An intriguing but uneven tale about the dangers of genetic engineering.

PREDATOR/NOMAD

A Saudi princess and a novice reporter work to bring down a mad scientist in this techno-thriller.

Dr. Jordan Roberts is a pioneer in the field of genetic editing. She has developed the ability to cure a wide variety of diseases, though the details of her treatment remain a well-kept secret. Jordan travels to Saudi Arabia to pitch her services to up-and-coming governor Prince Faruq. While there, she also meets the prince’s sister, Princess Saleh, who dresses like a man and serves as her brother’s primary bodyguard. Jordan and Saleh quickly become more than simple business associates, but it isn’t long before the princess becomes suspicious of the doctor’s work, which requires the geneticist to travel to remote regions of Afghanistan. When Saleh discovers Jordan’s real project—she is building clone soldiers and selling them to the highest bidder on the international black market—the geneticist assassinates Faruq, making it look like a suicide. Saleh vows to take vengeance, a quest that leads her to Jordan’s native San Francisco. Meanwhile, Price Laurel, a struggling actor from St. Louis, is living out of his van on the streets of San Francisco. In the aftermath of his brother’s death in the Afghanistan War, Price decides to become a freelance reporter. His first big story: a profile of Jordan. Jordan is hoping for good PR surrounding her new operations—she’s attempting to secure funding from the American government—so she agrees to allow Price into her orbit, thinking she can control him. Saleh learns about it and makes her own offer to Price. The two set about to expose Jordan and her unethical cloning operation, but has the doctor become too powerful for anyone to vanquish her?

The ambitious, nearly 500-page work has many captivating plotlines and characters, particularly the mercurial Saleh. Micko also explores some complex, thought-provoking ideas in the narrative, like gender fluidity and cloning, that myriad readers will be interested in. But while the author’s prose has a nice staccato rhythm, it sometimes reads more like a film treatment than a novel. Furthermore, the style is often too clunky to achieve the tone Micko desires. Price is supposed to read as naïve, but he frequently comes across as an idiot: “One thing runs through his mind: clones. If Jordan is creating clones, then that is illegal. Especially if she’s making them for mass production. There’s got to be a law against that, somewhere. Also, it’s unethical. If Jordan successfully cloned a human being and then terminated said human being, then that constitutes murder. However, is the clone considered a human being?” Some of the other characters don’t fare much better. Few are fully convincing in the roles they occupy. Along the way, several of them speak and act like high school students pretending to be Bond villains. Although the plot boldly tackles some rich concepts and issues and delivers bits of humor, it can sometimes become convoluted and lose momentum.

An intriguing but uneven tale about the dangers of genetic engineering.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2021

ISBN: 979-8-54-946124-6

Page Count: 469

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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