An enjoyable introduction to a new space-opera mythology.

REFUGE

From the Tradepoint Saga series , Vol. 1

A translator discovers the extent of her special talents in Blacklocke’s debut SF novel.

For the first time, Tradepoint, an intergalactic mercantile hub above the Prett home planet, is hosting a large number of Vennans, who have “Favored Trader” standing. Prett technological advancement depends on a steady supply of Vennan minerals while Vennan culture is more rooted in spirituality—most notably in each person’s “gyfte,” or psychic abilities, which include powers such as teleportation. The cultures’ differences become clearer over time through shifting narrative viewpoints, which move from protagonist Gredin te Balamont, a young woman who serves as the translator for Tetralanna, the head of the Vennan trading group, to Wyve, the head of Tradepoint, among others. Gredin, whom Tetralanna considers “erratic” and unskilled, has a vivid dream in which her lover, Dreff, says that their homeworld has been destroyed; he enjoins her to “Step into the fullness of your gyfte.” After a second dream, her life force strengthens and becomes “a candle, where it had always been a torch,” causing her to radiate energy as she sleeps. She must use her newfound power to be a leader for her people. The novel delves into the various aliens’ traits in detail, as when describing a Vennan’s fondness for “kithris,” a luxury spice coveted by everyone, “from the pleasure-loving Rodorno to the ascetic Hesch.” Sometimes the lavish attention to detail works against the novel’s pacing, which is quite slow. The first major plot turn, unrelated to the worldbuilding, occurs when Gredin dreams of her home planet’s destruction, eight chapters in. Later, Gredin accidentally injures a Hesch, and the ensuing trial takes up several chapters alone. Overall, though, the novel does an admirable job of presenting the archetypal story of an unlikely hero within a finely drawn fictional universe.

An enjoyable introduction to a new space-opera mythology.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949890-68-6

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Aethon Books, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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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A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE WORLD

A tragedy has sent a young artist into seclusion. A potential apocalypse may be enough to bring her back.

For the past two years, 10 months, and 18 days, Katie’s lived in darkness, on retreat from her former life as a rising artist after a personal tragedy eclipsed any happiness she believed possible. Jacob’s Ladder, a remote island named by a former resident for its potential as a stairway to heaven, offers Katie the chance to hide from the rest of the world, merely existing, not healing. She lives each day trying to fulfill what she’s called “the Promise” to those in the life she once knew, though a promise of what is not clear. The closest neighboring islands, Oak Haven and Ringrock, are equally cloistered. Though Katie’s realtor has suggested that Ringrock is some sort of Environmental Protection Agency research station, Katie’s cynicism makes her suspect something more nefarious. The protagonist's remote world and the author’s moody writing are disrupted one night by the startling appearance of drones and the suspicious behavior of a fox Katie’s dubbed Michael J. The wary canine serves as a harbinger of potential danger, and Katie responds by arming herself to the hilt when unexpected guests descend on Jacob’s Ladder. While the true purpose of these visitors is unclear, Katie senses that the greater world is at the precipice of permanent collapse and that she may be the only one who can prevent the impending apocalypse.

A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-6625-0044-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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