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AN OTHER PLACE

An often baffling tale, but its protagonist’s wry commentary is undeniably entertaining.

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In Dash’s (Sunburn, 2015, etc.) sci-fi outing, a man finds himself in a bizarre city filled with emotionless, robotic drones and people with fluctuating memories.

Londoner Newman Riplan, who troubleshoots computers, is in Amsterdam for work. It’s a relatively simple gig, but he takes his time so that he can stay overnight and party with Hughie and Battles, old friends whom he hasn’t seen in a couple of years. After the trio drinks, smokes, and snorts to excess, Hughie convinces Riplan that he’s due for a vacation and even buys him a plane ticket to a surprise destination. A fairly uneventful flight, however, takes an eerie turn when a confused Riplan suddenly has the feeling that he’s the only living soul on the plane—everyone else seems to have turned into mannequins. After the plane lands, he gets no clarification as to his whereabouts; when he asks the people around him, they respond: “Where do you think you are?” He enters a nameless city populated by drones—humanlike automatons that initially don’t seem to serve a purpose. Neither are the humans very accommodating, and they’re unfamiliar with even basic amenities, such as glass or electricity. Apparently someone called “the Alchemist,” of whom little is known, provides the people with what they need. Riplan believes that if he can just meet this man, he can find a way out of the city and back home. Dash’s surreal tale has its share of unsettling moments; two of the most disturbing entail Riplan learning what type of currency the city dwellers use and the origin of their preferred drink. There’s also an abundance of intriguing peculiarities, from beasts that run amok when the moon turns crimson to men who do a nightly task when everyone’s asleep. Readers shouldn’t expect many answers, though, as the city’s inhabitants have spotty recollections of their pasts. As a result, the novel is a dizzying affair, but Dash grounds the story with Riplan’s genuine connection to a woman he meets, named Cheryl. The author also provides moments of humor; Riplan gets a job in the city as a teller of tales, which he pulls from books and movies and claims as his own. The ending, though predictable, doesn’t disappoint, as it offers resolution while also leaving a lot to interpretation.

An often baffling tale, but its protagonist’s wry commentary is undeniably entertaining.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5396-2866-8

Page Count: 310

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2016

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DEVOLUTION

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

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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