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THE WARRIOR WORLDS

From the Mapped Space series , Vol. 5

Vast-scale space-opera/combat adventure ably handled by a genre master and commander.

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In this fifth installment of a far-future SF series, a well-connected Earth Intelligence Service agent gets tested to the limits of his resources when a vicious alien empire launches an invasion of Earth.

The setting is the year 4608. Sirius Kade, Renneberg’s recurring hero and first-person narrator, is a top Earth Intelligence agent, once masquerading as a humble merchant. Now, he’s no longer an undercover operative because of his Forrest Gump–like tendency to be at the center of all the action in intergalactic intrigue and warfare between numerous, highly advanced alien cultures and races. (Sirius also happens to be the brother of a prominent space pirate.) After having finally revealed his hidden life to his true love, Marie, Sirius is enjoying a vacation idyll in the French Alps, where he plans to propose. Then, a long-awaited catastrophe erupts. Earth is invaded in a blitzkrieg action by the series’ primary menace, the Spawn, a pitiless, amphibian-style race whose robotic soldiers and invulnerable, armored ships are paving their way to conquering the cosmos. Earth is the latest Spawn beachhead to be easily defeated, and Sirius, one of the alien empire’s most wanted enemies, sacrifices his freedom to keep Marie safe. How can he (and the planet) get out of this jam? These momentous events occur in the opening chapters. Renneberg’s skillful prose then sends readers on fairly breathless leaps from one prison planet hell world or hopelessly outmatched/outgunned combat scenario to another. This rousing tale is for readers who may have complained that Star Wars did not have enough star wars. But there is actually intriguing intellectual content (and breathing space) in these pages, as some beings in the supporting cast argue for a more enlightened path and claim that even the ravenous Spawn are not beyond redemption. The characters hit proper larger-than-life notes (though Sirius is a bit of a standard smart/tough guy). A relatively minor complaint is that the author’s deliriously variegated ensemble of outer-space creatures and civilizations often boil down to anthropomorphized versions of recognizable Earth fauna (snakes, pongids, beetles), bringing along their associated personalities and characteristics. But none of that should stop fans turning the pages at rates approaching luminal speed.

Vast-scale space-opera/combat adventure ably handled by a genre master and commander.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9941840-8-5

Page Count: 467

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2022

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE DARK FOREST

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 2

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Second part of an alien-contact trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, 2014) from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In the previous book, the inhabitants of Trisolaris, a planet with three suns, discovered that their planet was doomed and that Earth offered a suitable refuge. So, determined to capture Earth and exterminate humanity, the Trisolarans embarked on a 400-year-long interstellar voyage and also sent sophons (enormously sophisticated computers constructed inside the curled-up dimensions of fundamental particles) to spy on humanity and impose an unbreakable block on scientific advance. On Earth, the Earth-Trisolaris Organization formed to help the invaders, despite knowing the inevitable outcome. Humanity’s lone advantage is that Trisolarans are incapable of lying or dissimulation and so cannot understand deceit or subterfuge. This time, with the Trisolarans a few years into their voyage, physicist Ye Wenjie (whose reminiscences drove much of the action in the last book) visits astronomer-turned-sociologist Luo Ji, urging him to develop her ideas on cosmic sociology. The Planetary Defense Council, meanwhile, in order to combat the powerful escapist movement (they want to build starships and flee so that at least some humans will survive), announces the Wallfacer Project. Four selected individuals will be accorded the power to command any resource in order to develop plans to defend Earth, while the details will remain hidden in the thoughts of each Wallfacer, where even the sophons can't reach. To combat this, the ETO creates Wallbreakers, dedicated to deducing and thwarting the plans of the Wallfacers. The chosen Wallfacers are soldier Frederick Tyler, diplomat Manuel Rey Diaz, neuroscientist Bill Hines, and—Luo Ji. Luo has no idea why he was chosen, but, nonetheless, the Trisolarans seem determined to kill him. The plot’s development centers on Liu’s dark and rather gloomy but highly persuasive philosophy, with dazzling ideas and an unsettling, nonlinear, almost nonnarrative structure that demands patience but offers huge rewards.

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7708-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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