Though the Korean War hasn’t generally been regarded as a major departure point in human history by alternate-world...


From the Hot War series , Vol. 2

Second part of the alternate-world-war trilogy (Bombs Away, 2015) whose entirely plausible conjecture was: what if President Harry Truman had used nuclear weapons during the Korean War?

Well, here he did, disastrously instigating a nuclear war. Atomic bombs have already devastated cities in China, Russia, and Europe, and on America’s west coast. Despite a few set pieces showing us the world’s leaders (though not as they formulate their decisions) and politics outside the war (the specter of McCarthyism), Turtledove once again develops his narrative via a substantial cast of ordinary people, both civilians and military, and their particular circumstances. Fascinating concurrences emerge. In Germany, currently occupied by Soviet invaders, Luisa Hozzel, the wife of a WWII Wehrmacht soldier now fighting alongside the Americans, gets sent to a Siberian labor camp. By contrast, Marian Staley and her daughter cope with life in a refugee camp outside now-radioactive Seattle. The members of Boris Gribkov’s Soviet bomber crew spend their free time drinking vodka and thwarting the political police, while Bruce McNulty, an American bomber pilot stationed in England, tiptoes toward romance with a widowed British pub owner. Elsewhere, other characters familiar from the first book experience action in the European and Korean theaters, some finding themselves allied with former enemies while others fight against opponents who once were comrades. In still other places less affected by the bombs and the battles, some semblance of normal life prevails. Even if he’s not creating completely memorable personalities, Turtledove’s patented, highly effective methodology—a steady sequence of sharply etched passages allowing him to accrue telling detail around each individual actor—ensures readers become attached to them and invested in their futures.

Though the Korean War hasn’t generally been regarded as a major departure point in human history by alternate-world theorists, Turtledove’s surmise reminds us just how dangerously unpredictable the nuclear option remains.

Pub Date: July 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-39073-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2017

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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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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.


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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