Scientist Baxter’s naturally rather pedantic and dispassionate tone needed more of the warmth and wit of the late fantasist...
Final installment of the series (The Long Utopia, 2015, etc.) wherein Earth is one of an indefinite sequence of worlds occupying the same space but separated by some higher dimension (one can almost hear Pratchett murmur, “Nobody knew for certain, but it was probably quantum”).
This Long Earth, discovered by people with a natural ability to step between worlds, was opened to everybody by means of a simple device. The only constraints are that most people suffer debilitating nausea with repeated steps and that it’s impossible to carry iron from world to world. Also, there are no other humans anywhere, though there are sapient beings—singing, gorillalike trolls, belligerent, doglike beagles, and so forth. By the year 2070, airships equipped with rapid-step devices ply the trade and passenger routes between worlds. Far from the original, or Datum, Earth (devastated by a vast volcanic explosion and partially abandoned), the post-human Next, who generally hold ordinary humanity in contempt, pick up a radio signal from the center of the galaxy—a signal that somehow resonates with the trolls and other nonhumans and whose message is simple yet devastating: “Join us.” Embedded in the message are instructions for constructing a huge artificial intelligence, but to build it the Next will need the cooperation and active assistance of all the industrialized worlds. Elsewhere, readers will be reacquainted with familiar parties such as Joshua Valienté, one of the original natural steppers, Lobsang, the ubiquitous AI who invisibly runs things, and retired churchman Nelson Azikiwe. Once again, the purpose is less to tell a story than to discover and explore, in both physical and philosophical senses, an infinite landscape of infinite possibilities. And series fans seem OK with the less-than-compelling narrative and not-especially-engaging characters.Scientist Baxter’s naturally rather pedantic and dispassionate tone needed more of the warmth and wit of the late fantasist Pratchett (who died in 2015).
Pub Date: June 14, 2016
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: April 12, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Blake Crouch ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2016
Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.
A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.
Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.
Pub Date: July 26, 2016
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016
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