Is it sci-fi? A viral thriller? Yes and no, and while not for every taste, a pleasure for the experimentally minded.

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LOW CHICAGO

A genre-hopping, time-jumping, crowd-pleasing chain novel under the curation of old master Martin, he of Game of Thrones fame.

Low Chicago is a card game, but it’s also a fine description of the demimonde-haunting characters who turn up at the Palmer House at the beginning of this octoauthorial extravaganza. One is John Nighthawk, “a smallish black man in a dark pin-striped suit with a discreet kidskin glove on his left hand.” A discreet glove? Well, roll with it. Nighthawk, who’s spent time on the road and time in the big city, has had unusual powers since 1946. Others gathered around the card table include an actor who starred alongside John Wayne and a gigantic mutant half of whom is “an anthropomorphic version of a Bengal tiger.” You’d think that someone with such distinctive markings would call attention to himself in the Loop, but when said someone is under the aegis of a gangster named Giovanni Galante and a moll named Cynder, “an ace with a potent flame-wielding ability,” people tend to look the other way. When the story gets into time travel in earnest, it’s sometimes a little hard to keep track of where we are and why we’re there with, say, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy at one minute or, at another, a fellow bent on rubbing out a teenage Galante before Galante himself kills for the first time (“Mob guys got some kind of fucked-up ritual where you kill somebody when you turn sixteen?”). Indeed, the characters themselves don’t seem to know themselves, as when said half-tiger finds himself wondering “whether to answer sixteen years ago or in seventy-two years” when asked when he acquired his curious appearance. Not all the pieces hang together, and some are better than others, but the authors do a respectable job overall of tangling with the ineffable.

Is it sci-fi? A viral thriller? Yes and no, and while not for every taste, a pleasure for the experimentally minded.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7653-9056-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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