The Search for Orion

In this powerful sci-fi tale of alien contact, a group of humans searches for a way home, with the end of the universe on the horizon.

For years, Min has been living among the Tsi-pacians, large, reptilelike aliens who have taken her in and provided her with what seems an idyllic life. But when new humans arrive on the planet, they tell Min that she’s being treated like a pet, then, against her will, they attempt to rescue her. But when slave traders pick up Min and the humans who attempted to rescue her, it’s only through luck that they’re rescued by Donva, a healer from the Umian Empire—whose government is as powerful as the Tsi-pacian’s. Donva reveals that Min’s childlike behavior is due to implants in her brain, and he offers to remove them, but Min is frightened to admit that her life with the Tsi-pacians was a lie. Carden deftly shows Min’s journey from false naïveté into a fully fleshed-out human being with regrets and desires for the future, maneuvering the point of view so subtly that it’s difficult to tell where the wounded Min ends and the recovered Min begins. The aliens’ lifestyles and governments may be strange, but when their betrayals shift and truths are revealed, readers will identify even with some of the antagonists. If only the secondary human characters had been better described in the early stages of the novel, they’d have a better opportunity to develop into distinct, complex characters, too. With its competing alien factions and human civil wars, the galaxy Carden designs can be enticingly complex, but all the elements are introduced naturally, so readers won’t be overwhelmed with details, nor surprised by sudden revelations about the world. A solid copy edit would improve the story further. Deft narration, well-drawn characters and a complex but cohesive plot ignite this surefire sci-fi success.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475263411

Page Count: 442

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2013

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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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A lively, offbeat novel.

ELSEWHERE

California man Jeffy Coltrane and his 11-year-old daughter, Amity, discover the wonders and horrors of multiverse travel after an inventor entrusts them with a special device.

The inventor, on the run from dark government forces, instructs Coltrane to put this $76 billion "key to everything" into safekeeping and never use it. But when Amity's pet mouse strolls across its controls, the device activates, whisking father and daughter—and mouse—off to an alternate Earth. Danger greets them in the form of a nasty creature that is half boy and half chimp, and there are other threats. But Amity is in no rush to return to normalcy after Googling her long-missing mother and determining she is alive and well on Earth 1.13. However, re-connecting with Mom, who walked out on her family seven years ago, saying she felt "empty," proves problematic: In this parallel world, Jeffy and Amity were both run over by a car—seven years ago. For all the other scary things there are across the multiverse, including genocidal robots marching up the Pacific Coast Highway, none is more frightening than the neo-fascist enforcers now operating back home on "Earth Prime." As heavy-handed as Koontz is in nailing down this timely theme, it's disappointing to see him pull back from its broader implications and invest his villainy in a rather predictable sociopathic bad guy who will do anything to lay his hands on the special device. And it is not always easy to keep all the multiple Earths and versions of people straight. But otherwise, this is a colorful, imaginative spin into SF by the prolific, wide-ranging writer.

A lively, offbeat novel.

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1985-9

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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