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LAST RIGHTS

A feverish, demanding story that’s refreshingly new.

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Alberts (The Battery Man, 2013) envisions a bleak future in which the rich may legally buy the poor like cattle.

In 2068, life for average Americans has never been worse. Gun ownership is illegal, social safety nets are gone, and companies fire employees after a single offense. The desperate masses, in turn, can opt to sell themselves to facilities known as Arcologies. With large payments made to family members, individuals become the property of these towering structures, where, as 21st-century slaves, they exist and die at the pleasure of the superrich. Nothing is off-limits—sex, gladiatorial combat, organ donation, anything. Within the Shinu Arcology, near Chicago, lives a disparate group of enslaved people that includes Mitch, Lisa, Delano, Rick and Alex. Coping with their fates, they make heroic choices that help them succeed against the murderous Arcology. In an experiment, Mitch’s consciousness is transferred into the facility’s computer network. Elsewhere, Lisa is secretly sold as a fighter to a man named Malboq, from whom she learns that the Arcologies are run by the Shinjimori yakuza; he’d like her to help vanquish their global tyranny. But can this assortment of heroes foment revolution before the yakuza punish the rest of the world? Author Alberts brings tremendous energy, imagination and technological smarts to his sprawling narrative. He skilfully weaves multiple character threads into a robust, frightfully believable world. Readers will happily root for Alberts’ heroes since the villainy is so starkly presented; for example, one of the prison guards reminds Lisa, “You do what we want, when we want it, and you don’t ask questions. You’re not a person anymore. You’re a plaything; a pet.” In general, however, Alberts often uses descriptions with three words when one will suffice, so some passages take on a sheen that might exhaust readers, as when “she could no longer contain her own emotions in full, as a wellspring of tears began to fill behind the ineffective levees of her eyelids.” Nevertheless, this lurid, fascinating work will satisfy deep thinkers.

A feverish, demanding story that’s refreshingly new.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1493575084

Page Count: 576

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2014

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DEVOLUTION

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE MINISTRY OF TIME

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

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A time-toying spy romance that’s truly a thriller.

In the author’s note following the moving conclusion of her gripping, gleefully delicious debut novel, Bradley explains how she gathered historical facts about Lt. Graham Gore, a real-life Victorian naval officer and polar explorer, then “extrapolated a great deal” about him to come up with one of her main characters, a curly-haired, chain-smoking, devastatingly charming dreamboat who has been transported through time. Having also found inspiration in the sole extant daguerreotype of Gore, showing him to have been “a very attractive man,” Bradley wrote the earliest draft of the book for a cluster of friends who were similarly passionate about polar explorers. Her finished novel—taut, artfully unspooled, and vividly written—retains the kind of insouciant joy and intimacy you might expect from a book with those origins. It’s also breathtakingly sexy. The time-toggling plot focuses on the plight of a British civil servant who takes a high-paying job on a secret mission, working as a “bridge” to help time-traveling “expats” resettle in 21st-century London—and who falls hard for her charge, the aforementioned Commander Gore. Drama, intrigue, and romance ensue. And while this quasi-futuristic tale of time and tenderness never seems to take itself too seriously, it also offers a meaningful, nuanced perspective on the challenges we face, the choices we make, and the way we live and love today.

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781668045145

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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