Intriguing storylines, creatures and weapons, but the human component is lacking.

OF WAR AND CONSEQUENCE

THE CONSORTIUM CHAIN, BOOK ONE

In Martin’s debut fantasy tale, warring states wage bloody battles in a parallel universe.

Earthlike planet Xahr, populated by pugnacious, medieval-type humans, is rocked by perpetual war between the continental powers of the Banthyk Union and the Kingdom of Sarkrea. The right-thinking residents of Banthyk ride above their swampy homeland on the backs of gigantic lizards called trazlixes. The Sarkreans—bad guys who have shaved heads—use a mineral called convesium to heal their wounds and perform other magical feats. A host of peculiarly named substances, creatures and people course through the book, though Martin helpfully includes a lengthy introduction and frequent asides to explain each strange new word in this strange new world. He’s a little too helpful, in fact, as the pedantic exposition impedes the narrative flow; the map at the beginning of the book and the glossary at the end would have sufficed. The story also trips with writing tics that detract from the author’s clever creations. Too often he indulges in passive verbs and weak constructions—“Determination was evident,” he flatly notes of a wounded fighter’s mindset—and he sprinkles the text with clunky phrasing and words. Even if not always serviceable, the writing seems salvageable. At times, the prose is even pungent and pithy, as with a description of the Banthyk swamps: “A familiar smell of dead and rotting animals and plants permeated the air as the striding lizards plunged through the marsh.” But the plot is overly simplistic and most of the cast are more like video game caricatures than real-life characters. Although the feuding warriors engage in plenty of action-packed battles—often dispatching one another in creatively gory ways—too few well-developed personalities emerge from the carnage, and the leading heroes and villains come across as wooden. Many of the pages given over to exposition would be more valuable if devoted to further developing the sketchy characters and plot.

Intriguing storylines, creatures and weapons, but the human component is lacking.

Pub Date: April 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1470015374

Page Count: 246

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

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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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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