Plenty of gritty desert trekking, but no recognizable plot: a threadbare scenario that’s little more than elaborate...

HAMMERFALL

Advent of a new far-future series, from the author of Fortress of Dragons (2000), Precursor (1999), etc. A rebel against the omnipotent Ila, Marak Trin Tain guards lifelong his secret madness—voices speak his name and urge him to travel east; he beholds visions of a silver tower and a cave of suns—until his warlord father surrenders him to the Ila’s soldiers. They conduct Marak and other sufferers across the vast desert to the city Oburan. Here, with a red-robed au’it to record everything, the Ila instructs Marak to seek the source of the madness in the East. Organizing a caravan, Marak and his fellow-mad cross the desert, enjoying various adventures. Finally, the survivors reach their destination: the silver tower is real. Here, Luz explains that the Ila is immortal; she has nanomachines in her body, and used them to create the world as Marak knows it. Luz, equipped with different nanos, infected the mad with her own brand. Now, the enemies of the Ila’s ancestors, the ondat, are determined to destroy both the Ila and her world. Luz offers Marak a way to save himself and many others from the bombardment that will shortly destroy everything but a protected enclave around the silver tower: he must return to Oburan to persuade the Ila and all her people to march into the desert.

Plenty of gritty desert trekking, but no recognizable plot: a threadbare scenario that’s little more than elaborate stage-setting for the series to come. Very disappointing.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-105260-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Eos/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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ENDER'S GAME

A rather one-dimensional but mostly satisfying child-soldier yarn which substantially extends and embellishes one of Card's better short stories (Unaccompanied Sonata and Other Stories, 1980).

Following a barely-defeated invasion attempt by the insect-like alien "buggers," a desperate Earth command resorts to genetic experimentation in order to produce a tactical genius capable of defeating the buggers in round two. (A counterinvasion has already been launched, but will take years to reach the buggers' home planet.) So likable but determined "Ender" Wiggins, age six, becomes Earth's last hope—when his equally talented elder siblings Peter (too vicious and vindictive) and Valentine (too gentle and sympathetic) prove unsuitable. And, in a dramatic, brutally convincing series of war games and computer-fantasies, Ender is forced to realize his military genius, to rely on nothing and no-one but himself. . . and to disregard all rules in order to win. There are some minor, distracting side issues here: wrangles among Ender's adult trainers; an irrelevant subplot involving Peter's attempt to take over Earth. And there'll be no suspense for those familiar with the short story.

Still, the long passages focusing on Ender are nearly always enthralling—the details are handled with flair and assurance—and this is altogether a much more solid, mature, and persuasive effort than Card's previous full-length appearances.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1984

ISBN: 0812550706

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1984

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Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

GIDEON THE NINTH

From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 1

This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery.

Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition...and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences.

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31319-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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