An engrossing, imaginative dystopian thriller.

READ REVIEW

Outland Exile

From the Old Men and Infidels series , Vol. 1

Boutwell tells the story of a young soldier navigating the chasm between two opposing societies in this sci-fi debut.

In the 22nd century, the United States has been replaced by a number of successor states. The Democratic Unity of America is a military-controlled dictatorship of the young, fueled by drugs and implants, in which people over 40 are forced into retirement (and often worse than that). West of the Unity are the outlands, a low-tech wilderness where the Sisis (senior citizens) still live. Malila Evanova Chiu, a foulmouthed 17-year-old officer in the Defensive Unity Forces for Security, is sent out to take control of a troublesome station deep in the heart of outlander territory. Plans go awry, and Malila quickly finds herself caught up in the machinations of an inconceivably old Sisi, Johnstone, who possesses information about world history that sets Malila’s head spinning. What’s more, she finds that she’s a pawn in the plot of an aging DUFS lieutenant colonel to further his own dark ambitions. Malila must sift the facts from the truth—and control her own rash temper—to help right the injustices of the system into which she was born. The mythology of this world is dense, as are the jargon and references that Boutwell sprinkles throughout his prose; luckily, he provides a glossary and timeline at the end of the novel. It takes some getting used to, but readers will quickly acclimate. Beneath the worldbuilding, Boutwell’s prose is sharp and efficient: “Malila awoke, her ears ringing and too dazed to move....An ax and sheathed knife threaded onto a broad leather belt hung from a small branch near her head. Only when she moved to retrieve them did she comprehend she had been bound, her wrists tied behind her back and her legs tied at the ankles.” The story takes a while to get moving, but once it does, it does not pause. The book is neither as didactic nor as allegorical as the premise might suggest; rather, Boutwell creates an immersive world where provocative ideas propel a darkly satisfying adventure.

An engrossing, imaginative dystopian thriller. 

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1491775653

Page Count: 394

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more