A challenging but absorbing introduction to a sci-fi series.

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HOW I BROKE THE SKY

THE GREAT YEAR CYCLE: BOOK ONE

An apocalypse looms in this debut novel of crossed worlds and cataclysm.

Nine years ago, New Amith was locked in a space race with the Shan, an alien species of albinos. New Amith lost that competition, though not for want of technology. Their shuttle made it into orbit but came back with a corpse inside, a pattern that has since repeated three times. The cosmonauts never survive. Now, with dozens of Shan arriving on New Amith every day, the space program has been resurrected, and Nikos Healy’ll can only listen in from mission control as his wife, Elena, dies in turn. After the funeral, Nikos decides he wants answers. The rules of New Amith seem suddenly too great a burden; life itself has become futile. And so, with only his brother, Giannis, to hold him in check, Nikos sets out to uncover precisely why Elena was sent to burn in space. At the same time, he is reassigned to coordinate with Anna Antc’sh, the supervisor of a Shan archaeological dig. Together, they gain entry to the Black Room, from which they take away a shared nightmare and the conceptual key to deciphering the impending end of the world. In this first installment of a four-volume series, Park establishes a sci-fi scenario rich with half-familiar details: hydro-balloon trams; vaporizing toilets; gods, prophets, and ages of civilization (both past and foretold); intrigue and superstition. These elements are introduced via immersion, which on the one hand is disorienting yet on the other, makes a pleasant contrast to those novels that sag with exposition. The author places readers inside the story, come what may. The dialogue is naturalistic to the point of obfuscation, which adds to the sense of something being observed, not related. Nikos, likewise, is a complicated character: antagonistic toward his brother and abstruse in his interactions with Anna. The consequence of Park’s take-it-or-leave-it style is that New Amith emerges with a rich depth of history while the end of days plot, like a horror tale’s monster never fully revealed, is genuinely unsettling. Readers may not always know what’s going on, but they’ll definitely feel it.

A challenging but absorbing introduction to a sci-fi series.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 172

Publisher: Fox Point Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2018

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

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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