A futuristic tale with clever, gratifying worldbuilding that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the sequel.

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A FASHION WEEK SPACE ADVENTURE

In this debut SF adventure, androids abduct humans as part of a diabolical plan that threatens humanity.

By the late 24th century, humans have colonized Luna and Mars. They’re also living considerably longer, courtesy of aging cessation and “re-youthing.” Yet some things remain (relatively) the same, like Space Fashion Week in 2399. Former supermodel Samantha covers the event on her popular Holo show, Samantha! But this year, a Designer-bot Optimized for Shopping interrupts the Chanel show by asking for Sam. This robot, named simply DOS, claims Sention sims (essentially androids) have kidnapped his owner, Freddie Waverly, with plans to abduct fashion editor Pablo Starr as well. Most write off DOS’ interruption as a publicity stunt by Sam, who’s also an inventor, though few people take her seriously. But Sam believes DOS’ allegation is valid, especially after a search for her missing friend, Kiki Hong, points to her pal as another possible abductee. With help from her AI, Digital Intelligence with Voice Activation, and DOS, Sam tries convincing Pablo that he’s in danger. But Pablo is a recluse, tormented by his fiancee Air’s unexplained disappearance a century ago. Still, it’s soon apparent to everyone that something sinister is afoot. For starters, someone or something attempts to delete Sartoria, the first sentient AI and Pablo’s creation. This may be the same culprit who has evidently hacked the Sention sims, a misdeed that Sam, Pablo, and others ultimately link to a doomsday cult. But what’s really happening is far deadlier than they’ve foreseen. Lopez’s series opener is a dense, lengthy introduction to a future universe. This includes a stable narrative foundation for character development in this story, with a potential for further evolution in the sequel. All AIs, for example, enjoy the same rights as humans, and Sartoria, despite Pablo’s having created her, has been living independently for some time. Similarly, characters are well established and dynamic. Even Rylie Cade, Sam’s co-host, who clearly wants her own Holo show, is a delightfully snooty antagonist who proves crucial in the final act. The tale tends to favor characters’ frequent discourse—backstories or a plan for confronting villains—over accelerating this installment’s plot. Nevertheless, there are surprising turns, particularly as the heroes get closer to unraveling what’s behind the kidnappings. Thankfully, Lopez avoids narrative lulls by dropping readers into the unknown world and allowing exposition or backstory to unfold organically without reducing the momentum. At the same time, readers won’t be lost, as the author makes much of the unfamiliar relatable: Super-Ping is a notable social networking site à la Twitter while Lux, despite few specifics, is unquestionably a form of currency. There’s also a fair amount of humor, mostly through visual descriptions: “Pablo sat in a white Eames-inspired chair in front of the main viewer, with a digital control panel in the right arm of the chair. An identical chair hovered to its immediate left, with a ‘BROKEN’ sign affixed to it.” Despite a thorough wrap-up, there’s much unresolved by the end and plenty of material for the next volume.

A futuristic tale with clever, gratifying worldbuilding that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the sequel.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69339-739-4

Page Count: 490

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2020

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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