Review: Everything Belongs To The Future by Laurie Penny

Review:

everything-belongs-to-the-future

For me, science fiction is at its best when it tells an allegorical story reflecting on issues of the present day, and this is what makes Laurie Penny’s Everything Belongs To The Future such a strong work.

In 2098, scientists have created a Fountain of Youth in a little blue pill. This creates a gerotocracy that only further divides the haves from the have-nots, as the pill is marketed to the rich, and priced so only the wealthy have access. A small group of idealistic youths with aspirations of political revolution attempt to undermine this disparity and create a modified version of the drug, appropriately named a Time Bomb, to undermine the quest for longevity.

A writer on social justice, feminism, and gender issues, journalist Laurie Penny brings all of these topics to bear in her science fiction debut (Penny has written several non-fiction titles, including 2014’s Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution). Her vision of England at the turn of the next century is highly recognizable, but subtly shaded with the repercussions of present-day issues (certain segments of England, for instance, are underwater thanks to many of our Old White Man politicians ignoring climate change and its now-unstoppable effects on future generations). There’s plenty of justifiable anger simmering in this book’s plot, as well, and while the character’s motives are nicely gray their final solution is anything but.

Everything Belongs To The Future is richly political and frighteningly dark, but there’s also a certain honesty to it’s ‘what if’ nature that I appreciate. It’s better to have a bitter truth than a comforting lie, in my opinion, and this title certainly hits on several unsavory truths about mankind, ambition, and greed.

[I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

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Review: Everything Belongs To The Future by Laurie Penny

Review: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

Review:

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My original The Dispatcher audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

 

John Scalzi is an author that’s been in my to-read pile for a while, but I somehow have been unable to get around to reading his work. Thankfully, he and Audible teamed up to produceThe Dispatcher, an audiobook that runs a bit shy of two and a half hours, and which fit nicely into my daily commute.

Scalzi presents a world much like our own in The Dispatcher, with one crucial difference – people who are murdered or who die of unnatural causes automatically come back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher. His job is to intervene in a moment of crisis. Say somebody gets hit by a car or is about to die on the operating table. Tony’s job is to kill them in a humane fashion so they can come back to life and get another chance. There are loopholes, of course, because aren’t there always? And some of these loopholes are what drags Tony into a police investigation of another Dispatcher who has gone missing.

This premise of a world where murder is largely impossible is certainly an intriguing one, and it makes for a highly effective, attention-grabbing MacGuffin. While the mystical or theological elements undergirding the premise are inexplicable and unexplained, the effect this odd, new state of being has on the world and daily life is well rendered.

The investigation into the missing Dispatcher is well written, and poses plenty of questions, most of which the author approaches directly and satisfactorily. The real star, though, is Zachary Quinto’s narration. Although he’s best known for his roles in Star Trek and Heroes, this dude can truly and utterly perform a book reading in spectacular fashion. He inhabits the role of Valdez nicely, and demonstrates a wide range of voice talent in tackling the other characters, as well. While the story alone is great, Quinto elevates the material to the next level with his narration. As expected from Audible Studios, the sound quality and production values are top-notch.

The Dispatcher is free through Audible until Nov. 2, 2016, making this a very low-risk investment if you act fast, and one that presents wonderful returns for the price. On his blog, Scalzi noted this freebie is a thank you to his and Audible’s audience, as well as a nice enticement to draw in new readers and listeners. As someone who falls into this latter category, The Dispatcher is certainly a terrific incentive to lure me deeper into Scalzi’s backlist. I may even have to reshuffle a few commitments so I can get one or two more of his titles in before year’s end.

 

Buy The Dispatcher At Amazon

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Review: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

Review: Extinction Aftermath (Extinction Cycle Book 6) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Review:

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Odds are, if you’re reading a review of this sixth installment in Nick Smith’s popular Extinction Cycle series, you’re already a fan and I won’t be able to tell you much you don’t already know. If you’ve not yet picked up any of these books, and provided that military horror thriller creature features are your bag, then you’ll want to stop here and proceed directly to the first book in this series, Extinction Horizon.

