A rousing what-if look at a decidedly different America persuasively stuck in a historical past.




A modern-day college freshman mysteriously teleports to a semi-savage, alternate-universe North America—during a period that closely resembles Colonial times—where he reluctantly participates in military campaigns and rebellions.

Hal Christianson, 18, from White Plains, New York, is a 2016 American college freshman stranded in a cave on a dark and stormy night after a party. He literally falls into an alternative North America—the same place, in 2016, but now a semi-wild country, where Colonial-era levels of technology, values, and power struggles prevail. A friendly “woodsranger” explains, conveniently, the backstory. The American Revolution never happened. Instead, an extinction-level plague swept 17th-century Europe, sending boatloads of refugees bearing remnants of their rival imperial cultures—English, Dutch, French, and Spanish—to the New World. They wage war with one another over territorial domination in between truces and trading alliances. Hal (fortunately, a member of a school fencing team) adapts to this new abnormal with some finesse and a bit of luck that earn him a useful but reluctant reputation as a serious fighter. He accompanies a Swedish merchant expedition (actually a cover for gunrunning) to Nieuw Amsterdam—the island city fort that should have been New York—on faint hints that somebody there might comprehend his predicament and know how to send him back to his rightful world. Meanwhile, Hal stumbles into intrigues, romance, and an incipient insurgency. There are ingredients for a YA swashbuckler in this smart, energetic alternative-history opus from pseudonymous author Alexander (Lady of Ice and Fire, 1995). But between the sex, swearing, and gore, the lively antics remain consistently R-rated. Alexander succinctly sketches details of this brutal, archaic milieu, mainly in terms of military troop movements and command virtues (or lack thereof). Further subtleties of this class-bound alternate America tend to be marginalized or only inferred. Native Americans are remote “savages”; people of color only appear low in the ranks of the Dutch; Massachusetts Puritans have the continent’s only democratic government but are otherwise distant, religious-fanatic menaces. Still, the pace and action never let up. Adventurous readers should find themselves acclimating to this raw, rustic, rough-and-tumble environment just as the plucky teenage protagonist does.

A rousing what-if look at a decidedly different America persuasively stuck in a historical past.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2017


Page Count: 364

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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