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THE GIRL IN THE ZOO

Techno-dystopian science-fiction drama of robot captivity has a soft center under the hardware.

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Following a robot uprising, a girl finds herself the lone exhibit in a bizarre zoo in podcaster Lauer’s debut SF novel.

It’s several years after a robot revolution. Previously, the intelligent, cybernetic “borgs” had been used as domestic workers and as gladiators, the latter tearing each other apart for humans’ enjoyment. But the machine creatures rebelled. Six years later, Mirin Blaise, a girl that the borgs had taken prisoner after killing her parents, exists as virtually the sole exhibit in the Draven Zoo, a human specimen roaming through simulated environments while being scrutinized through plexiglass by the dominant borgs. Mirin’s personal caretaker/zookeeper is a particularly baffling borg she dubs Borgie: “What is she computing? Contemplating? If Borgie is conscious, then what sense does it make to trap me here?” Sometimes Borgie shows tender feelings toward the girl; other times “she” (Mirin thinks of Borgie as female) is cold and even violent toward the human, and Borgie’s behavior grows increasingly erratic. Aside from a disastrous attempt to mate Mirin with a captured boy (who turns out to be gay), the girl has no exposure to the outside world. Severed from conventional society and reality, Mirin may not be entirely stable herself. Mirin’s routine is disturbed when she finds the cyberneticist Dr. Draven, a bitter old man, chained up under the zoo compound and a strapping young man is unwillingly installed as a new exhibit. Though the hero’s age would seem to place the story within a YA demographic, it does not hold back on its adult content. Readers might expect an unsubtle anti-zoo/animal rights screed here, but instead the narrative focuses on themes of sentient–AI rights and the meaning of family. Is Borgie, whatever her issues, a legitimate mother to Mirin? Readers of Daniel Wilson’s bestselling robot-uprising novels, such as Robopocalypse (2011), might find this an interesting alternative, one in which emotions (both human and machine) are as vitally important as the slam-bang battle sequences.

Techno-dystopian science-fiction drama of robot captivity has a soft center under the hardware.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9798987318027

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Kings of Kontent

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2023

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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THE MINISTRY OF TIME

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

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A time-toying spy romance that’s truly a thriller.

In the author’s note following the moving conclusion of her gripping, gleefully delicious debut novel, Bradley explains how she gathered historical facts about Lt. Graham Gore, a real-life Victorian naval officer and polar explorer, then “extrapolated a great deal” about him to come up with one of her main characters, a curly-haired, chain-smoking, devastatingly charming dreamboat who has been transported through time. Having also found inspiration in the sole extant daguerreotype of Gore, showing him to have been “a very attractive man,” Bradley wrote the earliest draft of the book for a cluster of friends who were similarly passionate about polar explorers. Her finished novel—taut, artfully unspooled, and vividly written—retains the kind of insouciant joy and intimacy you might expect from a book with those origins. It’s also breathtakingly sexy. The time-toggling plot focuses on the plight of a British civil servant who takes a high-paying job on a secret mission, working as a “bridge” to help time-traveling “expats” resettle in 21st-century London—and who falls hard for her charge, the aforementioned Commander Gore. Drama, intrigue, and romance ensue. And while this quasi-futuristic tale of time and tenderness never seems to take itself too seriously, it also offers a meaningful, nuanced perspective on the challenges we face, the choices we make, and the way we live and love today.

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781668045145

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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