An occasionally predictable but enthralling sci-fi romp that zeros in on bold characters.

THE APOTHEOSIS

In this novel, a scientist’s research into human cloning puts him on the run from authorities for decades while he secretly continues his work.

John Numen inherited 40 percent of his father’s pharmaceutical research company, allotting him wealth and his own lab. Having earned a Ph.D. from Harvard, he experiments with rhesus monkeys to perfect cloning. At the same time, in 2019, the 20-something falls in love with Amira Shinwell, a married woman. Unfortunately, Amira’s attempt to leave her loveless marriage leads to an unforeseen tragedy. But it’s John’s experiment with human cloning that places him on the FBI’s radar. He flees to a private Caribbean island under a false identity and sets up another lab. John spends years continuing to work on human cloning but soon designs specific equipment for an entirely different experiment. As his research includes an involuntary human subject, it’s perhaps not surprising he eventually catches unwanted attention from local law enforcement. Meanwhile, Irina Popova is a skilled mixed martial arts fighter in Russia with aspirations for the world championship. But her inevitable encounter with John won’t likely turn out well. Lee’s (Gravitational Leap, 2016) sci-fi tale favors human aspects over the technological. For example, there are few details about the process or John’s “cloning device.” The story is instead an engrossing character study following young, sympathetic John, who loses his father and whose mother abandons him, gradually becoming ruthless. Most readers will surmise what John is up to well before the story reveals it, from the second device’s purpose to the reasons he risks going back to America. In contrast, the narrative shift to Irina is quite jarring, as it temporarily sidelines John. Nevertheless, Irina is a meticulously established character while extended scenes in the MMA octagon boast some of the novel’s best, most dramatic prose: "Irina found the leverage position first and put her weight on her opponent to push her into the mat and struck her again in the face."

An occasionally predictable but enthralling sci-fi romp that zeros in on bold characters.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-946329-80-6

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Rising Phoenix Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2018

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

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THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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