A futuristic tale that’s heavy on worldbuilding but still races to its inevitably violent conclusion.



Debut author McDermott offers a sweeping dystopian novel about a repressive regime and those who rebel against it.

It’s 2196, and things are not going well for humanity. People either live in a totalitarian society called the Republic or they’re scattered into different sectors of what’s known as the Grey Zone. People in the latter locale don’t have much, and some rely on food aid from the Republic. But at least those who live outside the Republic can enjoy ancient music, including songs by the Rolling Stones (or even Coldplay, if they so choose). More importantly, they don’t have to live in fear of being killed for doing something against the law—such as owning a Holy Bible. The Republic has many other strict rules and plenty of sadistic agents, including Samantha “Slinky” Link, to enforce them. However, even the impressive Slinky can’t stop everyone. Over the course of the book, readers follow a young man in the Republic named Timothy Dawkins as he comes into contact with forbidden knowledge that alters his entire worldview. Meanwhile, out in the Grey Zone, although people are averse to killing, they’re still well stocked with AK-47s—and they’re also getting pretty sick of being pushed around. At more than 900 pages, this adventure is a lengthy one, and some aspects of the tale garner excessive attention. For instance, the official education that Timothy receives goes on for many pages, and although it helps establish for readers just what the Republic is all about, the conversation between the boy and his tutor lends itself to doldrums such as “The fundamental flaw of a democratic society is that it can be infiltrated from within.” Still, as drawn out as some portions of the story may be, it generally maintains momentum. Conflicts are constantly raging both in and out of the Republic, whether they come at the behest of a power-hungry ruler or an alcoholic rebel. Readers will find themselves invested in what happens when the lives of the characters collide.

A futuristic tale that’s heavy on worldbuilding but still races to its inevitably violent conclusion.

Pub Date: March 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-648-75210-3

Page Count: 958

Publisher: Hemisphere Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2020

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An unrelentingly dark and disquieting look at the way societies conform to committing atrocities.


A processing plant manager struggles with the grim realities of a society where cannibalism is the new normal.

Marcos Tejo is the boss’s son. Once, that meant taking over his father’s meat plant when the older man began to suffer from dementia and require nursing home care. But ever since the Transition, when animals became infected with a virus fatal to humans and had to be destroyed, society has been clamoring for a new source of meat, laboring under the belief, reinforced by media and government messaging, that plant proteins would result in malnutrition and ill effects. Now, as is true across the country, Marcos’ slaughterhouse deals in “special meat”—human beings. Though Marcos understands the moral horror of his job supervising the workers who stun, kill, flay, and butcher other humans, he doesn’t feel much since the crib death of his infant son. “One can get used to almost anything,” he muses, “except for the death of a child.” One day, the head of a breeding center sends Marcos a gift: an adult female FGP, a “First Generation Pure,” born and bred in captivity. As Marcos lives with his product, he gradually begins to awaken to the trauma of his past and the nightmare of his present. This is Bazterrica’s first novel to appear in America, though she is widely published in her native Argentina, and it could have been inelegant, using shock value to get across ideas about the inherent brutality of factory farming and the cruelty of governments and societies willing to sacrifice their citizenry for power and money. It is a testament to Bazterrica’s skill that such a bleak book can also be a page-turner.

An unrelentingly dark and disquieting look at the way societies conform to committing atrocities.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982150-92-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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All the narrative propulsion of escapist fiction without the escape.


Paced like a prophetic thriller, this novel suggests that "pandemic" is a continuing series.

Shepard has frequently employed research as a foundation for his literary creations, but never before in such pulse-racing fashion. He's set this narrative in the near future, when the threat of Covid-19 has passed but provides a cautionary lesson. And what have we learned from it? Not enough, apparently, as an outbreak within an extremely isolated settlement of Greenland begins its viral spread around the globe. Readers will find themselves in territory that feels eerily familiar—panic, politics, uncertainty, fear, a resistance to quarantine, an overload of media noise—as Shepard's command of tone never lets the tension ease. Eleven-year-old Aleq somehow survives the initial outbreak, which takes the lives of everyone close to him, and he may provide the key to some resolution if anyone can get him to talk. The novel follows the boy and the pandemic from Greenland to a laboratory facility in Montana as, in little more than a month, the virus or whatever it is, spread by touching, traveling, breathing, has infected some 14 million around the world. Jeannine Dziri and Danice Torrone, a pair of young researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who have dubbed themselves the “Junior Certain Death Squad,” find themselves on the front lines as they attempt to balance personal relationships (which occasionally read like plot contrivances) with all-consuming professional responsibilities. Meanwhile, the pandemic proceeds relentlessly. “APOCALYPSE II?” screams a Fox graphic amid “the social media cacophony,” as mass hysteria shows how human nature can take a horrible situation and make it so much worse. And though the novel builds to a sort of redemption, it suggests that there will be no resolution to the current pandemic beyond nervous anticipation toward the ones to come. Channeling Pasteur, Shepard promises—or threatens—“It will always be the microbes that have the last word.”

All the narrative propulsion of escapist fiction without the escape.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65545-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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