An intriguing and seriously innovative attempt to grapple with some of the issues raised by the 21st century’s obsession...

THE AFFINITIES

Social science fiction from the author of Burning Paradise (2013, etc.).

Genius researcher Meir Klein of InterAlia develops reliable methods for sorting clients into social affinity groups. The members of such Affinities enjoy an intuitive, almost telepathic rapport, enabling them to cooperate to better themselves and their Affinities. (Think Facebook “friends” but genuine and extended to all phases of life, with a dab of Isaac Asimov’s psychohistory.) The drawback is that many people qualify for none of the groups, putting them at a huge disadvantage. Graphic design student Adam Fisk’s life is falling apart until he tests into Tau, the largest Affinity. To his astonished gratification he finds that his problems—job, money, family, accommodation—rapidly disappear. In turn he is able to contribute to the needs and desires of his fellow Taus. However, Adam does note a distinct antipathy toward those not of the Affinity, even family members. Then Klein, who has disassociated himself from monopolistic InterAlia, requests Tau’s help in releasing the codes underpinning the testing system. Adam, with Tau bigwig Damian Levay and girlfriend Amanda Mehta, meets secretly with Klein, who’s dying. Klein's further research predicts that current geopolitical instabilities (most notably, dangerous disputes between China and India) will worsen—because of the Affinities’ very existence. Not only that, but the groups will soon come to view each other as rivals. Soon, sure enough, Klein is murdered. But who’s responsible? InterAlia? Or Het, Tau’s powerful, hierarchical rival Affinity? And what did Klein mean when he hinted at the possibility of still other and perhaps vastly superior methods of social engagement and cooperation? All this unfolds as a series of slow epiphanies as Adam understands via his experiences the implications of his journey from bewildered disconnection to unequivocal engagement and back.

An intriguing and seriously innovative attempt to grapple with some of the issues raised by the 21st century’s obsession with social media.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3262-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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 breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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