A smart, solid skeleton of a story that lacks muscle.

TRUTH CITY

A heroic geneticist stands against a tyrannical corporation in Sapien’s (Drosophila, 2007) cyberpunk novel.

In the future, a machine that distinguishes between truths and lies stands as the primary mechanism for social control. Most children arrive as a genetic cocktail of their parents’ choices, a process known as biosplicing. When Peter, a talented genetic engineer, lashes out against his biospliced boss, the truth machine reveals that he has committed a “hate crime.” To atone, Peter must undergo electro-surgery on his brain and prove to the truth machine that he no longer disdains the biospliced—or he’ll face exile to the Outcast Zone. But, after accidentally assaulting his beautiful neighbor Madeleine, Peter discovers a curious fact: He has mysteriously developed the ability to deceive the truth machine. This realization sends Peter down a rabbit hole of intrigue and deception, as he investigates the secret revolution against the Consortium, an all-powerful corporation that has assumed control of the government. Peter is also a book collector (books are little more than curiosities of a long-forgotten age), and his incomplete text of a revolutionary tract called The Red Book spurs him on his quest to find a use for his newfound power. After he somehow convinces Madeleine to fall in love with him after the assault, he searches for freedom for his family and an escape from the Consortium’s power. Sapien is at his best when building a unique but familiar world, a mix of Minority Report, The Matrix and Brave New World. Many standby cyberpunk elements fill out the novel—for instance, a neurological analogue to the Internet is the primary method of entertainment and sometimes work—but Sapien’s innovative truth machine provides a philosophical and ethical twist. However, the characters are mostly one-dimensional, especially Madeleine with her easy switch from anger and fear to love. It’s clear that Sapien enjoys battling the big ideas, which critical passages from The Red Book help illuminate, but the story itself, both in its pacing and the completeness of its characters, could benefit from more attention.

A smart, solid skeleton of a story that lacks muscle.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463440886

Page Count: 224

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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.

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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