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AURORA

Engaging characters deal with disaster in this swiftly paced, well-written thriller.

A billionaire and a suburban family struggle to survive when power goes out around the globe.

This brisk thriller is set a few years in the future, after the world has been through the coronavirus pandemic and thinks it’s learned how to handle disaster. It hasn’t. A coronal mass ejection on the sun isn’t an unusual event, but this time one sends out a massive cloud of solar plasma aimed straight at Earth. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration see it coming and know it will fry electrical grids around the globe. Their attempts to shut down systems to protect them are shrugged off by anti-science politicians, and the world goes dark. No electricity means no internet, no phones, no TV or radio, no supply chain—“Everything from a nuclear power plant to your coffeepot,” one expert says. “If it’s connected to the grid and turned on, it will blow.” Thom Banning is prepared for the catastrophe. A tech billionaire, he’s purchased a disused missile silo and spent $30 million to convert it to a secure underground bunker big enough to house a village—of Thom’s choosing. He and his family, plus selected employees, evacuate to the bunker and settle in, but things will not go exactly as Thom planned. Meanwhile, Aubrey Wheeler is not prepared at all. She’s been busy trying to steer her conference business through the pandemic, avoid her creepy ex-husband, Rusty, and cope with Rusty’s son, Scott. The boy is a typically surly teenager but wisely chose to stay with his stepmother when she and his father, who’s addicted to just about everything you can be addicted to, divorced. When the power goes out in their Illinois suburb, all Aubrey has on her emergency shelf is 11 cans of black beans. Koepp, a successful screenwriter (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man), brings those skills to this novel, crafting carefully placed revelations about the characters’ relationships and the bursts of violence in their increasingly chaotic world into an exciting and satisfying tale.

Engaging characters deal with disaster in this swiftly paced, well-written thriller.

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-291-647-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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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

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CITY IN RUINS

If you love good crime writing but aren’t familiar with Winslow’s work, read this trilogy in order.

The dramatic conclusion to the trilogy about two New England crime families begun in City on Fire (2022) and City of Dreams (2023).

Near the end of his journey, multimillionaire Danny Ryan watches a casino implode in a mushroom cloud of dust and muses about his life’s implosions: “The cancer that killed his wife, the depression that destroyed his love, the moral rot that took his soul.” Danny is from Providence, Rhode Island, and desperately tried to leave his criminal life behind him. But using a ton of ill-gotten gains, he invests heavily in Las Vegas properties. Congress is conducting an investigation into gambling that could destroy his casino business and even land him in jail. An FBI agent plans to take Danny down for major sins he’d like to repent for. Meanwhile, can he make peace with his enemies? Nope, doesn’t look like it. Even if the parties involved want to put the past behind them, the trouble is that they don’t trust each other. Is Vern Winegard setting Dan up? Is Dan setting Vern up? “Trust? Trust is children waiting for Santa Claus.” So what could have been a “Kumbaya,” nobody-wants-to-read-this story turns into a grisly bloodletting filled with language that would set Sister Mary Margaret’s wimple on fire—figuratively speaking, as she’s not in the book. But the Catholic reference is appropriate: Two of the many colorful characters of ill repute are known as the Altar Boys, serving “Last Communion” to their victims. On the law-abiding side and out of the line of fire is an ex-nun-turned-prosecutor nicknamed Attila the Nun, who’s determined to bring justice for a gory matricide. (Rhode Island really had such a person, by the way.) Finally, the prose is just fun: A friend warns Dan about Allie Licata: “In a world of sick fucks, even the sick fucks think Licata’s a sick fuck.” A couple of things to note: This not only ends the trilogy, but it also closes out the author’s career, as he has said he’ll write no more novels.

If you love good crime writing but aren’t familiar with Winslow’s work, read this trilogy in order.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780063079472

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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