A uniquely raw medical thriller brimming with perfect comedic timing.

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Scourge Ship

In this fiction debut, disaster stalks a vacationing doctor, his family, and thousands of fellow cruise ship guests.

Dr. Martin Walker, podiatrist, has just embarked on a cruise out of Galveston, Texas. He and his family are on the 14-deck ship The Grand Decadence. The trip is meant to help Martin and his preteen daughter, Haley, spend some time together, as they’ve grown apart lately. His mother-in-law, Veronica Covington, hasn’t helped the situation, with her incessant commentary on Martin’s generous weight and supposed cowardice. The journey begins forbiddingly when the lobster dinner makes a guest named Linda violently ill. Martin helps Linda’s husband carry her to the infirmary, where he meets Dr. Floros. As a germophobe, Martin suspects more than indigestion and realizes the ship is understaffed to handle an outbreak of norovirus, or other easily communicable diseases. Meanwhile, Yegor Petrenko, CEO of the pharmaceutical company Petretech, watches The Grand Decadence from monitors in a secluded Alaskan village. He also follows the progress of Cindy, a tropical storm growing in the Gulf of Mexico. As more people become sick on the ship, Dr. Floros narrows the disease down to a parasite. She then notices that the parasite contains the DNA of two separate species, which, she tells Martin, “can't occur naturally. The odds against that happening are staggering.” Chambers infuses his novel with terrific dollops of medical science, wit, and bathroom humor (often literally), presenting audiences with a revenge blockbuster Stephen King would enjoy. Casual readers, however, should be warned that Chambers truly relishes crafting gross-out passages, including one at a buffet in which a vomiting woman “rotated from left to right as the torrent arced across the sneeze guards like a pressure wash.” Also impressive is the author’s pistonlike control over character development and pace; the better readers understand the horrendous Veronica and the odd Capt. Brooks, the faster they will turn pages to learn their fates. And because awful luck follows Martin throughout the ship (including fistfights and marital infidelity), know that the finale is a foul yet sublime missive to fans of raunch everywhere.

A uniquely raw medical thriller brimming with perfect comedic timing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 448

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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