A thought-provoking genetics tale hampered by questionable theories.



From the Genetic Pressure series , Vol. 1

A horse breeder and a game designer seek genetically engineered babies in this debut novel.

In 2022, Yale roommates Rachael Stein and Debbie Robinson both want medical careers, Rachael as a veterinarian specializing in horses. By 2044, Rachael has achieved success as an IVF horse breeder with a second Kentucky Derby winner to her credit, owned by her closest friends, the wealthy Greg and Alison Davos. Rachael gets a surprise visit from Debbie, who’d lost touch after making a small fortune selling her eggs to a Hong Kong company. She drops a bomb in Rachael’s quiet life with a spree that includes “drugs, gun wounds, rape, and kidnapping.” Reeling from those events and from news of Debbie’s 300 to 600 offspring, Rachael accepts Alison’s offer of a free visit to Better Genetics Corporation and a $2 million full-options package. Housed in a secret Caribbean location, the company is dedicated to ending genetic diseases by providing designer babies to the rich; their slogan is “Only God plays dice. Humans don’t have to.” Meanwhile, in Palo Alto, California, wealthy game designer Max Allerton has given up on finding a decent woman to marry and have children with. As an anonymous online friend warns him, marriage, for men, “gets worse than slavery.” Max, too, makes the trip to Better Genetics, choosing—as nearly everyone does, including Rachael—to have a superintelligent, tall, Greek-skinned, violet-eyed child. Though Max encounters secrets and lies from those around him, he and others, including Rachael, develop novel forms of family life united by their violet-eyed children, who represent the new Genetic Age where all are Prime.

In his series opener, Clark taps into the anxieties and hopes that parents have for their children. His premise is intriguing; readers will likely ask themselves what characteristics they would choose if they could, and why. Also of interest are the novel’s imaginative speculations about future forms of family life, such as four-person marriages. Implausible or questionable elements, though, detract from the story’s effectiveness. Rachael—who believes Debbie “likely had already had sex with some of her own children”—eventually responds to her lurid shenanigans with tender lovemaking as they chant “Circle of Trust. Circle of Kindness” to each other. The story skirts the issue of eugenics by asserting that “there is no racial superiority theory. There’s no government forcing…specific genetic phenotypes on anyone.” Yet nearly every Better Genetics client selects the same, presumably considered superior, observable traits. While the author relies on scientific concepts, he admits in the foreword that “there is not a lot of good data to support my theories.” Some terms, such as “pair-bond depletion,” can’t be found on Google while other evidence sounds like it comes from alt-right discussion forums like Reddit’s The Red Pill or from questionable evolutionary psychology theories. Readers’ satisfaction will likely depend on how well such ideas resonate with them.

A thought-provoking genetics tale hampered by questionable theories.

Pub Date: April 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73304-990-0

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Better Publishing Corporation

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


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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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.


A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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