One not-so-tin soldier rides away from an apocalypse in a sci-fi adventure wrapped in a neat, compact package.

REUNION

A mindless clone space pilot, destined as a fighter for an interstellar war, unexpectedly discovers his individuality and—with some surprising allies—tries to reverse the cycle of destruction.

In Mulkern’s debut sci-fi novel, a nameless man whose uniform bears the number 3302JJ26H9S375 suddenly awakens in a giant, labyrinthine factory with no memory of how he got there. Surrounded by identical-looking, unresponsive warriors, the amnesiac “33” (later he settles on the name Rob) comes to the unsettling conclusion that he belongs to a vast, preprogrammed clone military, split between pilots (like him) and soldiers, grown and conditioned in vats and deployed endlessly. Using trial and error in navigating around the complex (and avoiding cleanup robots, the only other signs of “life”), Rob ultimately learns his fellow clones are automatically dispersing through the galaxy, continually fighting wars of conquest and extermination against helpless alien races on multitudinous worlds. This pointless, rapacious operation has been going on, by itself, for a long time. A flaw in Rob’s cloning grants him self-awareness and an ethical conscience to rebel and do something about it. But can he? Well, yes—and readers might quibble that, after a cool opening (with a parallel narrative about military-industrial corporate skulduggery among elites of an Earth-like world that ends abruptly and jarringly), the hero’s cosmos-traversing path to halt the gears of cruel total war is rather simple considering the monumental stakes. Still, it’s a nimble, fast-moving narrative even as it echoes other star wars sagas, such as Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker series and, well, Star Wars, with its storm troopers and resistance fighters (Rob acquires an alien ally resembling an inventive mix of Wookiee, Klingon, and one of author Larry Niven’s feline Kzin). Even the daughter of a “lord” enters for an endearing, old-fashioned, chaste romance. While modern concepts such as software viruses and nanotechnology get thrown into the mix, this tale has the companionable feel of a shipshape yarn from sci-fi’s golden age.

One not-so-tin soldier rides away from an apocalypse in a sci-fi adventure wrapped in a neat, compact package.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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