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CHRYSANTHE

Flashes of originality and gleams of insight aren't enough to redeem this ponderously verbose and occasionally awkward...

Second English-language fantasy (The Book of Knights, 1998) from French-Canadian writer Meynard.

In Chrysanthe, a world regulated by magical Rules, a magical book can, unbidden, write Heroes into reality. One such is King Edisthen, created to depose the incompetent previous monarch, Vaurd (a rather flimsy justification, all things considered). Vaurd's son Evered—he's prone to hysterical convulsions—burns for revenge. However, another rule decrees that anybody who knowingly harms the king dies. So Evered's evil wizard, Casimir, traps Edisthen's wizard and Hero, Orion, in a Made World, where reality is mutable, and destroys him, leaving only Orion's apprentice, Melogian, to defend the realm. Next Casimir's assistant, Mathellin, another evil wizard, abducts Edisthen's young daughter Christine and conveys her deep into another Made World that resembles our own—except that, for some reason, the magical Rules still apply. Here, Christine all but forgets her origins. She does, though, have an invisible companion, actually a benevolent spell sent by Orion before he vanished. When Mathellin, or Uncle as Christine knows him, learns about the companion he sends Christine to a malevolently incompetent psychiatrist, who proceeds to "recover" impossible memories of childhood rape and abuse, a bogus therapy that all but destroys her. So, years later, when the Chrysanthe knight Sir Quentin shows up, Christine has great difficulty believing or trusting him. And even if Sir Quentin can successfully escort Christine back to Chrysanthe, Evered and his cohorts stand ready to plunge the world into a magical war. Meynard gradually fills in the back story, in convoluted fashion, and while there are many echoes of master fantasist Jack Vance, unfortunately they remain echoes, and neither the construct nor the characters ever come alive.

Flashes of originality and gleams of insight aren't enough to redeem this ponderously verbose and occasionally awkward effort.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3026-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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