MIND CHANGER

Another of White’s Sector General yarns (Final Diagnosis, 1997, etc.), about a colossal multi-species space hospital. This time, chief psychologist O’Mara—-probably the most abrupt and antisocial being in the hospital—-has been appointed as the hospital’s administrator, but only until O’Mara can find and train his own replacement, after which he himself must retire. The key to O’Mara’s odd behavior, we learn, lies in his early career. The standard method of multi-skilling among physicians is for them to accept a taped brain impression from another specialist of a different species. Unfortunately, not just the skills transfer but the entire mental pattern. Kelgians resemble huge, furry worms; their fur twitches involuntarily to reflect their mental state, so the slightest damage to the fur renders them incapable of interacting socially with their own kind. In one of his first cases, O’Mara treated an unfortunate alien that had received a tape from a brilliant but fur-damaged (and hence dysfunctional) female Kelgian surgeon named Marrasarah. To understand the problem, and against all rules and regulations, O’Mara accepted a copy of the tape himself. Just as irregularly, he retained the tape after completing the treatment, and formed an unusual mental partnership with Marrasarah. This gave him a particular affinity for Kelgians and their distinctive psychology. Other successful encounters with Kelgians followed. Finally, in the present, while O’Mara interviews and studies possible successors, a problem arises. A Kermi called Tuneckis has lost its telepathic abilities on a conscious level, but unconsciously is projecting powerful feelings of despair, paranoia, and xenophobia. So its doctors and nurses helplessly become xenophobic and violent themselves. In solving this problem, characteristically, O’Mara confirms his successor. A rather dissatisfying entry, with numerous small, rather same-ish medical puzzles but no large conundrum to engage readers throughout. And an O’Mara of human dimensions is less gratifying than he was as a sort of animated thunderbolt.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-86663-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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

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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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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