Review: furtl by Strobe Witherspoon

Title: furtl
Author: Strobe Witherspoon
Genre(s):
Adult Humorous Near-future Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

2026. furtl, America’s once dominant technology conglomerate is bleeding money. Holospace machines out of China have transformed the way people do business on the Internet and furtl can’t keep up. But there is hope. If furtl can get the US government to outlaw Holospace machines, their search algorithms, social networks, and proximity payment systems will live to see another day. All the government wants in return is unrestricted access to furtl’s user information so it can squash its political opponents. It’s the perfect plan (issues pertaining to privacy, innovation, and democracy notwithstanding).

“By far the best dystopian techo-political satire set in the near future I have ever read.” Ruby Witherspoon, Strobe’s mom

furtl is funny and insightful, a tightly wound tale with more pop references than I probably picked up. Its political commentary was scathing, and its humor made me laugh out loud more than once. This is what 1984 would have been if written in 2013 by a guy with a funnybone.

furtl chronicles the unceremonious unseating of the founder of the book’s namesake company, a timid and weaselly fellow who has been swept away by people more politically attuned and financially motivated than he. After being ousted, he heads off into the Bhutanian wilderness to sulk, only to be reawakened by the intrusion of technology in his isolated haven. He plunges back into the political reality of the 2030’s America, where he works to overthrow the stranglehold his previous company has on the government.

I can hardly do this book justice in this short review, but parodies and parallels abound. One group he runs into, the “Lefteas” plays off both the term “leftie,” a derogatory term for a left-leaning idealist (and this sorry band of miscreants takes those beliefs to hilarious extremes) and the “Tea Party” grassroots movement currently underway. But the satire doesn’t stop with the groups themselves. The entire culture of the country a short couple decades in the future is a logical progression from where we are today. I would go so far as to call this “a scathing but hilarious critique” of current Western society, if I were prone to sound bites in these reviews.

Mr. Witherspoon has done his homework, binding the story together with details and nuances that struck me as apropos, sad, and silly all at once. I found it confusing to get into the book because with first chapter is actually a prologue (since the main character isn’t in it). It took several scenes before I realized Manny was the protagonist. I enjoyed his hard-put-upon demeanor, though it didn’t quite reach the hilarious extremes that, say, Arthur Dent in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy did.

This book appeals to readers of satirical humor, conspiracy theorists who believe the government is tracking our every move (Hint: They are!), and anyone who appreciates a light-hearted look at the consequences of the choices we as a society are making.

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Guest Review: Ciara Ballintyne on The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett

Did you know that today is a very special day? It is!

Today marks my first guest review, written by the talented Ciara Ballintyne, author of Confronting the Demon. Stay tuned on Monday for my own review of her book, the reading of which prompted me to contact her to do this guest post. Meet Ciara:

JM0130BCiara has chosen to review a book that influenced her own writing, The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett. OK, OK, I’ve talked enough, let’s get to what Ciara has to say:
185px-The-last-heroTitle: The Last Hero, Book #27 of Discworld
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre(s): Adult Humorous Science Fiction

Cohen the Barbarian. He’s been a legend in his own lifetime.
He can remember the good old days of high adventure, when being a Hero meant one didn’t have to worry about aching backs and lawyers and civilization. But these days, he can’t always remember just where he put his teeth…So now, with his ancient (yet still trusty) sword and new walking stick in hand, Cohen gathers a group of his old — very old — friends to embark on one final quest. He’s going to climb the highest mountain of Discworld and meet the gods. It’s time the Last Hero in the world returns what the first hero stole. Trouble is, that’ll mean the end of the world, if no one stops him in time.

A long time ago, the first hero stole the secret of fire from the gods. Now, the last hero, Cohen the Barbarian, together with his Silver Horde, is returning it. With a vengeance.

I said SILVER HORDE. Silver, you know? SILVER? Your hair! Oh, never mind…

It’s not silver for all the loot they stole, see?

Cohen is the disc’s answer to Conan – eighty years old in the shade, with dentures made from troll teeth (diamonds) and tough as old boot leather (possibly tougher, and certainly stringier). The Silver Horde may not always be able to hear what’s going on (one of them even uses an ear horn) but they can always beat it into submission (even from the seat of a wheelchair).

