Placed against the dreary world of the future, this cheerless novel succeeds if only for its informed and fascinating look...

THE SKULL CAGE KEY

Marriott (Journalism/Baruch Coll.), a former technology reporter for the New York Times, provides a dark and disturbing, yet simultaneously intriguing, look at a future where technology has moved forward but human relationships trail behind.

In the postwar United States of 2041, residents are divided into two classes—“Dark” and “Light”—based on the color of their skin. Armstrong Black, a handsome Harlem-born Dark, unwittingly tumbles into a conspiracy involving Harlem's dirty underbelly of gangs, drug dealers and sex-for-hire. Shacked up in a ritzy hotel with his boss, Army locks gazes with an intriguing woman through a window right before things go terribly wrong: A gang of thugs breaks into the hotel suite and decapitates Army's boss and lover, leaving him as the prime suspect in her murder. Army is taken into custody and questioned, but eventually escapes into a city plagued by the need for a new and ultra-deadly drug called Hedz. The drug, which allows users to experience a stranger's best memories, can only be harvested by slaughtering others, but local law enforcement is already on the case. Also on the killers' trail is life-weary former detective Reagan, kicked off the force years ago. Pressed into action by his former partner, Reagan soon finds his path converging with Army, the mysterious woman seen by Army and a host of sinister drug dealers with equally sinister plans. Featuring sex that manages to be dark but strangely lacking in eroticism, as well as blood by the gallon, the story offers a cast of weird characters, some of whom speak in almost incomprehensible and distracting street parlance. Ultimately, the three main characters (one of whom has an unexplained and odd name change mid-novel) come together in a bloody and futuristic showdown in the heart of Harlem.

Placed against the dreary world of the future, this cheerless novel succeeds if only for its informed and fascinating look at the future of technology.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-932841-30-5

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Agate

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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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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