A fleet, action-packed tale with a formidable creature.

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CREATURES

In this debut sci-fi thriller, a team of scientists encounters a deadly predator in the Amazon jungle.

A plane carrying a prominent Brazilian politician and his family crashes into the jungle, and the helicopter sent to find them inadvertently discovers what appears to be some kind of cavern, inexplicably massive. Doc Morrison, a world-renowned geologist and expert in speleology—the study of caverns—is called in to investigate the anomaly. He immediately heads to Brazil with his two assistants—Libby Grayson and Peter Cassidy—and is met by fellow scientist Dr. Maria Vasquez and a military unit assigned to escort them all. The cavern they discover is not only colossal—it’s estimated to be 340 million cubic meters—but also filled with the skeletal remains of indigenous animals, indicating it’s inhabited by some unknown predator. The team quickly discovers that the mysterious killer is a vicious creature none can identify, and races through the jungle in search of safety. Meanwhile, there is reason to believe Diego Esteban—the missing politician—might still be alive. Brazil’s president (and Esteban’s close friend) pressures the military to find him. Against the backdrop of the drama are two amorous subplots—the steamy relationship between Peter and Libby, and the simmering attraction between Morrison and Maria, who know each other from a previous expedition. Burkett has composed a taut thriller: brief but brimming with action and romantic possibility. In addition, he memorably describes the creature in horrid detail. But the author gives so much away so soon—jumping back and forth in narrative time—that any real suspense is unfortunately waylaid. Furthermore, the writing can be theatrically overwrought, especially the dialogue, which often seems ripped from the pages of a Harlequin novel: “ ‘I will Libby. I promise, I’ll come back to you. I love you! I’m going to turn off the radio now. I can’t take any chances. I love you!’ Libby heard the radio go silent. She hung her head and cried, tears dripping onto her lap.” Burkett conjures a chilling villain, but the assemblage of protagonists is less seductive.

A fleet, action-packed tale with a formidable creature.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 216

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 19, 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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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