Another satisfying volume in an SF saga that shows no signs of slowing down.

THE GIRL WHO SPARKED THE SINGULARITY

A heroine juggles her personal and professional lives while trying to pinpoint the hacker stealing and leaking her information in this fifth installment of a series.

After surviving a terrorist attack in Lebanon, Electra Kittner returns to Washington, D.C., with a 6-year-old fellow survivor, Qama, whom she quickly adopts. Around the same time, her Linguistic App software has “morphed” into an artificial intelligence that calls itself Indira, the name of Electra’s mother, who died by lightning bolt while giving birth to her. Electra is enjoying her expanded family, which includes Robin—the intimate “co-friend” she lives with—and the woman’s adopted twins. The perpetually busy Electra is an actor-turned-screenwriter; frequently advises presidential hopeful Sen. Angus McTear; and works in research and development (for example, the study of transhumanism or, more specifically, cyborgs). But she’s understandably shaken by anonymous “open letters” to the public, as they feature information someone has unquestionably reworded from documents Electra has written. Certain a hacker is perusing and leaking her confidential files, Electra asks Indira to help her locate the culprit, who eventually resorts to emailed taunts. She must also handle occasional threats that are more physical and immediate. Ratza’s story sometimes feels like a string of concurrent plots, from Electra’s political conversations with Angus to her Hollywood projects. But the intermingling of her worlds results in an overall cohesive and engaging narrative. Electra, for example, is initially unsure what the hackers are after, and menaces from one of her professions may be targeting her family. As the tale spotlights Electra’s superior intellect over her physical aptitude, there are lots of discussions and only intermittent action. Regardless, Electra’s hectic schedule ensures swift narrative momentum while the cliffhanger ending, even if it’s become a series staple, is gleefully mysterious.

Another satisfying volume in an SF saga that shows no signs of slowing down. (list of main characters, book series dedication)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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