Radiant prose and characters propel this exhilarating, fully charged sequel.
A Mars-born detective fights against time to save her grandfather and her home planet in this installment of an SF series.
Martian Denver Moon knows that working with diabolical alien bugs is a necessary evil. Shape-shifting bug doctor Doctor Werner has tried controlling human minds for enslavement in the past, but he’s also leading the terraforming project on Mars. Denver, however, is surprised to learn that Werner has fled to Earth and even more surprised when bugs attack her and her grandfather, Ojiisan. With Ojiisan seriously injured, Denver believes her grandfather's only hope lies in bug doctor Werner. She makes tracks for Earth with a couple of friends and her reliable AI, Smith, who lives in her gun and speaks in her head. The bug doctor could be up to all sorts of no good at his underwater lab in Japan, but Ojiisan doesn’t have much time, forcing Denver to trust a few untrustworthy individuals. Mars is in trouble, too, as the bugs seem dead set on exterminating the red planet’s human inhabitants. Although Denver does little investigating, Hammond and Viola (The Saint of Mars, 2019, etc.) load this novel with action from the opening scene. It’s invigorating throughout, as Denver and her ragtag crew get into tussles on Mars, Earth, and other spots in the galaxy. Returning characters likewise evolve; Denver finally gets new eyes to replace her failing monochromatic ones, and Smith, outfitted with Ojiisan’s memories and personality, has a very human response when Ojiisan’s life is on the line. Some in this delightful cast face monumental changes before this installment ends. Fans of the series geared up for the authors’ razor-sharp writing won’t be disappointed; this sensational story’s highlight is Denver’s seeing colors for the first time, a “dizzying kaleidoscope” of a variety of pigments, including the joy of watching a vicious bug pop “like a neon green pimple.”Radiant prose and characters propel this exhilarating, fully charged sequel.
Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022
Page Count: 232
Publisher: Hex Publishers
Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2022
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Olivie Blake ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
The latest in a series of rereleases from a prolific fantasist’s previously self-published works is a contemporary spin on the fairytale “Godfather Death.”
Viola Marek is an aswang, a shapeshifting vampire from Filipino folklore. She’s also a Chicago real estate agent trying to sell a mansion even while the ghost of its last owner, Thomas Edward Parker IV, is doing his supernatural best to block the sale. In a desperate attempt to earn her commission, she hires Fox D’Mora, Death’s mortal godson, to use his connection to get the ghost to leave. Unfortunately, Death is unavailable: He’s been kidnapped, and to get him back and prevent a worlds-spanning catastrophe, Fox, Vi, the ghost, and assorted other supernatural creatures will have to enter a high-stakes gambling game that usually only immortals can play…but rarely win. The story begins with an unusual blend of myth, fairy tale, and cosmology and inevitably descends to an almost unbearable level of sentimentality, which is simultaneously a refreshing change from Blake’s usual tableau of self-involved, selfish characters who seem driven toward tragedies of their own making. Blake could definitely do a better job at showing the love between characters rather than merely telling the reader that they’re in love. She also has an unfortunate tendency to skip potentially intriguing bits of backstory if they don’t immediately drive the plot along, which is why readers never learn anything about Fox’s childhood and what it was actually like having Death as a parent. Nor does she explain why only two of the four archangels, Gabriel and Raphael, play outsize roles in determining the order of the cosmos, while Uriel and Michael are nowhere to be seen. Bits of anachronism—like the use of a rubber band as aversion therapy 200 years ago or the presence of a magical wristwatch from a time long before watches were common—might be intended to be Pratchett-style humor or chalked up to magic? It’s hard to tell what’s intentional and what is simply careless. Now that Blake has a traditional publisher, perhaps the editors of her future novels will guide the author to address these issues when they arise.A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 416
Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023
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