An energetic dystopian saga that should surely spawn return readers.

THE PHOENIX FALLACY

BOOK I

In this sci-fi debut, a young man in a world ruled by corporations escapes the slums by rigorously training to fight for a mercenary group.

Janus lives with his adoptive mother, Clara, in the slums, the lowest level of the corporate city of Cerberus Corporation. Clara found Janus as an infant, abandoned among piles of garbage. She’s raised him as her own, and the two regularly scour the trash for treasures while evading despicable scavengers known as Rats and Cerberus’ Security Troopers. Both mother and son are surprised when there’s a request for Janus from Level H, the highest level, where the ruling Executors reside, and the only part of the city that sees sunlight. Apparently, reports of Janus’ proficiency in eluding security forces makes him prime trooper material, but Cerberus actually profits by selling him to mercenaries instead. Separated from Clara, Janus winds up with ODIN’s Mercenary Legion in the floating city/fortress of Valhalla. He and other cadets train extensively in combat and weapons to become ODIN mercenaries, or Adepts. Their final test is surviving their first mission, which comes much sooner than anticipated and leads to a secret lying within the rubble of Phoenix, once the world’s most powerful corporation. Sourbeer’s series opener slyly introduces elements that later installments can pick up. The protagonist, for example, is of murky origin while the reason Phoenix attacked an Adept Legion (precipitating the corporation’s downfall) is likewise unknown. The bulk of the novel consists of the cadets’ training, providing opportunities to establish rounded characters. And even if Janus initially ogles fellow cadet Celestia, she and other female warriors, including trainer Sgt. Wouris, are just as capable as the males. The author sets a steady momentum early on that only accelerates, resulting in an action-packed latter half bursting with graphic details: the “whistle” of enemy fire “as it peppered the air around” the Adepts.

An energetic dystopian saga that should surely spawn return readers.

Pub Date: June 27, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 347

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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