An intriguing novel that doubles as a love song to capitalism.

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EARTH 2.0: PRISON PLANET

A former soldier exiled to a prison planet takes on a corrupt planetary government in Johnson’s debut novel.

In the year 2442, the ECG—which plans to create a socialist utopia before allowing colonization of other planets—governs Earth. The ECG has, for 300 years, banished to a distant planet criminals and progressives who spoke against the government. Alex Khan, who worked for the ECG and destroyed illegal interplanetary colonies to insure the survival of his technologically progressive family, is exiled to the prison planet after killing the man who murdered his father. Knowing that survival must come before revenge, Khan uses his wits to withstand the primitive conditions he encounters, until he makes contact with the other residents of the planet, which some call Earth 2.0. Though the novel begins like a Jack London tale of man battling nature, it quickly travels into social commentary, emphasizing the inherent benefits of capitalism through Khan’s encounters with feudal lords, a democratic socialist town with stagnating technological development and ultimately Earth’s oppressive socialist regime. Johnson successfully creates a complex secondary world peopled with interesting characters. Johnson is less successful with some of his cultural creations. His “Maneaters”—a group of hunter-gatherers who eat their enemies to gain strength and who live in teepees—sometimes come across as Native American stereotypes; Muslim stereotypes also occur. Still, the plot holds together, and Earth 2.0 intrigues enough that readers may forgive awkward moments in order to go on Khan’s adventures. Since those exploits run the technological gamut—fighting a lionlike creature bare-handed, exploring a new world with dirigibles, stealing a space ship to liberate Earth—sci-fi fans will likely find something that pleases.

An intriguing novel that doubles as a love song to capitalism.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475940190

Page Count: 342

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 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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Like a weary yet exultant marathon runner: wraps itself in a flag, totters across the finish line, and crumples in a heap.

THE LAST DRUID

The chronological conclusion to both the four-book Fall of Shannara miniseries and the entire Shannara oeuvre established in 1977.

What began as a standard sword-and-sorcery universe has morphed into one where magic and technology coexist, where heroes zoom around in airships powered by something akin to dilithium crystals yet still fight with swords and blast each other with magic. Here, the Four Lands face destruction by the warlike Skaar, invaders driven from their home by climate change. Four groups with dominant female leads operate largely independently and often without reference to the plot's main thrust. Tarsha Kaynin, schooled in wishsong magic by the druid Drisker Arc, faces a showdown battle with the evil witch Clizia Porse. The witch has hurled Drisker into a demon-infested realm from which there's no escape, where he discovers Grianne Ohmsford, an old acquaintance, a long-term prisoner. Young Belladrin Rish, a clandestine Skaar agent working to subvert the Four Lands’ defenses, begins to doubt her mission. And Skaar princess Ajin D'Amphere, now collaborating with warrior Dar Leah and friends, heads toward Skaarland with, just possibly, a technological solution to the climate problem. Familiar Brooks strengths—courage, perseverance, loyalty, and so forth—are prominent, yet it's hard to ignore the underlying exhaustion. Things happen randomly, so the narrative strands never quite cohere into a single satisfying package; events readers might have anticipated from the previous volumes fail to materialize. Brooks' style is easy and undemanding. His characters often resemble fantasy archetypes yet possess just enough individuality to avoid skepticism; plots seldom stray far from boilerplate. His greatest appeal has been to youth, and recent attempts to inject mature themes such as sexual violence have not been a success. As he has pretty much throughout the entire Shannara cosmos, Brooks takes his departure with the contention that science and magic are flip sides of the same coin. They're not. Science works for anybody. Magic works only if you have the gift.

Like a weary yet exultant marathon runner: wraps itself in a flag, totters across the finish line, and crumples in a heap.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-17854-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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