by Enrique Joven ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 1, 2009
Too many history lectures and not enough tension.
Inspired by a mysterious real-life text, Spanish physicist Joven’s fiction debut sends three friends on a series of intellectually edifying, if less than thrilling adventures.
Since it resurfaced in 1912, the 15th- or 16th-century Voynich Manuscript has fascinated cryptologists both amateur and professional with its odd drawings and strange text, as yet undeciphered. Joven invents one such amateur cryptologist: Father Hector, a Jesuit science teacher in Spain whose school is soon to be demolished by the city, due to pressure from unknown interests. Hector, along with a circle of online colleagues, spends his time trying to decode the Voynich. His interest in the manuscript deepens after he meets two of his online collaborators in person and, working together, they make a series of breakthroughs that may tie the manuscript to, among others, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, the court of King Rudolph II of Bohemia and the Jesuits, who seem to have gone to great lengths to keep the book’s meaning hidden. Hector and his colleagues even find a surprising connection in the ancient labyrinth beneath the priest’s school. But someone is dead set against their solving the puzzle, and one of Hector’s collaborators may have an ulterior motive. A fictional adventure surrounding a real-life mystery as fascinating as the Voynich Manuscript ought to be thrilling, but Joven wrecks the pacing by inserting lengthy lectures on a variety of topics, most often the lives of Brahe and Kepler. Attempting to combine enlightenment with entertainment, the author offers too much of the former and not enough of the latter. In addition, many of the solutions to the puzzles the trio encounters aren’t satisfying; the required clues are not necessarily provided, or they hinge on knowledge of esoteric topics in science, history and architecture. Finally, the trio never seems to be in any real danger, which robs the story of drama.Too many history lectures and not enough tension.
Pub Date: May 1, 2009
Page Count: 368
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Kathy Reichs ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2020
Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.
Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.
A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.
Pub Date: March 17, 2020
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020
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