Inventive, profane and action-packed, with a wiseass, resourceful hero.

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DUSTBALL AIR

A smart-mouthed young smuggler is tasked with a dangerous assignment in this steampunk-flavored adventure novel.

After a calamity called the Breaking, Earth is no longer a solid object but a group of loosely connected landforms called Rocks hanging above the Dustball below. In the slums of Hanging Town—created after a gravity disruption turned one Rock upside down—Dizzy Whiteman, 18, makes a scant living doing odd jobs, mostly illegal. A foulmouthed, wisecracking daredevil who’s a tad sensitive about his short stature, he rides a steam-powered vehicle akin to a motorcycle, helped out by his older sister, a gifted mechanic. Dizzy’s skills gain attention, and he’s intimidated into joining a pirate ship and helping retrieve valuable artifacts related to the Breaking. He’ll need all his wits, courage and skills as a fighter and flier to avoid becoming anyone’s pawn and to survive several exciting, perilous adventures, including going undercover into Purgatory, the sort of prison where no one comes out alive. Don’t be put off by the novel’s overweening introduction (mirrored in its afterword), which claims that this is “the type of book that strangles its readers remorselessly before smacking them in the face just for the hell of it.” Actually, Dizzy’s courage, curiosity, humor, decency and love for his family define him as much as his smart mouth. While the action is virtually nonstop—fight scenes range from hand-to-hand combat to grand naval battles—the book also takes time to consider this future world’s culture, politics, art, architecture and people, as Dizzy’s adventures take him to palaces, dive bars, pirate hangouts and more. A hero who isn’t all height and muscles is also a nice change, though he’s nevertheless a tough fighter. That said, the book’s wonderfully vivid descriptions can turn into purple prose—in particular, adjectives galore—and a firmer editing hand would help.

Inventive, profane and action-packed, with a wiseass, resourceful hero.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-1492173168

Page Count: 556

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 1

Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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