An interplanetary biker-squad romp that’s less cheesy than the Russ Meyer–esque premise suggests.

GALACTIC HELLCATS

Three very different young women in a space-traveling future form a quasi-successful criminal gang.

Set in an unspecified, spacegoing future, Vibbert’s novel revolves around the conceit of “solo-flyers”—zippy little one-seater (very occasionally two-seater) minispaceships, capable of faster-than-light travel. The technology occupies a niche akin to that of motorcycles. The author’s native Cleveland, Ohio, makes an appearance (pretty much as dingy and unfashionable as the present-day Cleveland) as the territory of Ki, a petite, young petty crook, con artist, and aspiring adventurer, who inherits a swanky solo-flyer from a boyfriend dying of a genetic ailment. While joyriding within the solar system, Ki meets Margot, almost her complete opposite. Former low-ranking military and now unable to find a job, the ultracautious Margot has, untypically, overspent her budget on a solo-flyer; she dreads having to go back and live with her stifling Vietnamese parents on Luna. Ki drags her into a police chase and then a fortune-hunting excursion to the distant, exotic planet of Ratana. There, they find a third kindred spirit, Zuleikah, a poor-little-rich-girl member of Ratana’s nobility, for whom solo-flyers are an escape from the boredom of aristocracy. The incorrigible Ki pronounces their trio an official criminal gang—the Galactic Hellcats—and they fumblingly try to pull off their first big caper, the kidnapping of Ratana’s handsome Prince Thane. The prince turns out to be gay and closeted, unhappy in his royal role, and a pawn in a brewing palace coup that was going to put him in jeopardy anyway. Not quite as outwardly comedic as it sounds, the material zips along in extravagant space-opera fashion, with the subplot about Prince Thane making a sort of straight-faced salute to vintage Ruritanian adventure yarns of yesteryear. It overall plays breezily and well, considering the author is revisiting a premise she started drafting in adolescence. Fans of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series might take especially well to these idiosyncratic space outlaws, and the material’s gender switches on character roles do not feel forced or gimmicky. The result is a noncondescending space ride suitable for savvy YA readers as well as older genre fans.

An interplanetary biker-squad romp that’s less cheesy than the Russ Meyer–esque premise suggests. (acknowledgments)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952283-07-9

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Vernacular Books

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2021

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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