An atomic blast of a yarn. Hamilton in peak form and absolutely not to be missed.

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A NIGHT WITHOUT STARS

Hamilton’s latest (a relatively slender 704 pages) brings to a furious boil the two-book saga (The Abyss Beyond Dreams, 2014) describing human colony planet Bienvenido’s unremitting battle against the hostile alien Fallers.

Set in Hamilton’s far-future Commonwealth, fans and newbies alike can jump pretty much right into any book in the series (which come complete with an always-helpful timeline). Bienvenido, hurled into intergalactic space and millions of light-years from contact with the Commonwealth, suffers a constant rain of Faller eggs which absorb people and produce perfect Faller copies, all programmed to commit genocide on humanity. (This existential threat scenario does require the aliens to be utterly single-minded. Imagine all the inhabitants of Connecticut totally intent on invading Massachusetts and nobody wants to stop for ice cream.) As a result, Bienvenido’s government is heavily militarized and fearful of its own minority population, known as Elite, who’ve retained the superior brains and enhancements of their Commonwealth forebears. A few individuals like the Warrior Angel survive independently and possess advanced Commonwealth technology. Then astronaut Ry Evine—his mission is to explode the orbiting “trees” that are the source of Faller eggs—unwittingly frees a trapped Commonwealth vessel that crash-lands on Bienvenido carrying, of all things, a baby. Reclusive Elite forest warden Florian stumbles upon the capsule and the baby and takes responsibility for the child—who feeds and grows at an astonishing rate and soon exhibits highly advanced knowledge and abilities. Security officer Chaing, secretly an Elite, believes the Faller threat to be far greater than the government will admit and wants to contact the Warrior Angel for help; instead, while fearing betrayal at the hands of Jenifa, his fanatical assistant, he’s charged with capturing the child. All this roars relentlessly along in utterly mesmerizing style, with edge-of-the-seat plotting, thrilling action, and knife-edge tension that will leave readers gasping.

An atomic blast of a yarn. Hamilton in peak form and absolutely not to be missed.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-345-54722-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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