As was the case with Oppegaard’s debut (The Suicide Collectors, 2008), considerable promise but poor follow-through.

WORMWOOD, NEVADA

New arrivals in a small desert town encounter meteorites, exploding meth labs, UFOs, cultists, an old-time sheriff who patrols on horseback and more.

Tyler and Anna Mayfield have just relocated from their native Nebraska to sun-blasted Wormwood, Nev., where Tyler has taken a job teaching high-school English. Things turn immediately odd and sinister. Tyler starts seeing (or thinking he sees) aliens; Anna is tormented by persistent nightmares about the world’s end. Then a meteorite crashes into the parking lot of the local taquería, whose proprietor subsequently erects a crater-side shelter and hunkers down in it, holding up a sign reading “The End Is Near.” Tyler confides in his aunt, who introduces him to a loopy astronomy club whose members believe that an alien visitation has begun and they will serve as “midwives to the next brave new world.” Something big is brewing, in other words, and remote Wormwood seems to be its epicenter. Oppegaard skillfully weaves together this-worldly and otherworldly possibilities, crystal meth and Airstream trailers with nickel-iron space shards and flying saucers; he nimbly avoids tilting into either straight sci-fi or straight realism. Subplots about a student named Skull and Tyler’s brother, who went missing from a mall parking lot years earlier, also suggest exciting developments to come. But these sparks ultimately sputter and die of neglect, while Tyler and Anna never come alive sufficiently to justify their central position in the narrative.

As was the case with Oppegaard’s debut (The Suicide Collectors, 2008), considerable promise but poor follow-through.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-38111-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2009

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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