Aliens, angels, and an action-hero dad star in a rousing genre mishmash.

THE RETURN OF TAU

This series opener finds a businessman trying to save his family during a war between two extraterrestrial races that threatens Earth.

In Dwyer’s SF fantasy, business executive Jonathan Prescott wins instant fame by being the lone survivor of a terrorist attack. The reason: He has a real guardian angel, the beautiful Angelina, who is at least 50% human, switching between divine and mortal forms. Her Capra-esque mission requires her to undergo various trials before becoming a full angel in heaven. Now, the challenge of Islamic terrorism is quickly dwarfed by a larger menace. Jonathan is in the middle of a conflict between alien armies. Kronogons are advanced, immortal, shape-changing reptiles who look like turtles until they go into fearsome “anaconda” warrior mode. Jonathan has an alliance with TAU, a Kronogon military overlord who has tried to manipulate a succession of American presidents in a fight against enemy ETs called Nardomons. Nardomons are actually the bulbous-headed “Greys” who abduct and mutate inhabitants of Earth and other worlds. In short order, Jonathan has faced many attempts to kill him—by the terrorists, rogue forces in the American government, even some of TAU’s ruthless Kronogon comrades. Finally, TAU, Angelina, and some prominent humans have gotten past mutual distrust to team up. But Jonathan’s wife, Janet, and their children are slain. TAU’s cohorts bring the ensemble to their “Star City” to resurrect Jonathan’s loved ones (Kronogon science can do that), but a Grey raid kidnaps the comatose Prescotts. It seems the terminal cancer afflicting Jonathan’s son appeals to the Greys in their cruel conquest strategies. 

The author is adept at keeping things moving and throwing cinematic-level twists into the Robert Ludlum–sized narrative to maintain reader interest. Most miraculously of all, for a story co-starring an angel (with a supporting role by the pope), the inescapable religious elements are kept at a fairly low volume. Some devout fishermen compare Jonathan to Old Testament figures like Jonah and David, and Angelina sometimes mentions the heavenly hosts ranking above her. But there is little of the lengthy sermonizing that is the hallmark of such spiritual fantasies as The Shack. Jonathan does question why a benevolent God would allow a universe to host evil entities like the Greys, but he broods just as much over the secular pitfall of being a workaholic dad who made business meetings a priority over his wife and kids. Angelina registers less as a channel for holy thoughts or Scripture quotes than as a superhero type, restricted in her powers by her half-human side as well as the rule that she is forbidden from using her supernatural powers to smite or kill a foe. (Plus her dialogue, full of mild wisecracks and spunky patter, would be right at home in a comic book.) The two alien races may scheme like Cold War antagonists, but they have enough imaginative touches and exotic cultural details to merit genre respect, say on a Star Trek series level. While it’s the first installment of a series, this volume wraps up its story threads more neatly than other SF sagas, not leaving readers stranded in a ninth circle of cliffhanger hell.

Aliens, angels, and an action-hero dad star in a rousing genre mishmash.

Pub Date: April 30, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 345

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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