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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The flashy, snappy delivery fails to compensate for the uninhabited blandness of the characters. And despite the many clever...

SNOW CRASH

After terminally cute campus high-jinks (The Big U) and a smug but attention-grabbing eco-thriller (Zodiac), Stephenson leaps into near-future Gibsonian cyberpunk—with predictably mixed results.

The familiar-sounding backdrop: The US government has been sold off; businesses are divided up into autonomous franchises ("franchulates") visited by kids from the heavily protected independent "Burbclaves"; a computer-generated "metaverse" is populated by hackers and roving commercials. Hiro Protagonist, freelance computer hacker, world's greatest swordsman, and stringer for the privatized CIA, delivers pizzas for the Mafia—until his mentor Da5id is blasted by Snow Crash, a curious new drug capable of crashing both computers and hackers. Hiro joins forces with freelance skateboard courier Y.T. to investigate. It emerges that Snow Crash is both a drug and a virus: it destroyed ancient Sumeria by randomizing their language to create Babel; its modern victims speak in tongues, lose their critical faculties, and are easily brainwashed. Eventually the usual conspiracy to take over the world emerges; it's led by media mogul L. Bob Rife, the Rev. Wayne's Pearly Gates religious franchulate, and vengeful nuclear terrorist Raven. The cultural-linguistic material has intrinsic interest, but its connections with cyberpunk and computer-reality seem more than a little forced.

The flashy, snappy delivery fails to compensate for the uninhabited blandness of the characters. And despite the many clever embellishments, none of the above is as original as Stephenson seems to think. An entertaining entry that would have benefitted from a more rigorous attention to the basics.

Pub Date: May 15, 1992

ISBN: 0553380958

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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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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