A small, clever novel obscured rather than enlightened by philosophy, synthesis, analysis and travelogue.

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Another textbook disguised as a novel: the first of a projected trilogy from Robinson (Galileo's Dream, 2009, etc.) set in a future similar to that envisioned in his Mars trilogy from the 1990s.

By the 24th century, humanity has established settlements throughout the solar system on terraformed moons and planets and inside habitats hollowed from conveniently orbiting asteroids. Travel to the most remote destination takes mere weeks; quantum computers, qubes, are ubiquitous but have not yet reached true sentience. Former habitat designer Swan Er Hong makes her home on Mercury, where the city of Terminator crawls around the planet on rails, perpetually keeping just ahead of the rising sun. Her beloved grandmother, Alex, has just died. Two individuals, diminutive investigator Jean Genette and Wahram, a huge, froglike negotiator, wonder whether Swan's recently deceased, beloved grandmother Alex left any information about her work—Alex studied Earth which, despite mass emigration, remains a basket case of environmental degradation, climate change and vampire capitalism. Then Swan, who has a qube named Pauline inside her head and once swallowed a cocktail of alien bacteria from Enceladus, and Wahram narrowly escape when Terminator is destroyed by an undetectable shower of meteorites directed from somewhere in space. Seems Alex, who distrusted qubes and all forms of electronic communication, had good reason for her paranoia: apart from the mysterious group who destroyed Terminator, somebody is building humanoid bodies operated by qubes, for purposes none of the three can guess. Other than Robinson's usual novelistic virtues, the narrative offers a grand tour of the inhabited worlds, often to excess, plus padding with 18 future-factual "extracts" to fill in the background, 15 rather bizarre "lists" (e.g. space accidents, propulsion systems) and three passages representing the mental processes of the humanoid qubes.

A small, clever novel obscured rather than enlightened by philosophy, synthesis, analysis and travelogue.

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-09812-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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