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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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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NINTH HOUSE

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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