An intriguing story, but fiction at this high a level deserves just a little more.

WAR DOGS

First of a new science-fiction trilogy from the author of Halo: Silentium (2013, etc.).

In the not-too-distant future, interstellar aliens known as the Gurus arrive on Earth and make humanity an offer it cannot refuse: tremendously advanced technology. There’s a catch, of course. The Gurus have enemies of their own, the Antagonists, and would like help to fight them. So Earth creates a new combat force, “skyrines,” marines who can fight in space or on planets such as Mars, where, it turns out, the “Antags” have already established a beachhead. Veteran skyrine Master Sgt. Michael Venn prepares with his troops for another drop onto the dusty Martian surface, their mission curiously ill-defined. Attacked immediately as he drops, Venn finds himself stranded on the ground with a handful of companions, no backup, no communications or prospect of relief and rapidly running out of air. Fortunately, they’re rescued by Teal, a settler, or “Muskie” (named after Elon Musk), and conveyed to a secret Muskie base, the Drifter, where things rapidly get weirder. A bunch of belligerent, racist Voors (also settlers) show up in pursuit of Teal, followed by a platoon of female skyrine special operations troopers, all with their own secret agendas. Meanwhile, in flash-forwards (so we know Venn doesn’t die—at least, not yet), a mystifyingly transformed Venn has returned to Earth, where he waits for the mysterious “Joe” to contact him. Packed with adventure and incident, though remarkably little actual combat, and conveyed with gritty realism via characters that have personalities, Bear’s first-person narrative builds to a satisfying order of complexity, one he’s rarely shown since his earliest days, though readers hoping for one more step up—such as a military backlash or a splash of social acid—will be thwarted.

An intriguing story, but fiction at this high a level deserves just a little more.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 9780316072830

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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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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Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

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

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. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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