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Chameleon

From the The Domino Project series , Vol. 1

A bracing debut that might just knock the wind out of readers.

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This YA sci-fi novel explores a future in which authorities test psionically gifted teens for inclusion in a cutthroat, corporate-run society.

In 2172, meteors comprised of the parasitic metal adrium leveled the world and also “caused the psionic gene to emerge” within the remnants of humanity, which allowed for telepathy, telekinesis, and even more potent abilities. When 12-year-old Sai’s psionic powers awaken, she destroys residential Block 63, killing and maiming thousands. The people who rebuilt the world after the Disaster Era—the Gerts, Newton & William United Conglomerate—send a man named Bastion to retrieve the person responsible for the chaos. Four years later, Sai is living at a training facility where she’s tested physically and mentally against other psionics her age as well as against humanoid psionic-adrium hybrids called “dominos.” After surviving Sai’s initial training, Bastian becomes her mentor in darker psionic arts, such as stopping a heart. Throughout, Sai acknowledges that the smoothly running capital, UC Central, has problems. Her own parents, living on the outskirts of GNW’s settlement, were addicted to the drug Shine and committed heinous acts to remain high. When Sai learns that Bastian also needs Shine to function, it kindles her questioning nature, forcing her to confront the lies at the center of GNW’s society. Debut author Hanna takes familiar sci-fi genre elements, such as an outsider network of rebels and emotionless, superhuman companions, and spins dystopian gold. The concept of the dominos—including the beings’ color-changing talents—is endlessly fascinating, as is Dom, the sly, original hybrid to whom Sai grows closer throughout the narrative. If readers blink, they’ll miss the quick but potent action sequences (“The crossbow bolt is crudely fashioned, and [Sai] can feel rust flakes falling...into her body”). Sai eventually finds herself becoming the unassuming rallying point for the hopes of those around her. Later, she realizes that in a world where authorities microchip citizens and treat them like products, a better option is to fight to “make it somewhere people want to live.” From top to bottom, this is a fabulous series opener.

A bracing debut that might just knock the wind out of readers.

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5147-7768-8

Page Count: 366

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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