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BEGINNINGS

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

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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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

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

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

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

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. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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