Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring on laughing gas.

KILL THE FARM BOY

A rollicking fantasy adventure that upends numerous genre tropes in audacious style, the first installment of Dawson and Hearne’s Tales of Pell series is a laugh-out-loud-funny fusion of Monty Python–esque humor and whimsy à la Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Worstley is a lowly farm boy who reeks of feces and angst. But when a nose-picking pixie informs him that he's the Chosen One and that he has a destiny, he sets off with a talking billy goat named Gustave to fulfill his glorious fate. Fia is a 7-foot tall warrioress who wears a chain-mail bikini and is on a quest of her own: to locate a rare flower allegedly high up in a magical tower. Poltro, the Dark Lord’s inept huntswoman, who is deathly afraid of chickens, is sent to locate the Chosen One and bring his heart back to her master. Their paths eventually converge when Fia, attempting to climb the thorn-infested magic tower via a rope made of human hair, falls and lands on Worstley, quite possibly killing him. In an effort to somehow save his life, Fia takes the Chosen One’s body and climbs back up the tower, laying him in a bed next to a princess who has been magically sleeping for decades. While exiting the tower, Fia meets Argabella, a female bard who has been cursed to look like a giant bunny. After collecting a Sand Witch named Grinda and Toby, the Dark Lord (who wears a fanny pack), the group of misfits sets off to rid the kingdom of the evil genius behind the terrible curses. The overturning of so many hackneyed fantasy conventions is a delight, as are the countless puns and jokes. But the narrative momentum suffers at times because the authors are so focused on the humor.

Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring on laughing gas.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9774-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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