Solidly engrossing if unspectacular fare, with greatest appeal to readers who prefer the familiar over the innovative.

COLD WELCOME

After an extended—and impressive—excursion into fantasy, Moon returns to science fiction, picking up her Vatta’s War series (Victory Conditions, 2008, etc.) where she left off.

Although no prior knowledge is assumed or required, we plunge immediately into a swirl of familial politics and interstellar intrigue. Following her victory in the recent brutal war, Ky Vatta, now the youthful Grand Admiral of the interstellar Space Defense Force, returns to her home planet, Slotter Key. But Ky’s shuttle loses contact and crashes into the sea. Searches, hampered by a lack of communications, appalling weather, official foot-dragging, and a deliberate, long-term effort to conceal the region from probes, prove fruitless. Ky must take command of a motley band of soldiers who only reluctantly accept her authority—they report to Slotter Key, not Ky’s space fleet—and weld them into a force capable of survival, maybe even fighting, in the extreme cold. Neither Grace Lane Vatta, Ky’s great-aunt and Slotter Key’s civilian Rector of Defense, nor Stella Vatta, CEO of the family business empire, believe Ky is dead. And Ky’s love interest, Rafe Dunbarger, CEO of a corporation that makes ansibles (instantaneous communicators), has a secret, private method of communication, so he knows she’s alive. Once again, Moon’s great strength is her characters, particularly the soldiers and how they comport themselves when under great stress. Less robust, the underlying plot, or what little’s discernable here, comes across as a trudging retread of previous conspiracies and treacheries. And while the life-and-death situation intrigues, the overall narrative lacks tension—Ky’s successfully negotiated so many similar circumstances we never seriously consider the possibility that she’ll be killed or even defeated.

Solidly engrossing if unspectacular fare, with greatest appeal to readers who prefer the familiar over the innovative.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-88731-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

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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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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