A thoughtful novel that owes a debt to Star Trek but works on its own terms.


From the Dragon Spawn Chronicles series , Vol. 1

In the first installment Ross’ Dragon Spawn Chronicles, starship crew members risk starting an interstellar war after rescuing two precocious and dangerous boys from a dreaded warrior race.

It’s 3790, and spacegoing humanity hasn’t yet discovered any intelligent alien life—at least at the beginning of the new SF novel by the author of The Third Dragon (2012). But colonists from a long-destroyed Earth have evolved diverse cultures and physical appearances. A federation known as the Prontaean Cooperative seeks to unite the universe in peace, and one of its vessels, the Odyssey, is a fresh post for J.D. Hapker, as second in command to Capt. Silas Arden. Hapker, trying to put behind him a disgrace in earlier service, is again thrust into impossible dilemmas and hard ethical choices when the Odyssey rescues two wounded survivors from a small ship under seemingly unmotivated attack. The new arrivals turn out to be a pair of hunted young brothers from the tyrannical Tredon warrior race, hated and feared by many civilizations represented among the Odyssey’s polyglot crew. Hapker nonetheless tries to establish friendly rapport with the younger of them, Jori, merely 10 years old but already a formidable killer, coldly defiant of his reluctant protectors. While he wants to protect the ferocious child, Hapker senses that Joni harbors secrets that could start an interstellar war. Can any good result? In a novel that comes close to a high order of Star Trek fan fiction, a few USS Enterprise analogs (though no Spock) are present, but the Tredon have values closer to those Imperial Japanese samurai than Klingons. And it takes quite a few repetitious episodes before the narrative really kicks into warp drive. But well-drawn characters, thoroughly explored emotions, and a long-shot mission outcome are ingredients that any admirer of humanist SF can judge shipshape. Despite the violence and scattered profanities, the material works as well on a YA level as a grown-up one. 

A thoughtful novel that owes a debt to Star Trek but works on its own terms.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2020


Page Count: 295

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.


Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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