THE SECOND ANGEL

Unpredictable Kerr’s latest (A Five-Year Plan, p. 287, etc.) is a wildly ambitious space opera set in a future grimly colored by the specter of an AIDS-like virus. A hundred years after the first moon landing, things aren’t looking so rosy for planet Earth. Global warming has dumped tons of the Greenland ice cap into the Atlantic, killing the Gulf Stream that used to warm Europe. A painstaking series of footnotes explains why there are no dogs, no wine, no fertility for most men, and no hope for most people infected with P—, a deadly virus that’s stricken 80% of the population, prompting furious battles over control of the blood supply and unprecedented polarization of the human race. But life is good for Dana Dallas, the chief designer for Terotech, a firm that builds security systems for protecting precious stores of untainted blood, the basis of the 21st-century economy. Wealthy and successful, Terotech’s golden boy and heir-apparent to the present CEO, Dallas has it made, until the one flaw in his otherwise perfect life turns him into a fugitive from justice, hunted by the law and by contract killers. Building an unlikely but familiar coalition of rebels—an ex-con pilot, a one-armed wife-murderer, a pair of professional criminals, and one of the killers Terotech has set on his trail—Dallas implausibly swears revenge on the system: he’ll break into the impregnable First National Blood Bank on the moon and sell its vast reserves on the black market. Even though Dallas, who designed the security system for First National, knows its weaknesses better than anyone, his plan will require a harrowing stint in a virtual-reality simulator and a break-in endangering every one of his buddies. But who’s the olympian narrator chronicling every step of this elaborate caper? Cobbling together leftovers from Robert Heinlein and The 39 Steps, Kerr gilds them all with his trademark philosophical speculations and comes up with a story vastly more provocative in its vision of the politics of blood and cybernetics than its workaday plot would suggest. (Film rights to Warner Bros.)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5962-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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