A crisply written, inventive, complicated brew of a novel, though one that could have used some boiling down.
An intriguing and deftly plotted (if overstuffed) hybrid of dystopian SF, medical thriller, and queer romance.
Chaotic, irreverent Sunil Rao, an ex–MI6 agent plucked from jail for the assignment, and cool, analytical, ultraorderly Adam Rubenstein, an American intelligence officer, have worked together before under extremely trying circumstances, and when a bizarre series of events unfolds at a U.S. air base in Britain, culminating in the sudden appearance in the countryside of a full-sized generic American diner, the two are reunited to investigate. Rao has the uncanny ability not only to detect lies, but to intuit the truth of anything said in his presence, and the buttoned-up Adam is the only person he can't read, an inscrutability that makes their collaboration possible and creates odd-couple tension. Soon they land at a top-secret lab in Colorado, on the trail of a new pharmacologic substance called Prophet. The drug, which resembles mercury, has the effect of spontaneously creating comfort objects from the nostalgic memories of those exposed to it...but with horrendous side effects: The affected person disappears down the rabbit hole of the memory, plunging into a comalike state, sometimes even dying. Worse, those effects—aided by reckless experimentation—are intensifying; the protean substance keeps evolving unpredictably. Adam and Rao turn out to be perfectly suited to the investigation; after an initial exposure, the former is immune to Prophet (it even shrinks from him), and the latter proves able to extract and assimilate the drug. The book’s first section feels a bit languid and talky, but the pace accelerates in the middle, and the long final action sequence, in which Rao, Adam, and a team of military contractors negotiate a bizarre, surreal, deadly desert landscape of plush toys (some of them animate), bicycles, arcade games, golden apple trees, and the like, is excellent: pulse-pounding, philosophically fascinating, even blackly funny. The romance plot feels both fresh (in who its principals are) and creaky (there's too much slow-on-the-uptake and swelling music).A crisply written, inventive, complicated brew of a novel, though one that could have used some boiling down.
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 480
Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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More About This Book
BOOK TO SCREEN
An unrelentingly dark and disquieting look at the way societies conform to committing atrocities.
A processing plant manager struggles with the grim realities of a society where cannibalism is the new normal.
Marcos Tejo is the boss’s son. Once, that meant taking over his father’s meat plant when the older man began to suffer from dementia and require nursing home care. But ever since the Transition, when animals became infected with a virus fatal to humans and had to be destroyed, society has been clamoring for a new source of meat, laboring under the belief, reinforced by media and government messaging, that plant proteins would result in malnutrition and ill effects. Now, as is true across the country, Marcos’ slaughterhouse deals in “special meat”—human beings. Though Marcos understands the moral horror of his job supervising the workers who stun, kill, flay, and butcher other humans, he doesn’t feel much since the crib death of his infant son. “One can get used to almost anything,” he muses, “except for the death of a child.” One day, the head of a breeding center sends Marcos a gift: an adult female FGP, a “First Generation Pure,” born and bred in captivity. As Marcos lives with his product, he gradually begins to awaken to the trauma of his past and the nightmare of his present. This is Bazterrica’s first novel to appear in America, though she is widely published in her native Argentina, and it could have been inelegant, using shock value to get across ideas about the inherent brutality of factory farming and the cruelty of governments and societies willing to sacrifice their citizenry for power and money. It is a testament to Bazterrica’s skill that such a bleak book can also be a page-turner.An unrelentingly dark and disquieting look at the way societies conform to committing atrocities.
Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020
Page Count: 224
Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020
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