by J.G. Zymbalist ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 14, 2016
A clever and finely wrought steampunk tale about aliens and misfits.
Źymbalist tells the story of two Martian girls attempting to get home in this debut steampunk novel.
In 1903, in three towns in Maine, three misfits’ lives are about to intersect. There is Emmylou, a young, clubfooted Martian girl who had been visiting Maine with her aunt only to have the woman fly away in their rocket ship, stranding Emmylou and her sister among the suspicious residents of Blue Hill (“What if the villagers somehow recognized them?” Emmylou muses. “If someone had noticed the rocket ship, then the villagers would be out and about looking for Martians”). There is Giacomo Venable, the self-published author of Sir Pilgarlic Guthrie’s Phantasy Retrospectacle and, in some ways, a self-loathing failure. There is Rory Slocum, a young boy who gets grief for always having his head in books, dreaming of life on Mars. Struggling to escape from the pressures of their respective situations, the characters drift forward in parallel threads, even as they move toward the ultimate goal of trying to help Emmylou and her sister escape the prejudicial society of Earth and return safely home. In the background is the constant, haunting song of the otherworldly Oceanides, the mysterious and maligned sea nymphs whose voices can be heard by only those that they have targeted for madness. Źymbalist writes in a lovely, highly descriptive prose that luxuriates in the details and curios of his setting: “The brimstone moths would be fluttering all about the command hub, each one fiddling with the many buttons and electrodes by which to work the technology of anti-matter propulsion...all of them nibbling on gowns of Martian mohair and felted wool.” The plot hits all the requisite steampunk notes—flying machines, Pinkertons, H.G. Wells—even if the pacing is lackadaisical. Though epic in structure (over 750 pages), the novel turns out to be ultimately reserved in its ambitions. It never fully delivers on the space-opera flourishes mentioned in the first chapter (Martian vulcanology, Venutian conquest); most of the book takes place in a Maine only marginally more exotic than the real state. That said, the world Źymbalist creates is so rich and vast that, for a certain type of reader, 750 pages will not be nearly enough.A clever and finely wrought steampunk tale about aliens and misfits.
Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2016
Page Count: 764
Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2016
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Travis Baldree ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 7, 2023
Warm and wonderful.
A prequel to the popular cozy fantasy Legends & Lattes (2022).
Viv is a fighter. It’s not just what she does, it’s who she is. So when she gets wounded during a battle with a necromancer’s skeletal wights, and her crew dumps her in a small seaside town to recover while they continue on after the necromancer, she is not happy about it. But soon enough, against her will, she’s drawn into the life of the town. There’s Fern, the unsuccessful bookseller, who has a knack for recommending exactly the right book. And there’s Maylee, the baker, who not only makes the world’s best baked goods, she actually winks at Viv. Before Viv knows what’s happening, she’s helping Fern out here and there, she’s reading—she’s involved. Meanwhile, there’s a pesky young gnome asking for an introduction to her mercenary crew, and a mysterious man in gray who looks like trouble. But Viv is leaving when her crew comes back through town. No matter what. This prequel gives readers a glimpse of Viv as a young orc, still committed to the fighter’s life, just taking an enforced break in a charming town populated by compelling, richly drawn characters, and the slightest hint of danger in the wind. Despite the lurking necromancer, the vibes are decidedly warm and cozy, and the plot is just as much about saving the bookstore and building relationships as it is about protecting the town from the man in gray. As a prequel, it can stand alone, but will certainly satisfy fans as well.Warm and wonderful.
Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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