A bright fish tale that young readers will enjoy, even if unnerving truths about conflict lurk below its surface.

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HOPE

THE STORY OF A BANANA-FISH

A story of a little fish who learns important lessons about bravery, tolerance, and community with the help of a loving father.

Much of the premise of this debut children’s book seems inspired by the popular 2003 Disney movie Finding Nemo, even down to the heroine Hope’s unusually formed fins. One could do worse than emulate one of Disney’s best-crafted stories, but this isn’t just a retread of that little-boy-lost tale—instead, it’s one in which larger forces are at work. Where Nemo largely sought personal growth, debut author Neumeier makes Hope a scrappy crusader for the health and security of her entire community. As in J.D. Salinger’s classic 1948 short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” the fish provide a cautionary tale: they feed on bananas stored in underwater caves, and they sometimes gorge themselves so grotesquely that they become trapped and perish. The author expands on this idea to create a complete economic system in which amphibious crabs harvest bananas from the shore of a nearby island and then distribute them to create feeding grounds for banana fish like Hope. Previously mocked by other fish for her longer fins, Hope eventually distinguishes herself as a strong swimmer who takes on the role of “defender” for her school, protecting them on their feeding-ground trips by acting as a lure for predators such as sharks, catfish, and the crabs themselves. Naturally, she gets separated from the group, her father strikes out after her, and she faces her fears and forges new friendships away from the world she knows. But there’s more at stake here in Neumeier’s adventurous tale than just getting home safely: in the end, he’s created an extended allegory about economics, warfare, and diplomacy. Hope becomes an important player in a multiparty treaty agreement to implement a new banana distribution system, to parcel out territories for feeding grounds and living quarters, and to explore alternative food sources for the fish. Even if the overall moral of the story is somewhat unclear, Hope is a spunky, aptly named heroine, and her escapades will engage readers young and old.

A bright fish tale that young readers will enjoy, even if unnerving truths about conflict lurk below its surface.

Pub Date: April 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1511552554

Page Count: 118

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2015

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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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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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