A tale of two brothers for whom things work out a little too well to be worth the investment.

THE ODDLING PRINCE

The king of Calidon is about to die when a mysterious stranger saves him at the last minute—but the stranger carries a secret that could tear the kingdom apart.

A magic ring, after appearing seemingly out of nowhere, is killing the king. Even Prince Aric can't take it off his father's hand, but just when all hope seems lost, a beautiful, fey young man appears at the castle. He tells Aric his name is Albaric and says he's there to help the king. Miraculously, Albaric is able to get the deadly ring off the king's hand, saving his life. Not only that, but he tells a wild story of how the king got the ring from the Queen of Elfland. She captured the king when she saw him out riding, then kept him as her prisoner and companion in her strange world. But the king longed to go home, and when the queen finally granted his wish, she sent him back to the exact moment he'd left, eliminating all memories of his time in Elfland and the son they had together. That son, of course, is Albaric, who sacrificed his immortality to save the father who forgot him and who is devastated when the king distrusts and dislikes him. Even worse, he struggles to adapt to the world of mortals and is unsure of what to do with himself now that the king is alive but doesn't accept him. Aric, however, feels an instant bond with Albaric and vows to help his beloved brother find his place in a world where he will always be an oddling. The prolific Springer (Drawn into Darkness, 2013, etc.) certainly has a knack for a specific twee tone, as this novel floats along like one of the songs Albaric is so often singing. It's a sweet little tale, best suited for those who like their stories entirely without stakes or drama. Not only do no characters lose anything in any meaningful way, but the story doesn't even drum up the fear that they might. Problems are instantly solved, villains immediately eliminated or redeemed. The arc of the king's disdain for Albaric falls flat. Perhaps Springer is aiming for a kind of stylized narrative detachment here, but it comes across as affected and hollow.

A tale of two brothers for whom things work out a little too well to be worth the investment.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61696-289-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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