Set a course far away from this book—maximum warp.

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THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JEAN LUC PICARD

Goodman (The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, 2015, etc.) continues his series of in-universe memoirs by Star Trek captains.

Perhaps the second-most provocative question one could ask a Star Trek fan is “Who was the best captain?” (The first question being “Which is better: Star Wars or Star Trek?”) Every fan has a captain who holds a special place in his or her fandom heart, and fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation now get their turn to pore over the faux memoir of their favorite, Jean-Luc Picard, written in the same in-universe style as Kirk’s (with Goodman as its “editor”). Picard recounts his entire life, from his earliest childhood on his family’s French vineyards in the 24th century through his years on the USS Stargazer and Enterprise to his retirement back on Earth. Many details of his early life, touched upon briefly during Next Generation, are expanded upon here; readers discover, in detail, how he gained his love of archaeology and how he felt when he first met Beverly Howard (later Crusher). However, Picard’s voyages on the Enterprise—which spanned 178 episodes and four movies and which are arguably what readers are most interested in—merit less than a fifth of the entire book. Aside from Crusher, none of Picard’s romantic relationships are addressed, and many fan-favorite moments are completely omitted. (Darmok and Jalad, their episode unmentioned.) In Kirk’s autobiography, Goodman thoughtfully and lovingly wove together details to create a real sense of Kirk as a fully fleshed-out human being—which makes it infuriating that Picard’s story seems utterly lifeless in comparison. Goodman never really grasps who Picard is or displays any sense of his voice. Picard often comes across as uncharacteristically pedantic and emotionally revealing, while canonical personality details are twisted to suit Goodman’s lazy writing: for instance, Picard’s unease around children becomes a churlish loathing. Worse still, Goodman occasionally injects unheard-of events (such as the origin of the Borg Queen) into the story—a surprising carelessness from someone who penned an entire Futurama episode about Star Trek fans’ affection for minutiae. If this book series is to continue, fans should hope that Goodman relinquishes command to writers who truly love and understand the captains they write about.

Set a course far away from this book—maximum warp.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78565-465-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Titan Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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