An intriguing, well-constructed thriller about a tech whiz on a journey of discovery.

INTO THE LIGHTNING GATE

A 20-something San Franciscan finds himself at the heart of cosmic drama in Roth’s SF series starter.

As the story opens, Cameron Maddock, a 26-year-old tech consultant, is talking with his ultrasophisticated, custom-designed artificial intelligence, Ego, about his day’s schedule. Most of the day will be devoted to a quick job that involves bluffing his way into the headquarters of the biotech company Bridgespan and hacking into the heart of their information network as a test of the company’s security. Cam, who’s always had “a mind for problem-solving,” is gifted at this kind of high-tech work—much to the chagrin of Bridgespan’s CTO, who hired him, and the company’s head of network security. After celebrating his successful job with his best friend, Tony Zhang, Cam proceeds the next day to his private workshop only to be alerted by Ego to the presence of two armed intruders back at his apartment—and their enigmatic “Boss,” a man named Tomás Aguilar, who seems unnervingly aware of Cam’s every move and is after him for unknown reasons. Even after Cam displays some unexpected combat skills—suddenly, he’s like “a video game character come to life”—the Boss is indefatigable in his pursuit, and Cam is soon propelled into a chase adventure that brings him in contact with a broader world than he’d ever imagined—one that involves alternate dimensions and the Gates between them. Over the course of this novel, Roth takes readers through all of this at a brisk pace and with a sense of momentum that keeps the pages turning. There are occasional rhetorical oddities along the way that can be a bit distracting; for example, the narration inconsistently refers to singular characters by plural pronouns, which can be particularly confusing in group action sequences. But the story presents a steady barrage of revelations that upend Cam’s life with a skill and a jumpy sense of humor that make the protagonist a fun character to root for. Readers will welcome the possibility of going on future adventures with him.

An intriguing, well-constructed thriller about a tech whiz on a journey of discovery.

Pub Date: June 7, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 399

Publisher: Jetspace Studio

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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