All-male armament and action, and one deadly female Russian. And, by heaven, with writers like Coyle standing watch over us,...

DEAD HAND

Remember the Russian Doomsday Machine in Dr. Strangelove? The one meant to go off should all other retaliatory systems fail during a first strike against the USSR? Well, Coyle (God’s Children, 2000) remembers it.

Coyle has downloaded encyclopedic detail about the whole world’s military forces and speeds fearlessly into any country to which his hypothetical war tales take him. Dead Hand opens in eastern Russia while rebels take over bomb silos, hops to the Special Air Services in overcast Scotland, where elite troops train for violent missions, then to Corsica, where the elite of the elite of France’s Légion Étrangère train parachute commandos, and then to Arlington, Virginia, where the DOD’s Crisis Action Team gears up for no-notice, high-speed war games. Have the ICBMs sought by the rebellious rocket regiment in Russia been stood down? Yes, all but one—but that’s one too many. Then the Near-Earth Object Discovery team’s observatory in Berlin fails to see a chunk of space rock collide with another and set in motion a catastrophe unseen since a seven-mile-long asteroid wiped out two thirds of all species 65 million years ago. The new rock hits western Siberia like a thousand Hiroshimas, suddenly it’s hell on earth, with forest fires everywhere, vaporized ice thrown up with dirt into jet streams, and flying fragments so superheated they burst atomically midair, brighter than the sun. Will the still fully primed Perimeter system—called Dead Hand and devised to go off automatically should Russia’s arsenal be disabled—read all this commotion as time to go off? After roaring winds over Siberia that blow its planes about subside, what can a polyglot force of NATO commandos do to stop the hand of superpatriot General Likatchev, now rattling Perimeter bombs at Moscow and meaning to oust the current post-Putin president and bring Mother Russia back as a world power?

All-male armament and action, and one deadly female Russian. And, by heaven, with writers like Coyle standing watch over us, who needs Bruce Willis?

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-87919-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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