As exhilarating as the first futuristic installment, with a deft expansion of the main arc.

THE PHOENIX FALLACY

NORM

While deciphering an evil overlord’s furtive scheme, a newly promoted lieutenant of a mercenary group uncovers secrets from his past in this sci-fi sequel.

Victoria Middleton, overlord of the Cerberus, the most powerful of the distant-future world’s ruling Corporations, sold 19-year-old Janus to Mercenary Legion, ODIN. When Janus was forced to vacate Cerberus’ slums, he had to leave behind his adoptive mother, Clara. He excels as an Adept (mercenary) cadet and earns the rank of lieutenant. But his first mission as a team leader involves the Corporation where he spent his childhood. ODIN has had eyes on a Cerberus facility at the mountain range Lightemann’s Ridge. Certain that the heavily guarded outpost has something valuable inside, ODIN sends two Adept teams to infiltrate the place. Janus and his team, including Celes Soltis and Marcus Auras, gain entrance and verify that Middleton is hiding something, though they learn nothing specific. They do, however, witness a shocking murder and signs of a surprise alliance. It’s soon clear that answers to what Middleton is concealing—and planning—lie at Cerberus. This takes Janus right back to the slums but likewise affords him the opportunity to ensure that Clara is alive and safe. As in the preceding novel, Sourbeer (The Phoenix Fallacy, Book III, 2018, etc.) infuses his tale with tight action sequences. These entail life-threatening battles or Adept training (even the ODIN sport of Brigg’s Ball teaches the cadets about teamwork). But this installment also benefits from quieter moments. For example, the scene of Adepts inside the Cerberus outpost garners suspense by prolonging their risk, as they slyly avoid detection. Furthermore, the volume addresses lingering questions from the earlier book, namely orphan Janus’ backstory, and particulars on the decimated Phoenix Corporation, once the most powerful of its kind. Concluding appendices are helpful, though the highlight is the extensive set of rules for Brigg’s Ball, an indication of the author’s painstaking details.

As exhilarating as the first futuristic installment, with a deft expansion of the main arc.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2018

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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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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