Should particularly appeal to the more youthful section of the audience, devotees of the Kevin Anderson–Brian Herbert epics...

EMPIRE

From the Chronicles of the Invaders series , Vol. 2

Second in a just-about independently intelligible alien-warfare trilogy (Conquest, 2014) from Connolly (the Charlie Parker mysteries, etc.) and wife Ridyard, who offer a helpful short summary in the first couple of pages.

Advanced human-aliens, the Illyri, have conquered the Earth. Internally, the Illyri Military and the Diplomatic Corps tussle for dominance and plot to ally themselves with a third power, the Nairene Sisterhood, a secretive female society of knowledge-brokers—who bear an uncomfortable resemblance to Frank Herbert’s Bene Gesserit. Resistance to the conquest, however, smolders, particularly in Scotland, where Syl Hellais, the governor’s daughter and the first Illyri to be born on Earth, raged against the constraints imposed on her. Syl—having learned that many senior Illyri are infected with an alien parasite that apparently enhances their abilities—escaped and became involved with resistance fighter Paul Kerr. Having been captured, Paul and others agreed to be trained as fighters for the Illyri and were sent millions of light-years away. Syl was sent to join the Sisterhood in their convent, the Marque, a moon orbiting the Illyri home world. Paul vows, despite all obstacles, to return and claim Syl, but he soon learns that Illyri politics are vastly more complex and dangerous than anybody on Earth dreamed—and that there exists another alien race of unknown powers and purpose. Syl, meanwhile, concealing her immense psychic powers, learns that the Sisterhood is encouraging younger sisters to develop psychic powers and to employ them with sadistic cruelty. And they know more about the alien parasites than anybody suspects. This satisfyingly complex backdrop spins up into an intriguing web of plots and mysteries as the main characters grow along with the story, along with virile if sometimes rather implausible action. More disappointing is the way the authors allow an initially taut narrative to accumulate flab and crisp prose to degenerate into hackneyed gloats and phrases.

Should particularly appeal to the more youthful section of the audience, devotees of the Kevin Anderson–Brian Herbert epics and suchlike.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5715-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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