Baxter (Evolution, Feb. 2003, etc.) will never win prizes for style, but he's much more convincing when he writes about...

COALESCENT

First of a new three-book series, Destiny's Children, imagining the future course of human evolution.

Upon the death of his father, middle-aged computer programmer George Poole returns to Manchester, where he meets old friend and neighbor Peter McLachlan, now a member of a weird group called the Slan(t)ers. Pondering his family—his maternal grandfather was an Italian-American GI; his sister Gina now lives in Florida—George discovers an old photograph showing him with a twin sister! Equally strange, his father made substantial monthly payments to a secretive Catholic organization in Rome. But what happened to George's twin? When questioned, Gina proves curiously hostile and professes to know nothing; but she gives George the names of other American relatives who might know more. Meanwhile, alternating chapters relate the story of Regina, a noblewoman born during the last days of Roman Britain. Early in the fifth century, the legions leave, commerce collapses and brigandry increases; Regina's father commits suicide, and her mother flees to Rome. Eventually, Regina, via King Arthur's camp, makes her way to Rome to found a mysterious organization—the same organization that, shaped by Regina's distinctive social engineering, has survived and prospered for 1600 years. But what did it want with George's twin sister, and how is George himself involved? Among the complications: a huge, tetrahedral object discovered orbiting in the Kuiper Belt, and Slan(t)er paranoia about an invisible war between all-but-imperceptible dark-matter aliens.

Baxter (Evolution, Feb. 2003, etc.) will never win prizes for style, but he's much more convincing when he writes about physical science and engineering (the Manifold series) than biology: Tepid.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-345-45785-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2003

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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