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


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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Underscores that the stories we tell about our lives and those of others can change hearts, minds, and history.

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In a dystopian near future, art battles back against fear.

Ng’s first two novels—her arresting debut, Everything I Never Told You (2014), and devastating follow-up, Little Fires Everywhere (2017)—provided an insightful, empathetic perspective on America as it is. Her equally sensitive, nuanced, and vividly drawn latest effort, set in a dystopian near future in which Asian Americans are regarded with scorn and mistrust by the government and their neighbors, offers a frightening portrait of what it might become. The novel’s young protagonist, Bird, was 9 when his mother—without explanation—left him and his father; his father destroyed every sign of her. Now, when Bird is 12, a letter arrives. Because it is addressed to “Bird,” he knows it's from his mother. For three years, he has had to answer to his given name, Noah; repeat that he and his father no longer have anything to do with his mother; try not to attract attention; and endure classmates calling his mother a traitor. None of it makes sense to Bird until his one friend, Sadie, fills him in: His mother, the child of Chinese immigrants, wrote a poem that had improbably become a rallying cry for those protesting PACT—the Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act—a law that had helped end the Crisis 10 years before, ushering in an era in which violent economic protests had become vanishingly rare, but fear and suspicion, especially for persons of Asian origin, reigned. One of the Pillars of PACT—“Protects children from environments espousing harmful views”—had been the pretext for Sadie’s removal from her parents, who had sought to expose PACT’s cruelties and, Bird begins to understand, had prompted his own mother’s decision to leave. His mother's letter launches him on an odyssey to locate her, to listen and to learn. From the very first page of this thoroughly engrossing and deeply moving novel, Bird’s story takes wing. Taut and terrifying, Ng’s cautionary tale transports us into an American tomorrow that is all too easy to imagine—and persuasively posits that the antidotes to fear and suspicion are empathy and love.

Underscores that the stories we tell about our lives and those of others can change hearts, minds, and history.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-49254-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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An unrelentingly dark and disquieting look at the way societies conform to committing atrocities.


A processing plant manager struggles with the grim realities of a society where cannibalism is the new normal.

Marcos Tejo is the boss’s son. Once, that meant taking over his father’s meat plant when the older man began to suffer from dementia and require nursing home care. But ever since the Transition, when animals became infected with a virus fatal to humans and had to be destroyed, society has been clamoring for a new source of meat, laboring under the belief, reinforced by media and government messaging, that plant proteins would result in malnutrition and ill effects. Now, as is true across the country, Marcos’ slaughterhouse deals in “special meat”—human beings. Though Marcos understands the moral horror of his job supervising the workers who stun, kill, flay, and butcher other humans, he doesn’t feel much since the crib death of his infant son. “One can get used to almost anything,” he muses, “except for the death of a child.” One day, the head of a breeding center sends Marcos a gift: an adult female FGP, a “First Generation Pure,” born and bred in captivity. As Marcos lives with his product, he gradually begins to awaken to the trauma of his past and the nightmare of his present. This is Bazterrica’s first novel to appear in America, though she is widely published in her native Argentina, and it could have been inelegant, using shock value to get across ideas about the inherent brutality of factory farming and the cruelty of governments and societies willing to sacrifice their citizenry for power and money. It is a testament to Bazterrica’s skill that such a bleak book can also be a page-turner.

An unrelentingly dark and disquieting look at the way societies conform to committing atrocities.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982150-92-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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