Cyberpunk meets George Bernard Shaw in this engaging SF tale.

PERILS OF IMMORTALITY

In a future when people live longer by inputting their minds into artificial bodies, an insider in the trade meets a magnificent girl who tries to convince him she is a real human, not a replica.

Lloyd’s latest work of SF takes place in the same universe as his earlier novels, like A Place To Stay Forever (2019), but can be read as a stand-alone. The tale slyly relocates George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion to an SF setting. The year is 2792 in Cascadia, formerly Canada. Ever since the 21st century, technologies pioneered by legendary inventor/hero/godhead LaPorte have allowed elites to prolong their lives indefinitely via inserting their minds into cybernetic “husks” of varying sophistication. More than 700 years in his “LaPortan” exterior, narrator Harry Higgins, though not of the very first wave of would-be immortals, enjoys prestige as a top “carnationist,” creating custom husks of the utmost quality. But Higgins also suffers ennui in his advanced years, more so now since he is at a mental mortal limit (LaPortans could once recharge neurologically but lost the therapy in an ill-defined incident). He finds diversion in collecting techno-novelties. The latest: Kora, a beautiful girl sold to Higgins as a robot (illegally), installed in a deluxe husk. While Kora vainly tries to convince everyone that she's completely human—though she has no memory—Higgins accepts a bet with his friend Melbray that he can pass her off as a masterpiece of carnation at a big LaPortan social event. (By the way, Higgins has a niece named Eliza.) Other works that crossbreed classic material with fantastic fiction tend to either be silly mashups (Lynn Messina’s Little Vampire Women) or YA titles (Marissa Meyer’s Cinder). In this enjoyable story, Lloyd remains faithful to the voice and the sometimes insufferably smug brilliance of Shaw. This on occasion may make reading through Higgins’ thicket of storytelling an arduous expedition, as the material is (of course) verbose, obdurately intellectual, and often repetitious and hectoring. In addition, Higgins may well be an unreliable narrator (he claims chronic victimization by “Big Blue,” a talking bird that may or may not exist), and key elements of the setting go undeveloped. The author may provide more embellishments in future volumes of the series.

Cyberpunk meets George Bernard Shaw in this engaging SF tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 329

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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