By turns bawdy and bold, Russell shifts between precise, accurate scientific description and sheer absurdity, which renders...

KNOCKING ON HEAVEN'S DOOR

Struck by catastrophes like a fatal supervirus, 23rd-century Earth has become a world of peaceful, nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes living harmoniously in nature alongside telepathic animal clones resuscitated from the Pleistocene era, until an invention created by an unlikely alliance alters the future.

Connected by a solar-powered Internet, guided by a philosophy called "The Return," humanity enjoys “the best of times, the best of worlds,” as teacher Clare says to Brad, a mathematical genius whose job is to monitor and repair solar computer technology. Clare comes to Brad’s lab to guide him through a spirit-quest that will turn into a world-altering journey. Toying with many origin stories, Russell (Teresa of the New World, 2015, etc.) ties physics to basket-weaving, biology to holography in a convoluted tale riddled with contradiction: if humanity believes in panpsychism, in which all life (including plants) enjoys a consciousness that “is everywhere and in everything” (or TOE, as Brad calls it: the theory of everything), why do people hunt? Even the novel itself asks “how could you hunt someone you could talk to?” and yet Clare has just killed a telepathic saber-toothed cat, albeit in self-defense. And why does telepathy also have “syntax and meaning” when it isn’t a language? Brad, Clare, a bi-gendered hermit named Luke/Lucia, and his/her beloved mutant direwolf, Dog, form an unlikely alliance; after Dog is killed, Brad and Dog’s consciousness (lodged in Luke/Lucia’s cerebellum) discover the key to immortality together, learning how to switch on dead DNA to holographically resurrect not just Dog, but “squirrels, bears, horses, mammoths, mice, deer, camels,” and Clare’s deceased child. But when immortality becomes a possibility, a dangerous rift opens up between the tribes and the immortals, sending Luke/Lucia, Dog, Clare, Brad, and their children into exile.

By turns bawdy and bold, Russell shifts between precise, accurate scientific description and sheer absurdity, which renders this ambitious tale of human hubris quite uneven and eventually implausible.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63158-068-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Yucca Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

RED RISING

From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 1

Set in the future and reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this novel dramatizes a story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power.

In the beginning, Darrow, the narrator, works in the mines on Mars, a life of drudgery and subservience. He’s a member of the Reds, an “inferior” class, though he’s happily married to Eo, an incipient rebel who wants to overthrow the existing social order, especially the Golds, who treat the lower-ranking orders cruelly. When Eo leads him to a mildly rebellious act, she’s caught and executed, and Darrow decides to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of this outrage. He’s recruited by a rebel cell and “becomes” a Gold by having painful surgery—he has golden wings grafted on his back—and taking an exam to launch himself into the academy that educates the ruling elite. Although he successfully infiltrates the Golds, he finds the social order is a cruel and confusing mash-up of deception and intrigue. Eventually, he leads one of the “houses” in war games that are all too real and becomes a guerrilla warrior leading a ragtag band of rebelliously minded men and women. Although it takes a while, the reader eventually gets used to the specialized vocabulary of this world, where warriors shoot “pulseFists” and are protected by “recoilArmor.” As with many similar worlds, the warrior culture depicted here has a primitive, even classical, feel to it, especially since the warriors sport names such as Augustus, Cassius, Apollo and Mercury.

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53978-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

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THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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