Avoiding the comic-book trap (though there is some resemblance to The Matrix), this cross-dimensional thriller should give...

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BROKEN ANGELS

A virus grants victims superhuman powers and perceptions (if it doesn’t kill them first), and Robert and Darryl are two such carriers, fighting crime and unstable fellow infectees.

In a near future when drug addiction and gangs push society closer to anarchy, the White-Fire Virus afflicts a small but important percentage. The STD shortens lifespans, distorts the mind and floods the body with bizarre, possibly sentient, photosensitive parasites. Those able to control the microbes via meds, their own will and light-tight full-body suits can develop amazing abilities, including shape-shifting and light bending (i.e. invisibility, heat rays and such). Other victims literally melt, and some go mad and turn into psychotic criminals. Robert and Darryl are two young virus-carriers who have joined an elite covert-ops squad, ostensibly searching for missing kids but more often hunting viral villains. Each man has his own baggage: The hard-nosed Robert mourns the loss of his family; maverick Darryl, sexually appealing to male and female alike, brainwashes pickups into permanent celibacy out of some spiritual crusade. They separately get involved with mystery women, also touched and warped by White Fire, who fancy themselves “arkangel” mystics ushering in a post-apocalyptic new world. But who are the do-gooders and who are the insane terrorists or pawns? Author Grey-Sun’s mutant-superhero, AIDS-metaphor concept may seem a bit overreaching at times, especially when it morphs into a philosophical quest, however, hallucinatory passages and alternative-reality themes echo the prose of Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick without seeming derivative—quite a feat there alone—even if a mismatched buddy-supercop template underpins much of the cosmic spectacle. Despite oft-referenced sexual elements, erotic content is hardly present; it’s the metaphysics—poetic, somewhat punny wordplay about the nature of God, art and Creation—that get full-frontal exposure. The author even injects an entertaining side detail: Sufferers from the virus are drawn to quoting arcane ideas and badly written allegorical novels. This title may even find a readership in religious fantasy literature, albeit of a pretty far-out variety.

Avoiding the comic-book trap (though there is some resemblance to The Matrix), this cross-dimensional thriller should give broad-minded readers a heady brew of thought and superpowered action.

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475005417

Page Count: 312

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

A DEADLY EDUCATION

From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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