A delightfully whimsical but somewhat convoluted tale that features otherworldly beings.

THE RISE OF THE ANGELITI

BOOK ONE OF THE OXBRIDGE TRILOGY

A sci-fi novel explores one oddly missed connection.

The Angeli called Nigel is attempting to help a man named Tom Nichols when he abruptly takes Tom out of existence. Before this cataclysmic event, Tom was having lunch with his girlfriend, Jane, and was about to reveal how much he cared for her. Tom was waiting for a sign from the universe to tell Jane his feelings when Nigel, who had been sent to monitor the two, made their lunch table jump and inadvertently caused Tom to vanish. After that incident, Jane fails to remember poor Tom at all. The mishap has the effect of complicating the space-time continuum or, as it is referred to in the story, “All That Is.” As the narrative explains, “Tom and Jane must unite for the sake of All That Is.” Further muddling the situation is the fact that Jane—who is soon taken out of existence as well—and Tom find themselves in a bizarre world populated by Imps, Angeliti (Nigel’s cohorts), Etheriati, and similar creatures, who are essentially humanlike though they are clearly nonhuman. The Cherubithim, for instance, appear as babies the size of men, have tongue-in-cheek names like Dyper Ash, and live for thousands of years. But will the efforts of such figures ever be enough to get Tom and Jane back together again? This strange question is answered through a bizarre romp in a world where it seems just about anything can happen. From flaming food to a talking walking stick, Langdell’s (Virtual Reality Beyond Imagination, 1995, etc.) series opener incorporates a great deal of dreamlike qualities spiked with Douglas Adams–esque humor. There is a book called Cosmic Law that states, among other things, that “the phrase ‘won’t regret it’ actually means ‘will regret it’ 87.36 % of the time.” While it’s not The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Langdell’s novel delivers a playful and unpredictable ride. Take, for instance, the addition of a man named Bill, who had “somehow got across the Veil on his own.” Though readers may feel lost at times among all the eerie and complex episodes, how the story will conclude is very much up in the air until the end.

A delightfully whimsical but somewhat convoluted tale that features otherworldly beings.

Pub Date: July 21, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Oxbridge Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2018

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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