A departure for both authors and a pleasing combination of much appeal to fans of speculative fiction.

THE RISE AND FALL OF D.O.D.O.

Immense and immensely entertaining genre-hopping yarn from hard-core sci-fi veteran Stephenson (Seveneves, 2015, etc.) and historical novelist Galland (Stepdog, 2015, etc.).

“You have an agreeably uninteresting existence,” says the shadowy government recruiter. “Let’s see if we can change that.” Our heroine, a brilliant specialist in ancient languages, cannot refuse, especially since the pay packet Tristan Lyons is offering is many times more than her adjunct position pays. With that, they’re off—but where? Blend time travel with Bourne-worthy skulduggery, throw in lashings of technology and dashes of steampunk, and you have the makings of this overstuffed, disbelief-begging storyline. That storyline begins and ends with language, but in between there’s a fair amount of outright mad science, courtesy of the inventor of the Ontic Decoherence Cavity (“An MIT physics professor who tried to patent groundbreaking technological innovations is a Luddite?”), and—well, of witchcraft, which seems an uneasy fit at first but soon comes to make as much sense as anything else in this head-spinning tale. And what is D.O.D.O., the place where the ODEC is put into play courtesy of DARPA? Melisande Stokes, said linguist, gamely guesses that it means “Department of Diabolical Obscurantism,” but no, it’s much more than all that. Stephenson and Galland turn ethnic clichés on their heads, introducing Magyar sorceresses and hipper-than-thou Asian baristas into the mix as their yarn careens into Dan Brown land: we know we’re there when we hit on Athanasius Fugger and his penumbral lineage, “completely absent from the historical record,” characters worthy of Umberto Eco and perfectly at home here. Suffice it to say that the story gets weirder and more madcap from there.

A departure for both authors and a pleasing combination of much appeal to fans of speculative fiction.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-240916-4

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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

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DEVOLUTION

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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