A Heinlein-like adventure for a serious sci-fi fan.



From the Old Man's War series

Scalzi (Redshirts, 2012, etc.) offers his fifth in the Old Man’s War series.

The Colonial Union keeps peace among the universe’s humans, albeit one fractured after Earth’s withdrawal. Blame John Perry and Jane Sagan, Roanoke Colony leaders. Earth’s billions had provided Colonial Defense Forces troopers and outpost settlers, which allowed the Colonial Union to cope with the machinations of the Conclave, an alliance of alien (nonhuman) species. Scalzi rockets characters through assorted space adventures, with repeated appearances by Lt. Harry Wilson, CDF technician and Earth native, who finds himself wherever the action is, whether that’s in space disarming a missile trap set for the Utche, an alien species with whom the Colonial Union is negotiating, or caring for an ambassador’s dog whose survival figures into an alien civil war. Other players pop up repeatedly, including two CDF colonels, a hard-line ambassador and a female starship captain. Starships use "skip drive" to outwit Einsteinian physics and "skip drones" to communicate across light years. Human characters communicate in dialogue laced with 21st-century humor and irony, even among the CDF troopers (repurposed 75-year-old earthlings) equipped with "BrainPals," neural-computer implants. The aliens too function with socioethical and political mores replicating Machiavelli, authoritarians or third-rate dictators. Laced with oddball humor, the plot is not so esoteric that a newbie to sci-fi’s outlier world cannot follow, and the science buy in isn’t so great as to cause those who mastered introductory physics to stumble. The story simply launches human quandaries and foibles into the universe—greed, aggression, duplicity, arrogance, chauvinism and other distinctly human negatives—where they are imposed on alien circumstances, creatures and environments. Females share power and failure equally, but sex and romance take a back seat to wildcat settlements, derring-do heroes, missiles fired and messages misunderstood, all of which are offset by stunning technology, imagined landscapes and the covert destruction of Earth Station by spaceships piloted by brains-in-boxes. That makes for a gateway to the next episode.

A Heinlein-like adventure for a serious sci-fi fan.

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3351-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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


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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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.


Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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