An absorbing and poignant YA dystopian fantasy with a convincing heroine.

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All Good Children

A teenager works through her emotional turmoil while waiting to become a sacrificial offering to aliens in this sci-fi melodrama.

In the near future, Earth has been conquered by 9-foot-tall, telepathic, flying vulture-demons who swoop down and eviscerate people with their razor-sharp talons and beaks—neither bullets nor bird shot nor nuclear bombs slow them down. They call themselves the Over, in honor of the Übermensch figure lionized by the philosopher Nietzsche. The Over impose a peace treaty, allowing humans to run their own affairs as long as they deliver a yearly quota of teens to the demons’ “Summer Program.” This sleep-away/death camp features canoes and cabins but also armed guards, mean counselors, numbers instead of names, and mind-numbing group therapy/brainwashing sessions. It culminates with campers being assigned to 1) getting eaten by the Over, 2) getting impregnated by other teens many times and then getting eaten, or 3) becoming a “seed” in the parasitic Over reproductive cycle. Dragooned into the program, 14-year-old rebel Jordan Fontaine continues her habitual, sarcastic defiance of authority, flinging wisecracks at officious counselors; subtly fencing with Heaven Omalis, a beautiful, sympathetic human Liaison working for the Over; carving her name into her flesh; and finally making contact with a Resistance leader who wants her to undertake a mission against the feathered Overlords. “They’re winning because they are smarter, and they are smarter because we’ve let them dumb us down,” the leader says. Ingram (Eat Your Heart Out, 2015, etc.) gives a nightmarish twist to the familiar YA formula of teenagers facing martyrdom by an oppressive society. The Over, who mainly glare balefully at people, are a distant, ominous presence in a novel that is mostly about human relationships roiled by their demands. The atmosphere of adolescent angst develops around fraught conversations, from Jordan’s anguished exchanges with her parents to her sullen mouthing off in group therapy; the result feels like a mashup of The Hunger Games, “The Lottery,” Girl, Interrupted, and Auschwitz, with malevolent buzzards thrown in. It’s also a lesbian story: Jordan gravitates toward a first girl-love with a cabin mate but melts down when Heaven starts sexually teasing her. Heaven, meanwhile, has her own affair with mysterious stripper Marla Matheson. Jordan is a believable girl in an impossible situation; despite the pulpy elements, Ingram gives her story a realism and emotional depth that make the reader care about her protagonist’s fate.

An absorbing and poignant YA dystopian fantasy with a convincing heroine.

Pub Date: May 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59021-589-0

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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DEVOLUTION

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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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