Author Archives: Kevin

“The Transhumanist Wager” by @zoltan_istvan Provocative Storytelling

transhuman

 

The Transhumanist Wager
By Zoltan Istvan
300pps
Philosophy > Science Fiction

Copy furnished by the author
“The Transhumanist Wager” tells the provocative story of Jethro Knights and his participation in the Transhumanist Movement. The movement is based on a shared philosophy based on human enlightenment through extending one’s life through the use of science and technology (my layman interpretation). The Transhumanist Wager explores the philosophy more eloquently than I have given. Obviously.

Transhumanist Wager follows the rise of Jethro Knights from being a student from a prestigious university to circumnavigating the globe to becoming “leader” of the tranhumanist movement. However, the movement goes against God’s will and Reverend Belinas is not amused. At all. Man is meant to live and die all the while being in the service of God and not live forever.

“A transhumanist must safeguard one’s own existence above all else.” Jethro Knights is an extremist. Reverend Belinas is an extremist. Two opposing views to help drive the message of Transhumanism and to discuss the flaws of organized religion and how it limits human insight and growth. No shades of gray are presented in the novel. It’s because of these extreme views that it’s difficult to like Jethro Knights or to fully stand behind transhumanism. That’s not to say this was a terrible book. I enjoyed the writing itself. In fact I’m glad I read it because it allowed me to develop my own thoughts on the movement and religion and their roles in contemporary society. As I said early on; provocative.

 

“Red Rising” by @Pierce_Brown A fantastic genre bending “Hunger Games” meets “Lord of the Flies”

 

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Red Rising (The Red Rising Trilogy #1)
By Pierce Brown
401 pp
Sci-Fi > YA> Dystopian

The setting is Mars. The setting is bleak with the Reds mining for Helium-3, a necessary element for terraforming Mars as well as other planets. The Reds work hard knowing that what they do is for the greater good of mankind; that they’re sacrifices are not in vain and Mars will be habitable. That is until, 16 year old Darrow learns the truth. It’s with this discovery and what he does that brings the reader into a fantastic world as he attempts to rise up into the ranks and expose the truth for what it is.

 

I don’t read much YA-Sci Fi-Dystopian. Really, I don’t. I read “Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Ready Player One” (those last two may be a stretch to classify as Dystopian) and that was it. That said, reading “Red Rising” could be a mash-up of “Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Lord of the Flies,” with a smidgen of “Harry Potter…” and Roman structre and mythos.

 

As mentioned, Darrow rises into the ranks. He becomes a Gold. All is not easy as there are trials which he must pass once he is a Gold. Of the many trials, one needs to be victorious with his House in a “survival of the fittest” of sorts versus other Houses. Of course, the typical cliche with the powers that be intervening, this competition is no different with its obstacles that Darrow must face.

The writing itself had some minor issues as far as I was concerned. There were some “show don’t tell” moments concerning Darrow and how he’s “able to think outside the box” as well as towards the ending with his House vs some other Houses. In other words, rather than letting the reader learn of the traits of Darrow the reader is told, “It’s because of this reason that he’s that way.” The finale with the other Houses felt rushed; less setting up the scene and more of “this happened afterdwe caused that.” In the grand scheme of things I suppose that’s ok, but another hundred pages or so would have been more fulfilling.

Overall, I’m glad I chanced upon this book. For the avid reader of the genre, this will be a quick read. For the casual reader, I’d say the same. Mr. Brown hooks you into the world and doesn’t let go. Let’s hope the second installment does the same.

 

“Above” by Isla Morely. It’s so good it got two reviews on Twisted Sense! @GalleryBooks @NetGalley #bookreview

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“Above”
By Isla Morley
384 pp
Fiction > Thriller

ARC via NetGalley

“Above” by Isla Morley tells the story of 16 year old Blythe Hallowell, abducted by a survivalist for 17 years. Hidden in a missile silo in Eudora, Kansas, 16 year old Blythe is left isolated from the outside world with her abductor, Dobbs Hordin. It’s difficult for Blythe to believe Dobbs’ rhetoric concerning the upcoming end of days as well as what may or may not have happened during the 17 years of captivity but it’s also just as difficult after those 17 years in learning what’s happened while she was gone.

Ms. Morley’s novel, “Above”, tells the fantastic story of a resilient woman held against her will in a claustrophobic setting. At least for the first 17 years of captivity. And after those 17 years? It’s just as fantastic. Morley’s excellent prose allows you to be transported from the safety of your favorite reading spot to Blythe’s enclosed setting yearning for daylight and that next breath. What happens those first 17 years is for the reader to discover.

