A shipshape but easygoing romp that offers youngsters the comical wish fulfillment of being let loose on a starship.

THE LOBSTER TALE (EUDORA SPACE KID)

In this middle-grade-SF sequel, Eudora Jenkins, a spacegoing third-grader, schemes to free a group of live lobsters before it’s served as part of a starship banquet—with unexpected results.

Horn offers the second entry in his series, following Eudora Space Kid: The Great Engine Room Takeover(2021). Eudora is an elementary-school-age girl in the year 4021, whose mother serves aboard a giant “astroliner” called the Athena. It’s populated by a diverse, multispecies crew who hail from all over the 20-world Planetary Republic. The security chief, Lt. Londo, is a leonine alien called a Qlaxon, whose fearsome warrior society is traditionally the antagonist of the Republic, but he’s a pleasant guy; Eudora’s adoptive father, Max, is a part-cephalopod scientist. The young girl manages to get into trouble routinely on the ship, much to the consternation of long-suffering Captain Jax and his no-nonsense Number Two, Stella Ying. Eudora’s misadventures this time around center on the girl’s realization that a shipboard colony of 30 live lobsters, which are objects of intense study by Max, are currently in demand as food at the great ship’s annual New Year’s Dinner Buffet. Eudora is properly horrified at this possibility, and with her friend Arnold, Londo’s human stepson, she conspires to raid her father’s lab and abduct the endangered crustaceans. But what is her next step to guarantee that the lobsters do not end up as seafood? It turns out that Eudora has not quite thought that far ahead, and she hasn’t quite worked out all the details of her plan.

This series’ fictional world obviously has a very strong Star Trek influence, although its tone is one of juvenile-level whimsy. The massive Athena is a clear stand-in for the USS Enterprise and the catlike Qlaxon seem to be generally modeled after the cherished Starfleet frenemies, the Klingons (although the Trek universe has a feline-esque species of aliens, too, known as the Caitians). In addition, the children even carry around very helpful tricorders by another name. Eudora is shown to have clear STEM ambitions in her goal to be the ship’s chief engineer someday, although that aspect of her character is shown to be somewhat less vital to the plot over the course of this installment. The narrative has no violence to speak of and the work’s central plea for animal rights (at least when it comes to lobsters) is generally conveyed with a very light touch. The work is also accessorized with grayscale illustrations by Hoover, which have a style that’s mildly reminiscent of anime. In general, this is an upbeat work that makes a fine chapter-book diversion for young readers, who may possibly use this series as a springboard to some of the juvenile-skewing titles by such SF authors as Robert A. Heinlein; for example, if one likes Eudora’s SF adventures, one may later love Heinlein’s 1963 novel Podkayne of Mars, which features the adventures of 15-year-old girl on a spaceliner.  

A shipshape but easygoing romp that offers youngsters the comical wish fulfillment of being let loose on a starship.

Pub Date: March 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73667-742-1

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2022

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

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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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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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