An entertaining, if occasionally uneven, fantasy tale about a parallel Earth and the strange creatures therein.

VLOGENTIA

A TALE OF SECOND WORLD

In this fantasy novel, a king in an alternate universe plans to conquer an entire realm, and he kidnaps people from our Earth to do it.

Sixty-five million years ago, a comet crashed into Earth, resulting in mass extinction—and the opening of a gateway to a parallel universe. Later, in 1585, Father Sebastian Vlogentia Garcia Lopez leads residents of his village to a small island to hide from Spanish inquisitors. As they explore their new hiding place, Father Sebastian stumbles upon a glowing, floating orb, which transports him to an entirely new world. He soon realizes that he’s found a place that could be truly safe for his villagers. Years later, in the Second World’s kingdom of Vlogentia, founded by Father Sebastian, a woman named Bianca celebrates the new year by spending time with her boyfriend and taking part in a sport before an audience of thousands of spectators; then one of her teammates leads her to a group of kidnappers. Back on our Earth, Jason Blankenship and his wife, Margaret,are taking a trip to investigate a new job offer. Before long, they’re abducted, as well, taken to an island in the middle of nowhere, and sent through the portal to Vlogentia. Now Jason is being forced to help his kidnappers create a poison—which is just one step in the king’s plan to take over all of the Second World. Now Bianca, Jason, and Margaret must work together to escape their captors and foil the plot. Over the course of this fantasy novel, Somers offers an often engaging, if uneven, tale of two worlds coming together. The author appears to have done his research when it comes to aspects of Mayan and Mesoamerican culture and how they permeate the architecture and culture of Vlogentia, which is an impressively addition to the overall worldbuilding; he also includes several appendices regarding these elements at the back of the book. However, some of the dialogue leaves something to be desired; for example, Jason’s kidnapper often speaks like a bad movie villain, as when he advises his cohorts to “do your destructive best.”

An entertaining, if occasionally uneven, fantasy tale about a parallel Earth and the strange creatures therein.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73578-790-9

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2021

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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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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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