ROBOTWORLD

A proficient story that addresses the human-robot quandary in an entertaining fashion.

A salesman at a robot-production corporation who knows too much may lose considerably more than his job in this sci-fi outing.

Taylor Morris is the most successful sales executive at RobotWorld, a manufacturer of industrial and personal robots. The company is prospering in the late 21st century, years after World War III devastated much of the world. While the former U.S. is primarily a wasteland, the survivors live and work in what’s called the Northeast Sector. By all appearances, Taylor is content: His pay is substantial, and the socially awkward man has a companion in Jennifer, a live-in, lifelike RW robot. But Taylor doesn’t shy away from voicing his strong opinions, such as his belief that Arthur Toback, the Northeast Sector’s supreme leader, is a fraud. When he expresses a dread that RW’s bots will adversely affect human employment and relationships, his supervisor, Sophia Ross, is irate and ultimately fires him. Being out of a job makes Taylor’s addiction to the drug Serenity an even larger burden, but his problems subsequently escalate. As there’s a good chance Taylor has seen something he wasn’t supposed to, Sophia decides that it would be easier if someone were to terminate him—permanently. Verola’s (Torpedo, 2012, etc.) solid thriller is set in a believable futuristic world. Technology, for one, is plausible, like personal transport vehicles’ autopilot feature, which is merely an option. The genre’s traditional fear of machines taking over is prevalent, but both humans and robots in this tale offer surprises. Some people aiding Sophia, for example, are doing so reluctantly, and not all of Taylor’s allies are trustworthy. Incidentally, Taylor has a “higher power of intuition,” a rare ability that has little impact within the narrative. A voice he dubs George provides clear-cut advice and insight only sporadically, and it doesn’t always put Taylor at ease. But supporting characters stand out, particularly the women: Sophia and Taylor’s executive assistant and friend, Roz Troward.

A proficient story that addresses the human-robot quandary in an entertaining fashion.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2018

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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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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

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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