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SURVIVED

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

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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