Kept alight by a dangerous race against time and a fair share of surprises, this lengthy book makes for an exciting voyage...

INVITATIONS FROM AFAR

A sci-fi novel, King’s debut, about a secret space mission.

After a monthslong mission, the solar ship Copernicus is on its way home—at least until the crew is informed that their ship is in danger of being destroyed by a bomb headed into their flight path. With a little over 24 hours to figure out a solution, the situation is dire, complicated by the fact that the mission is a secret. Or it is to most people. Rumors circulate amid the public about the nature of the expedition as well as potential problems with the crew: Maybe the four returning astronauts are contaminated or their youngest member, 20-year-old Jana Novacek, is in some way a master villain. As Jack, captain of the Copernicus, is informed, “Several papers and TV commentators continue saying the most vicious things about her.” Deciding to transmit directly to the people of Earth, the crew explains the nature of their mission and their subsequent findings. It is decided that Jana will read the detailed journal she has kept, one that follows her story from her selection for the mission, through her training and to the surprising discoveries the team has made. Alternating between Jana’s narrative and the calamities incurred in trying to save the Copernicus, the story is one of complicated machinations and a young woman’s thirst for exploration. Details of Jana’s training can prove sluggish, as with her excitement over a computer expert: “Since so much freedom in a formal learning situation still was a novelty to me, I continuously exerted the effort to behave respectfully toward such a brilliant and generous man.” However, readers will be intrigued by the many questions percolating around the endangered solar ship. What is the true motivation behind a secret journey deep into space? Why is a foreign government “financing in excess of 80 percent of the mission”? Does someone want to murder four seemingly innocent astronauts? While the answers may not be quite as dark as some readers expect, the book maintains steady tension through to its emotional conclusion.

Kept alight by a dangerous race against time and a fair share of surprises, this lengthy book makes for an exciting voyage into space.

Pub Date: June 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477203873

Page Count: 616

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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DEVOLUTION

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some White people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only White avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, White people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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