An involving, well-constructed sci-fi tale of survival.

EPOCH DAWNING

A sci-fi variation on the story of Adam and Eve.

In Sadaphal’s post-apocalyptic tale, a spacecraft pilot named Asher Grant, “a misplaced journeyman without a map and a sense of direction,” returns to Earth only to find it radically changed: The cities are in ruins; the countryside is a wasteland; and there are corpses everywhere. After a short, harrowing interval, he spots a living figure in the distance, and they run toward each other. Evelyn Coble tells Asher she awoke to find herself in the ruins and has been wandering for days. He shares rations with her from his ship, but even as they’re tentatively getting to know each other, they’re vaguely aware that each is keeping secrets from the other and that those secrets involve the catastrophe that reduced the world to rubble. In a series of intricate flashbacks, readers learn that complicated back story piecemeal. It’s a tale involving the global power grab by a small group of “technocrats” who initially used tools such as the media, bioengineered foods, aerosols in the air, medicated water and cybernetic mind control (called the Collective) to subjugate the masses. When a desperate man named Linus Benjamin manages to shut down the Collective, on which the whole world has come to rely, global chaos swiftly follows. Evelyn’s hidden past connects her with Linus Benjamin, just as Asher’s past connects him with something called The Omega Strain, a weird synapse-destroying infection that is equally lethal to humans, animals and complex machines. In the flashbacks, we see Asher and Evelyn in their pre-disaster lives, and in the book’s present, we see them grappling with their bleak new world, attempting to find other survivors and trying—with comically little success—to warm up to each other, since they’re nothing alike. Sadaphal is a sharply observant narrator with a fine sense of pathos, and he paces his story with several well-turned surprises.

An involving, well-constructed sci-fi tale of survival.

Pub Date: July 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989223300

Page Count: 204

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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