FINAL WARNING

RETURN OF THE NEANDERTHALS

A rambunctious, eco-themed satire fires death-ray volleys at the media and corporate greed.

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The unethical commercial rollout of a life-threatening cellular communications technology affects a wide spectrum of characters in Drum’s SF novel.

Percival “Piggy” McGuffin, a corpulent and seven-times married “corporate titan” head of cellphone company Universal Cellular (“Piggy sprang from a long line of ruthless, obsessivelycompetitive men”) is about to launch his latest venture, an upgrade to microwave frequencies that promises more profits. Dr. Trish Maypole, one of the company’s research scientists, finds the unleashed radiation is deadly to test animals and, by extension, to all life. Instead of her warning being heeded, she and the rest of her division are fired. Her attempts to alert the (generally idiotic) media lead her to teaming up with a disgruntled obituary writer from Detroit named Joe, who has a volatile temper—but at least he cares. Meanwhile, vainglorious scientist Bruno Crawley proudly possesses the world’s last colony of Pongo River Migrating Ants. His grad-student lab assistant in entomology is Rafter Cadenza, a Jamaican distracted from his antsitting duties by attractive co-eds, specifically a duo of sensual and otherworldly Wiccan women. The action occasionally shifts to a couple of characters who readers later learn resemble Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, a “Prince” and “Princess” on the run in a fantasy realm; their true nature is a fun reveal. Meanwhile, wise, peaceful, and concerned humanoids in a spaceship observe the radiation-imperiled Earth; their true nature is telegraphed rather baldly by the book’s subtitle. The impish author, with his outsized depictions of human foibles (mainly greed, ego, and irresponsibility), may remind some readers of Leonard Wibberly, of The Mouse That Roared (1955) fame, though the book’s ribald sex scenes and more surreal elements (including an alarmed cameo by the writer himself) are closer to the work of Tom Robbins. All of the quick cross-cutting between the ensemble cast builds a neat comic momentum (good thing, as these stereotypes work best in small doses). A short afterword directs readers to study the potential real-life hazards of cellular signals, though very little in the main text belabors serious scientific concerns.

A rambunctious, eco-themed satire fires death-ray volleys at the media and corporate greed.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2023

ISBN: 9780991185788

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Burning Books Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2023

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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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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

RED RISING

From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Set in the future and reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this novel dramatizes a story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power.

In the beginning, Darrow, the narrator, works in the mines on Mars, a life of drudgery and subservience. He’s a member of the Reds, an “inferior” class, though he’s happily married to Eo, an incipient rebel who wants to overthrow the existing social order, especially the Golds, who treat the lower-ranking orders cruelly. When Eo leads him to a mildly rebellious act, she’s caught and executed, and Darrow decides to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of this outrage. He’s recruited by a rebel cell and “becomes” a Gold by having painful surgery—he has golden wings grafted on his back—and taking an exam to launch himself into the academy that educates the ruling elite. Although he successfully infiltrates the Golds, he finds the social order is a cruel and confusing mash-up of deception and intrigue. Eventually, he leads one of the “houses” in war games that are all too real and becomes a guerrilla warrior leading a ragtag band of rebelliously minded men and women. Although it takes a while, the reader eventually gets used to the specialized vocabulary of this world, where warriors shoot “pulseFists” and are protected by “recoilArmor.” As with many similar worlds, the warrior culture depicted here has a primitive, even classical, feel to it, especially since the warriors sport names such as Augustus, Cassius, Apollo and Mercury.

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53978-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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