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THE ALBATROSS

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A stirring adventure tale that adds considerable shock and awe to a familiar setup.

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In Mackay’s debut military–SF series starter, an endangered alien race makes contact with Earth and asks its inhabitants for a favor.

In 2020, humanity has their first encounter with intergalactic aliens. Lumenarians are humanoid quasi-reptiles who are quite humanlike in their ways and attitudes, and they generously share their technology with Earth. However, they also ask humans for a big favor in return. Their ancient race—which has forgotten its history due to computer-memory failure—is fighting a war against a mysterious, vicious, armor-plated army called the Forsaken, who are conquering and exterminating their distant colonies. The Lumenarians have found that other space-traveling races are mostly peaceful but that technologically primitive humans are a warlike species—so they ask for a volunteer human army to mount an offensive campaign. A group of human veterans and adventure-seekers sign up for the job, and the story’s narration splits between three characters: Will Reach, an alcoholic, physically and psychologically scarred Afghanistan veteran, who’s fitted with cybernetic Lumenarian implants and tactical tech; Sarah Li, an orphaned science genius with command skills who signs up with her brother; and “Arthur,” a prominent Lumenarian who has many secrets. The novel’s scenario isn’t original; John Ringo’s Legacy of the Aldenata series, among other books, has depicted Earth natives serving as military support for embattled extraterrestrials. Mackay takes this premise back to basic training in a big way, however, addressing soldiers’ PTSD and malaise (Joe Haldeman’s classic 1974 novel The Forever War is a stated influence) and their combat strategy (à la Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 novel Starship Troopers). There’s also some hard–SF physics when Sarah takes over narration duties. In addition to plenty of action, Mackay adds the timely notion of a terroristic human-supremacist movement and reveals the existence of a similar group among the Lumenarians. As the Samuel Taylor Coleridge–inspired title might signify, there are also several literary shout-outs—and a few Lucasfilm hat tips, as well.

A stirring adventure tale that adds considerable shock and awe to a familiar setup.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5255-6727-8

Page Count: 469

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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 MINISTRY OF TIME

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

A time-toying spy romance that’s truly a thriller.

In the author’s note following the moving conclusion of her gripping, gleefully delicious debut novel, Bradley explains how she gathered historical facts about Lt. Graham Gore, a real-life Victorian naval officer and polar explorer, then “extrapolated a great deal” about him to come up with one of her main characters, a curly-haired, chain-smoking, devastatingly charming dreamboat who has been transported through time. Having also found inspiration in the sole extant daguerreotype of Gore, showing him to have been “a very attractive man,” Bradley wrote the earliest draft of the book for a cluster of friends who were similarly passionate about polar explorers. Her finished novel—taut, artfully unspooled, and vividly written—retains the kind of insouciant joy and intimacy you might expect from a book with those origins. It’s also breathtakingly sexy. The time-toggling plot focuses on the plight of a British civil servant who takes a high-paying job on a secret mission, working as a “bridge” to help time-traveling “expats” resettle in 21st-century London—and who falls hard for her charge, the aforementioned Commander Gore. Drama, intrigue, and romance ensue. And while this quasi-futuristic tale of time and tenderness never seems to take itself too seriously, it also offers a meaningful, nuanced perspective on the challenges we face, the choices we make, and the way we live and love today.

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781668045145

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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