After the first 17 years begins another journey of discovery, in more ways than one. What happened after those first 17 years had me wondering what happened as I devoured each page. I found myself texting a friend that had recently completed the ARC copy of “Above” a lot of “what if” scenarios as I was reading. “If aliens…”; “If mutants…”; and then there was the reveal of what happened those 17 years Blythe was gone.

I enjoyed reading “Above” a lot. The world she transported me to was one I loved to read from the outside looking in. Put into Blythe’s situation? Fuck that noise. I wouldn’t be able to cope. And that’s what makes a terrific story teller; to transport you into another world where you succumb to the writer and let him/her take control of all your senses and emotions.

“From The Indie Side” edited be David Gatewood: A Celebration of Independent Authors #bookreview

81HDd0R5TCL._SL1500_From Indie Side
Edited by David Gatewood
310 pp
Fiction > Genre Fiction
ARC Review

A decent collection of short stories, crossing various genres from independent authors. Of the 12 authors, three I recognize, and of those three, two I have read. The nice thing about short stories is just that, they’re short and they can give you sampling of what each writer has to offer with a full novel. That said, I look forward to exploring the words and worlds that some of these authors have created.

I’ll be honest, there were some stories that I rolled my eyes. It may have been due to writing, the story, or the big reveal and/or ending. There were some genres I didn’t care for, but that’s not to discredit the story or the prose, because they are all excellent in their own right.But the ones that moved me? I wanted more.

“The Winter Lands” by Jason Gurley tells the emotional tale of a man with a fantastic story to tell and, yet, cannot put those words down eloquently.

“Cipher” by Sara Foster is an incredible story of a woman yearning to be reunited with her family after being separated by mysterious bomb set off close to home. By the end of the story I was left speechless with the exception of one word, “Damn.” By far my favorite of the anthology.

“The War Veteran” by Susan May is an fantastic look into the psyche of a war veteran suffering from depression, survivor’s guilt, and PTSD.

“Gyre-Witchery” by Kev Heritage weaves sci-fi and fantasy primitive tale seamlessly.

“Redoubt” by Michel Bunker and “Mouth Breathers” by Hugh Howey ; The tales end just as soon as it starts and leaves you with an unquenchable thirst for more. The end of days and a forbidden love story. Terrific build up for the universes that they’ve created.

“Made of Stars” by Anne Frasier features terrific prose. As a fan of story telling, I enjoyed it despite that I couldn’t care less about the genre of lovelorn vampires. It’s a cliché as far as I’m concerned, but her writing was solid and left me wanting to read more of her work.

“The Man Who Remembered Today” by Peter Cawdron tells the tale of a man, ethnically profiled, who has no recollection of the past but of what’s to come. It’s with that clairvoyance that chaos ensues with the foresight of a terrorist attack.

For the price of the anthology, you can’t go wrong with the stories. It’s definitely worth it to explore and discover what the up and coming indie authors have to offer.

 

 

Pleasant Surprise Told in Verse: Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish

love

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish
by David Rakoff
113 pp
Fiction > Poetry

Wait. Stop (Hammertime!). Rewind. Does that say “poetry”? Yes. Even told in singsong verse! This is quite a gem of a novella. I saw “Love…” listed on a must read list somewhere and thought, “OK! Let’s get it!” Unfortunately, I didn’t notice it was told in verse. Aversion aside, I decided to give the story a chance and I was pleasantly rewarded.

I’ve labored weeks over trying how to write about how incredible this book is, but words escape me when I try and put on “paper”; I didn’t want to come off as a pretentious reviewer. Look, I really enjoyed this book. There are certain genres we find ourselves attracted to and always tend to gravitate towards. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but as a personal challenge, I wanted to go beyond my own “comfort” zone. “Love” was definitely out of my zone. Literary fiction, poetry. Yeah. Definitely not within my genre consisting of murder, action, and plot twists.

So what did I love about it? Verse/Poetry aside, I loved the story telling aspect. I loved the characters (good or bad). Great writing, as far as I’m concerned, allows the reader to become immersed in their world; that the writer has created. A lot of people that have reviewed this on GR and Amazon found the rhythm of the rhyming off and incorrect while others countered that it’s a form not commonly used. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. Yes, I did find myself having to “reset the rhythm” of my reading, but I didn’t let it take it way from the story as whole. I hope you won’t too.

