VOYAGE

Tom Clancy meets Tom Wolfe as newcomer Baxter crams a shifting cast of dozens into this obsessively researched revision of the American space program, the payoff for which is a manned landing on Mars. Back in the late '60s, with Kennedy dead and Nixon in the White House, the country's appetite for interplanetary exploration waned. The next step after the Apollo missions was a voyage to Mars, but NASA was pulled back. Baxter imagines what might have happened if Kennedy had lived and cajoled the nation into visiting the Red Planet. He anchors his relentlessly propulsive narrative on three characters: Gregory Dana, a scientist and concentration camp survivor who detests the German rocket scientists' affection for Big Science, preferring a more elegant (and less costly) route to Mars; Ralph Gershon, an African-American astronaut on the Mars missions; and Natalie York, a geologist who escapes two importunate lovers—one a nuclear rocket scientist, the other an astronaut—to make her awkward way Marsward. The story deftly incorporates the history of the actual Apollo missions, making the mission to Mars seem a natural outgrowth of the moon landings. Indeed, the mission ultimately ends up looking a lot like the Moon program: York, Gershon, and the third astronaut, mission commander Phil Stone, are stuffed into a rickety can for the long journey, then blasted into space. The author does a nice job of focusing on his three astronauts' individual experiences of the trip. Perhaps more dazzling than the voyage, though, is the imagined high tech that gets Americans to Mars. Baxter adroitly passes off science fiction as (detailed) science fact. Technophiles will find this endlessly appealing; sci-fi devotees will appreciate the sly Star Trek and 2001 references. For a little tragic juice, there's even a fair emulation of the Apollo 13 accident, though with decidedly different results. A wonderful, patriotic tale of lost possibility. Calling Ron Howard. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-105258-2

Page Count: 528

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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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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