An offbeat meditation on relationships, replete with quirky characters and a poignant romance at the center of the action.

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LOVE IN THE CRETACEOUS

Tales of love, loss, and regret unfold around a futuristic dinosaur park in this novel.

In 2116, the effects of climate change have drastically altered the planet and advances in technology have led to the development of a remarkable—and extremely popular—theme park. Cretaceous World, located in Dewberry, Oregon, connects visitors with the distant past through genetically engineered dinosaurs living in full-scale reconstructions of their habitats. The sprawling park’s director, Ted Beebe, a microbiologist, and his wife, Becky, a professor of botany, have dedicated their lives to Cretaceous World. At 68, he is satisfied with his marriage and career; however, he finds that he now laments that he and Becky never had children. His blissful life is shattered when she is diagnosed with a virus that causes dementia and later killed by a drunk driver. Bereft, he tries to move on with his life and finds himself attracted to paleontologist Lana Gable. Love is also on the minds of park employees and residents of Dewberry. Sheriff Bob Holmes is concerned that his deputy, Jimmy Watson, is taking his girlfriend for granted. Mystery author Althea Morgan comes to Dewberry seeking information about a murder victim, a Russian tourist, and the relationship that may have led to her death. Ted’s association with Lana leads to new beginnings, but his enduring love for Becky tempers his happiness. The latest from Robertson (The Bricolage of Kotegaeshi, 2007, etc.) uses the wonders of the dinosaur park as a backdrop to explore the idiosyncrasies of love, grief, and newfound connections. The descriptions of Cretaceous World and its formidable inhabitants are vivid and realistic and Robertson displays a wry sense of humor and a panoply of intriguing characters. Most of the action takes place in the theme park and Robertson draws several thought-provoking parallels between the dinosaurs and their human caretakers, especially in the area of reproduction. The genetic tinkering has rendered the reptiles sterile. As Ted explains: “We can’t handle a population increase in our dinosaurs. When one of them dies, we just make a new one.” Ted and Becky remained childless by choice, preferring to focus instead on their careers and the development of the park. Ted was initially content with their decision; however, after 35 years of marriage, he finds himself wishing he had become a father. The tension between childlessness, by choice or design, and the desire for a family is a central theme connecting several primary and secondary characters in the tale. Robertson’s playful and keen sense of humor is another highlight, particularly the teasing banter between Lana and Ted and a popular local restaurant whimsically named Hominid’s Delight. But the book is relatively short and some promising subplots are limited to a few episodes. Althea’s investigation into the Russian tourist’s death yields a tantalizing murder mystery, but it is dropped as quickly as it is introduced.

An offbeat meditation on relationships, replete with quirky characters and a poignant romance at the center of the action.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68114-333-0

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2017

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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