A thriller with capable heroes that portrays a future that feels scarily near.

EFFACEMENT

In this SF thriller, brain chips are supposed to keep people healthy and connected to society—but they may be killing some of them.

In a post-privacy United States, virtually everyone has a Vitasync neurochip installed at the base of their brain. These technological marvels connect people to apps such as MyPharm, which treats small health problems, and a vast digital overlay of visual information. The chips record one’s experiences into a “lifelog,” which is illegal to tamper with and makes one a citizen who can hold a job and open a bank account. One day, Cole Westbay wakes to find his apartment trashed and his chip stolen. Without his connection, he feels like a “junkie coming down from a bad trip.” Cole works for BioNarratus, the company that’s cornered the neurochip market. He’s also the protégé of Lounis Belrose, one of the world’s most powerful people. Cole had been researching why several senators, judges, and other key figures have been meeting early ends and how this may be connected to Vitasync’s latest software patch. After Cole asks a neighbor to call the police for him, he’s arrested for the crime of “effacement,” or having an offline lifelog. When Lounis bails him out of jail—instead of Cole’s girlfriend, Tesla Carrick, who also works for BioNarratus—Cole starts to suspect that something shady is going on. At a pawn shop, he hunts for Augmented Reality glasses to reconnect to the world, and he later meets Eva Spangler, an attorney who reveals to him an aspect of society that he’d never dreamed possible.

Hawkes superbly extrapolates what our technology-dependent and pandemic-stricken world might be like a dozen years from now. Despite the illegality of effacement, a large segment of the population is shown to live off the grid, divested from modernity by economics or circumstance; Cole is so ensconced in a busy realm of digital engagement that he has no idea these people even exist. Yet the author also shows that the protagonist does have a heart, although he’s given it to Tesla, a narcissist who’s wary of commitment. Eva, who drives sports cars, is skilled with a gun, and has a killer smile, becomes Cole’s—and the reader’s—guide through Control, Alt, Delete, a secret group that cherishes privacy. Hawkes occasionally embraces a hard-boiled tone in his prose, as in the line, “Being in the cell was a bit like being in a casino, with no clocks and no change in the lighting. But he had more to lose than a bet, and no one was bringing him cocktails.” The author mentions a “Great Pandemic” in connection with cruise-ship horrors, but Hawke’s descriptions of people’s dwindling social skills are more intriguing; many use “quints,” for example—digital projections that have replaced physical handshakes as greetings. Although the assassin hunting Cole, Phillip Chestnut, seems robotic, other characters show notable agency. A somewhat-winding journey on snowmobiles and through a courtroom brings readers to an enjoyably unexpected finale.

A thriller with capable heroes that portrays a future that feels scarily near.

Pub Date: March 27, 2021

ISBN: 979-8-72-861870-6

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 55

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more