A thought-provoking and satisfying story about modern man’s powers and limitations.

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A single father encounters an eccentric billionaire who’s attempting to bring back an extinct species in Rich’s hard–SF novel.

Widower and botanist Muir O’Brien discovers a rare fern while hunting in the wilds of Oregon—so rare, in fact, that it was believed to have disappeared forever during the last ice age. He finds it on the property of a mysterious company called Arcadia, which occupies a lot of otherwise uninhabited countryside. The person behind Arcadia is Leo Bonelli, the richest man on Earth and the mind behind the world’s largest biotech company, SynBioData. He’s often accused of playing God, and his newest endeavors may just prove his critics right—as they “would allow not only the prevention of disease through the elimination of the genetic mutations that cause it, but the creation and reshaping of life itself.” Leo takes an interest in Muir, letting him in on some of his plans for his 10,000-square-mile “experiment in biodiversity” in the Oregon high desert. But Muir soon realizes that Leo plans to do something that no one sees coming: resurrect humankind’s extinct cousin, the Neanderthal. It’s a plan that will have far-reaching consequences in the lives of Muir and his daughter, Lilith. Rich’s prose is smooth and measured, laying out the particulars of scientific theory in minute detail, and he does the same for his characters’ surroundings: “Instead of a window, [Muir’s] desk faced a wall of shelves covered with scores of small pots, each of which nurtured the seedling of a de-extincted Paleolithic plant.” With its mix of cutting-edge science and moral quandaries, readers will find that the book reminds them at times of the work of the late bestselling author Michael Crichton. However, the thriller element of this novel is relatively muted to allow for a deeper examination of the characters and their relationships. Although the novel ends up in a place that some will find predictable, it’s still a highly readable and timely riff on the Frankenstein theme.

A thought-provoking and satisfying story about modern man’s powers and limitations.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2020


Page Count: 216

Publisher: Vector Books LLC

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2020


From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024


From the Empyrean series , Vol. 2

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

A young Navarrian woman faces even greater challenges in her second year at dragon-riding school.

Violet Sorrengail did all the normal things one would do as a first-year student at Basgiath War College: made new friends, fell in love, and survived multiple assassination attempts. She was also the first rider to ever bond with two dragons: Tairn, a powerful black dragon with a distinguished battle history, and Andarna, a baby dragon too young to carry a rider. At the end of Fourth Wing (2023), Violet and her lover, Xaden Riorson, discovered that Navarre is under attack from wyvern, evil two-legged dragons, and venin, soulless monsters that harvest energy from the ground. Navarrians had always been told that these were monsters of legend and myth, not real creatures dangerously close to breaking through Navarre’s wards and attacking civilian populations. In this overly long sequel, Violet, Xaden, and their dragons are determined to find a way to protect Navarre, despite the fact that the army and government hid the truth about these creatures. Due to the machinations of several traitorous instructors at Basgiath, Xaden and Violet are separated for most of the book—he’s stationed at a distant outpost, leaving her to handle the treacherous, cutthroat world of the war college on her own. Violet is repeatedly threatened by her new vice commandant, a brutal man who wants to silence her. Although Violet and her dragons continue to model extreme bravery, the novel feels repetitive and more than a little sloppy, leaving obvious questions about the world unanswered. The book is full of action and just as full of plot holes, including scenes that are illogical or disconnected from the main narrative. Secondary characters are ignored until a scene requires them to assist Violet or to be killed in the endless violence that plagues their school.

Unrelenting, and not in a good way.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374172

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

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