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IN THE QUICK

An interesting idea that doesn’t quite gel.

In the near-ish future, a gifted engineer dreams of repairing the flaw in the fuel cells designed by her uncle that doomed a long-distance space mission.

Her uncle has recently died when narrator June is sent to the school named for him on the National Space Program campus. She’s only 12, but she has learned from her famous uncle to always ask of a piece of machinery, “What does it do?” This phrase echoes throughout the text as June trains for work in space; Day does a terrific job of making an engineer’s thought process as exciting as a thriller’s chase scenes. June and her classmates are obsessed with Inquiry, the first-ever craft using the fuel cells invented by her uncle with a team of his students, which has lost propulsion control while orbiting Saturn. Some of them helped design the fuel cells, others have friends or lovers on the crew, so all are devastated when NSP cancels a planned rescue mission in Endurance, a craft powered by the same suspect cells. The novel blends fraught personal relationships with intricate engineering as the narrative moves forward six years, when June is sent to the Pink Planet to work with James, one of her uncle’s students, whose debates with his lover, Theresa, about the fuel cell design forecast similar conflict between him and June while they work on repairing the cells’ flaw. Nonetheless, they become intimate—until she uncovers a grim secret that ruptures their partnership. June flees the station into the Pink Planet’s unforgiving atmosphere, nearly dying in a harrowing scene that again displays Day’s gift for gripping suspense that unfolds largely in the narrator’s head. Regrettably, the author is not as skilled at gathering together her plot strands, and an abrupt ending leaves many unanswered questions about the characters she has somewhat elliptically developed.

An interesting idea that doesn’t quite gel.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-51125-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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

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FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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