A slow, sprawling fantasy about angels on Earth.

Where Angels Play

An elaborate tale connects humanity’s present to a mythological past.

Chiera (Cursed Bloodline, 2013) weaves myth, faith, and fantasy together in his debut novel, the beginning of a projected series about a battle between angels on Earth. Almost entirely exposition, this installment names the primary characters and lays the groundwork for a conflict to come. The tale, rooted in the apocryphal book of Enoch, tells the story of 200 “Watchers,” angels assigned by God to chaperone the Earth in the immediate aftermath of the fall of man. These angels fall in love with 200 earthly women and disobey God to marry, reproduce, and live an Earth-bound life. When present-day people start having visions of these “Watchers,” it becomes clear that something is amiss. Slowly, an ensemble cast of characters emerges. Adam Laclair, a paramedic, and David, a firefighter, both have increasingly vivid dreams about gods and angels. Father Hogan, an experienced but jaded priest, and Louisa Natale, a paranormal psychotherapist, struggle to interpret a troubled parishioner’s recurring dream. Fate brings some of these characters together through chance encounters so they can begin to make sense of whatever may be happening to them. Through these visions and two lengthy lectures from Hogan, Chiera gradually explains that Watchers and their descendants account for every mythological figure in history, from Amon to Quetzalcoatl to Satan to Zeus. If nothing else, the claim is an ambitious creative project. The conceit works best through the visions of Adam and David, where the author abandons the 21st century to narrate mythology; Chiera uses fantastical imagery well. The dialogue between contemporary characters, however, is stilted. “Would you like to hear it from the beginning when God speaks to Satan?” Hogan asks Natale. “It would be a good refresher and gives me something to relate in my sessions with those who dream or have visions of ancient times.” Conversations like these allow Hogan to explain the complicated background necessary for the conflict. Unfortunately, readers interested in that clash will have to wait for the next book; it is almost entirely absent from this one. While there is a sense of looming disaster throughout the narrative, it never comes to fruition. This novel is all about setting the stage.

A slow, sprawling fantasy about angels on Earth.

Pub Date: July 2, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Troy Book Makers

Review Posted Online: May 2, 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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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