A capable sci-fi novel, more The West Wing than Kim Stanley Robinson, that focuses its thrills on the political maneuvering...

Excessive Entanglement

In d’Arbelloff’s debut sci-fi novel set in the early 2030s, an overpopulated Earth finds hope when Cerulea, a new, inhabitable planet, is discovered.

The book’s title refers to the separation of church and state—a relevant issue when a new off-world colony’s constitution is being written. Second-term U.S. President Virginia Belknap supports colonization to the new planet, but religious conservatives fear that “’a determined minority of Ceruleans will . . . rid this new society of what it should hold most precious: its faith in God.’” A dangerous, violent conspiracy of conservatives soon threatens to sabotage the mission, and when a conservative wins the next presidency, compromises must be made. Readers who chiefly love the awe-inspiring aspects of science fiction—the brave new worlds of never-visited planets, the shared human enterprise of venturing into outer space—may find this novel a bit disappointing, but those with a taste for behind-the-scenes horse trading, debates, cloture, contracts, points of order and dirty tricks, will thoroughly enjoy the book. Although d’Arbeloff develops his characters effectively, he often seems more interested in how things work. For example, he lovingly describes technology, in a manner reminiscent of Tom Clancy: “The V-90 Dragonfly tiltrotor aircraft streamed through the sky. . . . An offshoot of the V-22 Osprey, this was the next generation; with a top speed of 425 mph, it was 30% faster than its sibling.” When the novel renders the spacecraft environment, beauty takes a backseat to form and function: “Before them stretched a small, narrow, forested valley, rich green on either side with a long, thin, crystal blue lake in the center. Within the trees [were] the building units that would serve as the living quarters and recreational facilities for the ship’s crew.” Overall, while some readers may find this style intriguing, others may wish for a bit more wonder.

A capable sci-fi novel, more The West Wing than Kim Stanley Robinson, that focuses its thrills on the political maneuvering required for a new Earth.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479352258

Page Count: 412

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2013

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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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THE SANATORIUM

A hotel built on the grounds of a sanatorium has more dead bodies than paying guests.

A police detective on sabbatical after flubbing a case, Elin Warner travels with her boyfriend, Will, to Le Sommet, a remote, glass-walled, five-star hotel in the Swiss Alps, at the invitation of her estranged brother, Isaac. Isaac is throwing a party to celebrate his engagement to Laure, assistant manager at the hotel, which has been the focus of local controversy due to its shadowy history. Elin's creepy feelings about the trip are quickly confirmed as a storm cuts off access to the mountain, a receptionist is kidnapped, a dead body is found in the snow, and Laure disappears. As overloaded, grisly, and ultimately silly as Pearse's locked-room debut may be, the biggest mystery is how Elin ever made it out of the police academy. As she slowly reasons her way through the unfolding situation, her deductions of even the most obvious points appear in italics—"That means Laure has another phone." "This…it isn't an accident. She's been killed. This is murder"—as do what seem to be the protagonist’s questions to herself about how to move things along. "So where could they have gone?" "So what are my next steps going to be?" "She examines the glass balustrade in front of her. Can I get over it?" What Elin can't get over is a tragedy in her childhood for which she holds her brother responsible; it comes up every few pages until being resolved with a not-too-believable twist that may or may not be retwisted in a mystifying epilogue. Fortunately for Elin, she does have a few insider tricks up her sleeve. "She knows that there is an app called Find My iPhone...it would show the last location where it had a signal." Wait. Why are you laughing? This is a thriller!

Oh, dear.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-59-329667-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: today

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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