This rousing sci-fi series opener deftly balances action, characterization, and concept.

THE CHANGED

A post-apocalyptic novel sees a young man searching for his father and a cure for the mutations that have swept the world.

Center City is a wasteland of filthy strangers and roving gangs, all desperate for food, shelter, and other resources. The Sickness has struck, killing “something like” 80 percent of the population and causing many of the survivors to mutate and gain special powers. Sixteen-year-old Oscar looks for his missing father, an anthropologist who might be the key to halting the Sickness. With him is 13-year-old Alan, who’s one of the Changed. He has enormous glowing eyes and can speak with animals. On the way to the safety of the Arcadia compound, run by family friend Adele, Oscar and Alan must avoid the zealots who follow Walter, a God-fearing man who believes the Changed are demons. When the boys encounter the followers of Eli, who’s incorporating the Changed under his banner, security seems within reach. Eli’s men, however, are hunting a woman with plant-based powers named Roxy and her hulking companion, Art. The teens help the Changed individuals escape and take them on as allies. Oscar, while remaining hopeful that he’ll find his father, continues to have vivid dreams that mention someone called the Messenger. In this sci-fi series opener, Marsh (The Red, 2012) offers well-conceived superpowers (reminiscent of X-Men) and a land gripped by scarcity and lawlessness (as in The Walking Dead). His prose rings with surreal elegance in depicting the Changed, like the chameleon man whose “eyes puffed out from his skull. Blue, all-too-human irises sat inside scaled mounds of flesh, which moved independently from one another.” While Walter’s faction is terrible, Eli acts on the words God speaks directly to him. Marsh is careful never to equate spirituality with madness, and deepens the discussion when Roxy says, “The Universe isn’t limited by our understanding of it.” Though verbose at times, the narrative should satisfy action junkies as it ramps up to a grisly finale. Oscar comes into his own as a hero to rally around.

This rousing sci-fi series opener deftly balances action, characterization, and concept.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4922-2508-9

Page Count: 222

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2017

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

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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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