MALIBU BURNS

A bleak but intermittently humorous psychological novel with an engaging young female arsonist at its center.

A wildly eclectic SF novel set in futuristic San Francisco from Richardson.

Richardson’s vision of San Francisco in the year 2049 is not entirely unrecognizable. The internet is outlawed, and the police force has been partially robotized; yet people are still free to enjoy drunken reveling and general hedonism. The protagonist, Malibu Makimura, is a 19-year-old movie buff who attempts to make a living drawing caricatures at a women-only nightclub. Malibu has suffered from “suicidal ideation” in the past. By 2049, however, her life has improved (she’s no longer homeless, for one), although the earning potential is limited in her field of work. At the nightclub, she arouses the interest of a mysterious woman named Luciana, who some believe is a witch. She keeps a servant nicknamed Max, who resembles the character Max from 1950’s Sunset Boulevard. She also has enough money to pay certain people to do certain odd jobs for her. And, for some reason, she wants Malibu to burn down local cottages, sometimes with the residents still inside. Why cottages? Malibu gets an innate feeling that certain cottages need to be destroyed. The lives of these cottages “had run their course and they were begging to die.” At least that’s what the voices in her head tell her. It helps that Luciana will reward her handsomely for the service. But why cottages? That’s the novel‘s central mystery. That certain structures deserve a fiery death (at least in Malibu’s mind) also creates some darkly humorous undertones. At one point an inexplicable thought surfaces in Malibu’s head: “Yes, it wants to die,” says a voice in her head as she examines a cottage. Some aspects of Malibu’s life are less than inviting. Her father’s history with LSD is detailed, although this backstory proves to be an undramatic dead end. Likewise, a flashback relating to Malibu’s stay in a mental health facility is a detour that adds little substance to the narrative. This odd, fire-starting protagonist will keep the reader guessing throughout the novel.

A bleak but intermittently humorous psychological novel with an engaging young female arsonist at its center.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2022

ISBN: 9784824151940

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Next Chapter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2023

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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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