A sci-fi saga that asks a lot of its readers, but the payoff is a highly nuanced sci-fi experience.

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KIYRON

AWAKENINGS

From the Tr Halsien Zjeur series , Vol. 1

Debut author Kerr offers an epic sci-fi novel that chronicles the history of a distant planet over some six millennia.

Lieoptay-Noot was an “Elder-Teacher” who had insights that “no other seer from any other time could match.” His writings, known as the “Three Augured Climacterics,” steer the grand tale that follows. In the First Climacteric, readers meets Bisel and Padran Penriebës, twins attending Sjaarkrom Institute’s Academy, where they tend to excel when they’re placed in proximity to each other. Although Bis and Pad seem to be the best of the best, questions linger concerning their capabilities, which seem to decline when they’re separated. Add into the equation Bis’ troubled dreams and Padran’s doubts about their lot in life (“I refuse to believe we are just unconscious or unwilling participants in some story, some play,” he says), and the brightness of their future seems uncertain. The Second Climacteric begins with a figure named Iyrës embarking on a journey away from home. His stated goal is to reach the Daumkwaa region in Sabaysjoa, and it’s almost immediately a difficult trek. As he admits to another character, he’ll soon need the help of a gifted healer if he’s to ever reach his destination. In the Third Climacteric, Thesik Zlaifë is on her way home as she ponders some heavy questions, such as “Why are my days and nights an ever-expanding galaxy of questions within a universe of unresponsive emptiness?” Where will such questioning lead her? The book interweaves the three Climacterics with the story of Lieoptay-Noot himself, creating a work that’s extensive and complex; indeed, any plot summary merely reveals the tip of a dense iceberg. Taken as a whole, the book even makes epics such as Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) seem like light beach reads, and to understand all of the many components and emotions at play, readers will need patience. This can be difficult at times due to the prolific amount of characters and motivations as well as the author’s penchant for extraneous details—particularly during culinary descriptions, as when one character engages in “chewing interspersed with musing sounds and gasps of satisfaction.” Still, even when the book makes sure to point out that some “trevik juice” is freshly squeezed, it maintains a unique voice throughout. The characters make frequent use of interior monologues, and these, in turn, offer readers some lengthy but informative insights: “I have no strength for anything more, my chest constricting as a feeling of overwhelming responsibility and rising inadequacy churn through me,” says Zlaifë at one point. The numerous players do take time to develop, but the author still manages to imbue each of them with realistic thoughts and existential fears as the story progresses. And although these many thoughts and fears—and food descriptions—fill a great many pages in this lengthy book, readers will find the end result to be nothing short of epic.   

A sci-fi saga that asks a lot of its readers, but the payoff is a highly nuanced sci-fi experience.

Pub Date: July 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5412-5484-8

Page Count: 818

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2017

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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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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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