A pithy, mystical story that suffers from a lack of narrative structure.

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THE PRINCESS IN THE MOUND

A VISITOR'S GUIDE TO ALVENHOLM CASTLE

Raedisch’s (The Old Magic of Christmas, 2013, etc.) fantasy chronicles the storied past of a European castle where supernatural events occur.

Alvenholm Castle is a haunted mansion somewhere in northern Europe, although this slim volume doesn’t tell readers exactly where. It’s also unknown when its construction began, although it was greatly expanded near the end of the 17th century. Guntherius Nissenborg and his wife, Anna-Hedvig, were its residents in those years, before it passed to the Nielke clan in 1775. The dilapidated building was donated to the government in 1957. Now, chief curator Peter Hagedorn presides over the castle, which is now inhabited by old ghosts who can sometimes be seen by looking into old mirrors. The text offers a colorful room-by-room tour describing the castle and its history, from the sumptuous Queen’s Chamber, fit for heads of state, to the Chinese Garden Pavilion, whose beams may have been marked with the script of elves. In the Plain Room, the trompe-l’oeil oak leaves are described as being “so realistic that when winter came they turned brown, fell to the floor and were swept up by the maids.” The most enigmatic figure of all, though, is in the form of a princess’s bones, found in a tomb during an archaeological dig in 2015; the bronze-age princess was wrapped in wild silk clothes and wore a birch-root crown. Her remains and other artifacts seem to suggest an impossible connection with the East—and a likely connection to a supernatural otherworld. Overall, Raedisch’s Alvenholm Castle is an engaging fictional creation, full of details about the furnishings as well as descriptions of past or present events that hearken back to the property’s pagan roots. However, there’s no overarching plot in this very short book, as it relates most events only in brief anecdotes. Passing references to fictive historical figures abound, though, and the story bounces from century to century as quickly as it moves through the castle’s different rooms. The story of the excavated princess toward the end of the book provides some mystery, although it disappears rather quickly.

A pithy, mystical story that suffers from a lack of narrative structure.

Pub Date: July 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5481-6179-8

Page Count: 98

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2017

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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