An absorbing, inventive introduction to Parker’s version of the 23rd century, where politics still reign.




From the Ephialtes Trilogy series

In the first volume of Parker’s (See the Worlds, 2015) planned sci-fi series, Earth’s act of aggression against Mars could incite the first interplanetary war.

In 2241, the fourth world war is over, and the United States and Nations has reason to celebrate. But there’s troubling news: the off-world colony on Mars may be looking to secede. Most of the USAN’s fuel is from deuterium, and the country will no longer be energy-independent if it has to trade for the precious mineral, which is much more abundant on Mars. As a demonstration of its power, the USAN retrofits two warships to send to the red planet. Mars, meanwhile, having established a government and the Martian Security Service, gets wind of the approaching ships and prepares its missile defense. It seems only a matter of time before one side pre-empts a strike with an attack of its own. Yet there’s not much action in Parker’s novel, consisting largely of political and military maneuvering. But he does fill his novel with a gloriously dense back story: the secession, for instance, is spearheaded by Charles Venkdt, whose family company was the first to send a human expedition to Mars nearly a century before. At the same time, the sci-fi elements are convincing, because they aren’t far removed from today’s norms: a comdev, for example, is like a smartphone that’s “biometrically encoded” to its owner for identity purposes, while the USAN president lives in the suitably named New White House. The story effectively generates suspense for the inevitable confrontation between the two planets: one of two warships, Otus and Ephialtes, may have been sabotaged, and the USAN’s garrison on Mars isn’t likely to surrender easily. Parker even hints at a Romeo and Juliet romance between Bobby Karjalainen, a Martian soldier who fought with the USAN during World War IV, and earthling Askel Lund, an engineer for Helios Matériel Corporation, which designed the ships. Hopefully the relationship will be explored in later books. Readers will definitely want to stick around for the epilogue; it’s a doozy.

An absorbing, inventive introduction to Parker’s version of the 23rd century, where politics still reign.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015


Page Count: 505

Publisher: Unlimited

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2015

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

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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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