Extinction Aftermath picks up in the months following Extinction End, and Team Ghost, now under the leadership of Master Sergeant Joe “Fitz” Fitzsimmons, is preparing to invade Europe in an effort to quell the Variant threat overseas. Back at home, Reed Beckham is settling into civilian life with the very pregnant Dr. Kate Lovato, and President Ringgold is trying to stitch America back together through a series of Safe Zone Territories. Needless to say, everything goes to hell in a handbasket, and pretty darn quickly, too.

For my money, Aftermath just might be the best EC book yet, which says quite a bit about Smith’s growth as an author and thriller writer. This title hits a few sweet spots that I’ve been waiting for the series to tackle, particularly taking the war to Europe (we get plenty of well-staged action scenes in France) and the introduction of some quite interesting mutations on the Variant side of things. The cover gives you a good hint of what one such mutation Smith’s introduces is, but there’s a few others that are pretty spiffy.

More intriguing, though, is the sense of scope Aftermath possesses. Now that the war against the Variants has gone global, there’s a great sense of sprawling epicness to the story, with the action taking us from the shores of France, back home to Plum Island, Florida, and a few other locales. And the new threat facing America serves to heighten and propel the threats abroad to dangerous levels, while also raising the stakes for our series heroes considerably.

My only real complaint with Aftermath is the lack of resolution. Nearly every plot thread ends on a cliff-hanger, some bigger than others, making this book merely a prelude to the next novel, Extinction War. On the other hand, it’s not like I wasn’t going to continue on with this series regardless. Even if everything had been neatly wrapped up, I’d still be plunking down the cash for whatever Smith has lined up next. From the looks of it, Book 7 should certainly be a doozy.

 

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Review: Extinction Aftermath (Extinction Cycle Book 6) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Sept. 2016 Read and Reviewed Roundup

Happy October! It’s hard to believe we’re closing in on the end of another year. Halloween is coming up soon, and it’ll be a short jaunt from there to Thanksgiving, and Christmas will rear up fast after that. Yowza.

In hindsight, September was pretty busy and hectic. On a personal note, it was my son’s very first birthday. My baby has grown into a little boy, and he’s hitting all the right milestones pretty much on target. He is also thoroughly a mama’s boy, big-time, but I on occasion he’s willing to tolerate me and I can get to make him laugh, which always feels amazing. His birthday required a good deal of preparation as we gathered the family at a park for kiddo’s cake smash, which he enjoyed quite a lot. By the end of that, he was pretty covered in frosting and smiling exhaustedly. I think I was even more tired than him by the end of it all, though.

Book-wise, I read, mostly, a lot of good stuff and some very, very good stuff. Chills hit some sweet spots for me, but Barry Eisler’s upcoming release, Livia Lone, was easily the best book of the month for me.

  1. Red Right Hand by Chris Holm
  2. The X-Files: The Truth Is Out There (audiobook), edited by Jonathan Maberry
  3. Devils In Dark Houses by B.E. Scully
  4. Out by Natsuo Kirino (audiobook)
  5. Chills by Mary SanGiovanni
  6. The Warren by Brian Evenson
  7. Livia Lone by Barry Eisler
  8. Stranded by Bracken MacLeod
  9. Corpse Rider by Tim Curran
  10. Ship the Kids on Ahead by Bill Stokes (audiobook)

Looking ahead a bit, expect a review on the latest Vince Flynn novel, Order to Kill, by Kyle Mills soonish. I’m reading a paperback ARC of it, which the publishers were kind enough to send my way after selecting me to be a Mitch Rapp Ambassador. I was pretty geeked about that! And I just bought the latest Alastair Reynolds title, Revenger, which is sitting pretty on my Kindle. Hopefully I can get to that one next!

Sept. 2016 Read and Reviewed Roundup

Book Releases Going Wide…Again

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When I began publishing back in 2014, I had made my books available on all platforms. The idea was to reach as wide an audience as possible and get onto readers’ Nooks, Kobos, iPads, iPhones, and whatever else I could.

