A richly imagined, futuristic stand-alone with appeal to gamers, SF fans, and armchair futurists alike.

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A near-future hacker in a digitally enhanced city runs afoul of dangerous adversaries when he steals a unique prize.

The cyberpunk ethos has been endlessly consumed and reimagined by writers since dystopian domains like Blade Runner and writers like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling captured the popular imagination. While this techno-thriller suits that company, White (Static Ruin, 2018, etc.) has admirably built a self-contained world with hard rules and real-world analogues that fit comfortably alongside robot dogs, 3-D–printed guns, and an addictive online galactic battleground called Voidwar permanently displayed in the skies above. The setting is Neo Songdo, a virtual and augmented reality–studded metropolis somewhere in Korea. Our entry here is Julius “JD” Dax, an online repo man and adept real-world thief who toils as a mechanic to earn money to fix his blown-out knee. His plans go awry when Soo-Hyun, his cryptic stepsibling, asks him to steal a virus from the home of an isolated billionaire named Zero Lee on behalf of her creepy mentor, Kali Magdalene. So this three-act arc kicks off with a complicated heist, as JD and his crew bob and weave to steal the MacGuffin—during the World Cup final, no less. The second act extends a new player in Enda Hyldal, a brutal ex-soldier–turned–private eye, who is blackmailed by Lee’s company to retrieve JD’s ill-gotten prize. This is the chase, complete with Bourne-esque close combat, action-packed set pieces, and gun fights. The denouement arrives in the third act as JD finds that his loot is not a virus and we finally discover who’s been whispering to us during in-person interludes that foreshadow a radical new player in this dangerous game. White hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but it’s fun to read and more relevant to the present day than similar works in the canon, combining plausible technology with that age-old question of what it means to be human.

A richly imagined, futuristic stand-alone with appeal to gamers, SF fans, and armchair futurists alike.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21872-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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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 almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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