THE STARS ARE LEGION

Perhaps not satisfying in a conventional way; but then, it’s clearly not meant to be.

A warrior without a past and her treacherous lover fight to bring their literally decaying world a new future in this thought-provoking space opera.

The Legion is a collection of organic world-sized ships, each populated with an all-female clan that endlessly battles with the other ships' clans. The amnesiac Zan has been taken in by the brutal (and female, despite her title) Lord Katazyrna and repeatedly instructed to invade the world of the Mokshi, which apparently holds her memory. Who is Zan? What is her true relationship with Jayd, the attractive woman she somehow knows she can't trust and who is promised to Rasida, lord of the Bhavajas, bitter rivals of the Katazyrnas? When the Bhavajas reject peace and leave Zan for dead many levels below the surface of the Katazyrna world, Jayd is left alone to fulfill the plan that she and Zan developed to combat the rot infesting all the Legion world-ships. Meanwhile, Zan struggles her way back upward, discovering new civilizations and new information about herself, forcing her to wonder if she truly wants to return to the woman she used to be. Amnesia can be a handy plot device to learn about a new situation along with the protagonist. But Hurley (The Geek Feminist Revolution, 2016, etc.) really makes the reader work toward understanding. Some things she never explains: are these characters human, and if so, how did human civilization become a network of space-dwelling, womb-swapping women who periodically become pregnant via parthenogenesis, primarily giving birth not to children but to organic technology? It seems likely that Hurley wants the reader to think hard about this default: many readers might not question a science-fiction adventure story populated solely with white males. So why should we question an SF space adventure populated solely with dark-skinned women?

Perhaps not satisfying in a conventional way; but then, it’s clearly not meant to be.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4793-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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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

RED RISING

From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 1

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

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. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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