Extraordinary characters steer a taut, rousing futuristic tale.

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THE FINAL WARS BEGIN

From the Final Wars Trilogy series , Vol. 1

In this debut sci-fi novel, a military officer wanted for murder in the early 23rd century tries to prevent a war between human colonies.

Lt. Gen. Bastien Lyons is hiding in New Paris, the human colony on post–World War III Earth. After defying an order that would have resulted in the deaths of innocents, Bastien resisted arrest and killed five men in self-defense. But the individuals who finally capture him don’t take him to the Martian colony, Port Sydney, where his superior, Gen. Crone, awaits. Bastien instead is the prisoner of New Paris’ Queen Marie Dubois. She attained her royal title by killing her father, and now Marie wants to use Bastien to assassinate her elusive sister, Belle, the throne’s rightful heir. Not handing over Bastien—a wanted criminal—to Crone violates the colonies’ treaty, which also includes Nippon One on Earth’s moon. The breach could ignite a war with Port Sydney, which is exactly what Marie wants. When Belle gets wind of her potential assassin, she intends to turn Bastien against Marie, primarily to maintain peace between the colonies. But Cube, a humanoid robot Crone sends to hunt Bastien, is a 7-foot-tall snag in everyone’s plans, and war may be unavoidable. In this first installment of a trilogy, Asthana deftly manages multiple characters in a sci-fi–flavored espionage story. Motivations, for example, make sense, particularly the reasons both sisters use Bastien rather than simply attacking each other. Alternating perspectives showcase superb characters, with Marie and Cube as standouts. Cube attempts to comprehend human feelings through music while its own emotions appear as data files (“>EMOTION = frustration.dat”). Marie is a metal-tentacled cyborg who, in her opening scene, kills and cannibalizes her lover. Although this book is a quick read, the author packs the narrative with plot developments: shifting alliances, shocking deaths, and scenes unfolding on all three colonies. At least one of those deaths is disappointing, but that won’t likely dampen readers’ expectations for the sequel.

Extraordinary characters steer a taut, rousing futuristic tale.

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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