AFTERLAND

A propulsive and all-too-timely near-future thriller.

It’s been about three years since HCV, a fatal cancer-causing virus targeting men, began sweeping the world.

Now, in 2023, there's no cure in sight and reproduction has been made illegal to cut down on further infections in baby boys. Men and boys are hot commodities to both the interim government and other distinctly unsavory parties, but Cole isn’t about to surrender her 12-year-old son, Miles, who seems to be immune, to anyone. In fact, the only thing she cares about is getting home to Johannesburg, South Africa, but it won’t be easy. While in the U.S. visiting family, Cole’s husband, Devon, died, and Cole and Miles were herded into army quarantine, where Miles, under the auspices of the Male Protection Act, endured a seemingly endless series of tests. But Cole just wants to go home, and soon after they're moved to a new bunker, she and her sister, Billie, who reunited with Cole and Miles at the military base after a job as executive chef on a superyacht went south, hatch an escape plan. But the conniving Billie doesn’t have their best interests in mind, and Cole is forced to resort to violence. Now Cole and Miles, disguised as “Mila,” are on the run. Meanwhile, Billie, sporting a nasty head injury courtesy of a Cole-wielded tire iron, must find Miles and deliver him to the very bad women she works for or they’ll kill her. An already hellish road trip takes a strange turn when Miles and an exhausted Cole, seeking any kind of respite, join up with the nomadic nuns of the Church of All Sorrows, a cultish order that believes men will return if women would only repent for an endless litany of sins. Cole has a plan, but getting to the departure point alive will test her—and her relationship with her son—to the very limit. Miles and his mom form the beating heart of a harrowing tale that ably explores grief, motherhood, and gender roles, and Cole’s struggle to protect Miles as he grapples with coming-of-age in a radically altered world will resonate. Beukes is a gifted storyteller who makes it thrillingly easy for readers to fall under her spell as she weaves a hypnotic vision of a fractured world without men.

A propulsive and all-too-timely near-future thriller.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-26783-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

HOLLY

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

A much-beloved author gives a favorite recurring character her own novel.

Holly Gibney made her first appearance in print with a small role in Mr. Mercedes (2014). She played a larger role in The Outsider (2018). And she was the central character in If It Bleeds, a novella in the 2020 collection of the same name. King has said that the character “stole his heart.” Readers adore her, too. One way to look at this book is as several hundred pages of fan service. King offers a lot of callbacks to these earlier works that are undoubtedly a treat for his most loyal devotees. That these easter eggs are meaningless and even befuddling to new readers might make sense in terms of costs and benefits. King isn’t exactly an author desperate to grow his audience; pleasing the people who keep him at the top of the bestseller lists is probably a smart strategy, and this writer achieved the kind of status that whatever he writes is going to be published. Having said all that, it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky. The word slacks occurs with distracting frequency. King uses the phrase keeping it on the down-low in a way that suggests he probably doesn’t understand how this phrase is currently used—and has been used for quite a while. But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable.

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016138

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

TOM CLANCY WEAPONS GRADE

Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Jack Ryan Jr. is back to risk life and limb in saving a teenage girl from international killers while his father, U.S. President Jack Ryan Sr., figures out what to do with Iran’s clandestine uranium enrichment facility, hidden in a mine.

Junior, head of the secret intelligence outfit The Campus, which was functionally wiped out in Tom Clancy Flash Point (2023), is heading across Texas to a rendezvous with his fiancee, Lisanne Robertson, a one-armed former Marine and cop. He’s waylaid by the aftermath of a multi-vehicle accident that he discovers resulted from a gun attack that left a driver hanging on for life, and now puts Jack in the crosshairs of the gunmen. A tip leads him to a 4 a.m. meeting with Amanda, a single mom whose impetuous daughter, Bella, has run off with her highly undesirable boyfriend only to be abducted by the baddies. Meanwhile...in the nation’s capital, American surveillance has determined that Iran is on the cusp of nuclear armament. The only way to stop them is unleashing an unpiloted and untested super plane with massive destructive power. The book’s treatment of Iran’s “existential threat to the entire globe” as a subplot is rather curious, to say the least. You keep waiting for Bentley to connect the two stories, but that happens only superficially. Late in the book, we are told as an afterthought that Iran’s immediate threat had been “mitigated.” Unfortunately, there is no mitigation of the novel’s hackneyed prose—"The analytical portion of Jack’s brain couldn’t help but be impressed.”

Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422816

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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