A promising but unrealized dystopian tale.


A speculative novel tells the story of a man and his unrequited crush who become survivors of an apocalyptic event.

Twenty-seven-year-old Chucho lives with his Uncle Rodrigo in Miami. Just a few months ago, Chucho was making good money writing for a fetish-porn website, but since it was shut down, he’s been forced to serve as a busboy at a local Brazilian steakhouse. He spends his shifts ogling the hostess, Shiraz Zirel, who will not give him the time of day. He’s just about given up hope that they will ever be together when, suddenly, everyone else disappears. Literally: “I woke up around 11 am on a Sunday, and the world was gone. Uncle Rodrigo was gone. My neighbors were gone. The streets were empty with cars strewn about in the middle of roads and in backyards.” Chucho explores the city, but can’t find another living soul. Then he goes to the restaurant to pick up his final check and finds none other than Shiraz: the girl of his dreams and the last woman in Miami. As it turns out, they’re not terribly compatible. After a lot of bickering, they decide to follow some mysterious blue lights in the sky down the coast, driving all the way to Key West. They’re just starting to get along when they run into another person and, oddly enough, it’s someone they know: Benito, a server from the steakhouse whom Shiraz used to hook up with. The information he has is even more astounding. The lights they have been seeing belong to a damaged flying saucer. But Chucho may not be able to fully trust Benito—or Shiraz—because both of them have a few secrets hidden in their pasts. Zablah’s (Ciao! Miami, 2006) prose is frequently lyrical, particularly his colorful descriptions of Chucho’s world. “At some point early on my parents turned into a radiant blur,” the protagonist reflects early in the tale, “kind of like a falling star your eyes are trying to focus in on while taking an evening hike in the Everglades. And the older I got, the more they faded.” But the dialogue is less endearing, as the three characters frequently engage in inane conversations overladen with distracting profanity and—in the case of the men—misogynistic language. Chucho is supposed to be 27, but his outlook on sex and relationships seems more akin to that of a 17-year-old. The novel is told in three parts, one each from the perspectives of Chucho, Shiraz, and Benito, and as the point of view shifts, new and illuminating information is provided. Even so, a great deal of material is repeated, and the story’s momentum stalls significantly when the narrator changes from Chucho to Shiraz. The book shows a lot of potential—the writing is sound, the setting is intriguing, and the author manages to make this familiar premise seem fresh. Unfortunately, the plot really breaks down at a certain point and never gets moving again.

A promising but unrealized dystopian tale.

Pub Date: May 5, 2014


Page Count: 222

Publisher: Tiny TOE Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

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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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...


Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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