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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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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