Tonally the love child of Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain and Aldiss’ SF classic Hothouse, this is a page-turner of the...

THE GENIUS PLAGUE

When mycologist Paul Johns returns home to Maryland from the Amazon rain forest in Walton's (Supersymmetry, 2015, etc.) latest, he is a changed man.

After recovering from a severe case of fungal pneumonia, the 21-year old fungi expert is markedly more intelligent; he suddenly has an eidetic memory and radically enhanced communication abilities—but something is off. The spores he breathed in while traveling have taken root in the linings of his lungs and spread throughout his body, and the same thing is happening to thousands of other people who've come in contact with the fungus; they are now connected together in a vast organic neural network. But the seemingly symbiotic relationship between fungi and human may not be the next evolutionary step in human development, as Johns thinks. Those infected by the spores have masterminded assassinations of the political leaders of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, and the number of people afflicted by the mind-altering infection is growing exponentially by the day. Paul’s brother, Neil, following in their father’s cryptologist footsteps, recently landed a job with the National Security Agency. Charged with decoding encrypted messages originating from the Amazon area, he begins putting together the pieces of a mind-blowing conspiracy that could wipe humankind off the face of the Earth. Paired with relentless pacing, an action-packed narrative, and a cast of interesting characters, Walton’s fluid writing style and tightly constructed plot produce a virtually un-put-down-able read. The only minor criticisms are a few implausible sequences (like Neil getting hired by the NSA with no college degree) and a conclusion that seems a bit rushed.

Tonally the love child of Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain and Aldiss’ SF classic Hothouse, this is a page-turner of the highest order.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63388-343-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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