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YOU'RE SAFE HERE

For connoisseurs of speculative fiction who enjoy detailed worldbuilding.

In the near future, the world is run by WellCorp but all is far from well.

Stephens’ debut begins in “Zone 874, Pacific Ocean, 29 Days Post-Launch,” where we find one of our two heroines, Maggie, alone and afloat in a vessel called a WellPod, which is about to serve her a so-called latte made of mushrooms and root vegetables. "When Maggie could see the brown sludge that coated the bottom of the mug, she placed it back on the coaster, triggering its descent into the table at the same time her gratitude journal slid out from a lower compartment.” A passion for worldbuilding continues to drive this story of Lenses, Devices, Injectibles, Pohvees, WellNests, EarDrums, and much, much more as we go landside and meet Maggie’s live-in partner, Noa, who works at WellCorp’s Malibu campus, where she and Maggie have been assigned a high-tech apartment. With wildfires, earthquakes, and drought having wiped out most of the rest of California, volunteering for a Pod voyage was Maggie’s only option for getting out of town—and she really needs a break to figure out what to do about her unexpected pregnancy. Oops. In chapters dated by number of days pre- and post-launch, a complicated story unfolds. One has to do with corporate malfeasance and whistleblowing at WellCorp—were the Pods really ready to launch, and is there a major storm underway? Others involve infidelities and betrayals both past and present. It’s hard to keep up with which scary threat you’re supposed to be worrying about and which characters you’re rooting for—and the constant explanations and exposition dry up the juice. The novel is happiest when preparing and serving futuristic meals. “The hatch of her NutriStation opened and Maggie reached inside for her plate. The diagram projected through her Lens mapped out the baked coconut bacon, sun-yellow cherry tomatoes cooked in lab-grown avocado oil and coated in ancient grains aside tempeh topped with a dollop of collagen- and protein-fortified macadamia nut labneh.” Sounds better than the latte, anyway.

For connoisseurs of speculative fiction who enjoy detailed worldbuilding.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9781668034316

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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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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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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