A neatly executed but somewhat thin tale that revolves around classic plays.

SHAKESPEARE ON ICE

In Blake’s time-skipping novel, a Shakespearean actor from the past ends up at the modern Globe Theatre.

In 1613 London, Jon Henry has set the theatrical world alight with his convincing performance of Anne Boleyn in his friend William Shakespeare’s latest play. Unfortunately, the Globe Theatre is literally set alight during a performance, and the entire building burns to the ground. Still wearing his Anne Boleyn dress—his street clothes were destroyed by the flames—Jon joins some of the other King’s Men for a drink. After imbibing some strange potables, Jon drunkenly ends up in the Thames, where he climbs into a floating barrel of freezing brine and sinks to the bottom of the river. He spends four centuries entombed in the concrete foundation of a quay until he’s dislodged by a dredger. The actor, who’s been cryogenically preserved,floats to the surface and awakens in a nearby hospital, confused. He soon realizes that he’s in the 21st century: “Will was gone….everyone Jon had ever known were dead and had been dead for so long, not even their bones remained.” At a loss, he hits the London streets, searching for something familiar. Luckily, he soon meets Emma Morgan, a performer at the modern Globe Theatre, and she has a generous heart. It turns out the Globe is about to begin production on Henry VIII—a play that Jon knows very well, though by its alternate name, All Is True.Can Jon fit in among modern people who would never believe him if he told them his true story? And is Emma, a fine actor herself, hiding secrets of her own?

Blake’s love of Shakespeare is apparent on every page of this book, and fans of the Bard of Avon will surely recognize numerous clever allusions to the plays; when Jon is unconscious in the hospital, for instance, his nickname among the staff is “Ophelia,” as he was found dressed as a woman while floating in the water. However, Blake’s tendency to cater to Shakespeare fandom often has the effect of taking the reader out of the story, as when the novel clumsily introduces the playwright into the narrative: “ ‘William Shakespeare at your service,’ he said with a swooping bow that revealed his balding pate.” Later, when Jon tells Shakespeare that his plays will be read for centuries, the man responds in a manner that shows far too much foresight: “For everything there is a season. The English language is growing, vowel sounds are changing, and some day people will not understand my rhymes and puns.” The modern-day material is a bit more fun: Emma has just played Viola and Cesario in Twelfth Night, and she and Jon both make use of disguise during the story. Unfortunately, the novel never really escapes the Shakespearean framework to find its own reason for being. Bardolators will enjoy keeping track of all of the references, but these won’t likely be enough to sustain the interest of general readers.

A neatly executed but somewhat thin tale that revolves around classic plays.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9858081-9-8

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Morgan Online Media

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2021

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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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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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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