A wondrously executed parable, sure to attract readers from every walk of life.

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EXODUS

BOOK ONE OF THE FUNDAMENTALISTS

This post-apocalyptic novel sees the villagers of Harpers Ferry running from a marauding army of Christian extremists.

In the not-too-distant future, a technologically enhanced strain of influenza has destroyed the modern world. Called the Great Sickness, this disease ended the warfare between Islamic extremists in the Middle East and their mostly Christian counterparts in America. Once-great cities are now overgrown ruins. People have returned to simple village life, and Jason is a watchman in Harpers Ferry, the West Virginia town. While on duty, he encounters a severely wounded man who warns of an army on horseback, violently demanding loyalty to Jesus Christ. Skeptical, the Harpers Ferry elders send Jason to nearby Leesburg, Va., for proof. There, he witnesses the brutal execution of a forced laborer, which confirms that standing against these men and their old god means death. A man named Pravus leads the Christian Empire (based in New Atlanta) and dreams of conquering the rest of the former U.S. He also wants revenge on the traitorous Mordecai, who abandoned war to peacefully spread Christianity. When Mordecai has a strange vision, he heads west, toward Indianapolis. The people of Harpers Ferry, now led by Jason and a council of talented youths, likewise travel west to outrun the Christian horde. Author Livingston (Marketing in the Round, 2012, etc.) presents the perils of medievallike life with unflagging realism. He threatens his characters with food shortages, wolf attacks, river crossings and egotistical outbursts. But sharp, bracing prose makes the quieter moments just as powerful: “A fever, now apparent in the man’s pale, sweat-streaked face, had wasted his long frame.” Such evocative writing helps the novel’s valuable message of religious moderation shine through: “Forced faith breeds sins, encourages hatred, terror, and violence,” Mordecai tells Pravus. “Your brutal teaching denies the essential virtues of faith, hope, and charity.” Only later, when Livingston dictates the drama instead of revealing it through his excellent dialogue and characterization, does the story slow. Fortunately, a stunning, irresistible cliffhanger erases this minor quibble.

A wondrously executed parable, sure to attract readers from every walk of life.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 218

Publisher: Lady Soleil, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2013

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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