A fine sequel in a sci-fi series that’s proving to be a must-read.

THE SILENCE AND THE LIGHT

BOOK TWO OF THE CHILDREN AND GHOSTS QUINTET

McCormick (A Voice in the Thunder, 2012) delivers on the promise of the first book in his Children and Ghosts sci-fi quintet with this grand sequel.

With the city of Bellerophon destroyed in the previous novel, the Galactic Coalition has been plunged into civil war between government loyalists and those who support Gov. Warren. However, there’s far more at stake than who runs human civilization; a few people, such as criminal Christmas “Crazy-eyes” Parker, know that a godlike computer threatens the human race, and a few others, including Detective Vera Ford, aim to find out about it. But in a galaxy consumed by conflict, most people—including mercenary Regina Bell, former detective Ben Weizmann, industrial mogul Atusa Navarro and other survivors—are just trying to stay alive. Legion, an ancient computer built by a lost race, is setting events in motion to fulfill its own plans, but its creators also built a fail-safe computer called Ziz, which will stop at nothing to defeat Legion’s schemes. Meanwhile, seven children across the galaxy feel drawn to the planet Gadara, although none of them can say why—perhaps the race that built Legion isn’t quite as lost as some people think. McCormick delivers rough-and-ready action, devious political intrigue and emotionally charged back stories in a galaxy full of fantastic speculative elements and ideas. McCormick has an epic tale to tell, and the talent to tell it. Readers who haven’t read the first book, however, shouldn’t start with this installment, which spends very little time recapping past events. However, the author’s intelligent prose and fast-paced plotting make for another book that sci-fi fans shouldn’t miss; it’s satisfying on its own yet still makes readers feel that all they’ve read so far is merely prelude—and that the real conflict is just getting started.

A fine sequel in a sci-fi series that’s proving to be a must-read.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494720063

Page Count: 754

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2014

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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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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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A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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