Finishes with enough loose ends to allow for sequels, but that shouldn’t be encouraged.

JUDGMENT AT PROTEUS

The fifth installment of Zahn’s science fiction thriller series concerning the Quadrail, an interstellar train system, brings the series to a close.

Quadrail investigator Frank Compton has discovered (The Domino Pattern, 2010) that the Shonkla-raa, the conquering aliens defeated into extinction more than 1,000 years ago, were actually a genetic variant of a living species, the Filiaelians—and that variant has now been revived. Frank and his partner/love interest, Bayta, have traced the new Shonkla-raa to Proteus Station, a medical and diplomatic center. Once there, Frank is accused of murder (which happens at least once every book), forcing him to combat the legal system in addition to spearheading the secret war against the Shonkla-raa and protecting a sullen, pregnant human girl of especial interest to their foes. It’s been fascinating to observe the evolution of the Modhri, the sentient, body-snatching coral who was Frank’s chief antagonist but becomes one of his most valuable allies after experiencing slavery from the other side for a change. However, the conceit of a train thriller wears a bit thin when stretched across five volumes, particularly when so many plot elements repeat. Zahn’s constant references to Casablanca and Hitchcock films suggest we should draw appropriate comparisons to his own work, but, alas, convoluted storylines, tense, cocky dialogue with the bad guys (who seem to work far too hard to avoid killing Frank while piling up the body count everywhere else), and quests for MacGuffins do not necessarily a classic thriller series make. Don’t put away the popcorn, though: There are still some enjoyable twists and turns and a reasonably satisfying ending.

Finishes with enough loose ends to allow for sequels, but that shouldn’t be encouraged.

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2213-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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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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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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