A fluid, grand-canvas, peripatetic future-history adventure.



In Peterson’s (An Introvert Learns to Fly, 2018) novel, godlike aliens give three Earth children extraordinary gifts to guide humanity’s technological and social progress.

The Torae, an ancient, advanced alien race who consider themselves stewards of all intelligent life, judge Homo sapiens to be a promising species for development. They imbue three American children with vast mental abilities—Californian Rianne, a budding bioengineer; working-class Minnesotan Dan, a computer prodigy; and insightful Sarah, a Virginian who’s a natural diplomat and ethicist. Via intermittent direct communication with the Torae and through their own maturation, the three lead humankind to radical technological and conceptual breakthroughs. But there’s a complication that not even the far-seeing Torae imagined: the Unity, a spacefaring, insectlike race who have the astounding ability to manipulate tiny black holes. The Torae judge the Unity to be a galaxy-threatening pest and launch a war of extermination against them. When the existence of Earth is threatened, the children’s mission becomes even more urgent. Most of the leapfrogging narrative involves Rianne, Dan, and Sarah as adults. Over the course of their lives, they witness mankind’s implantation with communication devices; fight a cyber-based world war; create new life; and medically unlock secrets of immortality. Peterson has an impressive background—he’s a physicist and the former vice president of technology at Honeywell—and his expertise comes through in his highly ambitious sci-fi debut, which offers serious speculation into the future of humanity. At the same time, however, the story never feels didactic or constrained by an agenda to educate readers with techno-speak. Instead, the author manages to juggle a large ensemble cast while clearly exploring the ramifications of each paradigm shift within the suspenseful narrative. Still, it’s a bit odd that humanity has such a low-key reaction to finding out that the Unity and the Torae exist; they just seem to take it all in stride.

A fluid, grand-canvas, peripatetic future-history adventure.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9997035-1-9

Page Count: 394

Publisher: PTB Books

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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In a well-written gambol through weirdness, Skinner (The Wrecker, 1995, etc.) offers four highly imaginative short stories about young people with supernatural powers. In the first story, Jenny can change the world, and change history, by changing the maps she draws. The narrator, Laurie, knows Jenny is out of control, and when Jenny creates a second sun and splits the earth in two, Laurie is ready to act. The second story is about a world where people “bop”—instant travel just by thinking of a location—instead of walking from one place to another. Mae, however, either can’t bop, or won’t, a prospect that intrigues the narrator. In the third tale, Meredith, who has a supernatural connection with the planet Pluto, and Dexter, who is able to spray-paint with his mind, unite their powers. In the fourth and longest story, Jake finds himself deeply in love with a religious girl, Louise, and both of them are tempted by the powers a metahuman, Nina, has bestowed upon them. All four stories will captivate readers, and may even get them thinking about deeper ideas. Skinner’s often humorous portrayal of young adolescents is on target, and while the stories resemble writing exercises, lacking the sustained, pulse-pounding poetic turns of his novels, they are consistently entertaining. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-80556-X

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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This follow-up to Firebirds Rising (2006) will hold great appeal for fantasy fans who don’t mind exchanging their epics for short stories. From the lush and lyrical to the minimalist, soaring is exactly what these stories do, taking the reader through unexplored lands of the fantastic, well beyond wizards, vampires and faeries. Some stories are clearly rooted in fantasy legends, like Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s flowing centerpiece, “The Ghosts of Strangers.” Others, like Carol Emshwiller’s “The Dignity He’s Due,” employ some characterizations and settings that step just beyond reality, satisfying those who can’t get enough of the urban fantasy genre. Each story includes an author’s note for further information. Traditional themes in YA literature, including romance, deception and family relations, drive the stories. Both acclaimed and lesser-known authors are included, so readers who pick this up because they recognize a favorite author’s name may discover new favorites. (Short stories/fantasy. YA)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-14-240552-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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