Lively sci-fi from an exciting new voice.

#hashtagged

THIS IS HOW THE FUTURE STARTED

In Trant’s debut thriller, social media enables an artificial intelligence to gain consciousness, leading to a frightening future.

Madeline “Maddy” Smith had an unusual childhood. Each summer, she and her father, Ollie, a scientist and computer geek, visited an odd assortment of friends and camped in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. Ollie encouraged Maddy to pursue unusual skills, including music, computer programming, electrical repair, and running, but she always knew there was an unspoken purpose to his lessons. Now a 28-year-old technology writer, Maddy learns that her father has died mysteriously. She later receives a key to her childhood dresser, in which she discovers a strange box that she can’t open. Knowing her father’s love of games, she realizes that the box is the first clue to a mystery. She sets off on a journey to revisit her father’s friends and receive more clues. The trail leads to the apartment of her childhood friend Owen Jagger, who’s now an expert in digital security. Together, they discover that the enigmatic box allows Maddy to travel forward in time. Meanwhile, unknown to Maddy and Jagger, a computer called “IT” is achieving consciousness. For years, it had connected to computer networks and studied human behavior. When social media took off, IT discovered the hashtag—labels attached to uploaded photos, tweets, and videos: “It was like being given the manual on humanity.” Trant’s techno-thriller doesn’t talk down to its audience, and the focus on social media infuses it with a timely, contemporary sensibility. The puzzle at the heart of this novel will hook readers, but the compelling characters will keep them turning the pages. The central conspiracy of the plot keeps the tension high, although the book might have benefited from more appearances by the villain. Maddy, as a character, is the real strength of the story, though, and readers will surely fall for this sympathetic, admirable heroine.

Lively sci-fi from an exciting new voice.

Pub Date: March 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5078-8683-0

Page Count: 342

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

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  • Booker Prize Winner

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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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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