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KARMA AND BIGGER FISH

From the Josh & Sen Save the Multiverse series , Vol. 2

Gamer-style high-SF action, with breathing space provided by abstruse rules and regulations.

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A Florida college professor is mystically linked to a demi-godlike warrior in Behling’s SF adventure, one in a series.

Josh and Senyak are two “Karmic” linked individuals from separate universes. Once a lawyer, Joshua Elias Tanner now accompanies (sometimes telepathically) Senyak Marztanak, a downgraded “Immortal,” on harrowing adventures, going up against pan-galactic villains while sharpening their superpowers of “Attunement” (which often manifest as psychic abilities) and leveling up in resilience. On a planet of bizarre “Affins,” humanoid beings with aspects of Earth animals, the duo is chagrined to discover that their martial skills do not match a properly “Attuned” mouse woman. Relentless practice and meditation breakthroughs enhance their stats (charts are provided at regular intervals), a handy thing given the monstrous foes on the way. There’s Nagal, a revenge-crazed, 11-foot-long serpent-creature with impenetrable scales, and Nagal’s sort-of controlling entity, the Savoy Corporation, an evil consortium whose leaders are energy-draining fiends technically no longer among the living (“vampires” is apt taxonomy). One such macabre malefactor is Kyon Shi, master of armies of zombified slaves, who has co-opted a kingdom of space-going pirates to attack valiant space Marines (a Marine officer, Lt. Junior Grade Alysa Nang, has her own specific Karmic bond with Josh’s 4-year-old daughter back on Earth). So, it’s personal. Readers must hack through score-tallying, roleplaying-game rulebook prose (“Sen pointed out that their boons had amplified the benefits they received during Attunement amplification compared to regular cultivation enhancement”) to get to the action stuff. The good news: There absolutely is some supernova-hot action stuff—eventually. The narrative’s mythologies are cherry-picked more heavily from Asian cultures than the typical European high fantasy tropes. A plethora of pop-culture references, particularly from the Star Wars and Star Trek (“Spock? Spock’s a badass, Sen”) franchises, provides some (actually good) comic relief.  

Gamer-style high-SF action, with breathing space provided by abstruse rules and regulations.

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Physicians Press

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2024

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DEVOLUTION

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

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

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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. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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