In DeLue’s debut, teenagers Brian Nine and Will Star are onboard a spaceship when a bolt of lightning causes an accidental launch and the subsequent discovery of a new, inhabited planet.

Brian Nine and Will Star are the David and Goliath of this narrative—with one caveat: Brian, the diminutive child genius, and Will, the star football running back, are best friends. The story takes off, literally, when lightning strikes the Jupiter Manned Explorer, launching the duo through space, light-years away from home, and straight for a sun. Brian and Will narrowly veer away from solar immolation and subsequently find themselves hovering above a seemingly inhabited planet. DeLue creatively plays off his leads’ brains-and-brawn dichotomy, often resulting in comedic sequences. His full world-building repertoire—including a fluid writing style, dialogue delivery and memorable characterizations—is on full display in his portrayal of life on Carpella, a planet ruled by the ruthless, big-brother like Chimera. The theme of the novel takes a distinct shift from space travel to the injustices exacted unto the Hillonan, a pre-industrial human species that were subjected to a life of slavery by the Chimera. Brian’s fearful nature constantly clashes with the absolute ferocity and fearlessness of Will. This conflict is never more evident than when Brian and Will stumble upon RiAnna and her brothers, the valiant Rocco and master swordsman Fortis. The boys are hailed as saviors, their arrival seen as part of a prophecy that will lead to Hillonan freedom, but Brian wishes avoid the danger and return to the safety of the ship while Will feels that they have a responsibility to the Hillonan—and the beautiful RiAnna. On the cusp of revolution, the Hillonan, as well as Brian and Will, are put to the ultimate test as themes of trust, glory, heroism and sacrifice consume the narrative. DeLue proves to be a wizard of his craft as he builds Carpella into a world imbued with natural human emotion, savory plotlines, memorable characters, history-changing situations, a fight for freedom and everlasting glory in this epic page-turner.    


Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1468047837

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Oholla

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2012

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This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.


Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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