Well-written, sincere and undemanding military sci-fi adventure.

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THE DRAGONS OF JUPITER

An entertaining sci-fi action novel with light overtones of dystopian and political thrillers.

In Holo’s debut, set in a future version of our solar system, two brothers find themselves divided by interplanetary war. Kaneda and Ryu Kusanagi are from Europa, a moon of Jupiter, and both are veterans of a past war against a tyrannical artificial intelligence that sought to conquer humanity. In that conflict’s aftermath, they’ve chosen different sides in a new struggle. Kaneda, who hates AIs, fights alongside soldiers called Crusaders as they seek to destroy Matriarch, a “quantum mind” AI who was once human. Ryu, however, is a commando warrior with the Dragons, who fight the Crusaders with stealth and cunning in an effort to protect Matriarch, who guides Europa’s society. Kaneda, however, sees her as a computerized dictator and his old way of life as a lie. The Crusaders pit their powered-armor suits against the Dragons’ enhanced reflexes and invisibility technology. The brothers’ personal conflict is played out on a grand stage with the fates of Europa and three other worlds—Earth, Luna and Jupiter—in the balance. The story sticks to a familiar adventure style, and the battle between the brothers is an old chestnut of melodrama, but it’s told with gusto and conviction. The vivid secondary characters mostly avoid falling into stock types, and some plot twists and moral ambiguity add a bit of sophistication. The strong action scenes are fast-paced throughout (although often harsh and gory), the dialogue flows well, and the fictional world is detailed, plausible and well-designed, from its planets to its spaceships. The author isn’t afraid to show the more grotesque sides of society, which may seem off-putting to some readers, as when characters debate the merits and flaws of using technology to reanimate dead soldiers. There are some typos and minor grammatical errors but nothing that readers will find particularly distracting. The story builds to a satisfying conclusion, and naturally, the author leaves room for sequels.

Well-written, sincere and undemanding military sci-fi adventure.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1484112014

Page Count: 406

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

A DEADLY EDUCATION

From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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