An amusing SF private eye/coffee spoof chock-full of silicon circuits and served with laughs.


In a giant, futuristic mall, a coffee machine with artificial intelligence excitedly narrates the exploits of its new owner, a retro-style, hard-boiled gumshoe.

Stein’s (Lost, 2019) satirical SF detective yarn at least initially owes much to Douglas Adams before the material finds its own humorous tone. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans may recall Adams’ ancillary detail of robotic home appliances with “Real People Personalities,” often annoying, single-minded entities. And coffee machines were among those conveniences so accessorized. Arjay, the first-person (or first-gadget?) narrator here, is such a device, an ever upbeat, persistent, and talkative “top of the line” coffee maker. Arjay gets delivered to Frank Harken, a private eye of the old school, whose beat is the Great American, a fortresslike, coast-to-coast shopping/dining/entertainment/residential mall (shades of Somtow Sucharitkul’s Mallworld). The mall is a consumer paradise and haven for the elite in an otherwise ill-described (but doubtlessly unpleasant) future United States. Because of a prime directive to serve coffee in any circumstance, Arjay is mobile, resourceful, multilimbed, and filled with extra goodies such as laser cutters. The AI becomes sidekick to bemused tough-guy Harken. The chipper appliance recounts their initial case together, a missing custom-dentistry heiress named Winsome Smiles, connected to shady characters and now apparently kidnapped. Arjay’s enthusiastic narration takes readers through not only the standard private investigator clichés (mobsters, clueless authorities, duplicitous dames), but also bizarre boutiques and services (“legstentions”), literary references encompassing The Princess Bride and Edgar Allan Poe, and—in a very Hitchhiker touch—reams of persnickety Arjay non sequitur footnotes. (Sample: “Assassins were notoriously inconsiderate.”) A nice feat for Stein is that he still remains faithful, even in the jokey milieu, to the twisty conventions of a decent gumshoe mystery. And a certain readership demographic will appreciate that he keeps a lid on Quentin Tarantino–type violence and never flavors the brew with gratuitous sex or sleaze. This coffee tale offers good taste (to the last drop).

An amusing SF private eye/coffee spoof chock-full of silicon circuits and served with laughs.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-946501-21-9

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Tiny Fox Press LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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