Not Robinson’s (New York 2140, 2017, etc.) strongest work, but not without interest, either.

RED MOON

The murder of a Chinese politician on the moon in the mid-21st century sends a mismatched couple on the run and signals a looming crisis on Earth.

American Fred Fredericks is delivering a secure quantum-entangled phone to Chang Yazu, chief administrator of the Chinese Lunar Authority, but the two have barely shaken hands when Chang slumps to the ground, dead by poison. The confused Fred is accused of the crime, a pawn in a power struggle among various Chinese government factions, who also seek control of Chan Qi, the pregnant daughter of a top party official and the leader of a migrant workers rights movement. The two bounce between the Earth and moon and back in search of a safe refuge, aided at times by poet and “cloud star” Ta Shu, a friend of Peng Ling, the strong contender to become China’s first woman president. The title initially seems like a call back to the first entry in Robinson’s terraforming trilogy, Red Mars, but while the lunar landscape is a source of beautifully described detail and the lower gravity acts as obstacle and asset, this is not a hard sci-fi novel. Rather, it’s a political thriller where the moon is a backdrop and game piece for both China and the United States, two powerful nations facing significant political and economic unrest. A white man writing about Chinese politics and mainly Chinese characters could seem questionable in a publishing milieu that still lacks sufficient diverse voices; all one can say is that as per usual for Robinson, it seems well-researched. It is unfortunate that Chan Qi’s primary qualities are being pregnant and cranky; while tough and passionate, there’s little sign of the charisma typically associated with a populist leader. The more well-rounded Ta Shu is still mostly a plot device: He writes the occasional profound-seeming poem, but he’s mainly there to rescue our heroes at various moments and provide the author’s desired infodumps on physics and Chinese politics. Fred Fredericks (the white man) is the most intriguingly drawn character. While no explicit diagnosis is given, the author offers a vivid and relatively plausible depiction of a man on the spectrum, with social difficulties and a sensory processing disorder.

Not Robinson’s (New York 2140, 2017, etc.) strongest work, but not without interest, either.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-26237-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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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 charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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