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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Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 1

Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

GIDEON THE NINTH

From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 1

This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery.

Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition...and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences.

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31319-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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