Trading heavily for verisimilitude on material established years ago by Card but just about worthwhile for series fans.

THE SWARM

From the The Second Formic War series

A second prequel trilogy to the child-warrior Ender's Game series (Earth Awakens, 2014, etc.) opens. This time the invading alien Formics get serious.

Previously, the Chinese army, assisted by corporate and international military forces, defeated the first invasion of Earth, but only, scientists ascertain, because it was executed by a single scout ship charged with wiping out the local life forms and replacing them with Formic-compatible ones. But now the colossal mothership commanded by the Formics' Hive Queen, lurking beyond the solar system's Kuiper belt, gears up for a real fight. It’s a situation that fascinates, certainly, but so would any plausible existential threat. The narrative—far too much bureaucratic and domestic padding interspersed with far too infrequent, though sensational, action sequences—unfolds chiefly through the viewpoints of the same leading characters of the first trilogy. Mazer Rackham wants to develop microgravity tactics and equipment to fight the Formics in space, but all his superiors care about, he finds, is advancing their own careers and fortunes. Child soldier Bingwen, Mazer’s colleague in the previous books, suffers uncomplainingly under the brutal training regimen of his new commanding officer. Space miner Victor Delgado, his ship commandeered by the new multination International Fleet, heads into deep space to investigate suspicious Formic activity on a remote asteroid. And industrialist Lem Jukes tries to develop weapons capable of penetrating the indestructible hulls of the Formic ships. Meanwhile, they share intelligence in defiance of the absolute information blackout decreed by the solar system’s new totalitarian rulers. Here, and elsewhere, the auctorial voice with its militaristic edge veers unpleasantly close to propaganda.

Trading heavily for verisimilitude on material established years ago by Card but just about worthwhile for series fans.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-765-37562-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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 flashy, snappy delivery fails to compensate for the uninhabited blandness of the characters. And despite the many clever...

SNOW CRASH

After terminally cute campus high-jinks (The Big U) and a smug but attention-grabbing eco-thriller (Zodiac), Stephenson leaps into near-future Gibsonian cyberpunk—with predictably mixed results.

The familiar-sounding backdrop: The US government has been sold off; businesses are divided up into autonomous franchises ("franchulates") visited by kids from the heavily protected independent "Burbclaves"; a computer-generated "metaverse" is populated by hackers and roving commercials. Hiro Protagonist, freelance computer hacker, world's greatest swordsman, and stringer for the privatized CIA, delivers pizzas for the Mafia—until his mentor Da5id is blasted by Snow Crash, a curious new drug capable of crashing both computers and hackers. Hiro joins forces with freelance skateboard courier Y.T. to investigate. It emerges that Snow Crash is both a drug and a virus: it destroyed ancient Sumeria by randomizing their language to create Babel; its modern victims speak in tongues, lose their critical faculties, and are easily brainwashed. Eventually the usual conspiracy to take over the world emerges; it's led by media mogul L. Bob Rife, the Rev. Wayne's Pearly Gates religious franchulate, and vengeful nuclear terrorist Raven. The cultural-linguistic material has intrinsic interest, but its connections with cyberpunk and computer-reality seem more than a little forced.

The flashy, snappy delivery fails to compensate for the uninhabited blandness of the characters. And despite the many clever embellishments, none of the above is as original as Stephenson seems to think. An entertaining entry that would have benefitted from a more rigorous attention to the basics.

Pub Date: May 15, 1992

ISBN: 0553380958

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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