A satisfying outer-space yarn of redemption under fire.

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THE INTERSTELLAR LIFE AND TIMES OF SAOIRSE KENNEALLY

A young woman from a prominent 23rd-century Earth family avoids prison by enlisting in a term of off-planet service in Alexander’s SF novel.

Two centuries in the future, humankind has discovered reliable, faster-than-light space travel. No alien civilizations have been discovered yet, but there’s still plenty of danger, intrigue, and open warfare, due to humanity’s baser instincts. An underfunded, upstart military police force called “Peacemakers,” or “peacers,” tries to impose order and enact justice. On Earth, 20-year-oldSaoirse Kenneally, hailing from a clan that became wealthy by selling space-friendly computer technology, is a self-loathing alcohol abuser and troublemaker, though she draws the line at taking “zombie,” or “zombipterisin”—an addictive, extraterrestrial psychotropic drug. For her latest violation,which involves charges of attempted robbery and assault, Saoirse is disowned by her relatives but gets around serving jail time by accepting two years of off-world service. At a base orbiting Saturn’s moon Titan, she finds a degree of discipline and even sobriety via basic training and mentoring by Tomasz Szczechowicz, a battle-hardened, veteran peacer who’s closed-mouthed about his past and takes a strong personal interest in Saoirse. When she notes anomalies in the station’s computer records, she becomes part of the investigation; eventually she’s forced to flee even deeper into settled space, where she encounters a simmering conflict involving peacers on a colonized world. This novel’s resourceful, underdog protagonist, who’s inwardly tormented but always ready to fight, will remind readers a bit of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander—although Saoirse has a tattoo of a snake, not a dragon. It’s a somewhat formulaic story of a badly flawed protagonist gaining wisdom and maturity while wearing a uniform, but Alexander makes it earn its stripes. The future setting lacks cyborgs, godlike AIs, teleportation, or easy plot devices; rather, there are more relatable elements, including bullets, light planes, and microphones; the clever explanation is that the principle planetary setting has recreated an old Eastern European society, out of a sense of ethnic and cultural pride, and thus lacks modern gadgets. The finale features well-described, edge-of-your-seat combat and intelligent strategy.

A satisfying outer-space yarn of redemption under fire.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9993257-8-0

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Alton Kremer

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

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

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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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Filled with mouthwatering descriptions of food and heart-swelling meditations on music, this novel is an unexpected gift.

LIGHT FROM UNCOMMON STARS

A runaway trans girl, a harvester of souls for hell, and a family of refugee alien doughnut makers collide in unexpected and wondrous ways.

Katrina Nguyen is on the run. She’s escaped her violent father and come to crash in Los Angeles with a queer friend, except now that she’s actually here, he’s not exactly as welcoming as she'd hoped. But she’s got her laptop, her hormones, and her violin—everything she needs for now. Shizuka Satomi is looking for her next student. The world knows her as a legendary violin teacher, sometimes called the Queen of Hell. What no one knows is that she’s had 49 years to actually deliver seven souls to hell. Now her time is almost up, and she wants her last soul to be someone special. Lan Tran and her family run Starrgate Donut, but they too have a secret: Their doughnuts are replicated, not baked, and they are alien refugees from a galactic war. Used to rejection and hatred, Katrina can’t bring herself to trust the offer of private violin lessons from a striking stranger. But as her life gradually begins to intertwine with the lives of Shizuka, Lan, and other colorful, well-drawn characters, everyone receives unexpected gifts of tenderness. Musicians selling their souls to hell shouldn’t fit in the same story as alien doughnut makers building a stargate, but somehow all these elements combine to create something wild and beautiful.

Filled with mouthwatering descriptions of food and heart-swelling meditations on music, this novel is an unexpected gift.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-78906-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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