A solidly entertaining and sometimes enthralling interplanetary yarn.

IN THE ORBIT OF SIRENS

In Bruno’s debut SF series starter, refugees of a cyborg invasion colonize a distant, exotic world only to find bizarre and terrifying new threats.

In the future, humans on Earth have had to contend with an uprising of cyborgs called the Undriel, who are reminiscent of the Borg of the Star Trek universe. Human survivors in a war spanning the solar system wind up making a final stand on Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. The Undriel overwhelm them, but young mechanic Denton Castus and his family manage to flee just in time by joining tens of thousands of humans in stasis as part of a desperate plan called the Telemachus Project. They take a 300-year flight to a habitable planet called Kamaria, which is “Earth-like, but different from Earth in a lot of ways.” For example, the exotic and potentially dangerous life-forms, from airborne bacteria to a race of technologically advanced, psychic flying humanoids called the Auk’nai, are very different, indeed. In a flashback, a previous Telemachus Project ship lands on Kamaria and its passengers make a tentative accord with the Auk’nai and explore the immediate vicinity, which includes a forbidding, abandoned city. There, a malevolent influence possesses war hero Roelin Raike. The two story threads come together when Denton awakens on Kamaria and integrates into the colonists’ society, where a long-ago incomprehensible crime is a lingering trauma. Before long, Denton also begins to feel the same psychic presence that afflicted Raike. Bruno is a highly imaginative and natural storyteller, conjuring numerous technologies, cultures, and creatures and providing a particularly spectacular ending. SF fans may detect echoes of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, TV’s Babylon Five, the blockbuster film Avatar, and other works; the smoothly polished prose and snappy pace are reminiscent of a no-nonsense master thriller author such as Alistair Maclean. The technology and biology descriptions don’t get in the way of the suspense, and the references to ancient Greek legend sharpen the backstory of Kamaria’s godlike aliens, who do indeed seem mythic. Hall’s illustrations feel like a tribute to the material’s stated origin—a comic book that Bruno created in elementary school.

A solidly entertaining and sometimes enthralling interplanetary yarn.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73464-701-3

Page Count: 514

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.

TO SLEEP IN A SEA OF STARS

A curious scientist stumbles on mysterious ruins in the opening chapters of this science fiction epic.

Things are really turning around for Kira Navárez. A xenobiologist, she’s finishing up a stint doing research on the large moon Adrasteia with a small team of other scientists, and her boyfriend, Alan, has just proposed to her. Instead of continuing to spend months apart, working on different planets and waiting until they can be together, they'll be able to ask their employers to make them part of a colony as a couple. As Kira performs a few routine last-minute checks before their team leaves the system, something strange catches her eye. She decides to check it out, just to be thorough, and finds herself in the middle of an ancient structure. When her curiosity gets the better of her and she touches a pedestal covered in dust, a bizarre black material flows out and covers her entire body. She passes out as she's being rescued by her team, and when she comes to, she seems to be fine, and the team reports her findings to the government. But soon a kind of strange, alien suit takes over her body, covering her with black material that lashes out violently against Alan and the other scientists, forming spikes that jump out from her skin. A military ship comes to collect what's left of the team and investigate the reports of an alien discovery. When an alien species attacks the ship, presumably because of Kira’s discovery, Kira will have to learn to harness the suit’s strange powers to defend herself and the rest of the human race. Paolini, best known for the YA epic fantasy series The Inheritance Cycle, makes his adult debut in another genre that welcomes long page counts. This one clocks in at close to 900 pages, but the rollicking pace, rapidly developing stakes, and Paolini’s confident worldbuilding make them fly by. Perhaps not the most impressive prose, but a worthwhile adventure story.

A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-76284-9

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A huge, churning, relentlessly entertaining melodrama buoyed by confidence that human values will prevail.

LEVIATHAN WAKES

A rare, rattling space opera—first of a trilogy, or series, from Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).  

Humanity colonized the solar system out as far as Neptune but then exploration stagnated. Straight-arrow Jim Holden is XO of an ice-hauler swinging between the rings of Saturn and the mining stations of the Belt, the scattered ring of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. His ship's captain, responding to a distress beacon, orders Holden and a shuttle crew to investigate what proves to be a derelict. Holden realizes it's some sort of trap, but an immensely powerful, stealthed warship destroys the ice-hauler, leaving Holden and the shuttle crew the sole survivors. This unthinkable act swiftly brings Earth, with its huge swarms of ships, Mars with its less numerous but modern and powerful navy, and the essentially defenseless Belt to the brink of war. Meanwhile, on the asteroid Ceres, cynical, hard-drinking detective Miller—we don't find out he has other names until the last few pages—receives orders to track down and "rescue"—i.e. kidnap—a girl, Julie Mao, who rebelled against her rich Earth family and built an independent life for herself in the Belt. Julie is nowhere to be found but, as the fighting escalates, Miller discovers that Julie's father knew beforehand that hostilities would occur. Now obsessed, Miller continues to investigate even when he loses his job—and the trail leads towards Holden, the derelict, and what might prove to be a horrifying biological experiment. No great depth of character here, but the adherence to known physical laws—no spaceships zooming around like airplanes—makes the action all the more visceral. And where Corey really excels is in conveying the horror and stupidity of interplanetary war, the sheer vast emptiness of space and the amorality of huge corporations.

A huge, churning, relentlessly entertaining melodrama buoyed by confidence that human values will prevail.

Pub Date: June 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-12908-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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