A cloud-minded but detailed spiritual parable that eschews the trappings of hard SF.

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ZERO PERCENTERS

Returning from a nature sabbatical, a young environmentalist finds almost all of humanity transformed into blissful digital life forms in Grusky’s (Silicon Sunset, 1998) SF tale.

In 2024, fantastically successful tech tycoon Chris Lapin and his team launch their latest innovation: a computer algorithm that simulates organic tissue. Lapin’s 25-year-old naturalist daughter, Anja Lapin, finds the idea of her father’s company’s raking in more riches repugnant, as the ills of income equality affect the entire planet. She goes on a sabbatical in the Transylvanian wilderness, causing her to be cut off from civilization. Meanwhile, Lapin’s group sees no reason to stop at making replacement organs; their algorithm can completely digitize an entire, live human, consciousness and all. Anja returns from her meditative trip to find that billions of people have chosen to become digital—or “zero percenters”—over the course of just days. Thus, a peaceful world no longer faces hunger, illness, aging, or even sleep, and everyone inhabits shape-changing new bodies that eliminate any need for commerce or environmental exploitation. However, it turns out that Chris and most of his workmates are dead from a mysterious drone attack. And because anti-capitalist Anja is regarded as the inspiration for her father’s making the process freely available, people are hailing her as the savior of the planet—and promptly elect her president of the new World Council. Yet she faces the dilemma of whether to remain a mortal, vulnerable, flesh-and-blood person herself—a situation that’s further complicated with the appearance of Gunnar Freesmith, an attractive, athletic man who also isn’t a zero percenter yet. The story is narrated by “Vicia Cassubica,” who readers come to understand is actually Anja’s newly assigned “concierge”—a faithful smartphone that’s been upgraded into a shape-shifter factotum (and whether Vicia has a soul becomes a matter of much discussion). Clearly, the tale isn’t based in hard science but rather in science that’s indistinguishable from mysticism. With utopia basically achieved in the book’s opening chapters, the author faces something of a problem—much as Richard Matheson did in 1978’s What Dreams May Come: how to describe heaven and how to create dramatic conflict in a place that passes for paradise. Yes, there is a villain slithering through this version of Eden, but both Anja and the author keep that character as ill-defined as possible. There’s also the inescapable notion that Anja and Gunnar will eventually find themselves in roles of the biblical Eve and Adam; however, they manage to talk their way around the matter until circumstances render it moot. Overall, the material is a close relation to the philosophical fantasy of bestselling author Richard Bach of Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) fame; just as Bach’s repertoire returns, time and again, to backdrops of flight and aviation, Grusky offers scenes of mountaineering and skiing, with a meticulously described description of a hike in the Chilean Andes. However, this choice effectively relegates the startling transfiguration of all Homo sapiens to background detail.

A cloud-minded but detailed spiritual parable that eschews the trappings of hard SF.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9651190-4-7

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Furthest Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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