A top-notch, edge-of-the-seat thriller in which there are no villains, only mysteries.

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THE CASSANDRA PROJECT

This first collaboration from McDevitt (Firebird, 2011, etc.) and Resnick (The Doctor and the Kid, 2011, etc.), developed from a 2010 story by McDevitt (spoiler alert: don’t read the story first), takes the form of a conspiracy involving the moon landings. And no, Stanley Kubrick didn’t fake them.

By 2019, the U.S. economy is still grinding along the fringes of recession. Jerry Culpepper, NASA’s public affairs director, loves his job and still believes in its mission, even though the only foreseeable future is one of continuing slow decline. But then a routine release of background material from the late 1960s turns up an oddity. Before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, there were two dress-rehearsal moon shots, both of which orbited the moon but did not land. Yet, a recording of a chat between Houston and Sydney Myshko, captain of the first of the test missions, shows Myshko apparently preparing to descend! And Aaron Walker, on the mission after Myshko, wrote in his diary that he landed on the moon. Both men are now dead and cannot be questioned. But was there a coverup? Of what, and for what possible reason? Multibillionaire entrepreneur Morgan “Bucky” Blackstone sees a chance to goose the complacent Washington establishment and, not coincidentally, whip up enthusiasm for his own, strictly private enterprise, planned moon landings. As other evidence, suggestive yet inconclusive, trickles in, Jerry tries to keep a lid on things. Meanwhile, POTUS George Cunningham, an essentially decent man with a strong interest in NASA but hampered by intractable budgetary constraints, finds himself in a bind: If there was a conspiracy and he didn’t know, he’s out of touch and an idiotic dupe; if he did know, he’s a liar and part of the coverup. Against the solid and affectionately rendered NASA backdrop, the authors expertly crank up the tension and maintain it throughout via a suite of thoroughly believable characters.

A top-notch, edge-of-the-seat thriller in which there are no villains, only mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-937008-71-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ace/Berkley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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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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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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