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

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Chameleon

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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Someone else might’ve made this fresh and clever, but from this source, it’s an often dull and pointless-seeming retread.

AGENCY

A sequel to The Peripheral (2014), in which bored dilettantes from the future meddle virtually with potential pasts while more responsible people try to ameliorate the damage.

The novel opens, as so many Gibson novels do, with an intelligent, creative young woman accepting a not terribly well-defined job from an enigmatic (possibly sinister) executive involving a piece of cutting-edge technology. In this case, that technology is an emerging AI with origins in top-secret military research who calls herself Eunice. The young woman, Verity Jane, spends only a couple of days with Eunice (via company-issued glasses, phone, and headset) before her new boss, Gavin, gets nervous about Eunice’s potential and starts attempting to monitor every move of the human–AI pair. What Verity does not know is that her present day of 2017, in which a decreased Russian influence on social media led to an unnamed woman who is clearly Hillary Clinton winning the presidency, the U.K. voting to remain in the E.U., and a volatile situation in Turkey threatening to turn nuclear, was deliberately manipulated by someone in 2136 who enjoys creating doomsday scenarios among possible past timelines. It’s up to future law enforcement (who can only contact the timeline via digital communication or virtually controlled mechanical peripherals) to get in touch with Verity and Eunice and recruit them to prevent looming global catastrophe. Given Gibson’s Twitter-stated unhappiness with the timeline in which he currently finds himself, it's hard to know what he's implying here: That outside intervention would have been required to achieve a Hillary Clinton presidency and defeat Brexit? Or that our own vigilance on social media could/should have brought those outcomes about? And why would these two potentially positive occurrences in that timeline instigate an even darker scenario than the one readers are currently experiencing—and also require that intervention to fix it? Have we reached the point of no return in all potential 21st-century timelines, doomed, at least in part, regardless of what political and social choices we make now? (Nor is it ever really explained why Gavin turns so quickly on Verity and Eunice, unless it’s simply to inject the story with urgency and transform it into the author’s favorite plot device, the chase.) This is vintage, or possibly tired, Gibson, filling his usual quest-driven template with updated contemporary or just-past-contemporary politics, technology, and culture.

Someone else might’ve made this fresh and clever, but from this source, it’s an often dull and pointless-seeming retread.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-101-98693-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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