A sleek sci-fi novel packed to the brim with rewarding surprises.

STORM ON THE HORIZON

THE ZONE

This charged sci-fi debut finds the U.S. military desperate to outmaneuver a strange, violent force of alien invaders in the American Southwest.

In 2033, Eileen and her husband, U.S. Army Capt. Lucas “Hopper” Phillips, are driving back to Fort Bliss, near the border of Texas and New Mexico. It’s their fifth wedding anniversary, and they’ve parked near the bank of a creek to share a tender moment. Suddenly, a shock wave rolls across the desert, throwing their car into the creek; Phillips escapes alive, but Eileen doesn’t. It turns out that the shock wave came from an explosion in New Mexico that destroyed more than 120 square kilometers and killed an estimated 30,000 people. The blast area is soon engulfed by raging storms that come and go with odd regularity. From a command center under Fort Bliss, Gen. Shadley Pierce starts aiming soldiers and weaponry at this troubling “Zone,” where no radio communication is possible—only for invisible alien forces to destroy them. When Operation Hail Mary launches to capture an alien and glean details about their technology, the grieving Phillips is part of it. With the miraculous help of a telepath named Dell Thompson, Phillips survives and succeeds. But the alien detainee, Reckston, eventually proves that all of the military’s assumptions about the Zone are false. Winters, in his debut, whips up strong, swift, imaginative currents that are tough to resist. Densely plotted scenes stitch together nicely, offering alternative perspectives on major events. His entertaining characters are also psychologically intriguing; President Andrew Wellington, for example, reveals that he wants a military victory in the Zone because he believes it will help him get re-elected for a third term. Winters loves futuristic gadgetry, and employs many great ideas, such as BRAVE, “short for Biometric Rhythm Adapting Vector Enhancer,” which “enhance[s] how someone thinks and feels.” Occasional typos mar the flow at times (“Fill free to answer any questions”). However, the dialogue, right to the end, is fantastic, as when the maniacal Gen. Pierce says, “World peace is just around the corner.”

A sleek sci-fi novel packed to the brim with rewarding surprises.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1480172593

Page Count: 274

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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