A somewhat wooden science-fiction thriller that drifts into existential—even mystical—territory.

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THE CREATORS

From the Brink of Life Trilogy series , Vol. 3

Moskovitz concludes his science-fiction trilogy with this novel about the secret origin—and potential future—of humanity.

Advances in science have done away with the need for religion—at least until evidence of intelligent design is discovered encoded into people’s DNA. The Church of the Double Helix rises as a new religious force, its worship built around musical translations of messages in the DNA code—messages from beings in a parallel universe detailing the creation of humanity. Fifteen-year-old prodigy Natasha Takana attends its services every Sunday, attempting to decipher the incomplete message. “A dying civilization in a parallel world, facing annihilation, had reached across the boundary between worlds to preserve its legacy. What, Natasha wondered, were the events that had driven them nearly to extinction?” Had anyone from that world survived? Natasha manages to ride the music into that parallel dimension, where the Creators themselves offer her a warning for the future. Elsewhere, journalist Lena Holbrook is investigating a remote back-to-basics commune in Oregon. She is particularly interested in a couple who live there with their preternaturally gifted daughter, Macklyn. Meanwhile, a small group of genetically engineered immortals known as Lazarus plot to gain control of Natasha or Macklyn, or both, and thereby breed a new generation of superhumans. Moskovitz’s prose is reliably lean and exact: “Abraham began his rounds just after daybreak. After the previous day’s squall and a light rain during the night, the sand underfoot was damp and dense and the fruit on the trees glistened.” The novel draws together the storylines of previous books in the Brink of Life trilogy in a way that is thematically coherent, if not exactly emotionally satisfying. The characters here are stiffer than in past works, and the narrative feels a bit less organic. Moskovitz, who also wrote The Brink of Life (2019), asks questions that are ambitious and vast—about the nature of humanity, the origin of life, the future of the planet—and the novel is short enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. The book makes its landing without coming apart, but it does so without the panache fans of the previous volumes have likely hoped for.

A somewhat wooden science-fiction thriller that drifts into existential—even mystical—territory.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73417-892-0

Page Count: 173

Publisher: Fluke Tale Productions

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2020

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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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An exciting, thought-provoking mind-bender.

RECURSION

In Crouch’s sci-fi–driven thriller, a machine designed to help people relive their memories creates apocalyptic consequences.

In 2018, NYPD Detective Barry Sutton unsuccessfully tries to talk Ann Voss Peters off the edge of the Poe Building. She claims to have False Memory Syndrome, a bewildering condition that seems to be spreading. People like Ann have detailed false memories of other lives lived, including marriages and children, but in “shades of gray, like film noir stills.” For some, like Ann, an overwhelming sense of loss leads to suicide. Barry knows loss: Eleven years ago, his 15-year-old daughter, Meghan, was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Details from Ann’s story lead him to dig deeper, and his investigation leads him to a mysterious place called Hotel Memory, where he makes a life-altering discovery. In 2007, a ridiculously wealthy philanthropist and inventor named Marcus Slade offers neuroscientist Helena Smith the chance of a lifetime and an unlimited budget to build a machine that allows people to relive their memories. He says he wants to “change the world.” Helena hopes that her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, will benefit from her passion project. The opportunity for unfettered research is too tempting to turn down. However, when Slade takes the research in a controversial direction, Helena may have to destroy her dream to save the world. Returning to a few of the themes he explored in Dark Matter (2016), Crouch delivers a bullet-fast narrative and raises the stakes to a fever pitch. A poignant love story is woven in with much food for thought on grief and the nature of memories and how they shape us, rounding out this twisty and terrifying thrill ride.

An exciting, thought-provoking mind-bender.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-5978-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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