An engrossing, if sometimes overly talkative, tale of a groundbreaking inventor.

THE GENE RASP

An SF novel focuses on an unconventional inventor and his remarkable creation.

McConnell’s book takes the form of an autobiography of his main character, born Tom Spoon and renamed Tom Maloof after the famous woodworker Sam Maloof. Sam not only gave Tom a glimmer of future promise while he was languishing in a boys home, but also used his influence to gain the teen admission to a university. Even in those early years, Tom is an engagingly self-effacing character, often reflecting on his life. “I would think of how things would be different if I had grown up in a normal family,” he muses at one point. “I would later learn that no family is ever normal.” Tom goes on to invent a miraculous device called the Gene Rasp, a way to manipulate genes, “a tool that could cull the chaff from the wheat.” The invention can effectively reengineer individual genetics, offering a cure not only for cancer, but for all kinds of genetic deviations and medical problems as well. Around this narrative center, McConnell expands two larger stories: one involving Tom and the intriguing friends and colleagues he makes along the way and the other indulging in a great deal of his own digressions on a wide variety of scientific, personal, and even philosophical topics. “The longer the distance the stranger the memory,” he observes. “Memory is fractal, splintering and glimmering and cascading.” A lot of the ambitious and thought-provoking story reflects that kind of cascade. The author is a generally entertaining writer throughout the fictional memoir, delivering many rich details. But he sometimes displays a weakness for throwaway clichés (“The mind is not only a terrible thing to waste,” he writes at one point, “it’s a very difficult thing to understand”), and he underestimates how distracting the myriad digressions can be. The intricate text includes not only copious amounts of poetry, but also frequent URL links and scanning tags designed to share key songs and sound clips with readers.

An engrossing, if sometimes overly talkative, tale of a groundbreaking inventor.

Pub Date: July 15, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-66-637197-8

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2020

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The perfect blend of sweet, sexy romance and a riveting, high-stakes survival story.

ICE PLANET BARBARIANS

From the Ice Planet Barbarians series , Vol. 1

A woman stolen by aliens crash-lands on an ice planet and finds love.

Dixon’s wildly popular series—it’s a fan favorite on TikTok and has a podcast dedicated to deconstructing each episode—is finally coming to print. In this first installment of the series, Georgie and at least a dozen other 22-year-old women are stolen from their homes on Earth by green aliens. Something goes wrong, and the aliens abandon their human cargo on an icy planet the women dub Not-Hoth. After engineering an escape plan, Georgie becomes their de facto leader. She bundles up and trudges out to find help and meets Vektal, a 7-foot blue alien and the leader of his tribe, the Sakh. His people have developed a symbiotic relationship with an organism called the khui, which allows the Sakh to survive the brutally cold temperatures of their home planet. Vektal’s people mate for life, but since there are very few women left, he has resigned himself to life without a partner. When he sees Georgie and his khui resonates, a physical response akin to purring, he knows she is destined to be his mate. Explorations of coercion, consent, and free will are woven throughout the story. Vektal’s unorthodox greeting shows that consent might operate differently in his world; but in the end, he learns that humans trapped in the worst of circumstances will still fight to control their own destinies. The book is fast-paced and sexy, but the major appeal might be Vektal. He is a romance main character stripped down to the core: desperate to find his partner and willing to do anything to keep her happy.

The perfect blend of sweet, sexy romance and a riveting, high-stakes survival story.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-54602-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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