Generous action and a nonpreachy but Scripture-compatible spirituality uplift this Tolkien-esque journey.

THE CRYSTAL REALM: KRYTOR'S RETURN

Pursued by racists into Kentucky’s Mammoth Caves, teenage Nathan finds an incredible subterranean civilization, where he is a prophesied savior in a war against the ancient, demonic Krytor.

Australian author Ballantyne’s epic might pass the litmus as “Christian fiction,” despite an introductory disclaimer from the writer (a member of the LDS church) that Tolkien-style heroic fantasy was more his aim. Disconsolate after the loss of his parents, teen orphan Nathan Shepparton vagabonds into a small town near the Mammoth Caves of Kentucky and impulsively defends the area’s only black family against Klan thugs. Hunted by vengeful KKK into a neglected cavern, Nathan passes through a waterfall into the vast, incredible subterranean world of Thuromest. Here, pious Hebrew-speaking tribes fashion just about everything out of ubiquitous mineral crystal and have no knowledge of their origin before being brought to this place a few millennia ago. In hot pursuit of Nathan is the Klan leader and Aryan warlord Karl—but straightaway both have an even bigger villain to face: Krytor, a bat-winged devilish menace. Krytor was freed from his rock prison (on the Earth side) a few decades ago and now, having built up his armies of orcs, er, Gromms, plans to resume his ancient campaign of conquest of the worlds both below and above. The only weapons foretold as able to foil Krytor are three mystic gems. Nathan happens to possess one of them, the Key of Knowledge, which immediately confers (besides the LucasFilm ability to shoot out energy beams at enemies) on him the rank of “Lord Nathan” among the awestruck natives. While subtlety, especially in dialogue, is not Ballantyne’s strong suit, he does deploy a few unexpected narrative twists and one or two moral ambiguities. The most obvious of the latter is the no-goodnik bully-racist Karl poised to redeem himself (or…will he?) in succeeding volumes of what is a planned trilogy. Action rarely lets up, and readers with a taste for retro-30s-style pulp adventures set in exotic hollow-earth worlds will be tunneling through the final 100 pages eagerly and looking forward to the next installment.

Generous action and a nonpreachy but Scripture-compatible spirituality uplift this Tolkien-esque journey.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461084518

Page Count: 506

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2012

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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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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