A multilayered, mildly provocative, B-level sci-fi adventure.

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BEGINNINGS

An anime-esque novel set in a dystopian world, with psychics and nanotechnology.

Uesugi’s offering, the prologue to a multibook series, is contemporary futurism. Sub-culture kids have exasperating hairstyles and wear ripped jeans and T-shirts. The bulk of the action takes place on a map that’s a dead ringer for Lower Manhattan, down to the borrowed street names: “Astor,” “Lafayette” and “Canal.” The difference is that in Uesugi’s world, two draconian coalition governments—the Atlantea Federation and the insurgent but equally severe Pacific Territories—rule global territories devastated by conflict. Fallout from “kedek” energy warfare saw the emergence of psychic abilities, teleportation, telepathy, and geothermal and mind–body manipulation. In the Pacific Territories, corporate and government powers work together, while psychics suffer systematic oppression if not capture and experimentation by a covert defense group called the Psi Faction. Psychic refugees collect in red-light slums, shoot up with ability-normalizing drugs and “hack” using bio-nanotechnologies to interface with computer systems through a jack implanted in the head. Flat but energetic storytelling, in a chapter structure similar to a manga, follows a dozen or so of these young psychics—mostly male, mostly gay—as they fight for survival, freedom and control of their abilities. Character backstories dictate behavior: Lino, son of the viceroy, is a Psi Faction conscript; Faid, a dashing, devil-may-care drug addict founds a psychic-hacker haven; and Blue, a test subject since early childhood, is transgender, erratic and easily disturbed. The book is visually and emotionally driven, written in bald, direct prose—short lines, no midsentence punctuation. The novel feels more like Full Metal Alchemist than Dragon Ball Z, and imagery evokes Ghost in the Shell and the 1995 flick Hackers. Fans of these titles should enjoy Uesugi’s book, with the possible caveat of its casual treatment of drugs and sex. The story’s political and technological foundations are vanilla for the genre, and Uesugi’s heroes, the psychics, can serve as proxy for any marginalized group, although many of them are gay, drug-using prostitutes. (Uesugi employs one of the more pleasant euphemisms for prostitute: “host.”) Maybe the hetero-testosterone world of Japanese inspired, combat-fueled fiction needs some strung-out, homosexual heroes. Uesugi’s are certainly powerful and courageous.

A multilayered, mildly provocative, B-level sci-fi adventure.

Pub Date: July 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1462886746

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

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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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