A veritable carnival of geeky sci-fi delights.

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Earthman Jack vs. The Secret Army

Kadish’s follow-up volume to Earthman Jack vs. The Ghost Planet (2013) sends its heroes into the heart of the Regulus Empire.

After defeating the Deathlord Supreme Zarrod, 15-year-old Jack Finnegan and his heroic friends—professor Green, Scallywag the Red, Heckubus Moriarty, and Grohm the Rognok—have escaped the Ghost Planet. Traveling in the Ancients’ miraculous Earthship, they escort Princess Glorianna (formerly a student named Anna) back to the Regulus Empire and to the planet Omnicron Prime, where she will rule. The sprawling, technologically advanced world celebrates Jack as a hero, but Anna, whom he deeply loves, insists that her duties to the galactic realm preclude their future together. Eventually, Chief of Intelligence Phineas Alabaster learns of Jack’s devotion and asks him to cozy up to the Legacy families who are ruthlessly competing to marry into the throne: the Evenstars and the Skyborns. As Jack dates Kimlee Evenstar and befriends Mourdock Skyborn, he becomes entangled in Omnicron’s deadly politics and learns that the Deathlords’ reach is greater and more insidious than he previously imagined. After multiple assassination attempts throw things into chaos, Anna begins enforcing her rule with suspicious brutality. With Jack’s friends scattered across Omnicron and his Earthship held by the Maguffyn Corporation, who can help him expose the secret army manipulating the empire? Author Kadish uses his flair for humor, tightly threaded plots, and nerdy trivia to widen the scope of his YA space opera. Although the tone mostly revels in goofball wit, some self-aware cheekiness occasionally appears; for example, one character likens the previous Earthman Jack adventure to “a bad piece of fantasy fiction someone wrote to entertain simple-minded beings of questionable worthiness to society.” The cultural references, meanwhile, turn the novel into a Grand Central Station of sci-fi weirdness (including an apparent nod to 1980s TV character Max Headroom). Kadish’s cinema worship sometimes feels like a narrative crutch; for example, the same Ghostbusters gag opens and nearly closes the story. However, some of the characters temper the silliness with heart and intelligence. A cliffhanger ending provides an ideal place for readers of this kaleidoscopic saga to catch their breath.

A veritable carnival of geeky sci-fi delights.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 644

Publisher: Twelve Oaks Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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