This intellectualized sci-fi finale deftly delivers eccentricities and deities that set it apart from most shaggy-god...

WHO ARE FRACONY?

From the Fracony series , Vol. 3

Benevolent aliens save humans on Earth from extinction—but discord arises over the visitors’ heretical religious views.

In Moldovan’s (The World Ends Tomorrow, 2018, etc.) sci-fi trilogy, the nation of Esperanto dominated late 24th-century Earth, a planet of 28 billion people. But on Jupiter’s moon Europa, a colony of space folk known as the Fracony was monitoring and directing human affairs. Secretly allied with elites in the Esperanto government—mainly the popular chief executive (“secretary”) Clara—the Fracony came to the rescue after human-caused eco-disasters and plagues struck. Still, only half a billion people survived. With the Fracony now out in the open in this third installment, Clara grants the humanlike ETs (actually alien souls projected across the universe to be born in human bodies) a lab in Antarctica. But the public is displeased by the aliens’ mission: ascertain if Earth was originally a Fracony world billions of years ago, before the solar system’s resident god did a “reset” to create Homo sapiens as obedient worshippers. The Fracony’s polytheist cosmology—numerous gods who are, essentially, exponentially advanced aliens—outrages some Esperanto citizens, especially the tradition-bound priest and “Minister of Religious Affairs” Quinn. Quinn’s anti-Fracony campaign is manipulated by Arram, a leader of a secret society, who covets power. From assassination to media exploitation, Arram uses his allies, agents, and Quinn to remove rivals and turn public opinion against the Fracony. But Arram underestimates Clara, the Fracony, and even fanatical Quinn.      Romanian-born Moldovan offers sci-fi more akin to philosophical musing (with a faintly satirical edge) than anything concretely speculative in terms of future super-science or tech. It would help if readers were familiar (as every 25th-century schoolkid is) with Russian scientist Nikolai Kardashev’s categories of theoretical cosmic civilizations. Type I can use energy to dominate its home world; type II can harness the total energy of its star system; type III can control neighboring systems; and so on, each more godlike than the next. Even in 2427, humanity is only “type 0.” The Fracony are “type V” and not immune to literally playing god, even as the “real” deities they acknowledge may fall in the “type VI” or “type VII” stages. The author toys with religion here in the same way more conventional sci-fi writers handle FTL drives, robots, and exobiology. He throws in some truly inspired bits of Robert Anton Wilson-scale weirdness when Arram wrangles leaders of the other sinister secret societies so beloved of conspiracy fiction (Freemasons, Illuminati, Bilderberg, etc.) for meetings that end up being discussions of Euclidean versus non-Euclidean geometry. Which are important. Still, characters tend to be mouthpieces for ideas and symbols rather than three-dimensional players, and much of the loosey-goosey storyline is left unresolved by the end (the matter of Earth’s God, for example). What’s clear is Moldovan’s condemnation of dogmatic religious mania, as shown in one character’s summation of the dangerous Quinn: “Truth has nothing to do with this guy’s values. His problem is that whatever is not in his holy books does not exist.” No players come forth as Adam or Eve stand-ins, which is a remarkable feat for sci-fi in these territories.

This intellectualized sci-fi finale deftly delivers eccentricities and deities that set it apart from most shaggy-god stories.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 26, 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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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