Eventually sales stagnated and I grew impatient. Amazon is, and has been, the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the middle of the room. Kindle has brand recognition and the most amount of readers. I myself own a Kindle, like a hell of a lot of others and I love it to death. Before I broke down and bought my Fire HD tablet, I had the Kindle app on my iPhone and on my wife’s iPad. Amazon virtually owns the ebook market, especially in the US. At that time, it made sense to align myself with the big guy and enroll in KDP Select.

For indie authors and small presses that sell exclusively on Amazon, there are certain luxuries available through Kindle Direct Publishing if you enroll in their KDP Select program. This allows readers to borrow your books through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, and for you to be paid for each page read. You can do countdown deals and offer free promotions, which is pretty great. Lots of indie authors have had much success with their KDP Select enrollment. I did not.

In my estimation (and your mileage may vary), KDP Select is awesome for authors who can continuously churn out new releases on a regular basis, or who already have a large virtual footprint with a large catalog of titles available. If you’re publishing six titles a year, it may be best to target Amazon readers specifically. I’m not one of those authors, and have time and money to only publish once or twice a year. And at this point, the virtual shelf space my name and titles occupies is fairly limited.

There were periodic spikes in sales and borrows, especially around the release of two fairly high-profile anthologies (The Cyborg Chronicles and CLONES, specifically), but those trailed off rather quickly and my Amazon sales dashboard has, over the last few months, become a rather disappointingly flat line.

I’ve also become a bit less than enamored with a few of Amazon’s business decisions, as both a reader, customer, and independent author-publisher. KDP Select is fairly easy to game (there have been instances of authors producing phone-book sized titles that are mostly ads and junk in order to increase the page count), and authors compete against one another for whatever bonus Amazon has set aside to those who generate the most pages read. The monthly payout per author varies and can go higher or lower depending on nothing more than the whims of Amazon.

I’m also not thrilled with Amazon’s easy-to-game review system and its enforcement to ensure legitimate reviews are posted. Too often, I see reviews on various books from people who have clearly not read the material, and even admit to such in their reviews. Check out virtually any traditionally published title, and you’ll find one-star reviews because the customer disagrees with the publisher’s price (like this recent review for a Kindle Worlds Legacy Fleet title from the Sisters of Slaughter, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason). Or one-star reviews from readers with a bone to pick over an author’s inclusion of homosexual characters or other progressive politics, as was the case with Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars title last year, or because readers hate whatever they’re gonna hate, and they have an agenda, and they blame the author or publisher for not producing material suitable to their preferred echo chamber. Those reviews all get posted, and yet legitimate reviews can get pulled if Amazon finds out you are a reader who follows an author on Twitter and Facebook, and decides you’re in cahoots, legitimately or otherwise. There is also the specter of being banned by Amazon. A few months ago I listened to an episode of The Horror Show with Brian Keene with an erotic horror author whose work had been de-listed and banned from Amazon.While this may never happen to me, or many other authors, I also do not want to risk keeping all of my work for sale on a single site that could, one day, make it all disappear and lock me out just because.

All of these are factors for why I think it’s time to diversify once again. Dwindling sales and corporate practices are, for me, two good reasons to launch wide again, wherever possible. However, I will still be exclusive to Amazon for at least one upcoming title, which will be set in a new Kindle Worlds series (more on this in the coming weeks), and I expect the anthologies I’ve been involved in to remain exclusive to Amazon for the foreseeable future, as well. It’s also entirely possible that I may one day sign, maybe, with a publisher (or publishers) that sell exclusively on Amazon. The rest of my titles, though, are now available on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks, in addition to Amazon. When I can diversify, I will, simply because I prefer to not keep all of my eggs in one basket.

I will say that in the course of spreading my works out onto these various sites, I’ve already earned more than I did throughout the last few months of my KDP Select period. Granted, this may not last very long, but the hope is that I increase my discoverability and widen my footprint by being more accessible to an increased set of readers.

I’ve also released my first audiobook, Revolver (Audible | iTunes), further diversifying not just where my books are available, but how they can be enjoyed. Hopefully you’ll check it out. If enough listeners snag a copy, and if I’m fortunate enough to turn a profit, this could help pave the way for many more audiobooks to come. I’d love to work with Revolver’s narrator, Patricia Santomasso, again, and if you’d like to hear more of her reading my words, we need your support. But, if you’re a non-Kindle reader and non-audiobook listener, you can find links to your preferred bookstore at the pages of any of my solo titles listed right at the top of my homepage.

