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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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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NINTH HOUSE

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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