by Thomas J J Starr ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 2, 2014
A solid, enjoyable first novel, despite its tendency to veer into wordy technological discussions.
In Starr’s debut cyber-thriller, the future is here—and it wants to sell you things.
Professor Yuri Petrov, who teaches graduate-level computer science at the University of Illinois, is a throwback to the days of human teaching. The Russian native was himself taught by people, not by the teaching machines that are now ubiquitous throughout the United States. Teaching isn’t the only thing that’s computerized; indeed, most people’s lives are ruled by automation—and the advertising that goes along with it. Corporations now use nearly everything to advertise their products, including elevator music, toilet paper, food, and as it turns out, even the teaching programs themselves. Yuri accidentally discovers that an ad agency called Sellco has been placing subliminal messages inside every teaching machine in the country, and they’re not just advertising Pepsi and weight-loss drugs. They’re feeding something far more sinister to the American people, and the people don’t even know it. Yuri must get off the grid and hide in order to expose Sellco while protecting his own life. However, even the best-laid plans go awry, and he soon finds himself in an altered state of consciousness no one had ever dreamed possible—until now. Starr weaves a thought-provoking tapestry of future tech and hypothetical concepts, although it sometimes requires his characters to be unnecessarily verbose and explanatory. The plot covers the standard bases regarding government conspiracies and evil corporations, but Starr manages to make it feel fresh by highlighting the professor’s old-fashioned yet sprightly personality. A thoroughly enjoyable protagonist, Yuri never quite falls into the category of curmudgeon, but instead balances his enthusiasm for technology with his love of doing things in traditional ways. Starr keeps his focus on the human element, and as such, the novel never devolves into horror; rather, it gently prods at questions of what it means to be human, and how people can retain their humanity in a world of rigid control and materialism.A solid, enjoyable first novel, despite its tendency to veer into wordy technological discussions.
Pub Date: March 2, 2014
Page Count: 314
Review Posted Online: May 15, 2014
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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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 Travis Baldree ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 7, 2023
Warm and wonderful.
A prequel to the popular cozy fantasy Legends & Lattes (2022).
Viv is a fighter. It’s not just what she does, it’s who she is. So when she gets wounded during a battle with a necromancer’s skeletal wights, and her crew dumps her in a small seaside town to recover while they continue on after the necromancer, she is not happy about it. But soon enough, against her will, she’s drawn into the life of the town. There’s Fern, the unsuccessful bookseller, who has a knack for recommending exactly the right book. And there’s Maylee, the baker, who not only makes the world’s best baked goods, she actually winks at Viv. Before Viv knows what’s happening, she’s helping Fern out here and there, she’s reading—she’s involved. Meanwhile, there’s a pesky young gnome asking for an introduction to her mercenary crew, and a mysterious man in gray who looks like trouble. But Viv is leaving when her crew comes back through town. No matter what. This prequel gives readers a glimpse of Viv as a young orc, still committed to the fighter’s life, just taking an enforced break in a charming town populated by compelling, richly drawn characters, and the slightest hint of danger in the wind. Despite the lurking necromancer, the vibes are decidedly warm and cozy, and the plot is just as much about saving the bookstore and building relationships as it is about protecting the town from the man in gray. As a prequel, it can stand alone, but will certainly satisfy fans as well.Warm and wonderful.
Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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