An elaborate, futuristic tale that will draw in new readers with its keen characterization.

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THE GADLIN CONSPIRACY

From the Nemecene series , Vol. 2

In the second installment of Lefave’s (The Epoch of Redress, 2017) sci-fi series, twins try to prevent the extermination of a people blamed for child abductions and a viral epidemic.

It’s been a year since Gadlin siblings Elize and Keeto took refuge at Schrödinger University as a student and employee, respectively. They had feared that their father would send Elize away because she had symptoms that were similar to their institutionalized mother’s. Those symptoms disappeared for a while, but Elize recently began hearing voices again and suffering memory lapses. Now the city of Eadonberg is plagued by a virus and a rash of child kidnappings, and the Unification government’s oppressive Ministry holds the Gadlin race accountable for both. The twins respond by joining their half-Gadlin pal Stitch’s underground network to spy on the Ministry. Later, Stitch’s Gadlin mentor Odwin mysteriously disappears. An enigmatic woman named Nepharisse also dabbles in espionage; as a member of Global Health Unit’s catering staff, she gets close to Sothese, the personal adviser to the Pramam, who heads the Unification. Nepharisse, who has a unique method of killing (when necessary), believes that the twins are “chosen ones,” and she wants the same thing that they do: to stop the Pramam from committing genocide. Reading Lefave’s preceding novel isn’t mandatory before reading this one, but it does enhance the experience; for example, the references to Caroline, an essential character in the earlier story, will become much more meaningful. There’s a plethora of strange happenings in this installment, such as the fact that a curious red-granite rock, which Elize retrieved from a murder victim, keeps turning up in her pocket. Some questions also linger from the first volume, particularly regarding the twins’ mysterious father, who has ties to the Pramam. Lefave’s prose remains strong; one particular highlight is when Elize peruses Keeto’s journal, skipping the boring parts and adding her own commentary.

An elaborate, futuristic tale that will draw in new readers with its keen characterization.

Pub Date: July 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-988814-01-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aguacene Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 20, 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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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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