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INVADERS

22 TALES FROM THE OUTER LIMITS OF LITERATURE

By their natures, anthologies are often hit and miss: there are misses aplenty here, but the hits, when they come, are solid...

A collection of 22 short stories featuring several big names of literary fiction experimenting with science-fiction themes and concepts.

Introduced by editor Weisman, a veteran of the SF landscape, the anthology presents a broad spectrum of stories, though only a few display conventional integration of the science of science fiction. For every story grounded in scientific developments, there is another that is best described as magic realism. If any one story embodies the overall tone, it may be Chris Tarry's “Topics in Advanced Rocketry,” wherein the conceit of a rocket ship serves as mere vehicle for ruminations on family dynamics, the created celebrity, and 21st-century disaffection. (Lampshading the point, the rocket itself has fake dials which our "astronauts" cannot control at all.) Several stories stagger about under the weight of their own interpersonal relationships with hardly a plot to be found (J. Robert Lennon's “Portal,” Jonathan Lethem's “Five Fucks,” Jami Attenberg's “In the Bushes,” Jim Shepard's “Minotaur,” Rivka Galchen's “The Region of Unlikeness”...). That said, other stories in the anthology straddle an effective and potent line between the tight plotting of good SF and their own literary sensibilities: Julia Elliott's “LIMBs” is a poignant exploration of technology enabling discovery of one's personal past—and how one must outwit that technology to regain one's agency. Bryan Evenson's “Fugue State” is a dreamlike zombie-plague tale that leaves one unsettled—an understated contrast to Junot Díaz's “Monstro,” which handles the same theme but with more pyrotechnics. Deji Bryce Olukotun's “We Are the Olfanauts” creatively condemns our emerging media-and–safety-net global culture, and Eric Puchner's “Beautiful Monsters” is an enjoyably queasy take on eternal youth.

By their natures, anthologies are often hit and miss: there are misses aplenty here, but the hits, when they come, are solid and lingering.

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61696-210-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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DEVOLUTION

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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