A lavish historical epic that balances details and emotional impact.

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

From the Crossroads series , Vol. 1

This series opener follows various Pleistocene hominids as they struggle for survival.

In East Africa, 850,000 years ago, Xhosa is a female Homo erectus who enjoys the physicality of hunting and fighting. Her father, who desires peace, is the People’s Leader. Her mother was killed in front of her by one of the vicious Big Heads (Homo sapiens), who want complete control over any territory they find. When her father is likewise killed by Big Heads, Xhosa competes with Nightshade, whom she may mate with, to become the new Leader. Further encounters with the Big Heads bring Xhosa into contact with the handsome Wind, one of two brothers leading the savages. While his brother, Thunder, is remorseless, Wind is willing to talk and reveals a reverence for Xhosa. Meanwhile, in southern Africa, Pan-do (Homo erectus) and his People have been traveling for over a month. They also flee Big Head violence and hope to find a place to settle down, possibly alongside the gentle Homo habilis Uprights. Lyta, Pan-do’s daughter, walks lamely yet is attuned to nature and the realm of the mind in ways unheard of to the People. Her dreams may be the key to uniting disparate clans and finding true safety. Beginning a new trilogy, Murray (Born in a Treacherous Time, 2018, etc.) continues to chronicle how humanity spread across the globe from an origin point in Africa. While taking dramatic liberty with the notion of speech (as readers know it), the author presents characters who face the hard choices that have plagued heroes throughout storytelling’s history. Despite the truth that “the more aggressive, the longer life lasted,” Xhosa knows that the People can’t survive on war alone. Art, dreams, and empathy are bedrock components of society; they also advance the narrative in fabulous ways, including tying Xhosa to famed human ancestor Lucy. The clear message that humanity should live in harmony with nature rather than endlessly consuming and expanding should resonate more than ever with modern audiences.

A lavish historical epic that balances details and emotional impact.

Pub Date: March 6, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Structured Learning LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more