A satisfying outer-space yarn of redemption under fire.

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THE INTERSTELLAR LIFE AND TIMES OF SAOIRSE KENNEALLY

A young woman from a prominent 23rd-century Earth family avoids prison by enlisting in a term of off-planet service in Alexander’s SF novel.

Two centuries in the future, humankind has discovered reliable, faster-than-light space travel. No alien civilizations have been discovered yet, but there’s still plenty of danger, intrigue, and open warfare, due to humanity’s baser instincts. An underfunded, upstart military police force called “Peacemakers,” or “peacers,” tries to impose order and enact justice. On Earth, 20-year-oldSaoirse Kenneally, hailing from a clan that became wealthy by selling space-friendly computer technology, is a self-loathing alcohol abuser and troublemaker, though she draws the line at taking “zombie,” or “zombipterisin”—an addictive, extraterrestrial psychotropic drug. For her latest violation,which involves charges of attempted robbery and assault, Saoirse is disowned by her relatives but gets around serving jail time by accepting two years of off-world service. At a base orbiting Saturn’s moon Titan, she finds a degree of discipline and even sobriety via basic training and mentoring by Tomasz Szczechowicz, a battle-hardened, veteran peacer who’s closed-mouthed about his past and takes a strong personal interest in Saoirse. When she notes anomalies in the station’s computer records, she becomes part of the investigation; eventually she’s forced to flee even deeper into settled space, where she encounters a simmering conflict involving peacers on a colonized world. This novel’s resourceful, underdog protagonist, who’s inwardly tormented but always ready to fight, will remind readers a bit of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander—although Saoirse has a tattoo of a snake, not a dragon. It’s a somewhat formulaic story of a badly flawed protagonist gaining wisdom and maturity while wearing a uniform, but Alexander makes it earn its stripes. The future setting lacks cyborgs, godlike AIs, teleportation, or easy plot devices; rather, there are more relatable elements, including bullets, light planes, and microphones; the clever explanation is that the principle planetary setting has recreated an old Eastern European society, out of a sense of ethnic and cultural pride, and thus lacks modern gadgets. The finale features well-described, edge-of-your-seat combat and intelligent strategy.

A satisfying outer-space yarn of redemption under fire.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9993257-8-0

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Alton Kremer

Review Posted Online: March 30, 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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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