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XENU'S LOTTO

PART ONE: THE GRAND GAME

An over-the-top, excessively scatological pastiche of well-worn sci-fi tropes.

A motley crew of potty-mouthed adventurers travel the Milky Way to save humanity in McGhee’s SF novel.

When crustacean like aliens from the planet Nogn land their flying saucer on the outskirts of Dubuque, Iowa, in the second half of the 21st century, Ernie E. Parmenter III, a sad-sack, divorced, middle-aged Walmart greeter with a “trick colon,” bravely steps up to make first contact. The Nognians sell Ernie (who hopes to impress and win back his sexy ex-wife, Lorelei) an extinction-insurance policy, assuring him that the premium—planet Earth itself—isn’t payable until four billion years in the future, when the sun will begin to die. At first, Ernie is hailed as a hero. He even becomes a senator, but soon things start to go seriously awry: Ernie has failed to read the fine print. The Nognians re-sell the policy, and its new holder, Lord Xenu, emperor of the galaxy, is moving the planet to the center of the galaxy, triggering earthquakes. Realizing it’s up to him to save the Earth, Ernie sets out on a rescue mission with the Nognians, along with Lorelei, her second ex-husband, named Del Savagewood, and Del’s erratic robot, Gordon Bleu. Various madcap adventures ensue. McGhee packs the narrative with bizarre life-forms, sexy babes, violence, social satire, and slapstick, apparently aiming for a mashup of Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, and MAD magazine. While the book has some effective moments of humor, Ernie Parmenter is no Arthur Dent, and the days when the main audience for SF was made up of adolescent boys are long gone. (Tropes like galactic slave markets and human women being kidnapped into alien harems should have been left behind in the 1930s with Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless.) Even the robots are horny. The constant references to bodily functions, fluids, and related body parts (the word sphincter alone appears at least 10 times, puke a dozen) quickly become tiresome. McGhee’s writing is sloppy, rife with inconsistent spelling, changes of tense, and bad taste (“My spectrum analyzer is jumping around like a blue assed ape on a tent-pole trannie”).

An over-the-top, excessively scatological pastiche of well-worn sci-fi tropes.

Pub Date: Feb. 29, 2024

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 485

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2024

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

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

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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. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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