A paranoid sci-fi fantasy that takes a spiritual turn; poolside reading for ashram fans.

INVISIBLE FORCES

In a dystopic America, a data analyst finds himself hunted by his own company following his viewing of mysterious, otherworldly images on a camera card.

In this final installment of Scott’s (Tracking Terra, 2011, etc.) trilogy, a future surveillance-state America boasts implanted GPS trackers and nonstop monitoring of citizens by sinister corporations. And every corporation here seems to be evil (except maybe Home Depot). Daren Alec Kyle, aka Dak, displays advanced visual pattern recognition and 3-D acuity after a youthful head injury. He’s an intel asset for rogue corporation Cascade, which asks him to assess an old camera card ominously found amid human bones in the Arizona desert. The murky and incomplete pixels show odd circular shapes and could be anything. Dak subsequently suffers a night visit from his own doppelgänger apparition warning that the pictures are about “survival.” That’s enough for Cascade to turn on Dak, making him a fugitive. Fortunately, since “paranoia had become my middle name,” the resourceful (but nonviolent) Dak subscribes to an elite security firm that helps him during his cross-country odyssey to Florida as he deals with pursuit and betrayal by faceless foes and seeming friends. Dak intuits a connection between his plight and the hot topic of “Planet X,” aka Nibiru, a mythic 10th planet with a 22,000-year orbit, its intrusions bringing extinction-level catastrophe. He meets Kisha Anderson, whose own malevolent corporation makes her hype the Planet X theory while scheming to discredit her. Scott’s tale is Kafkaesque indeed; only in the latter half does the Shirley MacLaine–esque heroine of Tracking Terra enter from stage left. She’s Sara Alessa Giustino, a beautiful, ageless “Ascended Master” type, groomed more than 500 years ago by aliens to safeguard Earth’s evolution. This third installment of the author’s New Age–y trilogy unites elements from previous volumes while reading—mostly—like a stand-alone. Readers who expect this closer to be an apocalyptic showdown between good and evil instead get a muted finale, with Dak’s Pilgrim’s Progress–esque ascension to cosmic discipleship rather than the destruction of a Death Star manqué. With super-Sara in the mix, the story is almost akin to a Wonder Woman adventure that focuses more on mortal boyfriend Steve Trevor than Amazonian heroine Diana Prince.

A paranoid sci-fi fantasy that takes a spiritual turn; poolside reading for ashram fans.

Pub Date: April 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5320-3295-0

Page Count: 344

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2018

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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