A tedious dive into an unexpected solution to animal control.

DOGS OF CATHERINE TOWN

In Guess’ novel, a Russian veterinarian tries to solve the stray dog problem in a small town by creating a new species of canine that can walk upright and talk.

In 2018, Nicholas Krylov, a Russian American professor and expert in city planning, visits Yekaterinburg, Russia—also known as Catherine Town—to help them improve their municipal services as they prepare to host the World Cup Games. Meanwhile, veterinarian Ivan Krastov and his assistant, Dmitry Simovich, patrol the streets at night to capture homeless dogs that roam the city in packs and sometimes attack people. Krastov selects the smartest of these animals to use in secret experiments; he’s developing a new species that could soon be “patrolling streets and performing security functions.” Fyodor, a former stray dog that Krastov has successfully trained, can now talk and stand on his hind legs, and he becomes the veterinarian’s closest confidant. As Krastov gets closer to perfecting a new version of man’s best friend, animal rights groups and his own colleagues threaten to derail his work. The plot deals with exciting topics, including secret scientific experiments and anti-government subversion. However, the novel as a whole is surprisingly slow-paced, with characters that feel underdeveloped. The descriptions of women, in particular, tend to focus on their bodies; a minor character is said to be “muscular, not fat, but large-boned and wore a black dress, which was unflattering yet somehow extravagant.” Anna, a faculty member at the local university, is described as having “a well-shaped body” with “nuanced muscles” and “curvy, dimpled thighs.” However, her relationship with Krylov is only sketchily defined, which makes it unbelievable when Anna’s husband is knocked out while hiking with she and Krylov and they take the opportunity to have sex—during a lightning storm. There are many references to the Soviet era, and the novel seems to be aiming to make a statement about Russian civil service under Soviet rule, but the uneven writing undermines this goal.

A tedious dive into an unexpected solution to animal control.

Pub Date: Dec. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64990-325-9

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Palmetto Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2021

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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