Skewed to the younger end of the YA-fantasy spectrum, the author’s adroit style maintains a buoyant tone even with...

STANLIN & SYLVIA

Stanlin, a friendly space alien drawn to a kindly human girl, defies his planet’s nonintervention policy and reveals himself to her when an incipient epidemic endangers all life on Earth.

Debut author Hey’s smooth, light-treading prose makes a fast read out of material that other writers could have been tempted to render as fashionably dark, even nightmarish. Though he looks like a bald, big-eyed Whitley Strieber-esque space invader, Stanlin is a student-age member of a friendly alien race from the planet Capton in the Andromeda Galaxy. They routinely visit and monitor other worlds, teleporting by thought (no flying saucers here) and then shape-shifting or remaining invisible in accordance with Capton’s strict nonintervention policy for less developed civilizations. Knowing Earth from his field trips, Stanlin is especially smitten with Sylvia, a junior high schooler. However, soon the aliens learn that a disease tied to animal influenza could effectively wipe out all terrestrial life. One potential disease-carrier is a youthful serial killer named Ned, convinced ever since a childhood brain trauma that he’s on a mission from a vengeful God to cleanse the world. (Stanlin’s people, meanwhile, respect God as a warm, nondenominational “Highest Authority.”) Stanlin reveals himself to Sylvia, using advanced technology to peer into future possibilities, and they try to thwart the coming catastrophe by initiating a grass-roots animal-welfare program. While the material may seem a bit childish to older tweens and readers who have graduated to the gothic gloom of lovesick teenage vampires, Hey’s voice remains consistently breezy, nontaxing and up-tempo—whether the matter is cute puppies or extinction-level murder. Even a subplot about a vengeful drug criminal plotting infanticide doesn’t take the cheery tone down too many notches. Stanlin and his kin (with their favorite exclamation, “Superbly super!”) are similar to past, lightweight extraterrestrials of popular fiction who interacted with Fred Flintstone or Archie and Jughead.

Skewed to the younger end of the YA-fantasy spectrum, the author’s adroit style maintains a buoyant tone even with apocalypse on the horizon.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477420904

Page Count: 314

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 2012

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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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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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