New Age Lamians

Oviatt’s (The Stix, 2013) short novel, the first of a planned series, introduces a post-apocalyptic world in which huge snake-women and a shady organization hold sway.
After a mysterious, decades-long lightning storm decimates civilization, most people live in small, hardscrabble groups, far from the ruined cities. Twenty-six-year-old Jackson Bellony is one of these people, living with his father in a cave in the woods, and often hearing drifters’ tales of the Lamians—giant, malevolent half-woman/half-snake beings that the lightning somehow awakened. The Earth’s last remnant of technology is controlled by a group called The Company, which thrives thanks to “wireless energy...harnessed underground in a liquid form.” For unknown reasons, The Company occasionally drops care packages of food and other necessities near Jackson’s home. One day, a Company hovercraft lands, and men in black suits take blood samples from the locals, claiming it’s for a medical test. But after Jackson is kidnapped by Company men, he learns that they’re seeking something called the G factor, which allows people to survive injection with “techno fibers.” This trait, which Jackson has, lets the Company turn him into the perfect weapon against the Lamians. It’s a formulaic tale that’s been told many times: a young, naive hero; fearsome monsters only he can fight; and montages of physical and intellectual training. (The serum not only bulks up Jackson’s muscles, but also lets him absorb information quickly and easily.) Jackson’s immediate love connection with Amber, another injectee, is likewise predictable. Oviatt makes clear from the beginning that the Company has sinister intent, although this first volume doesn’t reveal the extent of the plans. The book does offer unique monsters for the heroes to fight. However, the Lamians have no personality, and could be swapped out for any other invincible foe. The book hews closely to a popular sci-fi formula, but does little to distinguish itself from the pack.
A familiar, by-the-numbers dystopia.

Pub Date: April 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1497305540

Page Count: 150

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

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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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Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 1

Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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