This intriguing tale mixing sci-fi and magic should appeal to fans of the series and perhaps attract additional followers.

AUSSIE KNOWHOW

A series of wars, terrorist attacks, and supposed natural disasters turns out to be created by ultra-wealthy businessmen with the aim of interplanetary takeover in this second installment of a trilogy.

Australian hero David Granger and his friends and family—along with Orack, a powerful, computer-generated hologram—face down a series of scoundrels bent on taking over Earth and possibly the planets Atlantis, Genesis, and Dudgeon. Like some grandiose game of Whac-A-Mole, no sooner do they knock down a nefarious “Mr. Big” than one or more new evil kingpins pop up. Eventually, Granger and his allies once more find themselves in a rousing interplanetary showdown with archvillains Dotoff and the Supreme Commander. But not before the protagonist and his intrepid band elicit the aid of legendary Arthurian magicians Merlin and Morgana. The latter takes Granger; his daughter, Susan; and his son, Robert, on a Christmas-like sleigh ride through time (“They seemed to pop out of a cloud mass and, with a slight bump, settled on rich soft grassy soil...Morgana told them they were at Camelot and the castle was the one King Arthur stole from her. The lake to the side was Loch Lomond”). Meanwhile, Orack continues to evolve from an emotionless machine to a feeling being. Unlike the first volume of the Granger saga, which tied together various episodes in the hero’s life, Johnson’s (Aussie Pilot, 2018) sequel has a more coherent, linear storyline and smoother prose. While the characters, except for Orack, are still somewhat flat, the author does render Granger and company more human than in the first installment, as in this interchange involving the protagonist and Robert: “David turned to face his son, smiled that broad smile...‘Ready as we ever will be, I guess,’ he replied, and they both strode with an identical swagger as they made their way towards the shuttle.” In addition, Johnson certainly has an eye for vivid details. But instead of utilizing his skill building empathetic players or gripping situations, he applies it mostly to describing what the characters eat: “He pan-fried the prawns in garlic and deep-fried two small fillets of fish with some squid in batter. He placed the salad on a large dinner plate and…added a single serving neatly to each plate.”

This intriguing tale mixing sci-fi and magic should appeal to fans of the series and perhaps attract additional followers.

Pub Date: July 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5434-0979-6

Page Count: 222

Publisher: XlibrisAU

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2018

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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

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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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

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THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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