A spiritual SF eco-drama that serves up considerable food for thought after an overly complicated setup.

SINGING THE VOICE OF GOD

A psychic Catholic priest joins a government project to train dolphins in O’Doran’s debut SF novel.

In what appears to be the late 21st century, rising seas have devastated humankind, and among the societies thrown into turmoil is the United States, now merged with Mexico as MEXUS. The plague- and poverty-stricken MEXUS is under the political spell of TV evangelist and murderer Amos Bilby, who captivates masses with a “Prosperity Gospel” message that Jesus wants everyone to be rich. This version of Christianity also abhors any animals that aren’t exploitable as food or labor. (Yet, paradoxically, readers are told that ape language has been deciphered and that a kind of telepathic internet has enhanced human-to-animal communication.) In the Pacific Northwest, the MEXUS military has been trying to train cloned porpoises to guard the nation’s submerged mining resources. Completing the project requires the Bilby-dominated president to cooperate with the widely hated Catholic Church for the unique services of the Rev. Dr. Liam Jamieson. This scientist/priest has extreme psychic empathy; touching people is emotionally overwhelming for him, and touching animals led him to publish the heretical opinion that beasts have souls and deserve the same rights as humans. At MEXUS’ United Forces Center for Biological Research, Liam has a positive working relationship with Kate Mendoza, a project manager who’s also a member of a burka-wearing, quasi-Catholic sisterhood that protects animals. Mendoza’s work with the dolphins takes a fateful turn with the unforeseen capture of a distressed bottlenose dolphin; the team’s discoveries point to the possibility that sea mammals are not only intelligent, but also have their own religion. This SF tale swims in the sizable wakes of Robert Merle’s 1967 novel Day of the Dolphin and the 1986 hit movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the latter of which featured singing humpback whales that know a bit more about the universe than mankind does. One may also hear echoes of the 1993 film Free Willy as well as the subgenre of novels about ruggedly handsome Catholic priests struggling with sexual desires and yearning for redemption, exemplified by Colleen McCullough’s 1977 bestseller The Thorn Birds and the works of Andrew M. Greeley. Despite this mulligan stew of antecedents, once the author gets past the initial, complex setup—a familiar exploration of the future as a nasty, waterlogged climate change dystopia—the narrative is surprisingly coherent and effective and rendered in a lyrical prose style. The ending doesn’t cheapen the story by leaning on formula; instead, it offers a compelling cast of complex and emotionally stranded characters betrayed by their institutions of government and religion, and their tale, overall, is a haunting one. Readers who agree with the work’s animal rights message and philosophy of sustainability, however, may note that despite the lead characters’ preference for animals over treacherous and greedy humans, none of them seems to have embraced a vegan diet—at least, not yet.

A spiritual SF eco-drama that serves up considerable food for thought after an overly complicated setup.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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