Gripping and bloody as a beating heart but with a strong need for follow up.

FAR FROM THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN

A seemingly routine interstellar mission goes terribly wrong—of course.

Michelle “Shell” Campion, first mate on the ship Ragtime, expects to take a fairly nominal role in the journey to the planetary colony of Bloodroot; after all, the ship’s AI will handle everything. But she wakes from 10 years of cold sleep at the end of her journey to discover the AI stripped of its higher functions and 31 of the slumbering passengers murdered and dismembered by the service bots. Her mayday call is answered by Rasheed Fin, a disgraced investigator from Bloodroot, and his Artificial partner, Salvo, who wonder if Shell herself might be the guilty party. Certainly, the killer still appears to be onboard and is continuing to sabotage the ship’s systems. Aided by the investigative team and a more recently arrived duo—Lawrence Biz, a retired astronaut, old friend of Shell's family, and governor of neighboring space station Lagos, and his half-human daughter, Joké—they must somehow find the murderous saboteur, secure the ship, and ensure the safe arrival of the surviving colonists. Although the story bears some elements of a locked-room mystery, Agatha Christie fans will be disappointed: The author doesn’t provide readers with sufficient clues to solve the crime, instead preferring to provide the majority of the revelations midway through the book. As such, the novel is less of a puzzle and more of a genuinely exciting race against time with some mystery elements, a thriller/horror-aboard-a-spaceship in the vein of Greg Bear’s Hull Zero Three, Sean Danker’s Admiral, and, of course, the classic film Alien. Thompson also has some sharp and relevant things to say about technocrats with less than savory sources for their wealth who engage in messy personal relationships, enjoy showy toys, and try to buy themselves out of trouble. Considerably less drenched in the hallucinatory than Thompson's Wormwood trilogy, the story does veer unexpectedly toward the supernatural at the end, giving it an open-ended feel. Other aspects of the plot could use more fleshing out. Given Thompson’s penchant for series, might subsequent books be expected?

Gripping and bloody as a beating heart but with a strong need for follow up.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-759-55791-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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IMAX-scale bleeding-edge techno-horror from a writer with a freshly sharpened scalpel and time on his hands.

WAYWARD

The world as we know it ended in Wanderers, Wendig’s 2019 bestseller. Now what?

A sequel to a pandemic novel written during an actual pandemic sounds pretty intense, and this one doesn’t disappoint, heightened by its author’s deft narrative skills, killer cliffhangers, and a not inconsiderable amount of bloodletting. To recap: A plague called White Mask decimated humanity, with a relative handful saved by a powerful AI called Black Swan that herded this hypnotized flock to Ouray, Colorado. Among the survivors are Benji Ray, a scientist formerly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Shana Stewart, who is pregnant and the reluctant custodian of the evolving AI (via nanobots, natch); Sheriff Marcy Reyes; and pastor Matthew Bird. In Middle America, President Ed Creel, a murdering, bigoted, bullying Trump clone, raises his own army of scumbags to fight what remains of the culture wars. When Black Swan kidnaps Shana’s child, she and Benji set off on another cross-country quest to find a way to save him. On their way to CDC headquarters, they pick up hilariously foulmouthed rock god Pete Corley, back from delivering Willie Nelson’s guitar to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This novel is an overflowing font of treasures peppered with more than a few pointed barbs for any Christofacists or Nazis who might have wandered in by accident. Where Wanderers was about flight in the face of menace, this is an old-fashioned quest with a small band of noble heroes trying to save the world while a would-be tyrant gathers his forces. All those big beats, not least a cataclysmic showdown in Atlanta, are tempered by the book’s more intimate struggles, from Shana’s primal instinct to recover her boy to the grief Pete buries beneath levity to Matthew Bird’s near-constant grapple with guilt. It’s a lot to take in, but Pete’s ribald, bombastic humor as well as funny interstitials and epigraphs temper the horror within.

IMAX-scale bleeding-edge techno-horror from a writer with a freshly sharpened scalpel and time on his hands.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-15877-7

Page Count: 816

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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