ZERO-G

A near-future spy thriller set in space from Star Trek’s Shatner (Leonard, 2016, etc.) and prolific co-writer Rovin (The Sound of Seas, 2016, etc.).

In 2050, the FBI governs outer space, and 80-year-old Samuel Lord has been appointed as associate deputy director of Earth operations on the space station Empyrean. Not long after he takes command of the station, Dr. Saranya May arrives with an ominous claim: her research has been stolen from her lab base on the moon. Before Lord can even begin to sort out what’s happened to May’s research, a tsunami devastates the coast of Japan—one that strikes without warning as one unnatural wave. At the same time, the Chinese space station has gone suspiciously quiet, and Lord begins to suspect that May knows more than she’s letting on. Lord and his crew must quickly unravel the mystery of this catastrophe before another can strike. The book retains the bland feel of a TV drama, something like NCIS: Space Station. Although it has an ethnically diverse cast, they’re little more than window dressing surrounding the white male lead. Lord’s second-in-command is Adsila Waters, a young Cherokee officer whose genetically engineered body is able to change gender at will. Although she should be the book’s most interesting character, instead she’s woefully underdeveloped. Although the authors describe her as “pan-gender,” there’s nothing fluid about it—it’s just a binary switch between two stock options: a woman with an “hourglass figure” and “frank sexual allure” or a man who’s “less emotionally invested in any problem.” Her entire back story seems to be composed of little more than worn-out cliches of Native Americans as magical, noble savages—at work, for example, she listens to the piped-in sounds of desert winds and osprey cries, and during off-hours, she sits in a bar and wonders “whether the spirit of the owl and cougar were indeed guiding her.” Worse still, Lord’s boss frankly admits to Lord that Adsila is only on the space station as a “concession to the diversity cops” so that he could be appointed.

Zero stars.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1155-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 1

Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from space—maybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called “Three Body,” set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu.

Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7706-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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