This series opener boasts an exemplary protagonist and leaves plenty of story avenues to explore.

THE GIRL WITH THE LIGHTNING BRAIN

A girl of abnormally high intelligence grows up in a future world plagued by a virus whose primary symptom is cognitive impairment in this debut sci-fi novel.

Electra “Kitt” Kittner is born into tragedy at the tail end of the 21st century. A lightning bolt crashes through a kitchen, killing her pregnant mom, Indira Ramanujan, and her paternal grandmother. Electra miraculously survives, and her dad, Jason, and her grandfather Justin “Doc” Kittner quickly learn that she’s exceptional—she starts speaking at a very early age. Indira had been part of the Worldstar Team, along with Jason and his friends Su-Lin Song Chou and Adom Ola, all with Ph.D.s in biotechnology. Working for the National Institute of Health, the Worldstars have been developing a vaccine for the Techno-Plague, which renders victims with “fuzzy thinking.” Effective vaccines, however, are countered by mutations of the virus. Electra has a natural immunity to the T-Plague so Jason, fearing what the government might do to her, convinces her to keep her abilities a secret. She spends her childhood subduing her superior brain, strength, and agility. But she’ll soon put all of those to good use in generating a vaccine; taking out a terrorist group, Isilabad, intent on weaponizing T-Plague or attacking Electra’s loved ones; and exposing potential moles at NIH. Ratza’s first installment of a series is incisive and profound. Ever-learning Electra, for example, mulls over various types of religious beliefs and philosophies. She even has her own philosophy, Neurosci-Extended Deconstructed Kantianism. Customs of the future, too, seem plausible, like co-friendship, conceived to incorporate couplings of any gender. Though the novel starts with alternating time periods (initial signs of the T-Plague, 2092; Electra’s birth year, 2097; and 2115), it isn’t long before the narrative is chronological. This leads to some repetition (projects involving vaccines that readers know are still ineffective by 2115) and lulls, with Electra suppressed. But action gradually increases, as the formidable teen—and later twentysomething—takes down terrorists or just depraved men in general.

This series opener boasts an exemplary protagonist and leaves plenty of story avenues to explore.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 371

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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