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PSI-WARS

CLASSIFIED CASES OF PSYCHIC PHENOMENA

Exceptional SF that enlivens, fascinates, and unnerves.

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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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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • 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

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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