Solid action but a dystopia left unexplored—though later series entries are primed to do just that.

Redfall: Fight for Survival

From the American Prepper Series series , Vol. 1

An intelligence expert teams up with survivalists when a bizarre weather event prefaces a plan to stir up chaos among American citizens in this techno-thriller.

Simon Redfall’s been off the grid for two years, hated by the U.S. public almost as much as his wife, Tessa, convicted of gunning down 64 people. After someone spots him at Tessa’s execution, he narrowly escapes a mob of the victims’ families, distracted by a sudden downpour of thick red rain. He gets away relatively unscathed thanks to prepper Tally Wickie, whose community and compound, Pandora, reside on her farm and who needs Simon’s help. The founder and CEO of now-bankrupt security conglomerate Ghost Works, Simon may be able to unravel the mystery behind the deaths and disappearances of scientists (including Tally’s grandparents) over the last two decades. Tally also notes a recent “movement” in weather-related fields surrounding company RaineTech, likely confirmed by the rainfall that’s apparently interrupting communications. It only gets worse: Tally’s brother Wyatt, with his own camp, Jericho, gets an untraceable UPS delivery of munitions. Someone, it seems, is trying to pit factions against one another and generate bedlam in the streets. Gen. Nate Rawlings sends Nighthawk—essentially a Ghost Works replacement—to find Simon, who in turn can help locate RaineTech CEO Jeffrey Hansen. Simon already has his hands full, however, when Jericho faces a full-on assault. Falconer (Redfall: Freedom Fighters, 2016, etc.) employs his near-future setting to great effect, most disturbingly with Tessa’s televised execution. A redesigned lethal injection prolongs the condemned woman’s torment, all to appease a bloodthirsty audience. The book’s latter half, somewhat disappointingly, shifts focus from the dystopian backdrop to action, particularly once armed men abduct Pandora preppers. But numerous subplots give the narrative momentum, such as Tally’s reputed evidence that Tessa may not have been responsible for the mass killing. The story can be repetitive; for example, three different people from three separate groups each threaten to “bleed” someone. Nevertheless, Falconer’s dense plot ties up at least one subplot, with copious questions remaining: who, for one, is truly behind Operation Trident, the terroristlike strike that started with red rain?

Solid action but a dystopia left unexplored—though later series entries are primed to do just that.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5234-4026-9

Page Count: 298

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2016

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

THE FIFTH SEASON

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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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Our Verdict

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  • Booker Prize Winner

THE TESTAMENTS

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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