An intriguing premise rooted in provocative philosophical questions, but the promising beginning is undermined by a weak...


A brilliant, idealistic student’s noble intentions go horribly awry in Duringer’s sci-fi novel.

Graduate student Susan Rotham had a difficult childhood. Growing up poor, she and her family often struggled to find adequate food, which sparked a desire in her to dedicate her life’s work to finding a way to eradicate world hunger. As an aspiring scientist, she dreams of creating a supervegetable that could provide all the nutrients necessary for survival and be grown without soil or water. She believes her work could complement the research of Dr. Robin Mallory, a respected authority on a species of air plant called Tillandsias. The supervegetable could save millions from starvation and ultimately promote equality among all classes of people; however, world financial markets could be disrupted by the presence of a safe, abundant source of free food. Working in secret, Dr. Mallory and Susan successfully develop the supervegetable and call it Tillandsias aetherolus. The vegetable lives up to its promise, helping millions around the world and bringing fame and fortune to Susan and Dr. Mallory. But unexpected mutations threaten the survival of the planet. Duringer’s imaginative scenario traces the development of the Tillandsias aetherolus, its effects on the planet, and how the world is ultimately changed by this well-intentioned, genetically engineered vegetable. The first half of the novel is the most successful, with the action moving at a brisk pace as Susan and Dr. Mallory move from university labs to the jungles of Ecuador in a race against time to create the vegetable. Motivated by a genuine desire to help humanity, they are aware of the potential risks to the global balance of power; however, they don’t realize that unintended consequences could be even riskier than financial disruption. These consequences are explored in the second half of the novel, as Susan and Dr. Mallory try to restore humanity and the planet. Though imaginative, this section lacks the philosophical conundrums that made the first half so enthralling.

An intriguing premise rooted in provocative philosophical questions, but the promising beginning is undermined by a weak second half.

Pub Date: March 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492396321

Page Count: 326

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2014

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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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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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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.


A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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