An indelible red-planet backdrop enhances an already rugged, tenacious story of a colony’s cadets learning to rely on one...

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Biome

Part of a Mars terraforming settlement, a teenager has six days to figure out why doctors are repeatedly wiping her peers’ memories—and why she’s retained her own—in this sci-fi debut.

It’s been nearly a year since Lizzy Engram left Earth to join Mars Colony One, helping make the planet habitable. She’s one of numerous cadets working in biomes, which sustain varying atmospheres, providing optimal conditions for plants. Lizzy’s been experiencing déjà vu lately and is a little nervous about tomorrow’s First Expedition, a mission exploring the planet outside of the colony. The following morning, however, fellow cadets are sure First Expedition is still a week away, while Lizzy, it seems, is the only one who remembers yesterday. But there’s more: Lizzy recalls earlier tests, leading her to believe the colony’s doctors have been regularly wiping her memories. And she doesn’t merely have her own memories, but other cadets’ as well, including her best friend, Chloe. Wanting to know why the nefarious physicians are pilfering memories, Lizzy hides and recruits others, proving herself by relaying their private thoughts or pasts. She soon realizes the doctors are using a technique called Revisions, presumably to cover up a truth. But Lizzy’s keeping secrets, too, ranging from the missing cadets that everyone’s forgotten to something even bigger that, if it becomes common knowledge, could result in widespread panic. The story’s setting is ample and extensive, particularly the biomes, each with a color designation and nicknames for its workers (for example, yellow for the Bolos in the Tropical Rainforest Biome). But it’s the characters’ relatable predicaments that truly reinforce the plot. Lizzy, for one, struggles to convince friends to trust her while she doesn’t have much faith in anyone else. Galloway loads his tale with mysterious elements, like why Lizzy’s a hub for stolen memories, and wisely unveils them throughout the novel—instead of saving them all for the last few pages. There’s romance (reliving what was in cadet Noah Hartmann’s mind shows he has, or had, strong feelings for Lizzy) and minimized but sound melodrama (Lizzy keeps that previous tidbit from Chloe, who’s a Noah fan). The ending, meanwhile, satisfies on every level.

An indelible red-planet backdrop enhances an already rugged, tenacious story of a colony’s cadets learning to rely on one another.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 410

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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