Flawed but still impressive. Chess is a writer to watch.



An ambitious debut set in New York, but not the New York we know.

The story's protagonist, Hel, is one of a handful of UDPs—Universally Displaced Persons—who left a parallel world to escape nuclear holocaust. In her world, Hel was a surgeon. Now she’s a refugee with too much time on her hands and a growing obsession with an author named Ezra Sleight. Hel’s lover, Vikram—another UDP—was doing graduate work on Sleight’s science-fiction masterpiece, The Pyronauts, before the end came, but, in our world, Sleight died as a child, long before he ever wrote a word. Hel is convinced that she should turn his house into a museum of memories, a tribute to all the people and things that existed in her world but don’t in the world in which she is stranded. This is a promising concept, and there is much here to enjoy. There’s the frisson of discovering the subtle differences between universes. There’s dark humor in attempts—formal and informal—to acclimate the newcomers. Vikram, who finds work as a security guard, gets nightly lectures from a co-worker “on such diverse topics as John Grisham, Cher, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and the Brooklyn Nets.” There’s obvious—but not belabored—commentary on the immigrant experience in the United States, made more poignant by the fact that, not only can the UDPs never go home, but they also must live in a place in which their home never existed. Hel’s quest to preserve her past is both quixotic and perfectly understandable. But the characters here—especially Hel—are underdeveloped, and much of the plot hinges on a twist that strains credulity. Hel loses The Pyronauts—the only copy in existence, one of Vikram’s prized possessions, and the cornerstone of her proposed museum. And then she doesn’t realize that she’s lost it until it’s been missing for days or weeks. Vikram doesn’t seem to notice its absence, either. Chess’ fantastic worldbuilding is convincing; this depiction of mundane human psychology and behavior is not.

Flawed but still impressive. Chess is a writer to watch.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947793-24-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.


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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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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