Eccentric, chatty characters fortify this spry, futuristic tale.

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Zorkon's Secret

THE SEARCH FOR THE CONUNDRUMS

In Spalsbury’s (The White-Haired Buffalo Hunter, 2016, etc.) sci-fi novel, an interplanetary ambassador’s mission to explain the stalled delivery of energy crystals may entail tracking down a never-before-seen species.

Solar One Ambassador Plenipotentiary Judith Woeberry is sure her negotiations on planet Tanfourit prevented a civil war. But it seems assassins have followed her and her security team to Zorkon, where she hopes to find Negotiator Thomas Haddly, who’s been missing for months. Judith likewise wants to know why shipments of energy crystals have inexplicably stopped—the same mystery that drew Haddly to Zorkon. No one’s ever seen the energy crystal–providing Conundrums, whose presumed domain is past the point of ZIP (Zone of Impossible Punishment), a precarious energy field. Judith enlists Antonio Vesuvius Albero; he and his one-eyed, four-armed adoptive brother Arc are the only individuals who’ve safely traveled ZIP. They plan to brave the energy field, which can make people see things or creatures that aren’t there, to meet with the Conundrums and rescue Haddly. Meanwhile, Tanfourit factions join forces and are planning an attack against the Zorkon city, Freedom. The unstable ZIP may also be shifting, which would necessitate the evacuation of another city or possibly the planet’s entire population. Though the overwhelming majority of Spalsbury’s novel consists of dialogue, the author keeps the conversation lively via diverse characters who use assorted manners of speech. Arc uses electric sparks from his hands to communicate in Morse code (signified in text with all-caps), while perpetually nervous Zorkon Councilor Jerome Nichols relies on repetition and long pauses. Spalsbury’s descriptions solidify the environment, especially within ZIP, where Judith and others witness a “large energy devil tornado filled with mummified bodies [that] zoomed out of the sky.” Much of the plot’s resolved, but a cliffhanger paves the way for a second book, with plenty left to explore—perhaps further Zorkon back story.

Eccentric, chatty characters fortify this spry, futuristic tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5375-3613-2

Page Count: 424

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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