A tart and fluid SF view of a nightmare future dominated by canned beverages.


Near a bleak, dystopian future America, an offshore City exists, run by a grotesque cyborg, serving as a supposed rehabilitation haven for society’s outcasts.

In his SF novel, Goldberg vaguely sketches a mad, bad, and dangerous future world created by the aftermath of the “War To End All Wars.” Poverty, crime, the maimed, and the deformed are rampant in “Amercyana,” but at some point, a solution, of sorts, takes shape via the construction of The City, an offshore community that welcomes society’s most desperate individuals. Hidden from outside eyes by hologram projections, the place is more a strange, surreal simulation of a city than the real thing. The metropolis’s inhabitants have predetermined roles and are universally camera-monitored by “the Man,” a freakish, multilimbed cyborg fixed in place in a cyclopean tower dominating the skyline. But the Man—a Stalin admirer—is no therapeutic, healing entity. Graham Weatherend, an abused, imprisoned orphan, has been brought to The City by Scout E, one of the Man’s many hirelings. Formerly known as Edmond Edwards, Scout E is a conscience-wracked wife killer who traded his dismal lot for a lofty position in The City doing the cyborg’s bidding. Now, the two citizens are installed in The City’s lone remaining advertising agency, hyping a soda called orange Pow! Graham becomes a specialist at writing slogans for the strangely addictive brew, and suddenly he sees orange colors and themes everywhere, becoming a literal slave to the refreshment. Until, abruptly and arbitrarily, green lime Pow! makes its overwhelming appearance...and then a blue-raspberry Pow!...and then....What seems a seriocomic, semihallucinatory, semicryptic dark satire of Madison Avenue guys (with prosthetic limbs and other body horrors) ultimately grows into seriously dystopic and violent stuff. Neatly paced and escalating like a sinister bar crawl, the novel gives readers the flavor of Philip K. Dick and perhaps a little Kafka and J.G. Ballard in the mixology (though the book’s back cover mentions George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and the TV series Lost). A final twist at the end leaves the aftertaste of a promised sequel, in which some of the big narrative questions posed by this zesty installment may be answered. We’ll drink to that.

A tart and fluid SF view of a nightmare future dominated by canned beverages.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64921-878-0

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Twisty, thrilling, and beautifully written.


Things aren't what they seem in the supposedly idyllic state of Prospera.

Cronin’s latest takes place in Prospera, an archipelago state that “exists in splendid isolation, hidden from the world.” The main island is designed to be something of a paradise, “free of all want and distraction,” where residents are urged to pursue art and personal betterment. The Annex, another island, is “home to the support staff—men and women of lesser biological and social endowments.” Proctor Bennett lives on the main island and works as a “ferryman”—when his fellow residents become older or infirm, he escorts them to a boat that will carry them to the “Nursery Isle,” where they are reborn as teenagers who will then rejoin Prospera. One day, Proctor learns that the next person he’s in charge of ferrying is his father, and it turns out the old man doesn’t go quietly—on the way to the pier, he begins muttering seemingly incomprehensible phrases, telling his son, “The world is not the world,” and “You’re not...you.” Then things get even more complicated: Proctor meets art dealer Thea, who’s tight with a group of dissatisfied Annex residents, and then he gets fired from his job, which leads him to believe Prospera might not be everything he’s thought it was. He’s also trying to navigate his increasingly rocky marriage to Elise, a fashion designer whose mother, Callista, is the chair of the Board of Overseers for All Prospera—“the boss of everything.” The twists in this novel are plentiful and authentically surprising, and although there are tons of moving parts, Cronin does a wonderful job handling them. This is a dystopian novel that doubles as a detective story, and Proctor is an appealing protagonist, semi-hard-boiled but never descending into cliché. Cronin’s prose is solid, and he handles the dialogue, sometimes leavened with humor, expertly. It’s a hefty book that moves with an astounding quickness—yet another excellent offering from an author with a boundless imagination and talent to spare.

Twisty, thrilling, and beautifully written.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780525619475

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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