An ambitious SF mystery that sometimes loses itself in the execution.

SKYVIEW

A debut SF novel sees the heir to a 700-year-old fortune trace the history of that wealth and the people who have fought over it.

Twenty-nine-year-old William Ward works for the Interlaken Beer Company. Back in the 1300s, one of Interlaken’s eight founders—William Ward I—sold his share to the other seven and then bequeathed his fortune to the descendant who could find the riches. Since then, many Wards have tried and failed to uncover the inheritance, some dying in the process. Despite his father’s warnings, William is determined to take up the search. He sets out from San Diego, California, bound for Switzerland. He travels by boat, working on a pleasure yacht. There, he meets Nikher, a competent young woman, and Cillian, an Irishman, who save him during an attempted attack by pirates. William, it turns out, is not the only Interlaken heir. All eight founders left descendants. Six of these lines will side with William; the other line is “evil” and has perpetrated many of the world’s atrocities. Armed with SkyView—a cloaked supersonic jet with the power to project and even alter historical reality—can William and his new companions put an end to the eighth line? Sheehan writes in a workmanlike manner, diligently setting down both the narrative and character reactions and leaving nothing to inference. This thoroughness of description gives the book the aura of a screenplay. Events are easy to imagine playing out on the big screen yet the prose itself is not particularly engaging. Characters who raise their voices tend to “scream.” Adverbs are ubiquitous and often ungainly; for example: “Aoife looked shockingly at Nikher, nervous about the weapon. ‘You like?’ Archelaus proudly asked.” The result is that the story relies for its appeal on readers’ immersion in the central concept. This has been comprehensively thought out. The author brings an almost Tolkien-like diligence to detailing family lines and historical events. Unfortunately, much of this exposition comes by way of dialogue. There is a paucity of action in the moment and an abundance of characters explaining things to one another. Rather than standing out, the protagonists thereby blend into homogenous mouthpieces. The plot suffers similarly from this sluggishness of pacing. Sheehan presents a wealth of intriguing ideas but readers will have to work hard to access them.

An ambitious SF mystery that sometimes loses itself in the execution.

Pub Date: July 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5255-7606-5

Page Count: 396

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 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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A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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