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


From the Mapped Space series , Vol. 5

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 Warsdid 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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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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Combine Straub's usual warmth and insight with the fun of time travel and you have a winner.


A woman who's been drifting through life wakes up the morning after her 40th birthday to discover that she's just turned 16 again.

Alice Stern wouldn't say she's unhappy. She lives in a studio apartment in Brooklyn; has a job in the admissions office of the Upper West Side private school she attended as a kid; still hangs out with Sam, her childhood best friend; and has a great relationship with her father, Leonard, the famous author of a time-travel novel, Time Brothers. Alice's mother left her and Leonard when Alice was a kid, and father and daughter formed a tight, loving unit along with their freakishly long-lived cat, Ursula. But now Leonard is in a coma, and as she visits him in the hospital every day, Alice is forced to reckon with her life. After a drunken birthday evening with Sam, Alice returns to her childhood house on Pomander Walk, a one-block-long gated street running between two avenues on the UWS—but when she wakes up the next morning, she hears Leonard in the kitchen and finds herself heading off to SAT tutoring and preparing for her 16th birthday party that night. Straub's novel has echoes of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town: Every prosaic detail of her earlier life is almost unbearably poignant to Alice, and the chance to spend time with her father is priceless. As she moves through her day, she tries to figure out how to get back to her life as a 40-year-old and whether there's anything she can do in the past to improve her future—and save her father's life. As always, Straub creates characters who feel fully alive, exploring the subtleties of their thoughts, feelings, and relationships. It's hard to say more without giving away the delightful surprises of the book's second half, but be assured that Straub's time-travel shenanigans are up there with Kate Atkinson's Life After Life and the TV show Russian Doll.

Combine Straub's usual warmth and insight with the fun of time travel and you have a winner.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-525-53900-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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