While its style falls short of its substance, this globe-trotting sci-fi tale has intrigue to spare.

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In the Shreds of Reality

NAMELESS

In this first installment of a projected trilogy, a nameless man risks waking up in the body of a new person every time he falls asleep.

When readers first meet the hero of this story, he has woken up with a hangover, despite no memory of having touched a drop of alcohol. This is because his consciousness has been transported into the body of a drunken French architect named Pierre Diemon. This isn’t the first time—as long as he can remember, he has found himself inhabiting the bodies of different people around the world for short periods of time. Whether he is an underground boxer in Toronto, a homeless man–turned–business tycoon in New York, or a philosophy professor in Moscow, he abides by a code of conduct: no matter how brief the time he spends in control of their bodies, he strives to improve the lives of his hosts. That all changes when he meets a woman like him for the first time. This woman, currently inhabiting a Russian student named Katya, lives a life free of rules and restrictions, treating her time in each host as a party as opposed to a calling. When the hero falls in love with Katya, he begins to question whether his strict code of ethics is truly one to live by. Debut author Mart manages to keep readers from becoming overly confused, even though his hero’s name changes multiple times throughout the novel. Much of the prose is too flowery, with attempts at metaphors that try to say something deep about human existence and end up sounding forced: “If fate really does exist, she’s still that same evil ex she’s always been. And when it came to the hero, she had a whole wing of her mansion renovated as a playroom for his identity stocked full of all sorts of malicious toys.” Despite the heavy-handed style, the concept of shifting back and forth through different people’s lives, and the debate over the responsibility one should feel for those individuals, has appeal.

While its style falls short of its substance, this globe-trotting sci-fi tale has intrigue to spare.

Pub Date: March 25, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 263

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2016

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

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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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