Independently intelligible but best appreciated after volume one—and with a huge surprise twist in the last sentence.

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CALIBAN'S WAR

From the Expanse series , Vol. 2

Part two of the topnotch space opera begun with Leviathan Wakes (2011), from Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).  

Previously, a dangerous alien protomolecule was weaponized by an amoral corporation and field-tested against a habitat in the asteroid belt, bringing Earth, Mars and the Belt to the brink of war. Thanks to whistle-blowing Belter spaceship captain Jim Holden, all-out war was averted and the habitat diverted to Venus. Now, the protomolecule has taken over that planet and appears to be building a gigantic, incomprehensible device, a development viewed with alarm by the great powers. Then, on Ganymede, a creature able to survive unprotected in a vacuum, immune to most weapons and hideously strong, wipes out several platoons of marines. Fighting breaks out and the great powers teeter on the brink of war. Mysteriously, just before the monster's appearance, somebody kidnapped a number of children who all suffered from the same disease of the immune system. Botanist Prax Meng, the father of one of the children, asks for Holden's help in finding his daughter. As Ganymede's fragile ecosystem collapses, Holden flees with Prax. Meanwhile, on Earth, fiery old U.N. bigwig Chrisjen Avasarala realizes she's been outmaneuvered by forces in league with the corporation that thinks to control the protomolecule. The characters, many familiar from before, grow as the story expands; tension mounts, action explodes and pages turn relentlessly.

Independently intelligible but best appreciated after volume one—and with a huge surprise twist in the last sentence. 

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-12906-0

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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