An ambitious but wooden story about finding spiritual fulfillment.


Murgan’s debut, allegorical fantasy novel describes a boy’s spiritual journey through the corrupt world of men.

Rakash was born into an idyllic, unnamed jungle society, populated by children and elephants. The kids, born from pods and destined for different castes, are raised by the wise pachyderms, who help the children transition to higher states of being. Rakash is a very rare child—an “Orange Soul,” identifiable by the orange triangles on his cheeks. Such beings have the power to serve as interlocutors between humans and “One Who Created All.” They are also mystical empaths who have the ability to influence “the people around [them], spread love to those who lack it, change desperate thoughts into beacons of hope.” While still a small child, Rakash is kidnapped by a group called the “Committee,” taken away from his elephant teacher, Otan, and spirited to Laeta, the “Entertainment City” on the wide river plain. Here, amid the hedonists who frequent the city’s brothels, taverns, and tattoo parlors, devout master Bart Blackwood rescues Rakash and attempts to help him tap into his power. Rakash, in turn, becomes a great teacher, interested in bringing enlightenment to humanity, but the pleasure-minded inhabitants of Laeta and the technology-obsessed denizens of sister city Korobat prove a difficult audience to reach. He’ll have to find Otan in order to bring about the ultimate communion with “One Who Created All.” Murgan’s prose is densely laden with the jargon of his world’s mythology: “I remember that many previous births have preceded this one,” says Rakash, “and, in one of them, I was able to reach a state of bliss deep enough for One Who Created All to offer me free passage to the next astral level.” Still, the plot effectively explores the age-old quest for enlightenment, and it does so by employing some highly imaginative science-fiction and fantasy elements. However, Murgan’s spiritual interests crowd out his characters’ humanity, making it difficult for the reader to become too invested in their pursuits. The result is a book that isn’t nearly as fun as it should be, given all of its fabulist trappings.

An ambitious but wooden story about finding spiritual fulfillment.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017


Page Count: 417

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2018

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


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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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