CRITICAL MASS

An ambitious but plodding space odyssey.

Having survived a disastrous deep space mission in 2038, three asteroid miners plan a return to their abandoned ship to save two colleagues who were left behind.

Though bankrolled through a crooked money laundering scheme, their original project promised to put in place a program to reduce the CO2 levels on Earth, ease global warming, and pave the way for the future. The rescue mission, itself unsanctioned, doesn't have a much better chance of succeeding. All manner of technical mishaps, unplanned-for dangers, and cutthroat competition for the precious resources from the asteroid await the three miners. One of them has cancer. The international community opposes the mission, with China, Russia, and the United States sending questionable "observers" to the new space station that gets built north of the moon for the expedition. And then there is Space Titan Jack Macy, a rogue billionaire threatening to grab the riches. (As one character says, "It's a free universe.") Suarez's basic story is a good one, with tense moments, cool robot surrogates, and virtual reality visions. But too much of the novel consists of long, sometimes bloated stretches of technical description, discussions of newfangled financing for "off-world" projects, and at least one unneeded backstory. So little actually happens that fixing the station's faulty plumbing becomes a significant plot point. For those who want to know everything about "silicon photovoltaics" and "orthostatic intolerance," Suarez's latest SF saga will be right up their alley. But for those itching for less talk and more action, the book's many pages of setup become wearing.

An ambitious but plodding space odyssey.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-18363-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

ANNA O

Layered and grandly operatic in scope and tension.

Four years after a woman allegedly murdered her best friends while sleepwalking, an ambitious London psychologist gets the opportunity to treat her—and to determine, once and for all, her guilt or innocence.

Dr. Benedict Prince, forensic psychologist and sleep specialist, is summoned to a meeting with Dr. Virginia Bloom (his boss at the Abbey Sleep Clinic) and a man from the Ministry of Justice to discuss a recent article in which Ben proposed a possible cure to “resignation syndrome,” which is when a patient enters a deep sleep, often lasting for years, as a way of directly avoiding trauma. The government wants Ben to conduct an experiment on a notorious (alleged) criminal: a young journalist named Anna Ogilvy, aka “Sleeping Beauty,” who’s believed to have murdered two people while sleepwalking, and who hasn’t woken up in the four years since. The government needs Anna awake so she can stand trial for these murders. Ben, of course, has little choice but to agree, and he begins sensory stimulation therapy, believing that if he can connect Anna’s subconscious to happy memories from her childhood, he may be able to wake her. Before she went to sleep, Anna was working to uncover a connection between one of the most notorious English murderers of the 20th century and a secret government experiment called MEDEA. While she might be guilty, Ben realizes that she might also have been a scapegoat for someone else’s murderous rage. And if this shadowy someone has previously killed to protect their secret, Anna’s waking may put her, and Ben, in danger. From the bowels of a notorious psychiatric hospital to a primeval forest to the sun-drenched beaches of Grand Cayman, Blake’s thriller invokes comparisons to Greek tragedies and locked-room mysteries alike, while exploring the additional complicated psychology of sleep and guilt. While this is fully a “whodunit” with an actual solution, it’s even more a “whydunit.” Once you pick it up, there’s no putting it down.

Layered and grandly operatic in scope and tension.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780063314153

Page Count: 448

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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