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THE RETURN

A fast-paced ride through a dangerous, plausible world dominated by AI.

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In the near future, a young man refuses to accept total immersion in the tech-obsessed culture that society foists upon him.

Aiden Baylor is not your typical California high school senior. His peers are consumed with petty insults and completely enslaved to their high-tech environment—virtual reality games, brain chip implants, text messages sent with the blink of an eye or a tilt of the chin—but Aiden would rather grab his guitar and connect with nature. Other kids in his class do as they’re told and accept the status quo, but Aiden questions everything, especially the bunk passed down to him by his teachers. In one way, though, Aiden is just like everyone else: He has a debilitating crush he’s been nursing since kindergarten, and the girl, Ava Durand, has finally started to notice him. And she, too, may not be satisfied with the tech-obsessed and “ill-informed, confused society” in which she’s mired. It just so happens that Aiden’s uncle, Govind, is one of the most powerful arms of that technocracy—the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America. Uncle Govind and Aunt L’Eren are out west ostensibly for L’Eren to give birth around family, but Aiden quickly senses that Govind might be in town for “professional” reasons, and he’s right. Uncle Govind is in California to visit DAPHNE, the all-knowing, state-of-the-art supercomputer in charge of American policies both domestic and foreign. When DAPHNE’s systems go haywire—seemingly resulting from retaliations against the supercomputer’s own attacks on Russian and Chinese systems—the fail-safes of American homeland security are rendered uncontrollable, and the country is poised against arguably the greatest threat of foreign invasion it has ever faced. Though Stevens does sometimes fall a bit too in love with her own imagination—surely we don’t need a description of the provenance and pitfalls of every futuristic device—her worldbuilding is still a delight, and Aiden and Ava provide readers with all the classic fun of an us-against-the-world tale.

A fast-paced ride through a dangerous, plausible world dominated by AI.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2024

ISBN: 9780997006841

Page Count: 370

Publisher: FYD Media, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2024

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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PROPHET SONG

Captivating, frightening, and a singular achievement.

As Ireland devolves into a brutal police state, one woman tries to preserve her family in this stark fable.

For Eilish Stack, a molecular biologist living with her husband and four children in Dublin, life changes all at once and then slowly worsens beyond imagining. Two men appear at her door one night, agents of the new secret police, seeking her husband, Larry, a union official. Soon he is detained under the Emergency Powers Act recently pushed through by the new ruling party, and she cannot contact him. Eilish sees things shifting at work to those backing the ruling party. The state takes control of the press, the judiciary. Her oldest son receives a summons to military duty for the regime, and she tries to send him to Northern Ireland. He elects to join the rebel forces and soon she cannot contact him, either. His name and address appear in a newspaper ad listing people dodging military service. Eilish is coping with her father’s growing dementia, her teenage daughter’s depression, the vandalizing of her car and house. Then war comes to Dublin as the rebel forces close in on the city. Offered a chance to flee the country by her sister in Canada, Eilish can’t abandon hope for her husband’s and son’s returns. Lynch makes every step of this near-future nightmare as plausible as it is horrific by tightly focusing on Eilish, a smart, concerned woman facing terrible choices and losses. An exceptionally gifted writer, Lynch brings a compelling lyricism to her fears and despair while he marshals the details marking the collapse of democracy and the norms of daily life. His tonal control, psychological acuity, empathy, and bleakness recall Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006). And Eilish, his strong, resourceful, complete heroine, recalls the title character of Lynch’s excellent Irish-famine novel, Grace (2017).

Captivating, frightening, and a singular achievement.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780802163011

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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