Marsh blends superpowers, paramilitary action, and alien machinations to triumphant effect in this follow-up.

SURVIVED

In Marsh’s (The Changed, 2013, etc.) sequel, a superpowered contingent hopes to harness alien devices that can tame a plague.

The farming community of Salvation, formerly Pogo Springs, is within the local quarantine zone. The Sickness that killed 80 percent of the area’s population—while granting some of the survivors superpowers—rampages still. Sixteen-year-old Oscar is one of the Changed; specifically, he’s the Messenger—a position that’s vital to humanity’s survival since he’s able to telepathically communicate with helpful aliens. One day, two intruders breach the quarantine: a scientist in a hazmat suit and a soldier who shoots and wounds the scientist before he delivers a mysterious metal case. Oscar, meanwhile, has been in a mental realm that he calls The Nowhere, talking with the alien Teleoinan. He’s learned that the microorganism causing the Sickness, the Manal, is evolving into something even more dangerous. Oscar’s people already possess an orb-shaped piece of alien technology called the Vessel; now they must recover the scepterlike Conductor to, as Teleoinan says, “stop all this from spreading.” However, Teleoinan’s disembodied nemesis, Thevetat, may still be influencing people, as some in Salvation are ready to use violence to force local change. Also, Oscar finds that the dying scientist possesses a photo of his missing father. For this high-stakes sequel, Marsh delivers a sci-fi adventure that keeps characterization and strong emotion in the foreground without sacrificing action. He subtly comments on America’s entrenched partisan politics with the verbal sparring and division in Salvation; in one scene, Oscar’s friend Roxy tells a manipulative blowhard: “It’s not about being right. It’s about keeping people safe.” Although the violence is brutal—often echoing real-life terrorism—Marsh keeps things light and nerdy with references to Captain Planet and the Planeteers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Clever new members of the Changed tribe include a humanoid dog named Donald and Zelda, who can absorb and retain information from printed content (such as an encyclopedia) through her hands. Even as certain mysteries are explained, a fiendishly bold cliffhanger ensures that fans will return for the next volume.

Marsh blends superpowers, paramilitary action, and alien machinations to triumphant effect in this follow-up.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5472-3278-9

Page Count: 254

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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