All the more impressive for being a significant departure from previous entries.

TARNISHED KNIGHT

From the Lost Stars series

Beginning a sort of spinoff series taking place, chronologically, between Campbell’s last two outings (Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught, 2011, and Beyond The Frontier: Invincible, 2012) wherein the influence of "Black Jack" Geary is palpable, though he makes no actual appearance.

The brutal, ruthlessly hypercapitalist rule of the Syndicate is faltering thanks to its inability to defend the people against either Geary or the alien enigmas. The Midway system, with its numerous hypergate passages to other Syndicate systems, is pivotal. Most citizens and even some CEOs are weary of being terrorized by the Gestapo-like political police, or snakes. Exiled CEO Artur Drakon, having long plotted rebellion, now launches an all-out effort to seize control of Midway’s planets and exterminate the snakes. But he doesn’t control what’s left of Midway’s space forces: for that, he needs an alliance with fellow-exile and would-be rebel CEO Gwen Iceni. In a carefully coordinated action, Iceni commandeers some of the warships and attacks those forces who remain loyal to the Syndicate or are dominated by snakes. After initial successes, both Drakon and Iceni declare independence. But their Syndicate heritage isn’t so easily shaken off; neither can afford to trust the other, yet disaster looms if they don’t. Both must maintain this delicate balance while rooting out nests of snakes and traitors and dealing with ambitious underlings. Campbell maintains the military, political and even sexual tension with sure-handed proficiency. In previous volumes, the emphasis leaned toward battles; here, while not neglecting them, Campbell focuses on the human element: two strong, well-developed characters locked in mutual dependence, fumbling their way toward a different and hopefully brighter future. What emerges is a fascinating and vividly rendered character study, fully and expertly contextualized.

All the more impressive for being a significant departure from previous entries.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-937077-82-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ace/Berkley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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The flashy, snappy delivery fails to compensate for the uninhabited blandness of the characters. And despite the many clever...

SNOW CRASH

After terminally cute campus high-jinks (The Big U) and a smug but attention-grabbing eco-thriller (Zodiac), Stephenson leaps into near-future Gibsonian cyberpunk—with predictably mixed results.

The familiar-sounding backdrop: The US government has been sold off; businesses are divided up into autonomous franchises ("franchulates") visited by kids from the heavily protected independent "Burbclaves"; a computer-generated "metaverse" is populated by hackers and roving commercials. Hiro Protagonist, freelance computer hacker, world's greatest swordsman, and stringer for the privatized CIA, delivers pizzas for the Mafia—until his mentor Da5id is blasted by Snow Crash, a curious new drug capable of crashing both computers and hackers. Hiro joins forces with freelance skateboard courier Y.T. to investigate. It emerges that Snow Crash is both a drug and a virus: it destroyed ancient Sumeria by randomizing their language to create Babel; its modern victims speak in tongues, lose their critical faculties, and are easily brainwashed. Eventually the usual conspiracy to take over the world emerges; it's led by media mogul L. Bob Rife, the Rev. Wayne's Pearly Gates religious franchulate, and vengeful nuclear terrorist Raven. The cultural-linguistic material has intrinsic interest, but its connections with cyberpunk and computer-reality seem more than a little forced.

The flashy, snappy delivery fails to compensate for the uninhabited blandness of the characters. And despite the many clever embellishments, none of the above is as original as Stephenson seems to think. An entertaining entry that would have benefitted from a more rigorous attention to the basics.

Pub Date: May 15, 1992

ISBN: 0553380958

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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