HOPE RISES

A bracingly tough female protagonist enhances a so-so SF tale.

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In this cli-fi novel, a young woman tries to overcome her dark past (and disability) to join her isolated community’s powerful policing squads.

Author Souter, also a filmmaker, sets his dystopian story in the year 2070, although there are few futuristic props. Climate change wreaks havoc on food harvests and supply chains, and central government has collapsed, leaving individual cities and towns to fend for themselves against wildfires and rioting. In one community, ironically renamed Prosperity Way, demagogue Paulix Kane has taken over with a seductively persuasive philosophy of peace and security via harsh law and order. He dubs himself the Supreme Valor, and his police force, the Elite Front, patrols the minifascist state, divided between the wealthy “Royalton” area and the poorer Zone B. Hope Mulder is a 21-year-old Zone B native, and she was born missing a left arm to a young mother straightaway murdered. Though raised with love by her adoptive family, the intense Hope pins her future on the goal of a position with the feared Elite Front. Summary public executions as punishment for taking a life are an unquestioned part of the law (and Prosperity Way natives unintentionally kill each other so often it becomes grimly amusing; one can almost sympathize with the grumpy Supreme Valor). When her cherished stepbrother dies because someone else was horseplaying with a bow and arrows, Hope’s fierce reaction at the execution impresses Paulix, and she gets to train with Elite Front despite her disability. Others in the Kane dynasty are not so sympathetic, and the hero grows disillusioned with the pitiless justice system and the bullying mindsets behind it. Souter’s prose is sturdy and efficient, and the steely Hope is a fascinating character, which counters the dearth of surprises and arid, featureless setting. Readers of “prepper” fiction might be attracted to the doomsday/survivalist aspect of the material, though the milieu and sense of fatalism tend to recall some of the less sentimental Westerns of yesteryear (think Shane or the oaters of Elmore Leonard).

A bracingly tough female protagonist enhances a so-so SF tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-03-911974-1

Page Count: 366

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

PROPHET SONG

Captivating, frightening, and a singular achievement.

As Ireland devolves into a brutal police state, one woman tries to preserve her family in this stark fable.

For Eilish Stack, a molecular biologist living with her husband and four children in Dublin, life changes all at once and then slowly worsens beyond imagining. Two men appear at her door one night, agents of the new secret police, seeking her husband, Larry, a union official. Soon he is detained under the Emergency Powers Act recently pushed through by the new ruling party, and she cannot contact him. Eilish sees things shifting at work to those backing the ruling party. The state takes control of the press, the judiciary. Her oldest son receives a summons to military duty for the regime, and she tries to send him to Northern Ireland. He elects to join the rebel forces and soon she cannot contact him, either. His name and address appear in a newspaper ad listing people dodging military service. Eilish is coping with her father’s growing dementia, her teenage daughter’s depression, the vandalizing of her car and house. Then war comes to Dublin as the rebel forces close in on the city. Offered a chance to flee the country by her sister in Canada, Eilish can’t abandon hope for her husband’s and son’s returns. Lynch makes every step of this near-future nightmare as plausible as it is horrific by tightly focusing on Eilish, a smart, concerned woman facing terrible choices and losses. An exceptionally gifted writer, Lynch brings a compelling lyricism to her fears and despair while he marshals the details marking the collapse of democracy and the norms of daily life. His tonal control, psychological acuity, empathy, and bleakness recall Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006). And Eilish, his strong, resourceful, complete heroine, recalls the title character of Lynch’s excellent Irish-famine novel, Grace (2017).

Captivating, frightening, and a singular achievement.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780802163011

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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