The Krikkit Wars

NOTHING IS CERTAIN, UNLESS YOU MAKE IT CERTAIN YOURSELF

A planet of bumpkins declares war on the rest of the universe in this humorous sci-fi debut.
Krikkit is a bucolic world whose inhabitants are hardworking above all else. What they value most are the things they can touch and experience firsthand. When they look up in the sky, they see the sun—and not much else. A vast dust cloud obscures the rest of the cosmos, so the Krikkitans have no sense of their place in the larger scheme of things. It’s all the more shocking, then, when a spaceship crashes. Two Krikkitans named Brag and Tarm investigate the oddity, dragging it to a barn. Eventually, they get it flying and travel past the dust cloud. Upon seeing the majestic cosmos long hidden to them, they decide it shouldn’t exist, and they mobilize the rest of their people to destroy it. This endeavor involves building more spaceships and mastering weaponry. And because the Krikkitans only learn by doing, it’s a slow process. Still, they succeed in their epic quest by blowing up some planets and battling various races—including, by all appearances, humanity. But with Krikkit’s own natural resources limited, how much of the universe can their war machine destroy? Debut author Forjans offers a hilarious premise that wouldn’t be out of place in a Monty Python film. His narrative quickly proceeds with bone-dry wit and, in discussing the known universe, reveals that many civilizations “are so advanced that their primary function has evolved into having...a wonderful time whilst drinking perfectly chilled imported beer.” Adding to the tone is angular prose that alternates between charming and all-too goofy; for example, “Brag had, as no one else on Krikkit, not ever seen anything like the thing he now saw.” These highlights, unfortunately, are steadily brought low by Forjans’ pedantic plotting and argumentative, one-note characters. Frequently sloppy grammar doesn’t help, either: “Brag and Tarm was pleased with the result.” Tighter editing and defter storytelling may help a sequel.
An overdose of silliness for its own sake.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477246313

Page Count: 232

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2014

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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