A gripping, lyrical, and ambitious dystopian novel.

TROUBLESHOOTING

GLITCH IN THE SYSTEM: BOOK ONE

A sci-fi debut tells the story of an autistic teen’s struggles to survive her institutionalization.

In a not-so-distant future when the United States has broken into autonomous regions and disabled people have lost their civil rights, 15-year-old Sophia “Scope” Archer is confined to the Thunderbird Mountain “development center” for troubled teens in “the drilled-out, logging-stripped, mining-gouged backcountry of Wyandot County.” Scope is a high-functioning autistic teen, her condition marked by the blue puzzle-piece tattoo on her wrist that dictates how the authorities treat her. At Thunderbird Mountain she meets Chill Dark, a gay prostitute marked with the sociopath tattoo, who possesses a keen interest in post-colonial theory and turns out to be a crack shot with a firearm. A legal adult, Chill no longer has to live at Thunderbird, though he visits Scope and his half sister Angela, smuggling in supplies. Scope must find patrons on the inside as well, navigating the corrupt and sexually violent guards on the one hand and the dehumanizing medical treatments on the other. Scope finds a way to use her domineering sexuality to her advantage, but when the opportunity arises to exploit Chill’s criminal connections to escape her prison, she will risk everything for a chance to regain the freedom that was stolen from her. DePackh’s prose is dense and stylish, demonstrating an eye for both the grittiness of her setting and the sensuality that her characters manage to find within it: “Where he looked like he ate once every day or two if he remembered, she wore her appetites on her thick, strong body like the firm curvature of willful craving.” Scope is a character of immense depth and originality. There are few protagonists in sci-fi—or literature in general—that present an autistic perspective with such specificity and pathos. The explorations of ableism and sexuality in a claustrophobic cyberpunk setting make this unlike anything most readers will have encountered before. Though the universe dePackh creates is vast (and terrifyingly believable), this series opener is focused and highly intimate. Readers should welcome the next installments.

A gripping, lyrical, and ambitious dystopian novel.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Reclamation Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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