The worst tendencies of white feminism—in space.

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THE FATED SKY

A female physicist journeys further into space in Kowal’s (The Calculating Stars, 2018, etc.) sequel, set in an alternate version of the 1960s.

In 1961, Dr. Elma York is about to finish her three-month stint on the moon. In Kowal’s last book, set a decade earlier, a meteor smashed into the East Coast, destroying many cities, including Washington, D.C. The U.S. government believed that this was the beginning of the end for our planet, so an international effort to colonize space began with pilot and physicist Elma at the forefront. Now, having reached the moon, the space program sets its sights on Mars. Elma desperately wants to go there, but the round trip will take three years, taking her away from her infallibly supportive husband, Nathaniel, and any possibility of starting a family. The story is loaded with historically accurate science, and while Kowal is striving toward hard sci-fi, the analytical readers that this genre attracts are likely to have questions. For example, would an international coalition really need South Africa’s support so desperately they would agree to include a virulent racist on a racially integrated mission? Why is there not even a single mention of the Soviet Union or its cosmonauts? And the biggest question: Are we supposed to like Elma York? She’s irritatingly quirky, repeatedly using rocket metaphors as euphemisms for sex (“I slid my hand down to his trousers to see if launch conditions had been met”). She’s also morally reprehensible in one key scene. FBI agents ask her about two of her colleagues, and she realizes that they’re doing so because those fellow astronauts are black. She’s about to do the right thing and walk out—but when the feds threaten her program’s funding, she sits right back down and tells them everything they want to know. Later, when Elma is finally castigated for her racial cluelessness by an astronaut of color (“For the love of God, stop talking….I cannot take the protestations of a well-meaning white woman”), readers will find themselves nodding in agreement.

The worst tendencies of white feminism—in space.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7653-9894-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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

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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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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