An engaging, post-apocalyptic, collapse-of-everything narrative that emphasizes character relations more than action.

THE FLIGHT TO BLUE RIVER

From the Thermals of Time series , Vol. 2

Following a pandemic, an Oregon college student crosses a mostly deserted (but dangerous) America in search of her ex-lover, the estranged son of a wealthy man.

Dean offers this second installment in his Thermals of Time trilogy of post-apocalyptic adventure/drama. The first, Scream of an Eagle (2020), centered on James Mendez, the college-age son of mega-billionaire Robert Mendez, an offstage but evidently disagreeable tycoon whose Allpro food monopoly controlled a dysfunctional America of the 2030s. Things went completely to pieces with the combination of a violent uprising by embedded White supremacists in the United States military and a horrific “V-1” virus that killed millions, but which seemed to leave proportionally twice as many women as men alive. While James was last shown bereft at a homestead at the end of the previous book, this sequel opens with Anna Duran, his childhood sweetheart of mixed Native American blood, whom he was forced to abandon by his elitist dad. She is at college in Oregon when the V-1 virus hits and quickly kills her live-in fiance and most of the rest of the populace. Apparently lucky enough to have immunity, Anna begins a trek throughout the American West in hopes of somehow reuniting with James, meeting other pockets of survivors along the way. Unfortunately, gangs of bad guys from the extreme right have also lived through the catastrophe and, under a “New Army of God” banner, plan their own slave-culture nation in imitation of the old Confederacy. Anna is captured and suffers grievously. Throughout this corpse-strewn landscape of Montana, Idaho, and Colorado, branches of a new “Modern Times Church” now sprout up with their distinctive symbol of three black crosses, representing the mysterious “Mystic Martin,” who supposedly prophesied all of this. But are they benevolent or another cabal of murderous racists? Dean’s intriguing, character-driven story is very much a middle chapter of the SF saga, with players and themes introduced that seem destined only to pay off in the next installment. The plain-talk narrative still moves along at a steady pace, and Anna provides readers with a sympathetic, resilient hero (one of several, it turns out) weighing options of how to continue in a world that is much changed and, potentially, has no future in it for humankind. By the cliffhanger ending, the stakes on everything have been raised.

An engaging, post-apocalyptic, collapse-of-everything narrative that emphasizes character relations more than action.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73467-462-0

Page Count: 280

Publisher: The Last Ditch Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2020

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All the narrative propulsion of escapist fiction without the escape.

PHASE SIX

Paced like a prophetic thriller, this novel suggests that "pandemic" is a continuing series.

Shepard has frequently employed research as a foundation for his literary creations, but never before in such pulse-racing fashion. He's set this narrative in the near future, when the threat of Covid-19 has passed but provides a cautionary lesson. And what have we learned from it? Not enough, apparently, as an outbreak within an extremely isolated settlement of Greenland begins its viral spread around the globe. Readers will find themselves in territory that feels eerily familiar—panic, politics, uncertainty, fear, a resistance to quarantine, an overload of media noise—as Shepard's command of tone never lets the tension ease. Eleven-year-old Aleq somehow survives the initial outbreak, which takes the lives of everyone close to him, and he may provide the key to some resolution if anyone can get him to talk. The novel follows the boy and the pandemic from Greenland to a laboratory facility in Montana as, in little more than a month, the virus or whatever it is, spread by touching, traveling, breathing, has infected some 14 million around the world. Jeannine Dziri and Danice Torrone, a pair of young researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who have dubbed themselves the “Junior Certain Death Squad,” find themselves on the front lines as they attempt to balance personal relationships (which occasionally read like plot contrivances) with all-consuming professional responsibilities. Meanwhile, the pandemic proceeds relentlessly. “APOCALYPSE II?” screams a Fox graphic amid “the social media cacophony,” as mass hysteria shows how human nature can take a horrible situation and make it so much worse. And though the novel builds to a sort of redemption, it suggests that there will be no resolution to the current pandemic beyond nervous anticipation toward the ones to come. Channeling Pasteur, Shepard promises—or threatens—“It will always be the microbes that have the last word.”

All the narrative propulsion of escapist fiction without the escape.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65545-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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