A thriller with a touch of the supernatural and a rock-solid pace.

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Doorway To Your Dreams

In Goetz’s (Souls of Megiddo, Book 1: The Caretakers, 2012, etc.) thriller, a depraved doctor abducts a man with special abilities to turn his powers into a weapon.

Helicopter pilot Capt. Tim “Spooncake” McAllister has been able to hear people’s thoughts since his father’s suicide nearly 20 years earlier. In 1967 Vietnam, he also sees spears of varying colors above people’s heads, depending on moods, though he downplays his capabilities around others. But Dr. Oban DeCarlo, Tim’s cousin, knows what Tim can do and arranges a bogus mission so he can grab the pilot and take him to his New York island facility. There, DeCarlo develops a serum called Traumland, a weaponized version of Tim’s telepathic ability. The doc hopes to create a Dream Traveller, someone who can “eliminate an adversary by simply using his mind.” DeCarlo only needs Tim’s power; he has no plans of letting his cousin leave the island alive. Goetz’s novel consistently blends the supernatural with real life, as in its opening in the midst of the Vietnam War, where Tim “preferred the near-quiet solitude of his small plot of sand on the banks of the Mekong to the cacophony of thought noise and intrusive color spikes he’d be subjected to in crowds and bustle of Saigon.” Goetz likewise manages a steady tempo via alternating scenes: Tim’s helicopter being shot down by the Vietcong is intercut with DeCarlo racing to the crash, fearful that the colonel he hired to ensnare Tim will simply kill him. The doctor also kidnaps Linda Fisher, who has the ability to sense future events. But DeCarlo’s primary interest is in Tim, who is subjected to numerous tests and, with memories erased, is a captive at the facility for a lengthy section of the book. It’s here that the story slows down considerably. Small details—Linda’s surname alternates between Fisher and Fischer, and ages are sometimes miscalculated—could use a cleanup, too. But there’s romance for Tim and Linda, as well as time for the pilot, even in a dream state, to hone his skill. Best of all, Tim’s dream traveling brings to light his terrifying evil side, Demon, the name the VC gave him for his mastery at finding enemy soldiers. DeCarlo is an unforgettable villain, a lanky albino with black eyes, often decked out in a white suit and sporting symptoms of a sociopath. Flashbacks with the doc and Tim, however, generate sympathy for both: Tim’s grandfather helped him control his powers, while DeCarlo’s parents were so ashamed of him that he was locked in a room and not allowed outside.

A thriller with a touch of the supernatural and a rock-solid pace.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2015

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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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