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THE FALL OF GONDOLIN

This gorgeous novel is a must for more than just Tolkien fanatics.

Christopher Tolkien presents the final piece in a trilogy of Middle-earth stories his father, J.R.R. Tolkien, did not live to see published.

In what he assures us is the last installment, Tolkien returns to edit his father's work (Beren and Lúthien, 2017, etc.), this time with the tale of the secret city of Gondolin. Ulmo, the great sea god, visits a wanderer named Tuor and tells him his destiny: "O Tuor of the lonely heart, I will not that thou dwell for ever in fair places of birds and flowers....Now must thou seek through the lands for the city of the folk called Gondothlim or the dwellers in stone, and the Noldoli shall escort thee thither in secret for fear of the spies of Melko." Tuor makes it to Gondolin, where he marries the king's daughter and has a son, Eärendel. Meanwhile, the evil Melko, whom Ulmo was so worried about, is scheming to find the hidden city and destroy it. When the city's location is given up in "the most infamous treachery in the history of Middle-earth," a great battle ensues, and despite Tuor's valor, Gondolin falls. The history of Middle-earth is so intricately detailed and fully imagined, readers are lucky indeed that Christopher Tolkien is such an excellent editor. With a full glossary, additional notes, a family tree, and a list of names with descriptions, it is easy to keep track of who is whose son (Lord of the Rings fans will be pleased to note that Eärendel is Elrond's father) and which races of elves and orcs and goblins are which and live where. Tolkien also takes great care to explain where each version of the story comes from and pieces together its evolution, giving much-needed context. All this makes it easy to enjoy the tale itself, which is beautifully written, with lyrical descriptions of Ulmo, Gondolin, and even the dragons and Balrogs that devastate the city. Even the battle sequences are somehow lovely. The tone here is more like a fairy tale than the main Ring cycle, which is perfectly suited to its shorter length.

This gorgeous novel is a must for more than just Tolkien fanatics.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-61304-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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