Hard Boiled and Hard to Hate. The City of Smoke and Mirrors by @NickPiers

City
The City of Smoke and Mirrors (Armadillo Mystery)
Nick C. Piers
Fiction Noir
256 pp

Mutant detective five foot armadillo private dick with a fedora. Check. Hardboiled fiction. Check. Mafioso and vigilantism. Check. It’s at this point you’ve either decided you’re intrigued or not. I’m hoping for the former.

Dilbert (his friends call him Dill) Pinkerton is our protagonist mutant private dick tasked with recovering a pearl necklace. The task seems simple enough until he has to go to Nevermore Bay; home of the Buzzardman and the (ugh) Buzzardmobile. With me so far? Good. Because there are quite a few nods to the comics and industry itself as well as to wrestling and some other acknowledgements.  The Joker reference was very subtle (and if it wasn’t a Joker reference, then I totally over read into it :p). And then there’s Don Komodo and his goons chasing after Dill from a previously botched case.

Told in first person from Dill’s POV in this hard boiled fiction, we’re introduced to a variety of characters. Even the dog.  The non mutant one.  The characters are all over the top and what you would expect given the genre; all memorable in one form or another. No-one sticks out as a love to hate or a love to love character but it is fun to read about them.

The overall tone, setting, and atmosphere was well done, however,  “City of Smoke…” is not without its errors.  There were some minor typos and syntax errors as well as a one HUGE consistency flaw towards the end regarding the Buzzardmobile, but that’s neither here nor there. With or without the (ugh) Buzzardmobile, it’s an enjoyable ride.

Edited to remove self published comment per author correction.

Greatfall by Jason Gurley. What an Impact! #bookreview @jgurley

712qBCnyWvL._SL1500_Greatfall
Jason Gurley
311 pps
Science Fiction > Dystopian > Fan Fiction > Wool

What an impact!

This was an incredible read and anyone that hasn’t read any fan-fiction from the Woolverse (created by Hugh Howey) is doing themselves a disservice by not reading this as it explores the role of religion to keep to keep its inhabitants in check.  For the record, I’m late to the party in reading the fan fiction that Mr. Howey has created but better late than never!

That said, Greatfall explores the role of religion to keep the people of their silo in order. By religion, I’m talking about the form of god fearing evangelism and it does it brilliantly. Unlike the other silos that use a “mayor” and “sheriff” to keep its inhabitants in check, the idea to use two deities as good and evil is what’s used for Silo 23.The explanation to get the people to believe in an omnipotent being that can be malevolent at times is credible.

The writing and characterizations were solid. Based off the predicament and circumstances of Greatfall, you can’t help but grow attached to the protagonists and want them to achieve their goals given the plot. But that antagonist!

The antagonist, Matthew, was, to put it bluntly, a big dick. There are plenty of characters that we’ve read in novels and know that are “bad”. “Ok, character X is bad. Got it,” and from there, you may just go with the flow without a reaction to his/her actions. It takes great skill to create a character that the reader can love to hate and I think Mr. Gurley nailed it with Matthew. I can recall on several occasions where I’ve read something he’s done to another character and I’ll think, “Matthew is such an ass. I hope he gets a good offing in the end.” In fact, he pissed me off so much that I had to call him a dick on Facebook. Of course, what happens to him in the end, is for you, the reader, to find out.

On a side note: A friend had recommended Jason Gurley’s Greatfall a while back.  I had it in my queue of books of to read.  During that time, I did do a beta read of one of his stories. The beta wasn’t bad but it needed some work.  “I can’t believe this is the same guy that wrote Eleanor,” because, man. Greatfall just raised the bar to what I hope to/and expect from him. As it stands now his work in progress, Eleanor, is just that: a work in progress (not a spoiler, folks; he talks about it on his blog). For now? I may need to add The Settlers to quench my thirst for more Gurley.

The Martian by Andy Weir #bookreview

18007564The Martian
Andy Weir
Science Fiction > Hard Science Fiction
384 pps

Fantastic. Incredible. I’m not sure what else I can say about this novel. I loved this book.

The premise is simple: A freak natural disaster gets an astronaut stranded on Mars. Said astronaut is Mark Watney. Watney has a particular skillset that allows him to extend his longevity on Mars.  How he’s able to pull this off is up to you to read learn now. I’ll just say this: if you put MacGyver with NASA into the same room, interesting things will happen.

