A deep dive into prose-poetry sci-fi and a mind-stretching mystery.

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SUBSTRATE PHANTOMS

On a vast, intrigue-ridden space station, an orphan becomes the lone survivor of a cosmic accident that may have left him partially possessed by an alien consciousness.

This novel’s setting is the Aggregate, a spacegoing future in which old Earth is a receding memory, nearly as mythical as the notion of “alien” intelligent races that human beings have, so far, not encountered. But on a giant space station/colony called Termagenti, gossip suggests an unclassified hunk of salvaged debris is indeed an alien vessel. A team of foolhardy station techs exploring the mothballed artifact is engulfed by an energy surge. The lone survivor, Jhinsei, an orphan, lands in the medlab, where he’s told his “blood chemistry is behaving—strangely.” He is suddenly no longer as alone as he used to be. Flickering mind fragments of his dead workmates now co-exist in him—along with another intruding presence (“Something was using his skin to feel the air, scent, see and hear everything, rising to it with wonder. Behind this whatever-it-was, Jhinsei was terrified and jittery as hell”). Meanwhile, more anomalous events (and sightings of a phantom figure in a glittering, birdlike costume) accompany what seems to be a conspiracy, tying religious fanatics to a reclusive, high-tech media mogul forcing the next step in human evolution. Reisman (The Z Radiant, 2013) takes the familiar sci-fi premise of “first contact” into the realm of surrealist poetry with her tale’s argot-infused text, melding clever word inventions with esoteric phraseology. At times, one suspects that a fairly simple, if actually underdeveloped, plotline abides beneath all the filigree, fabulist grammar, and dreamlike imagery (“The vanessa, highly illegal—thanks to the Thespis Guild— somatically modal flash analog as she was, lay sweet-skinned and languid, long limbs entangled with his”). But Reisman’s vision deftly invokes a remote culture and characters so extreme and exotically alluring that the concept of a wayward E.T. in this realm hardly makes a stir in the foliage. Newbies in Jedi pajamas be warned.

A deep dive into prose-poetry sci-fi and a mind-stretching mystery.

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63023-033-3

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Arche Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2017

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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