An exciting, thought-provoking, futuristic narrative that transcends its Dickensian-mashup origins.

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Return of the Convict

In Thomas’ sci-fi novel, a dying renegade returns to Earth from a Mars penal colony to connect with his secret ward—a young man undergoing cyberenhancements to take his place in tomorrow’s elite.

In 2143, after the convulsive wars and climate-change disasters of the Sixth Great Extinction, Earth has largely been taken over by a one-world government spearheaded by the Indian people, who have also developed a breakthrough quantum computer, the Raina, which they’ve begun to worship as a goddess. Lucas Rivera ran afoul of government oppression by acting as a “ferryman,” getting thousands of refugees to safety during the worst years. Sentenced to a Mars penal colony, where he acquired terminal cancer from radiation, the resourceful Lucas later returns to Earth to ruthlessly eliminate some old cronies and to find Dom Tessier, a state-raised youth in the process of becoming a “T-Man” (or “transformed man”), part of a social elite being wired to telepathically interface with other T-Men and the Raina. Lucas has long been Dom’s secret benefactor, using his riches from his rescues to boost the boy’s status in the ominously changing new world—but the convict’s motivations aren’t altruistic. In this era of genetic wonders, elders like Lucas can effectively data-dump their consciousness into carefully prepped human hosts like Dom, effectively rejuvenating themselves. But what if Dom (who narrates in alternating chapters), for all his conditioning, doesn’t want to be Lucas’ new body? In his introduction, the author says that he used Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations as a template for this first novel in a planned series. However, readers who expend too much mental energy looking for science-fictional clones of Miss Havisham or Joe Gargery will miss out on a crackling, well-told story that also has faint aspects of Lois Lowery’s The Giver. Thomas’ prose is reminiscent of that used by Philip K. Dick in his Cold War–influenced tales of apocalyptic intrigue and features spare yet compelling descriptions of fearsome weapons, robots, seductions, abrupt violence, deaths, and betrayals. There’s also a complex moral argument, a courtroom drama, and ethical conundrums that will likely haunt readers well after they finish the closing chapter.

An exciting, thought-provoking, futuristic narrative that transcends its Dickensian-mashup origins.  

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5192-5508-2

Page Count: 308

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some White people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only White avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, White people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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