An ambitious, reality-questioning tale of hidden signs and old secrets.

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AFTER OLYMPUS

Debut author Xaman explores the nature of truth and reality in this philosophical mystery novel.

In December 1978, Santiago Xaman (who shares the author's name) is cleaning up at the small, remote compound in the Santa Cruz Mountains that he inherited from his deceased adoptive parents. He sees a shooting star crash to the earth and travels to investigate it the next day: “As I get closer, I realize that I’m looking at a thing metallic, like a car wreck, but not that big. I see its jagged edges, as if the metal’s been torn, like a crumpled wing off some huge robotic insect.” It appears to be a Soviet satellite, and soon other men arrive: Stanford University students Holmes and Melek. They help Santiago explore the wreck, in which they discover a cache of three mysterious playing cards. The find seems to fulfill part of a prophecy that Santiago heard as a child in Guatemala, which also said that he “must find the three magicians and steal their wings” in order to fly high enough to see the “Truths of the universe.” With the help of a translator Tasha, the three men set off on what becomes a six-decade journey to discover the secrets of the satellite—a trip that will lead them to a place where mythology, espionage, science, and psychiatry converge. The book is presented as the work of Santiago himself, as pieced together by his younger friend, Aliya Hathaway, in the year 2038. Author Xaman makes use of these metafictional flourishes to play with the reader’s sense of reality, and they do so quite effectively. The prose is rich and laden with a sense of the unknown, sustaining tension even in otherwise lax moments: “He walks with a limp and uses an ornate wooden walking stick to get around. But there’s nothing slow about his attitude—I see him as dangerous, actually.” This is a novel in which the ground keeps shifting beneath the reader’s feet, and there are plenty of shocks along the way. Readers drawn to headier types of mysteries will find this one to be an entertaining puzzle to solve.

An ambitious, reality-questioning tale of hidden signs and old secrets.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 345

Publisher: Lone Think Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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