Scientist Baxter’s naturally rather pedantic and dispassionate tone needed more of the warmth and wit of the late fantasist...

THE LONG COSMOS

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

ISBN: 978-0-06-229737-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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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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Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

GIDEON THE NINTH

From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 1

This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery.

Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition...and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences.

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31319-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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