Provocative, with strong action sequences, but weak in character development and plotting.

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AMPED

In the near future, a schoolteacher with a cranially implanted "amp" must master an array of hidden talents when a wave of bigotry against those like him threatens to tear the country apart.

A few decades ago, the government began installing "amps"—small devices, generally designed to aid in concentration and mental focus—into the brains of underprivileged and otherwise challenged children. Now, a political movement led by a rabble-rousing Senator seeks to strip "amps" (as implanted individuals are derogatorily called) of their basic rights as citizens based on the argument that they are no longer truly human. Teacher and amp Owen Gray, troubled after witnessing the suicide of an amp student, learns from his scientist father that the implant he received as a teen is something rather more than the anti-epilepsy device he'd always thought it was. Gray leaves moments before an explosion kills his father and destroys his lab. Following his father's last advice and fearing for his life, Gray heads for an amp haven—a trailer park in Oklahoma called Eden. There he meets Lyle Crosby, an amp whose military-grade Zenith class amp makes him a super soldier. As Lyle helps Owen unlock the hidden powers bestowed on him by his supercharged amp, Owen must decide how far he's willing to follow the charismatic but unpredictable and often violent Lyle, as tensions between amps and non-amps come to a head nationwide. Wilson delivers a thoughtful, well-written novel, which, like his previous novel Robopocalypse (2011), deals with the often tense interplay between machines and humans. Unfortunately, while he nails the machine part, the human part falls a little short. The characters lack depth, and a crucial romantic relationship feels forced and unearned. The plot is thin, too, hewing too closely to archetype. Wilson, whose prose is always a step above the norm, is at his strongest creating amp-augmented action sequences and in conjuring situations which explore the boundaries between humankind and its technological creations.

Provocative, with strong action sequences, but weak in character development and plotting.

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-53515-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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