspense. Borders vigorously details characters unleashing powers or on the verge of doing so: “What had always felt like a raging inferno inside of him that he had to keep at bay was now a torch he could wield however he so chose.” Despite a world filled with unheard-of lands (e.g., Feezeland), the dialogue is generally contemporary; Patrick unabashedly drops a few “for reals?” Borders’ playful title will have readers examining what exactly a bad guy is, while the ending offers both resolution and room for sequels.

Action-laden tale of characters with special talents and equally interesting problems.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 191

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2017

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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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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