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

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THE FALL OF GONDOLIN

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. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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