One small step, no giant leaps.

ARTEMIS

Weir (The Martian, 2014) returns with another off-world tale, this time set on a lunar colony several decades in the future.

Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara is a 20-something deliveryperson, or “porter,” whose welder father brought her up on Artemis, a small multidomed city on Earth’s moon. She has dreams of becoming a member of the Extravehicular Activity Guild so she’ll be able to get better work, such as leading tours on the moon’s surface, and pay off a substantial personal debt. For now, though, she has a thriving side business procuring low-end black-market items to people in the colony. One of her best customers is Trond Landvik, a wealthy businessman who, one day, offers her a lucrative deal to sabotage some of Sanchez Aluminum’s automated lunar-mining equipment. Jazz agrees and comes up with a complicated scheme that involves an extended outing on the lunar surface. Things don’t go as planned, though, and afterward, she finds Landvik murdered. Soon, Jazz is in the middle of a conspiracy involving a Brazilian crime syndicate and revolutionary technology. Only by teaming up with friends and family, including electronics scientist Martin Svoboda, EVA expert Dale Shapiro, and her father, will she be able to finish the job she started. Readers expecting The Martian’s smart math-and-science problem-solving will only find a smattering here, as when Jazz figures out how to ignite an acetylene torch during a moonwalk. Strip away the sci-fi trappings, though, and this is a by-the-numbers caper novel with predictable beats and little suspense. The worldbuilding is mostly bland and unimaginative (Artemis apartments are cramped; everyone uses smartphonelike “Gizmos”), although intriguing elements—such as the fact that space travel is controlled by Kenya instead of the United States or Russia—do show up occasionally. In the acknowledgements, Weir thanks six women, including his publisher and U.K. editor, “for helping me tackle the challenge of writing a female narrator”—as if women were an alien species. Even so, Jazz is given such forced lines as “I giggled like a little girl. Hey, I’m a girl, so I’m allowed.”

One small step, no giant leaps.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-44812-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some White people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only White avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, White people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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