Lots of prattle about science, philosophical issues and the ironies of contemporary pop culture. For die-hard fans only.

MINDSCAN

Award-winning Sawyer takes a break from his latest trilogy (Humans, 2003, etc.) with a slow disquisition on consciousness and identity pretending to be an SF novel of ideas.

When his father suffers a brain hemorrhage that leaves him in a permanent vegetative state, Jake Sullivan, heir a Canadian brewery fortune, discovers he has the same rare, hereditary disease. Fear of an early death inspires him, at age 40, to undergo a Mindscan, an expensive but apparently fool-proof technique in which the entire brain is scanned and downloaded into a technologically superior mechanical body that doesn’t breathe, eat, sleep or sweat and is theoretically immortal. The result? Two Jake Sullivans. In the first of many improbabilities, the flesh-and-blood Jake must make room for his replacement by renouncing all ties to his earthly existence and living out the rest of his days in a deluxe retirement village on the dark side of the moon, from whence he cannot return. En route to his new digs, Jake meets the 85-year-old, thrice-married Karen Bessarian, enormously wealthy best-selling author of a Harry Potter–like fantasy series. Karen makes a younger Mindscan version of herself to preserve her royalties and, perhaps, continue the series. A friendship develops between the mortals on the moon and the immortals: the new and improved Jake and Karen discover their bodies can have sex without fear of disease or pregnancy. Then Sawyer complicates the plot by having the mortal Jake being cured for his illness, but still a prisoner on the moon. The mortal Karen dies, setting off a tedious, histrionic courtroom battle over whether or not the immortal Karen is a person. On top of this, the immortal Jake starts hearing voices that turn out to be thoughts from other Jakes: Could the Mindscan scientists have made unauthorized copies of his brain and be using them for nasty purposes?

Lots of prattle about science, philosophical issues and the ironies of contemporary pop culture. For die-hard fans only.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-765-31107-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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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 charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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