A near-future spy thriller set in space from Star Trek’s Shatner (Leonard, 2016, etc.) and prolific co-writer Rovin (The Sound of Seas, 2016, etc.).

In 2050, the FBI governs outer space, and 80-year-old Samuel Lord has been appointed as associate deputy director of Earth operations on the space station Empyrean. Not long after he takes command of the station, Dr. Saranya May arrives with an ominous claim: her research has been stolen from her lab base on the moon. Before Lord can even begin to sort out what’s happened to May’s research, a tsunami devastates the coast of Japan—one that strikes without warning as one unnatural wave. At the same time, the Chinese space station has gone suspiciously quiet, and Lord begins to suspect that May knows more than she’s letting on. Lord and his crew must quickly unravel the mystery of this catastrophe before another can strike. The book retains the bland feel of a TV drama, something like NCIS: Space Station. Although it has an ethnically diverse cast, they’re little more than window dressing surrounding the white male lead. Lord’s second-in-command is Adsila Waters, a young Cherokee officer whose genetically engineered body is able to change gender at will. Although she should be the book’s most interesting character, instead she’s woefully underdeveloped. Although the authors describe her as “pan-gender,” there’s nothing fluid about it—it’s just a binary switch between two stock options: a woman with an “hourglass figure” and “frank sexual allure” or a man who’s “less emotionally invested in any problem.” Her entire back story seems to be composed of little more than worn-out cliches of Native Americans as magical, noble savages—at work, for example, she listens to the piped-in sounds of desert winds and osprey cries, and during off-hours, she sits in a bar and wonders “whether the spirit of the owl and cougar were indeed guiding her.” Worse still, Lord’s boss frankly admits to Lord that Adsila is only on the space station as a “concession to the diversity cops” so that he could be appointed.

Zero stars.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1155-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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...


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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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.


Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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