An uneven first course, but the meal as a whole is worth savoring.

THE SOL MAJESTIC

The richest people in the galaxy have to make reservations years in advance to eat at the Sol Majestic, but each night the restaurant gives a free meal to whomever can best answer a simple question: Why do you love food?

When Kenna stumbles on the line of people waiting to answer this question, he is starving and barely alive. He's a member of a religious class called the Inevitable Philosophers, who used to command immense power but have since fallen out of favor, leaving Kenna and his parents scrounging to feed themselves. Despite their plight, Kenna's parents are still devoted to their personal "Inevitable Philosophies," simple ideas like "I will lead my people out of darkness" that form the foundation of all their actions and beliefs. Kenna, however, is struggling to keep the faith. Bewildered by the idea of enjoying the kind of exotic cuisine offered by a restaurant like the Sol Majestic, Kenna hopes that if he had "one good meal, to show [him] what life [he] could dream about," then maybe he'd discover his Philosophy. Much to his surprise, Kenna is swept into the hallowed halls of the Sol Majestic by its eccentric and volatile leader, Paulius, who introduces him to a world of not just fantastic food, but of friendship, love, and purpose. When Paulius decides to risk everything to host an epic meal in the traditional style of the Inevitable Philosophies, Kenna finds that the fates of the restaurant and his new group of friends all rest on his ability to fake a religion he isn't sure he can believe in anymore. The colorful cast of characters feels cartoonish at the beginning, and there are pivotal scenes that are too melodramatic to make an emotional impact. But as the story progresses, Kenna and his friends gain much-needed depth, and the villain introduced toward the end is all the more terrifying for being true to life. By the end, Steinmetz (The Uploaded, 2017, etc.) builds up to a suspenseful finale that's deliciously satisfying.

An uneven first course, but the meal as a whole is worth savoring.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-16819-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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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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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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