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


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 masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.


Twin princesses—one fated to become a queen, the other a martyr—find themselves caught up in an unexpected battle of dark magic and ancient gods.

Four hundred years ago, a Valleydan princess facing a loveless betrothal sought refuge in the Wilderwood with her lover, the Wolf. The legendary Five Kings—including her father and her husband-to-be—pursued them only to be trapped in the Wilderwood. Now, according to legend, the only hope of restoring the Five Kings to power lies in the ritual sacrifice of every Second Daughter born to Valleyda's queen. There hasn't been a second daughter for 100 years—until now. On her 20th birthday, Redarys accepts her fate and walks into the Wilderwood to become the Wolf's next victim only to find that the stories she grew up on were lies. The handsome man who lives in a crumbling castle deep in the forest is not the original Wolf but his son, and he wants nothing to do with Red or her sacrifice. Afraid of her wild magic abilities and the danger they pose to her sister, Neverah, Red refuses to leave the Wilderwood. Instead, she clings to the new Wolf, Eammon, who will do whatever it takes to protect her from the grisly fate of the other Second Daughters. Meanwhile, in the Valleydan capital, Neve's desperation to bring her sister home sets her on a path that may spell disaster for Red, Eammon, and the Wilderwood itself. Whitten weaves a captivating tale in this debut, in which even secondary characters come to feel like old friends. The novel seamlessly blends "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast" into an un-put-down-able fairy tale that traces the boundaries of duty, love, and loss.

A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-59278-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

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Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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