Easily predictable plotting, with fun facts about MiGs, sensational in-the-cockpit realism, and the stirring flyboy spirit...

FALLOUT

Forsaking politics and legal legerdemain for standard shoot-’em-down combat thrills, flyboy-turned-lawyer Huston (Flash Point, 2000, etc.) proves he can do a tightly plotted, by-the-numbers military adventure as well as anyone.

You know those Pakistani extremists are bad boys when their leader, Air Force Major Riaz Khan, hoists a squirming underling into the air and strangles him barehanded. Having bungled an attempt to smuggle into Pakistan a cache of weapon-grade plutonium, Khan and his crew have been dosed with so much radiation that they have barely six months to live—just enough time to get an embassy official in Washington to bribe the undersecretary of defense to get them into the Navy’s TOPGUN school. Alas, TOPGUN is no longer accepting foreign pilots, but Lieutenant Luke “Stick” Henry, a former TOPGUN instructor who quit when he was blamed for an unavoidable aerial collision, is. Henry, along with TOPGUN buddies Thud, Scamp Sluf, and former Russian flyboy Vladimir “Vlad” Petkov, has leased a bunch of retired MiG fighters to start their own, for-profit flight-combat school in the Nevada desert. Henry loathes Khan on sight, but enrolls the Pakistanis because he needs the money. After a few days of training, the Pakistanis hijack four American jets and load them up with bombs. Henry and his pals hop into their MiGs but fail to stop Khan from blasting open a nuclear power plant’s spent fuel pit, spilling deadly radioactive fallout over much of southern California’s coastline. Khan escapes and Henry learns, through Vlad (who has unsavory connections with the Russian Mafia), that this was just a practice run for an attack on an Indian nuclear power plant. Vlad and Henry zoom off to India to save the day.

Easily predictable plotting, with fun facts about MiGs, sensational in-the-cockpit realism, and the stirring flyboy spirit that put Huston in the same firmament with Dean Koontz and Dale Brown.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-17202-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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