Some of the story covers familiar sci-fi terrain, but laser blasts and galactic pursuits make for a stellar tale.

Wanderer's Escape

Prisoners break free in an extraordinary ship powerful enough to hunt pirates and stop innocents from becoming slaves in the first of Goodson’s (Dark Soul Silenced, 2013, etc.) sci-fi series.

Sixteen-year-old Jess was born in captivity. But he has a chance to escape when he and fellow prisoners Matt and Sal step onto a ship to check it for booby traps. Bolts of electricity inside the vessel knock off the trio’s control collars, and they take the opportunity to run. Strangely, the ship, named the Wanderer, responds to Jess’ touch, allowing the group a clean getaway. The Wanderer fixes a “web of strands” to Jess and ultimately links to him without a physical connection. As ship captain, the teenager answers a distress call, and after he destroys a menacing Imperial craft, a number of passengers join Jess, Matt, and Sal. But some of those people may have taken others against their wills. Jess returns children to their homes, or stations, but is surprised by a shocking attack followed by a devastating betrayal. It seems everyone wants the Wanderer, especially those who witness the ship’s speed and ferocity. Jess and his remaining allies duck out on Washington (the planet), near a mining complex that’s a base for illicit activities like slave trading. They plan to infiltrate a band of criminals and liberate its bevy of prisoners. The fast-paced novel kicks the action into high gear; the opening chase with absconding prisoners is followed by numerous battle scenes in the Wanderer. Romance between Jess and rescued Ali happens almost immediately, like a YA story, while the never-been-kissed hero blushes quite often. Nevertheless, Jess and the ship’s relationship remains unquestionably engrossing. He essentially acts as the Wanderer’s conscience, bringing its mind to life—which explains his phenomenal piloting skills. The story’s a little derivative of other works, particularly Star Wars: the prime baddies are collectively the Empire, while alien Teeko’s jumbled speech too closely resembles Yoda’s. But Goodson leaves open plenty of plot avenues, including origins for Jess and the Wanderer, to explore in the series’ sequels.

Some of the story covers familiar sci-fi terrain, but laser blasts and galactic pursuits make for a stellar tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4910-9979-7

Page Count: 250

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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