Socioeconomic sci-fi on a broad canvas that reads like dire headlines from tomorrow.


After 21st-century wars and catastrophes ravage Earth, the omnipotent multiplanetary corporation Marsco assumes control—but forces within and outside the company plot its downfall.

First-time author Zarzana brings to bear an academic background in this hefty start to his planned sci-fi series, a compulsively readable future history detailing a catastrophic 21st century and the political, economic and social pathologies that leave beaten-down humanity dominated by a callous one-world (one solar system, really) corporate empire. In the 2090s, billions have died as a result of decades of wealth inequality, global resource wars, pandemics, climate change and backsliding scientific ignorance. Enter Marsco (est. 1999), a giant software/IT/space travel monopoly, possessing some of the less savory aspects of Microsoft and the Union Pacific Railroad. Based in Seattle, Marsco remained largely untouched during mankind’s darkest days; using cyberwarfare and conventional weapons, the company technocrats stepped in and seized Earth away from governments. The ruthless corporation has barely improved life on Earth. PRIMS, a vast, war-displaced peasant class, live in backward squalor, while elite castes are marked by Marsco finger-disc implants, permitting social mobility via levels of access to all-important cybernetworks. Opponents of Marsco include Walter Miller, once one of the company’s iconic engineers/innovators, now dwelling amid PRIMS as a high-profile dissident; defeated nationalist leaders and warlords left older but no wiser thanks to cryogenic stasis; and savage, cultish Luddites composed mainly of rebel PRIMS. Zarzana’s story—short on action, dialogue-heavy, but seldom hectoring or pedantic—recalls early Heinlein, without quite so much faith in altruistic, laissez-faire capitalist heroes coming to the rescue. The scale of Zarzana’s imagination is practically Asimov-ian, though one suspects he has many other wonders unrevealed behind the curtain; we never enjoy a tour of Marsco’s actual Martian HQ, for instance. But there’s still plenty ahead and plenty to look forward to in upcoming volumes.

Socioeconomic sci-fi on a broad canvas that reads like dire headlines from tomorrow.

Pub Date: July 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495925832

Page Count: 674

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.


From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 1

Set in the future and reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this novel dramatizes a story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power.

In the beginning, Darrow, the narrator, works in the mines on Mars, a life of drudgery and subservience. He’s a member of the Reds, an “inferior” class, though he’s happily married to Eo, an incipient rebel who wants to overthrow the existing social order, especially the Golds, who treat the lower-ranking orders cruelly. When Eo leads him to a mildly rebellious act, she’s caught and executed, and Darrow decides to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of this outrage. He’s recruited by a rebel cell and “becomes” a Gold by having painful surgery—he has golden wings grafted on his back—and taking an exam to launch himself into the academy that educates the ruling elite. Although he successfully infiltrates the Golds, he finds the social order is a cruel and confusing mash-up of deception and intrigue. Eventually, he leads one of the “houses” in war games that are all too real and becomes a guerrilla warrior leading a ragtag band of rebelliously minded men and women. Although it takes a while, the reader eventually gets used to the specialized vocabulary of this world, where warriors shoot “pulseFists” and are protected by “recoilArmor.” As with many similar worlds, the warrior culture depicted here has a primitive, even classical, feel to it, especially since the warriors sport names such as Augustus, Cassius, Apollo and Mercury.

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53978-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

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From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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