Ultimately, this is a survival manual for being stranded on Mars, assuming you have the necessary tools provided to you by NASA. And Watney’s skillset.  This is a hard science fiction novel and you may find yourself reading lots of “science-y” passages and you may want to find yourself glazing over it which is fine, but you may find yourself doing a disservice to you. There are some great gems of commentary to his thought process.

Told in the first person from Watney’s perspective, we’re privy to all his thoughts: his scientific reasoning, the rationale of his decisions, and his humor; his personality. It’s because of this narrative that we grow attached to this character and rooting for him to get rescued.

Mark Watney is a memorable character that will last with you for a lifetime. To be honest, the only other character I’ve ever felt compassion for/with is Lisbeth Salander from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Series).  I would love for Mr. Weir to write a prequel.

It will be a couple of months before the novel is released (initially a self published e-book but then picked up by a publisher) and all I can say is: add it to your queue. Pre-order it. Add it to your Goodreads list of “to-read.” Whether you’re a fan of the sci-fi genre or not, it’s the compelling character driven, survival story that makes this novel spectacular.

Game: A Thriller (Book 1 of the Game Trilogy) #bookreview @AtriaBooks

game a thriller

Game: A Thriller (Book 1 of The Game Trilogy)
Anders de la Motte
Fiction Thriller 386 pp

ARC via Atria Publishing

The first rule of The Game is to never talk to anyone outside of The Game Community about The Game. If you rolled your eyes, I don’t blame you; I did the same. The consequences of talking about the Game? They can be harsh and never ending.

Within the first several pages we’re introduced to a hungover Henrik “HP” Pettersson. He’s found a cell phone that incessantly texts, “Wanna play a game?” despite his replies of “No.” Eventually he acquiesces.  The rules are simple: complete tasks and be monetarily rewarded. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.  That said, the higher the risks become more dangerous they are. But to someone like HP, it’s worth it, and not just for the money but for the notoriety. It’s that quest for notoriety that gets him into trouble as it quickly affects someone close to him.

HP is a broken character that you can’t help but feel sorry, and root, for. He is in essence the reluctant hero of the novel. The structure of the novel is such that it switches from HP to Rebecca, a government body guard to government officials of Sweden.  As the novel progresses, it switches from HP’s tasks to Rebecca’s protection duty at which point they will eventually intersect. And what an intersection it is!

This was, and is, a great conspiracy laden thrilling page turner. The conspiracy aspect? Totally legit. Completely plausible and may make one think twice over as they watch the local/national/international news as strange events occur. There were many misdirections thoughout the novel, from beginning to end, and they were great! Lots of audible, “Oh damn!” moments were had

As the title implies, this is Book One (1) of a trilogy. I cannot wait until book two (2), Buzz comes out! It truly is a great, intelligent, thrilling, conspiracy page turner.

 

Lexicon by Max Berry #BookReview

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Lexicon
Max Berry
Fiction Thriller 390 pp

The power of words is strong. It can persuade a person to do anything. Or nothing.

A school/academy that focuses solely on training people to manipulate people based off their personality types or “segments.”  You can see where this could go from a micro to a macro perspective.   Every action you do on the internet? You’re being profiled and manipulated. Conspiracy theory! Yes! This is nothing new as it lightly satirizes marketing and social media and its influence. However, there’s a lot more involved with Lexicon than waxing the poetic on conspiracies.

The novel opens simple enough: the protagonist, Wil,  has a needle piercing his eyeball by one of his two assailants. They seem to be searching for something in his head. What then follows is a chase where the assailants and Wil are the ones being pursued. And then the novel shifts gears;  we’re now a few years back in a different storyline featuring the young, street smart grifter, Emily being invited to join a very different type of school. From here we watch as the storylines between Wil and Emily intersect and go forward together.

I love a good conspiracy story, although this is maybe the second one I’ve ever read; the rest generally from watching X-Files, various movies, and the like, but never really read.  The first had to do with the Roman Catholic Church and vampires.  Yes. I said vampires.  However, as previously mentioned, it touches lightly on the global conspiracy aspect, but just enough to get the reader thinking.  Subjects also lightly treaded upon include neurochemistry, psychology, and profiling to name a few.

It’s a well thought out, intelligent thriller with a touch of romance that moves at a frenetic pace as the search for that mysterious “something” in Wil’s head has us turning the page at whiplash speed in order to find out what’s so important in his head that he has to have a needle piercing through his eye to get to his brain.

 

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