Despite some sluggish portions, this playful book makes for a fun romp through real and imagined worlds.

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PHANTASY—LAND OF THE BEYOND

A teenager explores a magical realm in this novel by Dave (Hell in a Handbasket, 2016, etc.).

The kingdom of Phantasy is, as the name suggests, a land filled with fantasy and enchantment. Once an “eternally peaceful and evergreen kingdom,” Phantasy has become dangerous during the reign of King Devonus. After Devonus’ brother Secondras turns out to not actually be his sibling but a cruel warlock, it is clear that something peculiar is in the works. Such an event occurs when Devonus’ wife, Katrina, dies after giving birth to a son. As Devonus fears for the safety of the child, who will be known as Dave, he sends the boy to a far-off land on Earth called Singapore. In Singapore, young Dave will mature before returning “to the kingdom of Phantasy as the Crown Prince and rightful heir to the throne.” Fifteen years pass and Dave has grown up to be a “bespectacled and pudgy young lad” who remains unaware of his royal heritage. Then he encounters two fantastical creatures. The duo—a talking Doberman and a “giant broken egg pieced together in a rather unprofessional way!”—informs Dave of his background and brings him back to Phantasy. But will Dave be able to handle his role as prince? The story unfolds as a lighthearted fairy tale. With a smattering of jokes aimed at the modern reader (“Seriously, what had Dave gotten himself into!” the narrator exclaims), the story develops in a traditional way, albeit with plenty of knowing winks. Details of life in Singapore and Dave’s overall goofiness help to spark interest in the protagonist (At 15, he discovers Gundam and Transformers and is “truly fascinated by them and their transforming abilities”). But portions of overexplanation can cause the narrative to lag, as when the reader encounters a lengthy description as to how and why Singapore was chosen as Dave’s destination. But on the whole, the novel reads as easily as a tale for youngsters with splashes of grown-up humor.

Despite some sluggish portions, this playful book makes for a fun romp through real and imagined worlds.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4828-2695-1

Page Count: 168

Publisher: PartridgeSingapore

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

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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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