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ENDLESS FALL OF DARKNESS

A gripping SF tale that explores themes of humanity and loyalty.

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In Erickson’s SF novel, a young woman who’s lost everything is forced into service investigating a Martian colony that’s seemingly vanished.

In the futuristic Third Republic of 2126, the world is ordered by castes, including high-ranking “patricians” (who “live longer, disease-free, and bring order through racial purity”), subservient “plebians,” and lowly “surfers” and slaves. When patrician Cassandra “Cassie” IX is convicted of sharing black market books and ideas with the lower classes, she’s stripped of her social status, titles, and internal AI program (named Aletheia). After 18 months in prison, Cassie is informed by Captain Willard Bennett and Lieutenants Richard and Rommel that she’s been conscripted to the Earth Navy light cruiser Jefferson Davis on a mission to Mars to investigate why all communication from the Martian colony of New Georgia has gone dark. Cassie has been chosen specifically because, alongside images of severed heads on spikes and other carnage, reconnaissance teams on Mars found a message made using rocks: “Bring Cassandra Kurtz.” As her group investigates the seemingly abandoned colony—and Cassie attempts to fend off a forced betrothal to Rommel, who stands to make great financial gains from the marriage whether Cassie actually survives the mission or not—they discover increasingly disturbing evidence of scientific experiments and clues about the decades-long disappearances of various slaves, plebeians, and surfers. After Cassie is once again summoned (this time in blood) by the planet’s hidden inhabitants, the group finally comes across two: “Both were naked, with different straps and belts holding various things, but most conspicuous were their weapons, edge weapons at various lengths, and each shouldered an old-style semiautomatic rifle with clips expertly placed along their midline for fast deployment.” This interaction leads to Cassie making a choice about her future that will also affect the very foundations of society all the way back on Earth.

Based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness(1899), Erickson’s space yarn doesn’t shy away from carrying on the themes and imagery of its source material. Instead of the Congo, however, Cassie lives in a world where “the sun—or rather, the center of the glow that could be the sun—was scattered in the smoke and other pollutants from global fires, industry, and just runaway greenhouse heating.” This dystopia, in which racism and slavery prevail not just on Earth but throughout the galaxy, is packed with vivid details and rare instances of humor (usually in the form of Aletheia’s quips). Some material may be triggering to readers, including the use of a racial epithet and a scene in which an inmate urges Cassie to kill herself. While the majority of the characters are fully fleshed out, Cassie’s personal evolution clearly makes her a standout as her growing knowledge of the way the worlds (both Earth and Mars) work begins to shape her evolution from a woman who wants to do the right thing into a woman who defies an entire planet. Cassie’s explanation for the explorers’ downfall (“Madness killed them. Weakness killed them. The heavy weight of darkness killed them”) manages to be simultaneously eerie and inspirational—a fitting achievement for a book that unflinchingly explores the depths of human depravity.

A gripping SF tale that explores themes of humanity and loyalty.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2024

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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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  • 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

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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