Battle plans, not ice, form the new enemy of survival. Well done.

KINGDOM RIVER

VOL. II, THE SNOWFALL TRILOGY

Second in the Snowfall Trilogy, a rousing story of wilderness survival as civilization regresses when a mile-high wall of ice stretches Atlantic to Pacific and book-learning has all but vanished. (One must suspend disbelief that all books were burned for heat while hundreds of millions of people froze.)

During a future epoch, various clans and kingdoms compete for the arable land in southern North America. In Snowfall (2002), we followed the stories of Jack Monroe, once an outcast, and facially scarred Catania Olsen, self-taught doctor to the Colorado Trappers, who join to try to save the Range from the invading Crees, who are themselves fleeing invaders. Moving south through the forest, the Trappers join the Garden tree-dwellers from the Warm time. It’s a generation later than in Snowfall, and the plot begins to fill with familiar fantasy adventure elements at the cost of the original icy backgrounds, though frost and snow still strike. Jack and Catania’s son Sam leads the army of warrior people living between Mexico City and northern Mexico, and they’ve just suffered a big defeat, with worse likely on the way. Khanate nomads, led by Toghrul Khan, who sound much like the Scythians of Russia, have crossed the northern ice and conquered the West Coast. All that lies between the barbarians and Sam’s people is Kingdom River, ruled by Queen Joan. Banding with Kingdom River looks wise, and, to give his smaller nation some stature in Kingdom River, Sam marries the Kingdom’s Princess Rachel. But vast armies sweep toward the Mississippi, and when St. Louis falls, little time is left to reinforce defenses. If Queen Joan dies, will Sam be king? Meanwhile, in New England, embryos in the womb are encouraged to grow wings, not arms, and great anchorages of breastbone muscle, all toward mastering levitation.

Battle plans, not ice, form the new enemy of survival. Well done.

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-765-30008-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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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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Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 1

Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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