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 masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

FOR THE WOLF

Twin princesses—one fated to become a queen, the other a martyr—find themselves caught up in an unexpected battle of dark magic and ancient gods.

Four hundred years ago, a Valleydan princess facing a loveless betrothal sought refuge in the Wilderwood with her lover, the Wolf. The legendary Five Kings—including her father and her husband-to-be—pursued them only to be trapped in the Wilderwood. Now, according to legend, the only hope of restoring the Five Kings to power lies in the ritual sacrifice of every Second Daughter born to Valleyda's queen. There hasn't been a second daughter for 100 years—until now. On her 20th birthday, Redarys accepts her fate and walks into the Wilderwood to become the Wolf's next victim only to find that the stories she grew up on were lies. The handsome man who lives in a crumbling castle deep in the forest is not the original Wolf but his son, and he wants nothing to do with Red or her sacrifice. Afraid of her wild magic abilities and the danger they pose to her sister, Neverah, Red refuses to leave the Wilderwood. Instead, she clings to the new Wolf, Eammon, who will do whatever it takes to protect her from the grisly fate of the other Second Daughters. Meanwhile, in the Valleydan capital, Neve's desperation to bring her sister home sets her on a path that may spell disaster for Red, Eammon, and the Wilderwood itself. Whitten weaves a captivating tale in this debut, in which even secondary characters come to feel like old friends. The novel seamlessly blends "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast" into an un-put-down-able fairy tale that traces the boundaries of duty, love, and loss.

A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-59278-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

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KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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