THE BODY SCOUT

A fun-to-read addition to the cyberpunk canon.

In a future where body hackers and bio-genetic juicers are at cross purposes, a brother mourning his baseball-playing sibling tries to even the odds.

Take the real-life biohacking aesthetics in self-described “future-y reporter” Kara Platoni’s We Have the Technology (2015) and the plethora of books about the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR (an acronym for extreme gene-modification technologies too complicated to explain in short order) and apply them to a weird and hopefully not prescient techno-thriller and you have a cocktail that’s one part William Gibson, one part Cory Doctorow, and a dash of generic but propulsive future noir. Our narrator, Kobo, is pretty much a bionic man with implants, new organs, and lots of cybernetic upgrades, none of which mean that much for his job as a scout for whatever Major League Baseball has morphed into. Living in the shadow of his adopted brother, JJ Zunz, the superjuiced star slugger for the “Monsanto Mets,” Kobo is doing his best. “Baseball was a nasty business,” he admits. “I told myself all the usual things. How it would be some other asshole doing the job if it wasn’t me.” When his brother dies on the field of some mysterious engineered illness, Kobo turns detective, diving into the dark ends of this future landscape to find a little truth. Like most cyberpunk that evolved over the past decades, it’s weird and sometimes gross and endlessly fascinating. In Michel’s version of the future, Neanderthals have been resurrected, cloning is routine, and playing a private dick gains all kinds of unwanted attention for Kobo, not least from Dereck T. Mouth, the malevolent owner of the Mets. Did we mention that Kobo owes millions in debt for his miraculous modifications to his medical-loan company, which badly wants its money back? It’s a dizzying world but catnip for cyberpunk fans. How do you navigate a world in which everyone is altered? In this scenario, everyone and everything might be Chekhov’s gun. Everybody duck.

A fun-to-read addition to the cyberpunk canon.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-62872-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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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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