A curious tale with a religious theme.

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THE DELIVERANCE OF THE HEROINES

From the Escape From the Night World series , Vol. 1

In this debut fantasy, a young woman’s destiny involves saving her world from a long-standing evil.

Wendy is born with a genetic illness; her father is dead and her mother was severely injured shortly after giving birth. But Wendy is special, according to a being known as Beatrice, residing in an unspecified realm. Beatrice, who may be a prophesied “explorer,” has a dream vision that ties her to Wendy from “the Home World of the Redemption.” Wendy spends her formative years in religious uncertainty, starting with her governess, a volcanic witch. But Wendy ultimately makes a vow to God and later learns she has an unsettling destiny to fulfill. As a descendant of soothsayers, she also has dormant powers that will soon awaken. She seems an ideal candidate to help “her government” with a serious problem that started millennia ago. Surprisingly, this entails intermingling with a few of God’s distinctive creatures, such as elves and vampires, and could save countless lives in the process. Moreover, Wendy may have a limited time to complete her task, as her soothsaying grandmother tells the 20-something that she doesn’t have many years left. Details in McGraw’s series opener are murky, like what Beatrice’s people are and where Wendy is from. But the essentials are clear: Beatrice, for example, is a Normal (those close to God) while Renegades either question God or are atheists. The dialogue-laden story generally consists of theoretical discussions about religion between Beatrice and her teacher or Wendy and her family. What little action there is comes mostly through conversations, prompting some repetition (characters repeatedly describing the same events to others). Nevertheless, McGraw consistently maintains Beatrice’s voice, as she tells Wendy’s intriguing story to her teacher (“Things do not always work out among Wendy’s people as they expect”). The pace picks up considerably in the final act while the ending effectively teases the sequel.

A curious tale with a religious theme.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-977569-38-7

Page Count: 426

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2018

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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