Dazzling, highly impressive but readable only with enormous effort.

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THE JUDGE OF AGES

Third part of Wright’s series (The Hermetic Millennia, 2012, etc.) in which, thanks to alien technology, Texas gunslinger Menelaus Montrose transformed himself into a supergenius—and so did his rival, Ximen “Blackie” del Azarchel.

The alien slavers who provided the technology, the Domination of Hyades, will arrive in 400 years to take ownership of the Earth. All this time, Blackie has been attempting to force the development of a suitably advanced yet compliantly slave-worthy population. The two post-humans are also rivals for Rania, Menelaus’ wife, presently heading at near light speed for a remote globular star cluster in order to confront the Hyades’ bosses’ bosses. She will, of course, arrive back at Earth thousands of years too late to prevent the Hyades’ occupation, so somehow Menelaus, waking periodically from cryogenic suspension, must thwart Blackie and prevent the slavers from exterminating humanity until she arrives. Now, Menelaus discovers that the tombs where he and his allies were preserved have been ripped open and plundered by Blackie’s Blue Men minions—a situation that precipitates a battle that lasts the best part of 200 pages, and a further 100 of post-battle analysis and wrangling, leading to yet another (indecisive) showdown between Menelaus and Blackie. With nonstop if pedestrian action, villains who chortle and strut, and Menelaus’ indestructible self-confidence, it’s a sequence worthy of A. E. van Vogt’s spirit, though, alas, lacking van Vogt’s deftness or economy of style. Weird post-humans build themselves into recognizable characters. The plot devolves into a series of revelations that make sense only to the characters or, possibly, a few readers, should any still be hanging heroically on.

Dazzling, highly impressive but readable only with enormous effort.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2929-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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

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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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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