A slight diversion for fans of teen romance.

ESCAPE

THE DIVISIONS SERIES, BOOK ONE

A teen fantasy debut that sees a young woman caught between warring nation-states.

It’s 3085, over a thousand years since the Third World War delivered nuclear destruction. A new civilizationcalled Unmundi has risen. Situated on a single continent are four habitable regions: the Mountain Division, the Sea, the Desert and the South Division. In the Mountain Division lives 18-year-old Anastasia, an orphan who serves in King Byron’s castle. When Anastasia’s brother Zephyr is robbed on the Crossing—a road that allows trade among the Divisions—Byron doesn’t believe him and instead threatens to kill him. After Anastasia begs for his life, the king proposes a solution: “You swear yourself to me, and I shall spare your brother’s life.” Anastasia agrees, and the king wastes no time abusing her; she defends herself and flees. Once Anastasia is recaptured, a metal collar is soldered around her neck. Luckily, the blacksmith sympathizes with her, later helping her escape. Anastasia reaches the South Division and finds work as a scullion wench in King Valek’s castle. In contrast to King Byron’s oppressed people, Anastasia’s new acquaintances seem to worship Valek, who violently usurped the throne from the South’s previous king. But Byron doesn’t plan to let Anastasia escape easily; he’s branded her a dangerous criminal and hopes to enlist Valek in her return. Debut author Khan pulls readers into her medieval world with moments that wouldn’t be out of place in Game of Thrones. In one particularly brutal scene: “Somebody was screaming in the dungeon. It took a moment for Anastasia to realize it was her.” Khan typically offers just enough description to set the scene, eschewing the bulk that many fantasy novels favor: “The entrance of the castle was at the top of some raised white marble stairs, and the double doors were also a white marble with black veins intertwined into the white stone.” The problem is that aside from a world risen from the ashes of nuclear war, there are scant other fantasy elements. Straightforward action/romance follows from a great (if familiar) premise, enlivened with only a few minor twists. The sequel should take more creative risks.

A slight diversion for fans of teen romance.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1483408620

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2014

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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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A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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