An intelligently written and deliberately paced story.

THE KEEPERS OF THE LIGHTNING BRAIN

From the Keepers series , Vol. 1

Four orphaned siblings take on a mysterious but unmistakably perilous assignment in this first installment of Ratza’s new SF series.

By the mid-22nd century, Electra Kittner, whose “lightning brain” has afforded her exceptional intellect, has been missing for two decades. She had employed her skills for such things as battling the deadly T-Plague, and the “Keepers Group” has been meeting annually to keep her memory alive. Tragically, an accident kills every group member except Su-Lin Song Chou. Indira, Electra’s AI–powered app that became self-aware, comes to the aid of ailing, 97-year-old Su-Lin. Hoping to recruit new keepers, they contact twins Eve and Alonzo Cortez and twins Nari and Nila Bose, all teen orphans for whom Su-Lin has been a legal guardian. Indira, posing as Su-Lin’s flesh-and-blood, online-only administrative assistant, sends the American teens on a Cairo mission. They’re to contact someone named Rani and “bring back” whatever he gives them. Once they score summer internships in Cairo, they can decide the best time to meet. Unfortunately, Electra has made a few enemies, who apparently believe she’s been hiding for 20 years. These individuals threaten the teens even before they leave the U.S. and have eyes on them in Cairo, ultimately prompting an assault. Meanwhile, Indira, who’s withheld quite a bit from the teens, has surprises in store. They’re soon communicating with yet another enigmatic figure—a woman who, like Indira, may know where Electra has been and even where she is now.

This work launches the Keepers Series, a sequel to Ratza’s five-book Electra-centric series. Readers unfamiliar with the prior series will easily follow this opening installment. Much of this book’s narrative perspective is the teens’, and while they’re winsome characters, they’re less action-oriented than Electra. They, for one, are students focused on their intern responsibilities and, accordingly, take nearly two months before rendezvousing with Rani. As such, it’s a slow-moving story with dilemmas that include Alonzo’s hoping to wrap up things quickly so he can make it back to the U.S. for a sports training camp. Frequent conversations among characters further decelerate the narrative, but these are also indications of Ratza’s smart and historically rich writing. For example, the teens learn about the origins of the Coptic Church in Egypt, and Nari is upset over a test, certain she “screwed up big-time on Stieltjes and Lebesgue integrals” by assuming it “would cover only Riemann integration.” Regardless, the siblings face dangers, from shady types watching them to at least one person’s being involved in a crash. Moreover, the novel’s latter half picks up, as the mystery of Electra’s whereabouts comes to light. Indira is a superlative character even if she’s noncorporeal; she acts as the teens’ guide, but her unsurprising indifference often jars Eve, her most frequent contact, as Indira has a tendency to berate her. Although the plot is occasionally predictable, the delightful open ending suggests a host of ways for the series to continue.

An intelligently written and deliberately paced story. (list of main characters, dedication)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 191

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2020

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE WORLD

A tragedy has sent a young artist into seclusion. A potential apocalypse may be enough to bring her back.

For the past two years, 10 months, and 18 days, Katie’s lived in darkness, on retreat from her former life as a rising artist after a personal tragedy eclipsed any happiness she believed possible. Jacob’s Ladder, a remote island named by a former resident for its potential as a stairway to heaven, offers Katie the chance to hide from the rest of the world, merely existing, not healing. She lives each day trying to fulfill what she’s called “the Promise” to those in the life she once knew, though a promise of what is not clear. The closest neighboring islands, Oak Haven and Ringrock, are equally cloistered. Though Katie’s realtor has suggested that Ringrock is some sort of Environmental Protection Agency research station, Katie’s cynicism makes her suspect something more nefarious. The protagonist's remote world and the author’s moody writing are disrupted one night by the startling appearance of drones and the suspicious behavior of a fox Katie’s dubbed Michael J. The wary canine serves as a harbinger of potential danger, and Katie responds by arming herself to the hilt when unexpected guests descend on Jacob’s Ladder. While the true purpose of these visitors is unclear, Katie senses that the greater world is at the precipice of permanent collapse and that she may be the only one who can prevent the impending apocalypse.

A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-6625-0044-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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