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UNIVERSE OF LOST MESSAGES

From the Charismites series , Vol. 2

A deliberately paced, engrossing tale set in a politically motivated, tech-heavy universe.

A small group scours a distant-future United States when someone abducts their loved ones in this standalone SF sequel.

A sudden explosion in a Los Angeles home leaves behind a charred room and no sign of famed teen actress Izzie Cardinale. But her older brother, Shake, a lead content producer at media conglomerate Nuhope, knows she’s been kidnapped. Izzie is a Charismite whose “extraordinary powers of charisma” some may want to use for sinister purposes. Her Charismite abilities are innate, much like those of family friend Tristan Ellington, who, despite his parents keeping him safe in a climate-controlled biodome, also vanishes. And in Queens, Cheeta LaVera, assistant to Sen. Miles Morelli, is looking for the senator, her boss/surrogate father, who reportedly died in a “freak car accident.” Apparently, an organization called The Fist has kidnapped him, at least according to his message that Cheeta discovers in a bizarre, virtual reality–like “metaverse” where people’s random, lost messages float in bubbles. The metaverse is the key to finding the missing people. Stilson eases readers into this follow-up to The Juice (2021). The story unfolds in a well-described “United America” (comprising the bulk of the American continents) and boasts an indelible cast. The pace is leisurely, and the cast gradually learns about the message-filled metaverse, as well as The Fist’s plan for the young Charismites. Alternating first-person voices narrate the story, including those of Cheeta, Tristan, Lush Ellington, and more. Distinctive social classes help shape these characters’ circumstances and backgrounds (Cheeta was born into the lower-classed Chav, while the Ellingtons are the “super wealthy” Elite). Similarly, believable technology (e.g., security bots and decidedly more vicious spider bots) makes this an engaging, plausible future world.

A deliberately paced, engrossing tale set in a politically motivated, tech-heavy universe.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9781774000625

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Dragon Moon Press

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2024

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

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Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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