An enthusiastic fantasy that emphasizes action but sacrifices nuanced character development.

SIPPING THE FOREVER

A diverse collection of fantasy short stories with settings that range from prehistoric to postapocalyptic.

Sloyer’s eight stories span the ages: “Glimpse” tracks one prehistoric man’s struggle to survive against natural elements and wildlife, and “Logo,” a nearly 200-page novella about fertility control and political corruption, outlines a postapocalyptic, totalitarian U.S. government. Other scenarios imagine a meeting between Bach and Chopin, a child who wastes his entire life spellbound by the accidental discovery of an early artifact (a CD-ROM), and children who employ paranormal talents to out-survive their parents. “Evolution” pictures an uncontrolled government experiment of creating “combots,” robots designed for combat. These ambitious narratives skew toward social commentary. In “Logo,” for example, a recognizable bounty hunter enforces a national fertility law by murdering anyone, including children, who dares to ignore the law (“the unsponsored”). The hunts are broadcast on television in an edited version of reality TV—a commercial vehicle used by the political and business elite to perpetuate the status quo. Sloyer uses several familiar storylines—the rogue government agent, double-crossing politicians, rebelling robots and the brilliant female scientist—for momentum. Most stories are fast-paced reads that tend to gloss over character development or subplots. At times, Sloyer’s scenes of brutality can jar the reader. For instance, in “And the Elephants Cried,” “Logo,” “Evolution” and “The Consibaiglor,” several deaths happens without much forewarning or explanation. This violence heightens tension but at the expense of emotional depth. Each story has its own lexicon, an imaginative flourish that occasionally compromises clarity.

An enthusiastic fantasy that emphasizes action but sacrifices nuanced character development.

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468015430

Page Count: 415

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

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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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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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An impressive beginning to what looks to be an ambitious series.

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS

From the The Shadow Histories series , Vol. 1

An alternate history in the style of Naomi Novik and Susanna Clarke explores the French and Haitian revolutions with a magical twist.

This series opener has three plotlines. One follows Fina, a young enslaved woman who eventually joins with Toussaint Louverture and plays a pivotal role in the revolution against slavery and French rule in Saint-Domingue; the second follows Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien Robespierre as they stir up the bloody Reign of Terror; and the third follows friends William Pitt and William Wilberforce as they rise in the ranks of the British Parliament. Parry is working with historical events and (mostly) real characters here, but this is a world where some people are born with magical abilities. Some can control the weather, some can manipulate metal, some can even control others through “mesmerism.” Some magicians have abilities that are wholly outlawed, like necromancy, and “vampires”—here meaning human magicians who can ingest blood to give themselves eternal life—have been wiped out altogether (supposedly). But who is allowed to use their magic? Only White aristocrats, of course, and with the aid of magic, White slave owners literally control slaves’ every movement, trapping them inside their minds. But enslaved people, like Fina, are finding ways to break free and fight back, and in Europe, politicians like Pitt and Wilberforce are working to abolish the slave trade and give people of all classes the right to use their gifts. Desmoulins and Robespierre start out fighting for freedom, but as the French Revolution descends into pure violence, it becomes clear that someone is manipulating Robespierre to cause as much death as possible. The story leans too heavily on dialogue, which, unfortunately, is not Parry’s strongest suit. Her real talent lies in immersive worldbuilding and meticulous plotting, and she does an expert job of setting the scene for the rest of the series while simultaneously constructing a story that’s engaging in its own right.

An impressive beginning to what looks to be an ambitious series.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45908-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Redhook/Orbit

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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