A brisk, remarkable alternate history tale focusing on an indelibly grim world.

OPERATION BRUSHFIRE

A SCIENCE FICTION SPY THRILLER

In this SF novel, an internal affairs agent fights to protect a woman from a powerful global authority in an alternative mid-20th-century world.

Earth’s leaders formed the Coalition in 1944 in response to devastating Wars. The group unites everyone in the world under one language and monitors individuals with neck-implanted chips. Henry Stasik, as a specialist-inspector for the Coalition’s Internal Affairs, is something of a pariah. So he’s surprised when fashion model Nata Danicheva asks to speak with him and only him at a precinct in a Ukrainian province. She’s got a bombshell—the Coalition, she claims, has been trying to kill her. There’s a slew of charges against her, as she’s a supposed nationalist (read: terrorist). But Stasik looks into the allegations she’s made; he and Diane Mallison, his IA partner, track down Nata’s private accounts, where she’s stockpiled evidence against the Coalition. Meanwhile, someone sends mysterious Coalition operative Erik Bahr to snatch the evidence and, for good measure, kill the two IA agents. As Stasik and Mallison’s investigation takes them around Europe, they evade an assassin and soon realize what Nata has could change the world they think they know. Along with SF elements and an alternate history, Bruno and Wolanyk’s novel boasts a superb noirish tone. Stasik, for example, is a world-weary inspector in a perpetual opiate or benzo fog, with not-exactly-trustworthy Nata as the quintessential femme fatale. This fosters a swift narrative pace, as the agents try to stay ahead of the Coalition and dodge gunfire (mostly Bahr’s). The authors build a dark but intriguing world; the Coalition’s quest for global peace comes with such totalitarian acts as using a “memory-eating serum” on civilians. While Nata’s evidence proves shocking, lingering questions in the story’s latter half go largely unanswered until the end in a startling, if somewhat predictable, turn.

A brisk, remarkable alternate history tale focusing on an indelibly grim world.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Aethon Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

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

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DEVOLUTION

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

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THE DARK HOURS

Meet today’s LAPD, with both good and bad apples reduced to reacting to crimes defensively instead of trying to prevent them, unless of course they’re willing to break the rules.

New Year’s Eve 2020 finds Detective Renée Ballard, survivor of rape and Covid-19, partnered with Detective Lisa Moore, of Hollywood’s Sexual Assault Unit, in search of leads on the Midnight Men, a tag team of rapists who assaulted women on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve without leaving any forensic evidence behind. The pair are called to the scene of a shooting that would have gone to West Bureau Homicide if the unit weren’t already stretched to the limit, a case that should be handed over to West Bureau ASAP. But Ballard gets her teeth into the murder of body shop owner Javier Raffa, who reportedly bought his way out of the gang Las Palmas. The news that Raffa’s been shot by the same weapon that killed rapper Albert Lee 10 years ago sends Ballard once more to Harry Bosch, the poster boy for retirements that drive the LAPD crazy. Both victims had taken on silent partners in order to liquidate their debts, and there’s every indication that the partners were linked. That’s enough for Ballard and Bosch to launch a shadow investigation even as Ballard, abandoned by Moore, who’s flown the coop for the weekend, works feverishly to identify the Midnight Men on her own. As usual in this stellar series, the path to the last act is paved with false leads, interdepartmental squabbles, and personal betrayals, and the structure sometimes sways in the breeze. But no one who follows Ballard and Bosch to the end will be disappointed.

A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48564-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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