FRACTAL NOISE

Tense and gripping.

When crew members aboard the spaceship SLV Adamura discover that the planet Talos VII is sporting a strange alien artifact, they decide to investigate.

Xenobiologist Alex Crichton isn’t very engaged in his work aboard the Adamura. He's in the depths of grief after his partner, Layla, was killed on the planet where she and Crichton were colonists. But then the crew picks up something strange on the surface of remote planet Talos VII: a hole. An enormous, perfectly circular opening that was clearly made by a race of intelligent beings and seems to function as a huge speaker. After heated debate on whether the Adamura crew should try to investigate the phenomenon themselves or wait for a mission better equipped for such an exploration, Crichton joins a small team tasked with crossing the hostile Talos VII landscape to explore the alien artifact. It doesn’t take long for things to start going wrong, and as the team gets closer to the crater, their equipment, bodies, and minds start to fracture. What starts off as a bitter but contained tension between geologist and rationalist Volya Pushkin and the deeply religious team leader, Talia Indelicato, heats to a boiling point as supplies and patience run low. And Tao Chen, the timid chemist, struggles to stay out of their arguments until he hurts his leg and becomes a literal, physical pawn in their fights. Crichton, who was already on shaky psychological ground, becomes determined to make it to the site if only to honor what Layla would have done had she been in his place. Paolini effectively creates a gradual creep of dread as the doomed team slowly falls apart. While some aspects of the crew tensions fall a bit flat—the ongoing talking points between Pushkin and Talia about religion versus reason feel uninspired—the team’s descent into paranoia and violence is effectively rendered. Paolini understands that in the best character-driven science-fiction stories, the alien tech is never as interesting as the human relationships.

Tense and gripping.

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9781250862488

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

RED RISING

From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Set in the future and reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this novel dramatizes a story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power.

In the beginning, Darrow, the narrator, works in the mines on Mars, a life of drudgery and subservience. He’s a member of the Reds, an “inferior” class, though he’s happily married to Eo, an incipient rebel who wants to overthrow the existing social order, especially the Golds, who treat the lower-ranking orders cruelly. When Eo leads him to a mildly rebellious act, she’s caught and executed, and Darrow decides to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of this outrage. He’s recruited by a rebel cell and “becomes” a Gold by having painful surgery—he has golden wings grafted on his back—and taking an exam to launch himself into the academy that educates the ruling elite. Although he successfully infiltrates the Golds, he finds the social order is a cruel and confusing mash-up of deception and intrigue. Eventually, he leads one of the “houses” in war games that are all too real and becomes a guerrilla warrior leading a ragtag band of rebelliously minded men and women. Although it takes a while, the reader eventually gets used to the specialized vocabulary of this world, where warriors shoot “pulseFists” and are protected by “recoilArmor.” As with many similar worlds, the warrior culture depicted here has a primitive, even classical, feel to it, especially since the warriors sport names such as Augustus, Cassius, Apollo and Mercury.

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53978-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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