Unambitious time-travel SF that doesn’t push many boundaries—except those of the Macedonian Empire.

TIME MACHINE EMERGENCY

A student and his professor stumble across the secret of time travel and journey back to the era of Alexander the Great to try to rewrite history.

In 2026, American college student Derek assists professor Kibble with a high-speed spinning gizmo for processing honey and inadvertently discovers the secret to moving backward in time. Soon the pair have a unit that’s large enough to accommodate passengers and can be carried on a helicopter. Things are looking dire on the geopolitical scene, as a nuclear war looms involving Iran, Russia, China, and Western democracies. Derek and Kibble decide to rewrite history and create a unified, pro-freedom European superpower in the past to align with the United States. The key, determines Kibble, is Alexander the Great, who died at the age of 32 of a fluke illness in 323 B.C.E. after conquering and uniting much of the known world—which all came undone without him. Along with researcher Lex, the team travels to ancient Macedonia and explains everything to a sympathetic Alexander (who improbably takes the existence of time travelers in stride). He minds his health and uses the helicopter and guns imported from 2026 to firm up his empire and survive. But when the Americans return to the future, they find a dystopian police state. With more trips, including one back to the North American continent of 60,000 B.C.E., can the heroes do a reset good enough to make truth, justice, and the American way prevail? In Ray Bradbury’s 1952 story “A Sound of Thunder,” a careless time traveler steps on a butterfly eons ago and completely changes Earth’s history; Busby, who previously wrote Lost in Time: Trapped in a Prehistoric World (2019), has his characters in this SF adventure practically stomp metaphorical butterflies beneath their feet. For a while, it seems as if readers will get a darker tale akin to Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven, in which repeated godlike meddling makes reality more twisted and worse, but ultimately this is a utopian fantasy. However, it’s one that’s hampered by simplistic language and dialogue (“What I say around here goes. My word is the law!”), broad-brush characterizations, and naïve science.

Unambitious time-travel SF that doesn’t push many boundaries—except those of the Macedonian Empire.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79605-754-6

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Xlibris Corp

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 75

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 90

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more