Utterly disposable thriller unredeemed by its ecological message. One part Michael Crichton's science and a smidgen of Carl...

THE FLOCK

In this first novel, dinosaurs stalk Florida's longleaf savanna—and they know about us.

When the Disney-like Berg Brothers build a gated community on the last of the Florida savanna, they run into more than even their hokey creative team could have imagined. Billionaire Vance Holcomb has already set up shop in the tall grass, and hired beautiful, amazonian Kate Kwitney, among others, ostensibly to research the surviving rare fauna, which includes the endangered Florida panther. Ultraconservative retired U.S. Marine Colonel Winston Grisham sees the open space as the last bit of free country (and great cattle land, too). And Ron Riggs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife warden and part Seminole, has been assigned the job of keeping the peace—or at least finding out what local predator is eating the new development's pets. Little do they know that an intelligent herd of giant ground-dwelling "terror birds," essentially the last surviving dinosaur-bird missing links, have made the area their home, too. The Flock, as these fast, fierce meat eaters call themselves, has been aware of Man, as they know humans, for years. The Flock has learned to evade these smaller predators, following the guidance of Egg Father, Egg Mother and the wise old Walks Backwards. But the Berg development and the wild actions of the rogue Flock member Scarlet force a confrontation that will result in death, destruction and a bounty hunt for a creature supposed to be extinct for the last million years. While the action is fast and violent, the stock characters—including a cowardly tabloid newspaper reporter—are as predictable as Scarlet's bloodthirsty attacks. And while the changing perspectives usually keep the pace bouncing along, Walks Backwards’ stilted chapters recall the worst excesses of Hollywood's fake Native Americans—all reverence with no contractions.

Utterly disposable thriller unredeemed by its ecological message. One part Michael Crichton's science and a smidgen of Carl Hiaasen's humor add up to less than either.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2801-4

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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