Exceptional SF that enlivens, fascinates, and unnerves.

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PSI-WARS

CLASSIFIED CASES OF PSYCHIC PHENOMENA

Editor Viola’s latest anthology comprises 13 SF–flavored wartime tales.

Myriad characters in this collection sport psychic abilities, a common weapon in the seemingly endless wars. That’s the case with Keith Ferrell’s “Psnake Eyes.” Psoldiers spanning the globe battle one another and search for potential “multis”—those who have a combination of psychic talents. While most stories take place in an unspecified future, some are set during historical eras. Angie Hodapp’s 1917-set “Cradle to Grave,” for example, follows British agent Edith, a Sensitive whose current assignment somehow involves the psychic brother she hasn’t seen in years. Likewise, the titular character in Dean Wyant’s “The Visions of Perry Godwin” is a WWII sailor who may soon consider his precognitive Sight a curse. Given that characters are at odds or in combat, it’s unsurprising that stories herein are largely grim. The book opens with Warren Hammond’s particularly gruesome “The Calabrian,” in which Nazis have conquered Europe with one individual’s psychic ability. But as this skill requires a pristine singing voice, the story’s most disturbing component is how the Nazis force those who refuse to sing. The writing among the various authors is sharp and concise, giving the entire collection a brisk, sometimes frenzied tone. Some stories even feel like an action-laden scene from a lengthier novel, like Betty Rocksteady’s “And When You Tear Us Apart, We Stitch Ourselves Back Together.” In it, someone has involuntarily separated Violet from her conjoined sister, Daisy. Though psychically gifted Daisy is gone, Violet tries accessing her like a phantom limb while the story merely hints at a grander, possibly worldwide war in progress. Even stories without discernible psychic elements entail psychological turmoil, including trouble with a VR–type device (Darin Bradley’s “Under the Lotus”) and a failed sleep-deprivation experiment (Gabino Iglesias’ “Awake”). Lovett’s sensational, graphic-novel-style artwork accompanies and enhances each story.

Exceptional SF that enlivens, fascinates, and unnerves. (foreword, introduction, "Agent Profiles")

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Hex Publishers

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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An impressive beginning to what looks to be an ambitious series.

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS

From the The Shadow Histories series , Vol. 1

An alternate history in the style of Naomi Novik and Susanna Clarke explores the French and Haitian revolutions with a magical twist.

This series opener has three plotlines. One follows Fina, a young enslaved woman who eventually joins with Toussaint Louverture and plays a pivotal role in the revolution against slavery and French rule in Saint-Domingue; the second follows Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien Robespierre as they stir up the bloody Reign of Terror; and the third follows friends William Pitt and William Wilberforce as they rise in the ranks of the British Parliament. Parry is working with historical events and (mostly) real characters here, but this is a world where some people are born with magical abilities. Some can control the weather, some can manipulate metal, some can even control others through “mesmerism.” Some magicians have abilities that are wholly outlawed, like necromancy, and “vampires”—here meaning human magicians who can ingest blood to give themselves eternal life—have been wiped out altogether (supposedly). But who is allowed to use their magic? Only White aristocrats, of course, and with the aid of magic, White slave owners literally control slaves’ every movement, trapping them inside their minds. But enslaved people, like Fina, are finding ways to break free and fight back, and in Europe, politicians like Pitt and Wilberforce are working to abolish the slave trade and give people of all classes the right to use their gifts. Desmoulins and Robespierre start out fighting for freedom, but as the French Revolution descends into pure violence, it becomes clear that someone is manipulating Robespierre to cause as much death as possible. The story leans too heavily on dialogue, which, unfortunately, is not Parry’s strongest suit. Her real talent lies in immersive worldbuilding and meticulous plotting, and she does an expert job of setting the scene for the rest of the series while simultaneously constructing a story that’s engaging in its own right.

An impressive beginning to what looks to be an ambitious series.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45908-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Redhook/Orbit

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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