A simple backdrop and military story effortlessly set up what could be an intricate, entertaining series.

Getzi Chronicles

THE ALPHA EXPERIMENT

A small band of individuals, together by chance, stumbles upon a military base housing a covert project that armed soldiers want to keep secret in this debut thriller.

Dr. Delores Clark is testing the waters of Cooper’s Bay Marsh, off the coast of Mexico, to prove industrial giant Rayberdyn Industries Inc. is dumping chemicals. When black ops agents grab her and trash her work station, she gets help from Col. John Stone. John was already in the area searching for a crash site, refusing to believe his military-aviator brother’s accident from five years ago was due to pilot error. Also in the marsh are cousins Brian and Daniel Richardson, the latter monitoring Delores at the behest of Rayberdyn, and Lt. Debbie Shultz, who saves Daniel from a potentially nasty fall. Agents get the drop on John and the others and imprison them in a hidden compound nearby. Even if they escape their cells, they’ll still need to brave a dense jungle. Fortunately, they seem to have an ally in Jade, a warrior from an ancient tribe. They may, however, have trouble trusting her, as she has an unmistakable connection to Zix, who’s in cahoots with the nefarious and much-despised Col. Gerd Steinholtz. Gerd’s just one of the people behind an unsanctioned military project, and he’ll do whatever he can to contain the clandestine operation. The novel, undoubtedly a series opener, is an action-packed story with touches of sci-fi. Jade, for one, has special abilities signified by a “hazy blue glow,” while Zix uses a more sinister red light to steal others’ energies. These capabilities, along with the real-world skills of military-trained John and Debbie, make for exhilarating sequences during the numerous confrontations with bad guys. The story links characters in various ways (John and Debbie were cadets who witnessed Gerd’s violence firsthand) and introduces many elements, like Jade’s and Zix’s origins, that are not fully explained—but perhaps they will be in later books. Sullivan’s writing is smart and thoroughly detailed, though descriptions can be excessive. It’s clear, for example, what both a “sci-fi-looking cylindrical apparatus” and “futuristic gurney” are without the leading adjectives.

A simple backdrop and military story effortlessly set up what could be an intricate, entertaining series.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5049-6003-8

Page Count: 196

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 26, 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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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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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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