A deceptively deep investigation of human entitlement couched in a rollicking supernatural horror story.

THE REALITY MELTDOWN

An SF novel explores the infinite possibilities of sentience when an inventor of educational toys realizes that the inanimate objects in his life are talking to him.

Matthew Beren’s difficulties begin with an obsession with his wife Sofia’s latest painting, Outset, which depicts “a world muted into a bleak, powdered void.” His fascination with the artwork leads him to try to interfere with its sale and then to wander dazedly into traffic, causing a chaotic accident. Matthew’s strong reaction to the painting also sparks an even stranger phenomenon—his possessions begin to whisper to him, causing him to muse to Sofia: “What if objects are more than we think they are?” Matthew has achieved success and wealth manufacturing Melds, “caricature figures that turn into stretchable, shapeable slime when you heat them,” but his livelihood is soon at risk when he is caught on videotape talking to his products. Though at first reluctant to confirm his perceptions, Sofia finally concedes what Matthew has begun to suspect—“Our stuff is alive”—stunning him with the extraordinary statement, “Human, object, there’s no difference. They’re just stages of an overall life experience.” Going even further, she confides: “Some of them are trying to kill me.” Matthew quickly learns that he is unwittingly embroiled in an existential struggle in which most matter is working in collaboration with humans, while a small but powerful element, dubbed “Leopards” by Sofia and her relatives, is “fed-up with the way people…act as if elements are an unlimited, unthinking resource” and fighting back. Through Matthew’s amiably dumbfounded perspective, Cray weaves a quirky and engrossing tale centered on no less a theme than the nature of consciousness and the place of humanity in the totality of existence. This cerebral thesis is enlivened with action and suspense to rival any space opera, for example, in scenes such as the one in which Matthew and Sofia race to escape a home crumbling from the Leopards’ ire only to find the very pebbles on the roadway rising up to stop them. The complex realm of the conscious objects is vividly imagined, and the loving relationship between Matthew and Sofia provides a reassuring anchor in a world in turmoil.

A deceptively deep investigation of human entitlement couched in a rollicking supernatural horror story. 

Pub Date: April 13, 2023

ISBN: 9781940317151

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Third Quandary Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023

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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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Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 1

Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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