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


From the The Domino Project series , Vol. 1

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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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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.


Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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