Not quite yet peak Tregillis, but his fans—and other readers with an interest in dark, intelligent fantasy—will find much to...

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THE MECHANICAL

From the Alchemy Wars series , Vol. 1

First of a new fantasy trilogy from the author of the splendid Something More Than Night (2013, etc.).

Two hundred and fifty years ago, the Dutch created a mechanical army of “Clakkers”—thinking clockwork beings powered and enslaved by alchemical magic—and now rule the world. Only the French government in exile still resists, from their fortress at Marseilles-in-the-West (Montreal). The powerful Schoonraad family is about to relocate to New Amsterdam (New York) and send their servitor Clakker, Jax, to Pastor Luuk Visser to collect a letter of introduction. Visser, however, secretly a Papist and a French spy whose network has been broken, expects to be arrested momentarily. He gives Jax an antique telescope with instructions to deliver it to an address in New Amsterdam. But during the voyage, the telescope breaks, a peculiar glass bead falls out—and Jax discovers he is no longer a slave. To the north, meanwhile, Vicomtesse Bernice de Laval, the French Talleyrand (spy chief), suspects that one of the king’s closest advisers is a traitor. While secretly studying a captured battle Clakker, which the terms of the current uneasy cease-fire specifically prohibit, the thing gets away, killing her husband and slaughtering dozens. The traitor escapes. Exiled, Bernice makes her way to New Amsterdam, where eventually she will collide with Jax—with profound consequences for both the French and the Dutch. Perhaps holding back for later entries, Tregillis gives few details of the Clakkers’ construction or operation, and the story is curiously slow to get going. But his characters are as convincing as ever, the plotting is beautifully articulated, the tone relentlessly grim and sometimes horrifying. And while the action rarely flags, Tregillis manages to pack in a good deal of philosophical probing.

Not quite yet peak Tregillis, but his fans—and other readers with an interest in dark, intelligent fantasy—will find much to admire here.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-24800-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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

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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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