A wild ride bogged down in the beginning but mind-boggling at the end.

THE DARKEST SIDE OF SATURN

An engineer and his co-worker discover an asteroid in Taylor’s (Counters, 2008)second novel.

Harris Mitchel is employed by Advanced Technology Laboratory along with French-Asian Diana Muse-Jones. Each is married, perhaps unfortunately, to someone else—Harris to Jennifer, Diana to Stewart. For now, though, they deny their mutual attraction. One night at the lab, Harris and Diana detect an asteroid, which they name “Baby,” but in a rush to report it, they’re jailed for breaking and entering into a lodge. Initially, it seems that Baby isn’t a threat to Earth, but calculations were skewed by a system error. Since Baby may indeed hit the planet, Harris feels he must get the word out. Doing so, he crosses paths with the Rev. Dr. Ernest Farnsworth of the Church of the Righteous Path, who views Harris’ pursuits as anti-God; radio personality and talkshow host James Conland, who orchestrates an on-air debate between Harris and Ernest; and a commune of eclectic individuals enthralled by Harris’ findings. Jennifer’s wealthy father, Ronald Stevens, attempts to make a buck by investing in technology to alter Baby’s path, and volatile Dick Fowler, Ernest’s devotee, plots to silence Harris. This novel is many things: a satire; a romance; a disaster epic; a treatise on science, religion, bureaucracy and hysteria; a coming-of-age tale; a meditation on messianic savior versus unbalanced fanatic; and the story of man’s obsession with space, alternate realities and doomsday prophecies. Characters are sometimes taken to the limits of absurdity, but they’re not caricatures. However, since the setting and plot direction aren’t exactly clear at the outset, the narrative is impededby the very question that intrigues Harris: “Where are we?” or, perhaps more pointedly, where are we going? Some passages, though clever (e.g., verbatim radio commercials), add unnecessary payload to an already weighty rocket. Throughout, there are synchronicities and deeply engaging scenes, including, in a flashback, Harris’ epiphany in youthas he ponders humanity’s place in the universe. Around the time of an intense coupling (à la Moonlighting’s David and Maddie), there’s liftoff, and from that vaulted perspective comes a glimpse at last of the expansive brilliance of it all.

A wild ride bogged down in the beginning but mind-boggling at the end.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

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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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