An engaging and unconventional thriller with a vibrant heroine.

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DIANASAURUS REX

An act of sabotage gives a teenage girl some remarkable new abilities in this debut SF novel.

Diana Dunphy is a normal 16-year-old girl whose parents’ work is anything but ordinary. Her divorced parents, Rita and Aaron Dunphy, are scientists collaborating on a project called the Tachyon Chamber, affectionately nicknamed the “Crock Pot.” Designed to tackle the twin problems of oil scarcity and waste disposal, the Tachyon Chamber sends discarded materials back in time, where they will become oil for present-day use. But on the night of the project’s demonstration, terrorists posing as high school friends of Diana’s attack the attendees in an effort to download the software that makes the chamber possible. Diana tries to intervene, but she is pushed into the chamber. Her parents rescue her; then, her father is killed trying to dispose of a bomb left by the terrorists. While recovering in a hospital, Diana notices something is different about her. She craves rare meat and uses her tongue to smell. Her mother tests her DNA and discovers similarities with a Tyrannosaurus rex’s genetic material. Diana must keep her new powers and instincts under control as she returns to high school, but her efforts are complicated by her desire to seek revenge against the terrorists responsible for her condition and her father’s death. Gleisser’s novel is a fast-paced SF thriller bolstered by a dynamic heroine and well-staged action scenes. The narrative is anchored by Diana, whose world is turned upside down when her DNA is spliced with that of a dinosaur. She is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including her mother and Chuck Leadingham, a classmate who eventually develops a romantic interest in Diana. The investigation into the sabotage that led to Diana’s transformation leads to some of the tale’s most intense action sequences, particularly her use of her sense of smell to uncover the location of the terrorists. That said, there are a few minor editing inconsistencies. For example, the name of the institute supporting the Dunphys’ research is spelled both “Gotelle” and “Gottelle.”

An engaging and unconventional thriller with a vibrant heroine.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948374-21-7

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Hydra Publications

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A risky and frisky adventure.

DEAL WITH THE DEVIL

Enhanced supersoldiers, hot romance, and a dangerous rescue mission make this SF series opener a post-apocalyptic roller-coaster ride.

In the near future, a wave of solar flares has rendered the world’s power grids useless. People have found a way to survive, though: by supporting a mysterious scientific conglomerate, by selling important information, or by acting as hired muscle. Despite his biomedical enhancements, Capt. Garrett Knox of the Silver Devils, a squad of supersoldiers, is in a race against time to rescue one of his team members. The ransom: a mercenary librarian named Nina. After doing some reconnaissance, Knox suspects that Nina is not a typical human, and his team’s plan to snatch her off the street is quickly ruled out. Instead, Knox hopes to lure Nina and her squad of information brokers into a trap. Knox insists he knows the location of the rumored Rogue Library of Congress, a motherlode of confidential documents and records that were saved by federal employees when the original Library of Congress was shut down. Nina can’t resist a score like that and agrees to assist Knox in locating the RLOC bunkers hidden across a decimated America. Nina and Knox feel a lot like superheroes with their enhanced abilities and altruistic feelings toward ending corruption through the freedom of information. Readers may be craving an action-packed good-triumphs-over-evil story right now, and this book delivers a hopeful ending in the midst of a bleak setting. Rocha’s trademark trope of found family is very much present, and the chemistry and tension between the romantic leads has never been better plotted or paced. The primary shortcoming is the constant repetition of background information, which creates frequent hiccups in an otherwise thrilling page-turner.

A risky and frisky adventure.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20936-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A lively, techno-fueled caper.

SPIN-OFF

COOL ASSASSINS 1 & 2

A futuristic novel focuses on a powerful team of operatives.

This epic SF adventure begins with a girl named Jen Marov. Jen may be small but she is strong and an excellent climber. When she travels to Paris with her family, she is even able to climb the Eiffel Tower. Jen winds up with a successful career in the circus before pursuing a love of mountain climbing. Where will she wind up later in life? As a member of a fierce, do-good-oriented yet covert organization called Dog Breakfast. It is the 2070s and life on Earth, while recognizable to readers, is also wildly strange. Humans still populate the planet and struggle with capitalism, technological innovations, and environmental changes. But they have also managed to broaden their horizons. So-called soupers (because their orbiting environments look something like giant soup cans) live in space. Then there are advancements like travel by zephyrs (referred to as “gasbags”) and a protein-heavy foodstuff called sclup. The story expands to cover everything from a metropolis suspended over Canada named Tsawwassen to the excitement of something called “slasherrock,” but the ultimate focus falls on Dog Breakfast and its members. They are a tough group who train, eat, and sleep together. They learn to do things like dodge bullets and of course stomp the bad guys (although, as one member asserts, “we try to avoid violent solutions”). Will Dog Breakfast be able to pull off a difficult attack on the world’s corporate elite?

To say there is a lot going on throughout Quantaman’s narrative would be an understatement. Aside from the tale’s many events, readers get a primer on everything from hexagonal cities to the breakdown of a fictional company’s stock price. Such explanations are occasionally even accompanied by uncredited illustrations. This fine attention to detail, reminiscent of the work of William Gibson, helps to create a full picture of humanity’s future endeavors. But some aspects are more creative than others. A palmslate is basically a computer tablet, which, for simplicity’s sake, could have just been called a computer tablet. A crèche, on the other hand, is a school that raises children from the ages of 2 to 18 with intriguing results. The plot is likewise highly detailed and always in motion. Action scenes are prevalent and varied. Bad guys are felled with mini-crossbows and good guys can deploy other people’s car air bags. Still, the backgrounds of some characters may be more extensive than necessary. For instance, one of the newer Dog Breakfast members, Nyssa, seems to be forever explaining her past as an indentured sex worker. Though her biography contains some true oddities, such as the sale of her virginity by her mother, the story could have made do with a brief flashback or two as opposed to a full information download. In addition, the inner thoughts of characters tend to be redundant, as when Jen remarks to herself, after a close call: “Too close for comfort!” Yet overall, the book delivers an ambitious action tale in a vivid landscape that manages to be both foreign and familiar.

A lively, techno-fueled caper.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 858

Publisher: Psignologic Services

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2020

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