It’s terrific good fun, for all its sobering message. And if you want to learn how to stop that streetcar with a worm, well,...

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NETWARS - THE BUTTERFLY ATTACK

Blending comics, online game and real-life IT security drills, this app is just the thing for the budding National Security Agency tech—or black-hat hacker.

To call Coleman’s project ambitious is to get only halfway to the point: Crossing media and platforms, it urgently aims to instruct readers/users in the realities of cyberterrorism, the better to combat it. Sometimes, as with the Anarchist Cookbook of yore, it seemingly threatens to instruct them in how to commit it—but there’s good reason for all that verisimilitude. This German-crafted app opens in the Berlin of the near future, when a deeply secret security company, its chiseled techno-wizards a collection of groovy chicks in thigh boots and lank-haired keyboard jockeys, comes up against a bunch of very bad people who style themselves Black Flag. On the good side is uber-nerd Max Parsons, whose parents were done in by one such very bad person—and there’s no surer way, readers of comic books will know, to create a superhero than to kill his or her mom and dad. In this set of episodes, Max and company are recruited to take part in a training exercise that involves launching a cyberattack on various elements of the infrastructure in poor, unoffending Sweden and Norway. But is it an exercise, really? Who knows about it, and who would want to take down a streetcar in Oslo? The app has the production values of a good movie, complete with 3-D effects, an easily navigated series of screens, and plenty of opportunities to drill down and learn its abundant hidden features. These include some carefully written notes about the reality of cyberterrorism, the certainty that it will be ever more prevalent and the effects of its actions: “Both our societal and economic systems would quickly collapse without access to water,” for instance.

It’s terrific good fun, for all its sobering message. And if you want to learn how to stop that streetcar with a worm, well, here’s your how-to.

Pub Date: May 15, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bastei Luebbe GmbH & Co. KG

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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