Digital (in)activity slows down an already ponderous suspense yarn.

THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS

The often reworked World War I–era espionage classic re-emerges on a new, interactive media platform that somewhat dilutes its inherent drama and suspense. 

Richard Hannay’s desperate flight from both the long arm of the law and a murderous cabal of World War I conspirators has been entertaining audiences in one form or another for the last century. It’s not particularly surprising that the well-worn tale has now turned up as an ambitious, visually stylish app that seeks to bridge the gap between gaming and literature. All the classic elements of the intrepid Mr. Hannay’s adventure—from the grisly murder of the secret agent he harbors to his subsequent escape into the Scottish Highlands—are retained in the digital version. Split into 19 chapters that must be completed individually in order to progress through the story, the app also consists of several marginally interactive components that will be very familiar to role-playing gamers everywhere. Ghostly bits of clickable text, for instance, fade in and out over mostly static interiors and exteriors while two-dimensional characters appear on screen. Seemingly unimportant items like maps, newspapers and letters must be collected in order to fully understand unfolding events. Collectible Profile cards help keep track of the increasing cast of characters and their back stories, while chapters can be revisited in order to pick up missed items. Players/readers can also check out their progress at any time during the digital experience. Overall, however, the story plays like an old CD-ROM game from the mid-1990s, with only token stabs at utilizing the iPad’s next-generation capabilities. One feature that attempts to capitalize on the device’s “drawable” screen merely mimics mundane actions like opening a door or a window and feels particularly pointless. The pacing throughout—from glacial camera pans and push-ins to evaporating dissolves—is also problematic and painfully slow. Superior voice acting, however, is consistently good, from the main character down to each member of the supporting cast. 

Digital (in)activity slows down an already ponderous suspense yarn.

Pub Date: April 13, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: The Story Mechanics

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2013

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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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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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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