An action-packed yet cerebral thriller that lives in that murky nexus between today and the future.

ZER0ES

A group of co-opted hackers discovers a secret government experiment gone terribly wrong.

Prolific sci-fi novelist and games enthusiast Wendig (Under the Empyrean Sky, 2013, etc.) whips up a Matrix-y bit of old-school cyberpunk updated to meet the frightening technology of the modern age. Government agent Hollis Copper is a tough old guy who's been seconded to the National Security Agency to round up a bunch of hackers for a secret project. [They’re an odd bunch. Chance Dalton is an Anonymous poser who uses dark Web tactics to out evildoers. DeAndre Mitchell uses ATM skimmers to pay for his mom’s house. Aleena Kattan uses her wicked code-breaking skills in the name of hacktivism in support of the Arab Spring. Reagan Stolper is a foulmouthed, ill-tempered troll who ruins lives in the name of “lulz.” Finally, there’s Wade Earthman, a Vietnam vet skilled in the dark arts of phishing and phreaking. They’re promised clean records if they devote a year to the NSA’s secret lodge, where pods of hackers work together to penetrate high-security networks. Things go awry when they’re charged with disrupting Iran’s nuclear program by co-opting an Iranian drone and accidentally discover a secret NSA program called Typhon and the disappearance of 13 prominent theorists. The “Zeroes” find themselves pawns in a conflict among their government captors, a renegade hacker called The Widow of Zheng, and Typhon, a sentient artificial intelligence which is growing in power and influence with every passing minute. “Because they have to be willing to accept us,” it says. “Because sometimes the child has to touch the hot stove to learn why he shouldn’t do it again. Because in chaos, there is opportunity.” This is an ambitious, bleeding-edge piece of speculative fiction that combines hacker lore, wet-wired horror, and contemporary paranoia in a propulsive adventure that’s bound to keep readers on their toes.

An action-packed yet cerebral thriller that lives in that murky nexus between today and the future.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-235155-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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