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THE QUEST OF THE SINGULAR KEEPERS

A gripping futuristic tale with a strong cast.

In this third installment of an SF series, a smart and capable political/ecological consultant balances her personal life with her efforts to thwart global threats.

Electra Kittner’s “lightning brain” affords her superior intelligence and physical prowess. By 2162, she’s developed several personas, most notably Irani Ramani, the name that most people call her. Irani is essentially the strategist, and though the personas regularly converse, Electra usually takes control if action is necessary. After resigning from their Health and Human Services secretary position in Washington, D.C., the “Irani-Electra duo” has more time for personal activities. The two, for starters, return to their “Big Sister” role for Tiana Diamond, a 14-year-old teenager who was hospitalized after a car crash that killed her dad. Irani takes tea to her home and cares for her, not unlike how Electra looks after her four cloned children—two sets of twins who don’t know they’re the woman’s clones. At the same time, Irani goes back to her job as director of multipartner projects at George Washington University. She works with professor Jonathan Segal, who’s both intrigued by the possibility of extraterrestrials and scouring the seabed to witness the captivating marine life, especially octopuses and squids. She also puts together an android project that she can complete with her always reliable, self-aware artificial intelligence, Indira. Eventually, another persona, Alisha, resurfaces; she’s a bit more relaxed than the other two, which makes her ideal for gatherings with friends and clone kids. Unfortunately, old enemies are still out there, like a band of political extremists. Members of this group are surely the ones chasing Irani/Electra on a jet ski and a dirt bike, forcing the tougher persona to take the reins.

Ratza’s latest volume, like the preceding ones, practically bursts with characters and subplots. There are, for example, copious diagrams and bulleted lists from presentations by Irani as well as the clone children Eve and Nari, who have become consultants. The clones have their own stories: Eve assists with presidential campaign videos, and Nari champions “Quantum Politics,” which employs the philosophy of meritocracy (“People get what they deserve”). Not all of these threads mesh, and readers may struggle to find a subplot that actually pushes the tale forward. Regardless, many of the smaller storylines are entertaining, including Irani’s slowly building relationship with Jonathan, who introduces an octopus family to her. In the book’s most memorable turn, Irani/Electra takes on a shark who threatens these octopuses, who later return the favor when a stranger goes after Irani. Irani and Jonathan’s trips to the seafloor in an autonomous underwater vehicle evoke vibrant prose, as they pass a marching “army of crabs” and “elongated strings of glowing jellyfish” in the pitch-black ocean. While Ratza gives most of the cast space to shine, one significant character’s disappearance in the latter half has surprisingly little impact, while two new players act as virtual replacements for the missing individual. But this entry has its share of explosive moments, like an unexpected death, and culminates in a shocking cliffhanger that suggests the series is far from over.

A gripping futuristic tale with a strong cast.

Pub Date: April 11, 2022

ISBN: 979-8886224085

Page Count: 484

Publisher: PageTurner Press and Media LLC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2022

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DEVOLUTION

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

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE DARK FOREST

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 2

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Second part of an alien-contact trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, 2014) from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In the previous book, the inhabitants of Trisolaris, a planet with three suns, discovered that their planet was doomed and that Earth offered a suitable refuge. So, determined to capture Earth and exterminate humanity, the Trisolarans embarked on a 400-year-long interstellar voyage and also sent sophons (enormously sophisticated computers constructed inside the curled-up dimensions of fundamental particles) to spy on humanity and impose an unbreakable block on scientific advance. On Earth, the Earth-Trisolaris Organization formed to help the invaders, despite knowing the inevitable outcome. Humanity’s lone advantage is that Trisolarans are incapable of lying or dissimulation and so cannot understand deceit or subterfuge. This time, with the Trisolarans a few years into their voyage, physicist Ye Wenjie (whose reminiscences drove much of the action in the last book) visits astronomer-turned-sociologist Luo Ji, urging him to develop her ideas on cosmic sociology. The Planetary Defense Council, meanwhile, in order to combat the powerful escapist movement (they want to build starships and flee so that at least some humans will survive), announces the Wallfacer Project. Four selected individuals will be accorded the power to command any resource in order to develop plans to defend Earth, while the details will remain hidden in the thoughts of each Wallfacer, where even the sophons can't reach. To combat this, the ETO creates Wallbreakers, dedicated to deducing and thwarting the plans of the Wallfacers. The chosen Wallfacers are soldier Frederick Tyler, diplomat Manuel Rey Diaz, neuroscientist Bill Hines, and—Luo Ji. Luo has no idea why he was chosen, but, nonetheless, the Trisolarans seem determined to kill him. The plot’s development centers on Liu’s dark and rather gloomy but highly persuasive philosophy, with dazzling ideas and an unsettling, nonlinear, almost nonnarrative structure that demands patience but offers huge rewards.

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7708-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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