A fantastical puzzle that may be too difficult to solve.

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The Land of Matta

A PHILOSOPHICAL, QUANTUM-MECHANICAL PHANTASY

Eldred (Capital and Technology, 2015, etc.) presents a fantasy allegory for physics enthusiasts.

Phi and Psi set off from their country of Rutan (where efficiency is a secondary concern) to the Land of Matta, home to an ancient civilization of immense learning and advanced technology. They are looking for their relative Mu, a curious eccentric who left Rutan long ago: “He had always been someone on the move in every way, not just bodily nimble, but also with an exploratory mind and a liking for trying out new things,” the narrator says. “Initially, at least in part, it was the promise of power through knowledge that had enticed Mu to Matta.” Phi and Psi arrive in Matta to find that Mu has moved on, out to the hinterlands of Upper Matta, from which all ancient knowledge may have originally sprang forth. In their quest for Mu, Phi and Psi meet an array of characters who have much to teach them on the subjects of knowledge and movement. In particular, they are confronted with a famous question that has lingered in Mu’s wake: “Why is there movement at all, rather than standstill?” The lessons Phi and Psi learn will help them not only locate Mu, but once again return to their homeland of Rutan. Eldred strikes a wonderful, absurdist tone that harkens back to an earlier age of children’s fantasy, though this book doesn’t seem meant for children (Phi and Psi are introduced as former lovers in addition to being second cousins). The novel may be a little too twee for adults, however: the buoyant cartoonishness comes at the expense of character depth and emotional stakes. Furthermore, the allegorical nature of the work is simultaneously heavy-handed and esoteric. There is clearly some discussion of quantum mechanics, but it’s annoyingly difficult to decipher. Signposts (the capitol of Matta is called Nosear—an anagram of “reason”?) confuse more than enlighten, and the novel ends up being a little too clever, its intentions too hidden, its strategies too dense.

A fantastical puzzle that may be too difficult to solve.

Pub Date: May 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5122-0800-9

Page Count: 358

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2015

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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