Dozens of scenarios, a surprisingly well-delineated cast of thousands, plotting enough to delight the most Machiavellian of...

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THE DREAMING VOID

The thread of Hamilton’s latest doorstopper space opera picks up a thousand years after the events of Judas Unchained (2006).

The Void, an almost impenetrable black hole-like region of the galaxy, is slowly expanding; many view it as a threat, including the ancient alien Raiel, who lost an entire battle fleet in an abortive attack. Somehow, however, a single human spaceship managed to enter and found a colony on planet Querencia. Inigo, the Dreamer, established a mental link with the colonists, and received a series of dreams involving the evolution of humble farm boy Edeard into the Waterwalker, an individual with astonishing telepathic and telekinetic powers. When Inigo vanished, his millions of followers founded the Living Dream cult, whose ambition is to penetrate the Void and land on Querencia. Problem is, many of the galaxy’s great powers fear that this Pilgrimage will trigger an explosive expansion of the Void and swallow up the galaxy. Earth is now run by the ANA, a cyberspace composed of billions of uploaded minds, whose numerous factions keep close tabs on the situation by dispatching agents such as the Delivery Man to investigate and report. Others, like the memory-less, cyborg-powered warrior Aaron, are searching for Inigo. The belligerent alien Ocisen threaten to destroy the human Commonwealth if Living Dream moves against the Void. Also complicating matters is the presence of Paula Myo, who saved the Commonwealth from the Starflyer threat, as well as that of a sadistic psychopath known as the Cat. Somewhere, too, there’s a Second Dreamer.

Dozens of scenarios, a surprisingly well-delineated cast of thousands, plotting enough to delight the most Machiavellian of readers and, this time out, a far leaner and more purposeful product: a real spellbinder from a master storyteller.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-345-49653-9

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

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Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.

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SEVERANCE

A post-apocalyptic—and pre-apocalyptic—debut.

It’s 2011, if not quite the 2011 you remember. Candace Chen is a millennial living in Manhattan. She doesn’t love her job as a production assistant—she helps publishers make specialty Bibles—but it’s a steady paycheck. Her boyfriend wants to leave the city and his own mindless job. She doesn’t go with him, so she’s in the city when Shen Fever strikes. Victims don’t die immediately. Instead, they slide into a mechanical existence in which they repeat the same mundane actions over and over. These zombies aren’t out hunting humans; instead, they perform a single habit from life until their bodies fall apart. Retail workers fold and refold T-shirts. Women set the table for dinner over and over again. A handful of people seem to be immune, though, and Candace joins a group of survivors. The connection between existence before the End and during the time that comes after is not hard to see. The fevered aren’t all that different from the factory workers who produce Bibles for Candace’s company. Indeed, one of the projects she works on almost falls apart because it proves hard to source cheap semiprecious stones; Candace is only able to complete the contract because she finds a Chinese company that doesn’t mind too much if its workers die from lung disease. This is a biting indictment of late-stage capitalism and a chilling vision of what comes after, but that doesn’t mean it’s a Marxist screed or a dry Hobbesian thought experiment. This is Ma’s first novel, but her fiction has appeared in distinguished journals, and she won a prize for a chapter of this book. She knows her craft, and it shows. Candace is great, a wonderful mix of vulnerability, wry humor, and steely strength. She’s sufficiently self-aware to see the parallels between her life before the End and the pathology of Shen Fever. Ma also offers lovely meditations on memory and the immigrant experience.

Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-26159-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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ENDER'S GAME

A rather one-dimensional but mostly satisfying child-soldier yarn which substantially extends and embellishes one of Card's better short stories (Unaccompanied Sonata and Other Stories, 1980).

Following a barely-defeated invasion attempt by the insect-like alien "buggers," a desperate Earth command resorts to genetic experimentation in order to produce a tactical genius capable of defeating the buggers in round two. (A counterinvasion has already been launched, but will take years to reach the buggers' home planet.) So likable but determined "Ender" Wiggins, age six, becomes Earth's last hope—when his equally talented elder siblings Peter (too vicious and vindictive) and Valentine (too gentle and sympathetic) prove unsuitable. And, in a dramatic, brutally convincing series of war games and computer-fantasies, Ender is forced to realize his military genius, to rely on nothing and no-one but himself. . . and to disregard all rules in order to win. There are some minor, distracting side issues here: wrangles among Ender's adult trainers; an irrelevant subplot involving Peter's attempt to take over Earth. And there'll be no suspense for those familiar with the short story.

Still, the long passages focusing on Ender are nearly always enthralling—the details are handled with flair and assurance—and this is altogether a much more solid, mature, and persuasive effort than Card's previous full-length appearances.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1984

ISBN: 0812550706

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1984

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