Book Releases Going Wide…Again

The Shot Heard ‘Round The World – REVOLVER Audiobook Now Available

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Best Novella 2015 – Edward Lorn, author of Cruelty 

Named Top Short Story of 2015 by The Leighgendarium

Big news! My indie title, Revolver, is now available as an audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes!

Narrated by Patricia Santomasso, this short story clocks in at a lean 1 hour, 14 minute listen. And it’s less than $5!

Patricia has worked with a few of my conspirators co-authors from CLONES: The Anthology on narrating their individual releases, including Daniel Arthur Smith’s Hugh Howey Lives (Audible | Amazon) and RD Brady’s Hominid (Audible | Amazon), so give them a listen (or read), too!

Working with Patricia was a great experience, and she gave this story her all. Revolver is not exactly a pleasant story, and can be downright brutal and hostile, and I’m tremendously proud of Patricia’s work here, and the energy she brought into the recording studio. Right from her very first audition, I knew she was the voice of Cara Stone, and I think she’s made this story even more powerful.

Revolver will be making its way on to iTunes soon, and I’ll update this post with that information once I have a link available.

Adrian, aka BeavisTheBookhead, recently reviewed the ebook of Revolver, and had lots of kind things to say, including:

This is an angry story, one that goes straight for the jugular in a most unapologetic but engaging way. … ‘Revolver’ is a great story, bristling with tension, unflinching with its descriptions and thoughtful.

For those unfamiliar with Revolver, here’s the synopsis:

The “stunning and harrowing” short story, originally published in the anthology No Way Home, is now available as a standalone release and features an all-new foreword written by award-winning science fiction author, Lucas Bale.

Cara Stone is a broken woman: penniless, homeless, and hopeless. When given the chance to appear on television, she jumps at the opportunity to win a minimum of $5,000 for her family.

The state-run, crowdfunded series, Revolver, has been established by the nation’s moneyed elite to combat the increasing plight of class warfare.

There’s never been a Revolver contestant quite like Cara before. The corporate states of America are hungry for blood, and she promises to deliver.

By the way, if you haven’t already, now is a really good time to sign up for my newsletter. In the coming weeks, I’ll be doing a few special giveaways, and announcing the release of a brand new title that will be launching next month, so be sure to subscribe now!

 

The Shot Heard ‘Round The World – REVOLVER Audiobook Now Available

Review: The Warren by Brian Evenson

Review:

thewarren-brian-evenson

Although The Warren is short – less than a hundred pages and compelling enough to read in a single sitting – I needed some time to digest its content and figure out what I wanted to say about it. Ultimately, I think the less said about it the better. (And I do mean this in all seriousness, and in the best way possible.)

I went into this book blind, knowing very little about it other than it had a snazzy cover and was another release in Tor’s strong line of novellas. I think this is about all you should know about it, as well. It’s a good, twisty read and you should probably check it out so long as you can stand not having everything perfectly resolved and all questions neatly answered.

Not enough? OK, fine. Imagine taking some science fiction heavy weights, like Blade Runner and The Martian and tossing them in a heavy-duty blender with Memento for added flavor. The Warren, however, is far from simply a pastiche of these other works, even if I found their influences to be strong. What you end up with, though, is a short work that calls into question the nature of self and self-perception with an utterly unreliable narrator in what is, basically, a locked-room drama.

This warped and fairly grim narrative cares not a whit about delivering the goods in a linear fashion, so readers should go in with scrutinizing eyes and pay keen attention to the details. Brian Evenson raises a lot of questions within his story, most of which are either answered ambiguously at best, or left to the reader to suss out the clues. I enjoyed connecting the various puzzle pieces presented in The Warren, and I suspect that a second read-through would be both deeply rewarding and quite different than the initial journey. This is certainly a story that demands a focused reading, and the closer you inspect Evenson’s writing the more satisfying it becomes.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

Buy The Warren At Amazon

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Review: The Warren by Brian Evenson