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EDISON IN THE HOOD

A promising speculative debut that doesn’t feel as if it rolled off the usual robotics assembly line.

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In Uddin’s debut SF novel, set in a near-future America, estranged siblings reunite upon discovering that their late mother’s brain has been kept functioning as part of a transhumanism experiment.

In 2030, many jobs in the United States have been taken over by artificial intelligence. Many AI breakthroughs have arisen from the innovations of genius Jay Edison, who’s a divisive figure for siblings Aisha and Sam Malik. Aisha’s public relations position at a massive food corporation (which has had mass layoffs thanks to robotics) places her in the orbit of Edison’s lab. Its “Brain Reinvigoration Project” can keep a brain temporarily functioning after death, providing an imperfect software simulation of the owner’s original personality. This has been done, with Aisha’s permission, with her and Sam’s mother, Maura, an American woman who married a Muslim man from India. Maura’s problematic parenting strongly affected Aisha and long tormented Sam, the latter of whom is now unfocused and drawn to questionable social causes, such as those of Zain, a Chicago drug kingpin who styles himself a neighborhood defender, and the Neo-Luddites, anti–AI agitators strongly influenced by the Unabomber manifesto. Aisha is smarting from her impending divorce from her wife, but she wants Sam to alleviate his own psychic pain by confronting Maura’s brain and meeting Edison in person. However, Sam knows that Maura has long guarded a family secret that would deeply injure Aisha. Despite future-shock trimmings and occasional action thriller elements, Uddin’s novel is never formulaic, focusing mainly on emotions and how relationships are affected by technology. Characters are complicated in intriguing ways; the Ray Kurzweil–like Edison—a cheery, wizened genius who beholds Zain’s empire with Panglossian, optimistic delight—is perhaps the most straightforward figure. A final character-related twist even excuses the story’s potential shortcomings. Other laudable touches are its pleasant avoidance of modern-day topics that other SF writers have pounded into the ground and a plethora of obscure pop-culture references, including a paean to the neglected 1984 film TheIce Pirates.

A promising speculative debut that doesn’t feel as if it rolled off the usual robotics assembly line.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 979-8986172002`

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Apperception Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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THE DARK FOREST

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 2

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Second part of an alien-contact trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, 2014) from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In the previous book, the inhabitants of Trisolaris, a planet with three suns, discovered that their planet was doomed and that Earth offered a suitable refuge. So, determined to capture Earth and exterminate humanity, the Trisolarans embarked on a 400-year-long interstellar voyage and also sent sophons (enormously sophisticated computers constructed inside the curled-up dimensions of fundamental particles) to spy on humanity and impose an unbreakable block on scientific advance. On Earth, the Earth-Trisolaris Organization formed to help the invaders, despite knowing the inevitable outcome. Humanity’s lone advantage is that Trisolarans are incapable of lying or dissimulation and so cannot understand deceit or subterfuge. This time, with the Trisolarans a few years into their voyage, physicist Ye Wenjie (whose reminiscences drove much of the action in the last book) visits astronomer-turned-sociologist Luo Ji, urging him to develop her ideas on cosmic sociology. The Planetary Defense Council, meanwhile, in order to combat the powerful escapist movement (they want to build starships and flee so that at least some humans will survive), announces the Wallfacer Project. Four selected individuals will be accorded the power to command any resource in order to develop plans to defend Earth, while the details will remain hidden in the thoughts of each Wallfacer, where even the sophons can't reach. To combat this, the ETO creates Wallbreakers, dedicated to deducing and thwarting the plans of the Wallfacers. The chosen Wallfacers are soldier Frederick Tyler, diplomat Manuel Rey Diaz, neuroscientist Bill Hines, and—Luo Ji. Luo has no idea why he was chosen, but, nonetheless, the Trisolarans seem determined to kill him. The plot’s development centers on Liu’s dark and rather gloomy but highly persuasive philosophy, with dazzling ideas and an unsettling, nonlinear, almost nonnarrative structure that demands patience but offers huge rewards.

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7708-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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