An inventive, entertaining sci-fi tale involving valuable alien secrets.

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Rosetta

In this debut novel, humanity colonizes space with the aid of an alien StarDrive found on Mars, left there millennia ago by an extinct race known as the Galactics.

In the distant future, earthlings have established themselves on many worlds, but always with a sharp and often dangerous divide between the superwealthy haves and the very poor have-nots. Humans could take even greater strides, but they cannot translate the lost language of the Galactics and learn their ancient secrets. Into this world is born the tough and clever Tony Palermo, who had risen from a sad and difficult youth to a career as an agent in the colonies on the moon and then fallen through a dismal job on a trading ship down into a lethal dilemma. Tony is caught stealing from the rich and powerful Illyan Espinosa, who offers him just one chance to save himself from certain death: steal the secret of translating the Galactic language from the scientist who may have cracked it with a file called Rosetta. Tony naturally agrees, and so begins a desperate adventure in which he struggles against the many forces that also want the key to Galactic. Along the way, he opts to rescue a secretly brilliant slave, Aja, who is forced to dig for alien artifacts and owns a “pet” angel, a mathematical genius. Things really heat up as Tony learns that the artificial intelligence duplicate of a metahuman revolutionary he once killed has reactivated, with all the human worlds ripe for chaos. Patterson’s characters are strong and well-delineated. The book’s pacing is fast despite dense worldbuilding that requires the reader to pay careful attention to many details (“With space travel, you needed an immensely powerful Gravitic Torus and a multi gigawatt nuclear reactor just to get started. You also needed a way of shedding all the waste heat the nuclear reactor created. So you also needed a huge radiator—bigger than a football field”). Dialogue is engaging and colorful, while action is frequent and well-described. The text is clean and clear despite the occasional minor typo (for example, “angle” instead of angel). Although most genre tales are now left open to sequels as a matter of course, in this case, it is a welcome choice.

An inventive, entertaining sci-fi tale involving valuable alien secrets.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Literology Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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