A fresh, nuanced examination of the human desire to define itself in the face of societal norms.


From the Hive Mind series , Vol. 1

This sci-fi coming-of-age story finds young adults struggling against being complacent workers in a hive society.

In a future in which humans have abandoned the planet’s surface to live in crowded underground “hives,” world governments imprint instructions into the minds of their citizens. Criminals’ memories are wiped to remove criminality, and crime victims’ brains are similarly altered to remove their traumas. Natural-born telepaths, such as a teenager named Amber, are extremely rare and conscripted into service at age 18, when they must begin scanning citizens’ minds for violent intentions. Because of her powers, Amber is one of only a handful of people in her society who are allowed to retain their senses of self. As the head of an elite law enforcement team, she has all the trappings of wealth and power, but she begins to find that she can’t trust her own thoughts; she also begins to fall in love with Lucas, a team member whose mind is the most complex and beautiful that she’s ever scanned. Slowly, she realizes that a recurring dream that she’s had since childhood is a mental echo of a real event, when she was kidnapped and programmed by her hive’s enemies. With Lucas’ help, Amber must set a trap for the enemy agent who programmed her and find some way to protect herself, her family, and her hive from the unknown instructions hidden deep within her mind. Author Edwards (Earth and Fire, 2016, etc.), a prolific, Oxford University–educated sci-fi writer, offers the first installment of a new trilogy here. Although she rewards readers with several big revelations by its end, there’s more than enough mystery remaining to support two more books, as the clues are hidden in Amber’s memories, and her struggles to retrieve them reveal the hive’s true vulnerability: a society that wipes people’s memories can’t learn from its own history. With vivid prose, Edwards also manages to make the hive spaces seem vast or claustrophobic by turns; along the way, she also offers a thorough analysis of the costs of isolationism—to individuals and to a nation as a whole.

A fresh, nuanced examination of the human desire to define itself in the face of societal norms.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5370-8802-0

Page Count: 354

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

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Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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


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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