A high-concept but uneven genre combo.

TIN SWIFT

THE AGE OF STEAM

Monk (Magic Without Mercy, 2012, etc.) delivers the second installment in her genre-blending Age of Steam series.

Following 2011’s Dead Iron, Monk here delivers an amalgamation of science fiction and fantasy genre elements, told in an alternately hard-boiled and folksy tone. Lycanthrope Cedar Hunt travels on the Old West frontier with, among others, a witch, Hunt’s werewolf brother and engineers specializing in steampunk-style tech, on a quest to find the Holder, a mysterious and powerful weapon. Soon after finding a town inundated by the supernatural creatures known as the Strange, Hunt and company are rescued by the airship Swift. Capt. Hink, who leads the Swift’s crew, wants the Holder as well, and another airship is hot on their trail. The novel is almost a sci-fi/fantasy Mad Lib—a Western-fantasy-steampunk-horror mashup attempting to draw together disparate elements of very different genres. Of all the elements on display, Monk leans most heavily on the supernatural and magical aspects. (She is also the author of the magic-oriented Allie Beckstrom urban-fantasy series.) At times, however, it feels as if the author is throwing together too many things at once; the mere fact that she combines so many different genres means that some are bound to get short shrift. Though there’s plenty of airship action, the steampunk-ish components can feel a bit tacked on and may not satisfy some hard-core steampunk aficionados. Also, for a novel that genre-crunches with such abandon, the story is a grim and serious affair, with relatively little humor. That said, readers of magic-based fantasy and fans of offbeat Westerns may find things to like.

A high-concept but uneven genre combo.

Pub Date: July 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-451-46453-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: ROC/Penguin

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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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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