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THE ARMAGEDDON RAG

Simpleminded, heavy-going nostalgia for the Sixties-rock counterculture—gotten up as lurid melodrama, with a murky mixture of psycho-whodunit, conspiracy-thriller, and (in the feverish, limp final chapters) vague occultery. Novelist Sandy Blair, who was a counterculture journalist back in the 1960s, agrees to investigate a murder for his old, now-commercialized underground paper Hedgehog: Jamie Lynch, slimy bygone rock-promoter, has been killed up in Maine, his heart cut out! Could this be connected to Lynch's old band "the Nazgul," a favorite of Sandy's? Yes indeed. The body's found on a bloody Nazgul poster—and on the anniversary of the Nazgul's final West Mesa concert in 1971. . . when lead singer Pat Hobbins was killed by a sniper, leading to crowd-panic fatalities. So Sandy tracks down the three surviving Nazgul band-members: a contented New Jersey bar-owner (whose beloved bar then burns down mysteriously); a pathetic has-been, playing lousy music in Chicago; a Santa Fe family man, still aching for a comeback. He also visits a few of his Sixties chums—with sex, laments over America's loss of '60s values, anger over assorted sell-outs, and several shrill, overdone encounters. (An old draft-dodger pal is being kept virtual prisoner by his rightwing father.) But Sandy eventually realizes that the villain behind the killing is rich, renegade radical-terrorist Edan Morse, who is planning a reunion/tour of the Nazgul—complete with a living replica of the dead Pat Hobbins and apocalyptic, crowd-riot material: "We will seize the bloodtide, and in its wake we will have a new world." Seduced by Morse's lethal sidekick "Ananda," ambivalent Sandy becomes PR man for the comeback tour—slowly realizing that some demonic force is at work. (The kid impersonating Hobbins is possessed during performance.) And, when history threatens to repeat itself at West Mesa, it's Sandy who resists the demon, destructive force. . . clearing the way for a dubious happy ending all around. Unfortunately, hero Sandy is too self-righteous and relentlessly adolescent to take seriously—so his long, talky socio-cultural thrashings fall flat (despite some amusing wiseguy dialogue). And Martin, who managed to create subtle chills in Fevre Dream (1982), falls to make any aspect of the suspense here—the conspiracy, the demonics, the concerts—convincing or scary. The result, then, is a busy, ambitious hybrid—too shallow to engage thoughtful Sixties veterans, too pretentious to please thrill-seekers, but energetic and flashy enough to keep a fair-sized audience reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1983

ISBN: 0553383078

Page Count: 379

Publisher: Poseidon/Pocket Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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 THREE-BODY PROBLEM

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 1

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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