This bracing SF series opener delivers thorny jargon and equally challenging and bold cultural ideas.

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Centuries after a war and science breakthroughs reconfigured humanity, a space-based, dominant race of gender-fluid elites investigates apocalyptic rumors and cultlike revelations spreading among the masses subsisting on Earth.

Whitlow opens a multivolume SF saga with this mind-stretcher set mainly on a far-future Earth (aka Erdos) about 300 years after a ruinous war that practically redesigned humankind. An advanced race of elites—the “Meritorians”—adopted existence on the moon, Mars (aka Marda), and outer planets. They are (mostly) the benevolent and ultraprogressive masters of the solar system, low gravity, and their own medicine, which altered their physiologies to the point of being a new species. Their very thoughts are interlinked by “cognos,” a descendant of the internet, and they regard unaltered Earth dwellers as aberrant troglodytes. The Meritorians are friendly and collaborative with an upper caste called “Consumers” but have little regard for the peasant masses that teem in underground cities and settlements and still communicate verbally, among other offenses. Now, these low-borns are alarming Meritorians with a cultish movement offering vaguely apocalyptic and seditious pronouncements of an approaching individual/entity called “Javeh.” Surveillance scans prove the validity of Javeh’s beatific visions and whisperings, but Meritorian superscience cannot decipher the code or how the messages are being transmitted. In advance of an important Meritorian conference on Erdos, the terrorism begins. Readers will be tested by a dense, future-speak argot largely (but not entirely) related in the Meritorian vernacular, which replaces all personal pronouns with gender-neutral ones (“Se draws serself up and puts ser weight into the comp suit, which mercifully supports ser as se totters away to the stairs”). The lingo indicates that the main dogma of Meritorian society comprises transgenderism and the overthrow of the “binary fallacy,” which the civilization believes brought humanity to ruin. Readers who can peer past the opaque curtain of the author’s peculiar language will be rewarded by intellectual puzzles and troubling questions, largely unanswered by the open-ended climax. Is Javeh a reactionary rebel mastermind or a wrathful (and transphobic) God who is returning? This is heady stuff for the adventuresome who like SF that does not give up its secrets easily.

This bracing SF series opener delivers thorny jargon and equally challenging and bold cultural ideas. (science fiction)

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7349098-2-1

Page Count: 196

Publisher: James Perry

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2021


From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 1

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery.

Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition...and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences.

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31319-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019


An ambitious but plodding space odyssey.

Having survived a disastrous deep space mission in 2038, three asteroid miners plan a return to their abandoned ship to save two colleagues who were left behind.

Though bankrolled through a crooked money laundering scheme, their original project promised to put in place a program to reduce the CO2 levels on Earth, ease global warming, and pave the way for the future. The rescue mission, itself unsanctioned, doesn't have a much better chance of succeeding. All manner of technical mishaps, unplanned-for dangers, and cutthroat competition for the precious resources from the asteroid await the three miners. One of them has cancer. The international community opposes the mission, with China, Russia, and the United States sending questionable "observers" to the new space station that gets built north of the moon for the expedition. And then there is Space Titan Jack Macy, a rogue billionaire threatening to grab the riches. (As one character says, "It's a free universe.") Suarez's basic story is a good one, with tense moments, cool robot surrogates, and virtual reality visions. But too much of the novel consists of long, sometimes bloated stretches of technical description, discussions of newfangled financing for "off-world" projects, and at least one unneeded backstory. So little actually happens that fixing the station's faulty plumbing becomes a significant plot point. For those who want to know everything about "silicon photovoltaics" and "orthostatic intolerance," Suarez's latest SF saga will be right up their alley. But for those itching for less talk and more action, the book's many pages of setup become wearing.

An ambitious but plodding space odyssey.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-18363-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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