A narrative that assumes far too much previous knowledge but ultimately finds an identity all its own.

THE REDEMPTION OF TIME

A strange hybrid of a yarn that seeks to embellish and extend a universe created by another writer—in this case, Cixin Liu's superb Three Body Problem trilogy, which culminated in Death's End (2016).

Baoshu's tale began life as online fan fiction, and it shows in a confusing opening. Trilogy readers will need to recall that a dying Yun Tianming allowed his brain to be captured by an approaching alien Trisolaran fleet. He hoped to trick the invaders, who are constitutionally unable to lie and cannot understand subterfuge. Instead, they trap him in a virtual reality, and eventually, the aliens force him to help them subjugate humanity. Yun survives. Much later, long after both Earth and Trisolaris have been destroyed, a consciousness calling itself the Spirit of the Master arrives. The Spirit needs Yun's help to locate the Lurker, an evil entity that threatens to destroy what's left of the universe. But, as Yun eventually comes to understand, the Spirit's plan involves rewinding everything to zero, followed by another Big Bang and a rerun identical to the current version. And what, Yun wonders, would be the point of that? The entities at odds since the beginning of time bring to mind the creation story in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. The universe-engulfing struggle recalls John C. Wright's astonishing multibook Eschaton saga. And the whole has a transcendental quality that might earn a nod from William Blake. Baoshu writes powerfully about difficult concepts (one such is the self-explanatory "ideabstraction" in Liu's felicitous translation), and his central thesis, involving dimensional collapse as the key to explaining the evolution of the universe, is an absolute stunner. None of this will mean anything, though, unless you're very well-acquainted with the original trilogy.

A narrative that assumes far too much previous knowledge but ultimately finds an identity all its own.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30602-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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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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