It’s a bonus that the hero of the piece is a young girl, which ought to serve as inspiration for more than a few readers....

PURE

Us 99 percenters will live outside the gates come the future, and it won’t be pretty—especially once the nukes start popping.

Baggott (Girl Talk, 2001, etc.), author of fantasies and light comedies alike, takes a somber turn with her latest, which opens with an exceedingly ugly period “after the Detonations,” a time when some people sicken and die from merely drinking the water and others’ faces simply melt away, where “death is sometimes measured” in the rasping coughs of the survivors who have breathed the nuclear winter. Tucked inside the safety of the Dome, where a privileged few are sheltered, young Partridge is safe. Impudently, though, he steals out into that world to find his mother, or at least find out why she refused to leave the city and take cover with her family. Out there, 16-year-old Pressia is trying to keep out of the clutches of the ugly fascist order that has come into power in a time of emergency. It’s a nasty bunch, given to playing games such as Death Spree, “used...to rid society of the weak,” as one of the impromptu band of resisters formed by Pressia and Partridge says, adding, “It’s really the only kind of sport around here, if you can call it a sport.” That band roams the countryside, gathering knowledge and skills, dodging the many, many baddies and bad circumstances that threaten to do them in, making a fine hero quest among the ruins wrought by both bombs and “the Return to Civility and its legislation.” Read between the lines, and the story acquires timely dimensions, though you need not do so to have good fun with the book. As fantasy novels tend to do, Baggott’s tome labors under heavy influences—not just Tolkien, the lord of the genre, but also Rowling, comparisons with whom are inevitable. William Golding’s and George Orwell's and even H.G. Wells’ spirits hove into view from time to time, too. Yet Baggott is no mimic, and she successfully imagines and populates a whole world, which is the most rigorous test of a fantasy’s success.

It’s a bonus that the hero of the piece is a young girl, which ought to serve as inspiration for more than a few readers. Whether Baggott’s imagined world is one that you’d want to live in is another matter entirely, of course. Damned Detonations!

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4555-0306-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

RED RISING

From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 1

Set in the future and reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this novel dramatizes a story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power.

In the beginning, Darrow, the narrator, works in the mines on Mars, a life of drudgery and subservience. He’s a member of the Reds, an “inferior” class, though he’s happily married to Eo, an incipient rebel who wants to overthrow the existing social order, especially the Golds, who treat the lower-ranking orders cruelly. When Eo leads him to a mildly rebellious act, she’s caught and executed, and Darrow decides to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of this outrage. He’s recruited by a rebel cell and “becomes” a Gold by having painful surgery—he has golden wings grafted on his back—and taking an exam to launch himself into the academy that educates the ruling elite. Although he successfully infiltrates the Golds, he finds the social order is a cruel and confusing mash-up of deception and intrigue. Eventually, he leads one of the “houses” in war games that are all too real and becomes a guerrilla warrior leading a ragtag band of rebelliously minded men and women. Although it takes a while, the reader eventually gets used to the specialized vocabulary of this world, where warriors shoot “pulseFists” and are protected by “recoilArmor.” As with many similar worlds, the warrior culture depicted here has a primitive, even classical, feel to it, especially since the warriors sport names such as Augustus, Cassius, Apollo and Mercury.

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53978-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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