Glitter-bombed popcorn fiction at its finest.

BATTLE OF THE LINGUIST MAGES

A champion virtual reality gamer gets tangled up in a real-life war between alien-powered magicians.

Isobel is the Queen of Sparkle Dungeon. The video game's best diva-caster—a player who uses her actual voice to sling spells—she wields the series' four most powerful artifacts. But when the Queen combines the artifacts' powers, she unwittingly rips a hole in the fabric of the game's spacetime. Still, nothing seems amiss when SparkleCo's ad agency reaches out to ask Isobel to test a new game. She is the Queen, after all, and no one can overtake her in the leaderboards. Working under the cover of a comprehensive nondisclosure agreement, Isobel learns that the ad agency is working on real-life magic: multilayered syllables that manipulate whomever hears them into feeling, thinking, or doing whatever the speaker wishes, thanks to the power of alien punctuation marks. Sparkle Dungeon's best diva-caster turns out to be a natural with these "power morphemes," but she begins to suspect that she isn't working for the good guys after meeting a few of the firm's other clients—including a Scientology-esque church and an "insidious" politician. Then there's her predecessor, Maddy, who left the ad agency after crafting her own set of morphemes and now wants to kidnap Isobel to work as part of her resistance movement. Maddy's explosive entrance cuts the novel's brake lines, pitching readers into a madcap adventure of magic and mayhem. Moore has produced a frenetic romp that makes up for its lack of depth with a whole lot of fun. Although Isobel never entirely comes together as a three-dimensional character, her funk-infused narration does a good job of fleshing out her supporting cast.

Glitter-bombed popcorn fiction at its finest.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-76772-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tordotcom

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A well-constructed prelude to what promises to be an interesting series.

THE ATLAS SIX

Dangerous intrigues and deadly secrets swirl around six ambitious young magicians competing for entry into a secret society.

In a world very much like our own, except that a certain percentage of humanity is born with magical powers, six extraordinarily gifted people in their 20s are invited to train for membership in the Alexandrian Society, which has carefully and somewhat surreptitiously preserved centuries of priceless knowledge since the (apparent) burning of the Library of Alexandria. At the end of one year, five of the six will be initiated into the Society, and the reader won’t be surprised to learn that the sixth person isn’t allowed to quietly return home. As the year advances, the candidates explore the limits of their unique powers and shift their alliances, facing threats and manipulations from both within and outside of their circle. For most of its length, the book appears to be a well-written but not especially revolutionary latecomer to the post–Harry Potter collection of novels featuring a darker and more cynical approach to magical education; these books include Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars, Marina and Sergey Dyachenko’s Vita Nostra, and Lev Grossman’s Magicians series. Blake also offers a significant dash of the older subgenre of students joining a mystical cult requiring a sacrifice, as in Elizabeth Hand’s Waking the Moon and Robert Silverberg’s The Book of Skulls. The character-building is intense and intriguing—such an interior deep dive is practically de rigueur for a story of this type, which depends on self-discovery—but the plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere surprising. Then, the book's climax devastatingly reveals that Blake was holding her cards close to the vest all along, delicately hinting at a wider plot which only opens up fully—or almost fully—at the end, when it shoves the reader off a cliff to wait for the next book.

A well-constructed prelude to what promises to be an interesting series.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-85451-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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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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