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THE APOCALYPSE SEVEN

A cinematic, speculative exercise in which a ragtag band saves the world, kind of.

Waking up in a blighted, empty America, seven strangers unite to figure out what the hell just happened.

One of prolific SF author Doucette’s strengths is coming up with memorable inciting events, and while this story about the end of the world doesn't reach the heights of the best apocalypse fiction or even Hank Green's recent first-contact duology beginning with An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (2018), it's clever in inception and execution (though it doesn't quite stick the landing). We enter in Boston, circa sometime in the 21st century, depending on who you are. Robbie, a smart Harvard freshman who wants to be a writer but is doomed to be a CPA, wakes up with a killer hangover from last night’s kegger and...there’s no one around. Like, anywhere. Eventually he meets up with fellow student Carol, blind and fierce but missing her dog, and then five others. The first two-thirds of this eclectic novel is a survival story, somewhere between The Walking Dead and a Cory Doctorow thought exercise, albeit with no antagonists—yet. While Robbie becomes the nominal leader, it’s a true ensemble cast with a great collective of characters: There's Touré, a second-generation Mexican American coder; Bethany, a 13-year-old juvenile delinquent with more practical skills than almost anyone in the ragtag company; Win, an Olympic-level archer; Paul, a heavily armed ex-con–turned–traveling preacher; and Ananda, an MIT astrophysicist who thinks she might have an idea what’s happened. The titular band works together to find food and shelter, survive the bizarre weather, and attempt to figure out what the episodic flashes of light they dub the Shimmer mean, not to mention the date. Speculative fiction ranges from straightforward to bewildering, and Doucette covers the whole arc here. It would be a trespass to violate the reveal, after encounters with mutated coyotes, an alien who smells like pee, and a timey-wimey bargain for the fate of the human race, but it’s really fun to read.

A cinematic, speculative exercise in which a ragtag band saves the world, kind of.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41894-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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DEVOLUTION

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE MINISTRY OF TIME

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

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A time-toying spy romance that’s truly a thriller.

In the author’s note following the moving conclusion of her gripping, gleefully delicious debut novel, Bradley explains how she gathered historical facts about Lt. Graham Gore, a real-life Victorian naval officer and polar explorer, then “extrapolated a great deal” about him to come up with one of her main characters, a curly-haired, chain-smoking, devastatingly charming dreamboat who has been transported through time. Having also found inspiration in the sole extant daguerreotype of Gore, showing him to have been “a very attractive man,” Bradley wrote the earliest draft of the book for a cluster of friends who were similarly passionate about polar explorers. Her finished novel—taut, artfully unspooled, and vividly written—retains the kind of insouciant joy and intimacy you might expect from a book with those origins. It’s also breathtakingly sexy. The time-toggling plot focuses on the plight of a British civil servant who takes a high-paying job on a secret mission, working as a “bridge” to help time-traveling “expats” resettle in 21st-century London—and who falls hard for her charge, the aforementioned Commander Gore. Drama, intrigue, and romance ensue. And while this quasi-futuristic tale of time and tenderness never seems to take itself too seriously, it also offers a meaningful, nuanced perspective on the challenges we face, the choices we make, and the way we live and love today.

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781668045145

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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