Great potential for a comic-book rendering but still commendable in its novel form and certain to appease superhero buffs.

READ REVIEW

BREAK

A young man uses his newfound ability to readily access his adrenaline to stop injustice and protect the innocent in Jersey City, in this first of a proposed series.

Nick Spears saves his mother from a speeding car and injures himself in the process. But he shows no signs of damage and quickly realizes that he can boost his strength—he calls it going “diesel”—at will. He dubs himself Spear, wears a costume, crafts weapons and runs across rooftops searching for lawbreakers. But there are others with abilities; the government calls them Breakers. Most are either misguided or looking to end Spear’s crime-fighting ways. Debut novelist Grant churns out a rock-solid superhero story, and fans of the genre will get what they came for: baddies with stellar powers, a rich power-hungry main villain and an Achilles’ heel for the hero (Spear’s adrenaline rush lasts only 15 minutes, followed by a three-minute recharge). What sets the novel apart is the shrewd incorporation of the everyday into Nick’s superhero life: He doesn’t stop bank robbers since they rob during the day when he’s at work; he has to ride the bus since his car keeps breaking down; and he calls about Internet problems during his rounds as Spear, at one point having criminals wait while he talks to an operator. There are also humorous moments—Spear mocks a villain’s name so often he decides to change it. The author does seem unsure of the book’s structure; Chapter 1 is Nick’s first-person perspective, while the rest of the novel is third-person. The author also includes his own sketches of characters, fine illustrations that are nearly suitable for a comic-book series themselves.

Great potential for a comic-book rendering but still commendable in its novel form and certain to appease superhero buffs.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456855758

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2012

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

A DEADLY EDUCATION

From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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