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THE MARS HOUSE

Full of charming details and gender-bending gallantry, this imaginative thriller is a pleasure to read.

A refugee forms an unusual alliance with a Martian senator who favors anti-immigration policies. Bonus: extra-large mammoths!

Known for her twisty steampunk historical fantasy, Pulley turns to science fiction set a few generations from now to explore topics of political interest today: climate change, immigration, gender, political corruption. January Stirling is the principal dancer at the Royal Ballet when rising waters turn the corps du ballet, along with the rest of London, into climate refugees. Exhausted and starving, he accepts a spot on a ship to Tharsis, the Chinese colony on Mars. Gravity on the smaller planet is only a third as powerful as on Earth, so new arrivals—Earthstrongers—have bigger muscles and sturdier bones than the tall-but-frail Mars-born Natural people. Earthstrongers are required to wear metal “cages” to weaken them and keep them from accidentally (or otherwise) injuring Natural people. On Mars, perceptible gender differences are considered primitive and uncouth, and Natural people use they/them pronouns. New arrivals are segregated into Earthstrong housing and restricted to manual labor, for which they’re paid a pittance and pressured to undergo “naturalisation” to weaken them, a dangerous medical process that leaves many in wheelchairs. An encounter with Senator Aubrey Gale, a politician who’s pushing an anti-Earthstrong agenda, catapults January into one of Pulley’s signature complex plots involving twins, a love triangle, linguistics, a mysterious disappearance—or is it a murder?—and various de-extincted Arctic animals (polar bears, mammoths). The worldbuilding is whimsical rather than rigorous, more effective at (and perhaps intended for) contemplating extremes of the present than at predicting the future.

Full of charming details and gender-bending gallantry, this imaginative thriller is a pleasure to read.

Pub Date: March 19, 2024

ISBN: 9781639732333

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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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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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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PROJECT HAIL MARY

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

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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. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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