‘And they’re heroes,’ said Mr Betteridge of the Guild of Historians.

‘And that means, exactly?’ said the Patrician, sighing.

‘They’re good at doing what they want to do.’

‘But they are also, as I understand it, very old men.’

‘Very old heroes,’ the historian corrected him. ‘That just means they’ve had a lot of experience in doing what they want to do.’

Lord Vetinari sighed again. He did not like to live in a world of heroes. You had civilisation, such as it was, and you had heroes.

The problem is, this spells disastrous consequences for the entire disc… The end of the world, in fact. Again. Unless someone stops him.

So who is really the last hero?

Enter Rincewind, once again swindled into certain danger and almost certain death.

Of all the Discworld books, the ones with Rincewind are by far my favourites. I think they are the funniest, because how can you compete with a cowardly wizard who can’t do magic, who has no interest in saving the world, or the danger that goes with it, and yet somehow always manages to find himself at the centre of these things – and pulls it off? And surely no one had disappointed Death as many times as Rincewind.

In fact, The Last Hero features nearly all my favourite characters – Death, the Librarian, Vetinari, Captain Carrot, and Leonard of Quirm, who all come together in a desperate mission to save the disc. Which is to say, of course, that Lord Vetinari decrees it shall be done and has Leonard design an insane plan. Carrot volunteers because he’s like that, and Rincewind volunteers out of a belief in sheer inevitability – he knows he’s going to wind up on this mission whether he likes it or not, because that’s what always happens to him, so why fight it?  Death, naturally, is quite invested in the outcome.

‘What is that on your badge, Captain Carrot?’

‘Mission motto, sir,’ said Carrot cheerfully. ‘Morituri Nolumnus Mori. Rincewind suggested it.’

‘I imagine he did,’ said Lord Vetinari, observing the wizard coldly. ‘And would you care to give us a colloquial translation, Mr Rincewind?’

‘Er…’ Rincewind hesitated, but there was really no escape. ‘Er… roughly speaking, it means, “We who are about to die don’t want to,” sir.’

Like all Discworld books, The Last Hero is a rollicking good laugh, combining some of the best elements of the Discworld series in one volume. It comes in an illustrated format, with some fantastic pictures. Highly recommended!

The Last Hero has a particular place in my heart because a line from the book served as the inspiration for my novella, Confronting the Demon. It was the writing prompt for my writer’s group one month several years ago. The story went through many iterations before it settled into the form in which it now exists, but throughout all its incarnations, the concept that originally sprang from the prompt remained true. It came from this paragraph:

‘That meal,’ said Cohen, ‘was heroic. No other word for it.’

‘That’s right, Mrs. McGarry,’ said Evil Harry. ‘Even rat doesn’t taste this much like chicken.’

‘Yes, the tentacles hardly spoiled it at all!’ said Caleb enthusiastically.

[Samantha’s note: Aha! Tentacles …]

So do yourself a favour, and go buy The Last Hero. Paperback, not ebook, because some of the best jokes are in the footnotes and you miss out on them in ebook. If you have the option, get the illustrated version. Love the artwork. It won’t fit nicely on your shelf, but it’s worth it.

Interested in more words by Ciara? Find her:

Or if you want to check out Confronting the Demon, you can find it here:

A big thank you to Ciara for her post today!

Review: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series by Douglas Adams

Title: The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series
Author: Douglas Adams
Genre(s): Adult Science Fiction Humor
How To Purchase: Kindle (Amazon)

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

At last in paperback in one complete volume, here are the five classic novels from Douglas Adams’s beloved Hitchiker series.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Seconds before the Earth is demolished for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is saved by Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised Guide. Together they stick out their thumbs to the stars and begin a wild journey through time and space.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Facing annihilation at the hands of warmongers is a curious time to crave tea. It could only happen to the cosmically displaced Arthur Dent and his comrades as they hurtle across the galaxy in a desperate search for a place to eat.

Life, the Universe and Everything
The unhappy inhabitants of planet Krikkit are sick of looking at the night sky– so they plan to destroy it. The universe, that is. Now only five individuals can avert Armageddon: mild-mannered Arthur Dent and his stalwart crew.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Back on Earth, Arthur Dent is ready to believe that the past eight years were all just a figment of his stressed-out imagination. But a gift-wrapped fishbowl with a cryptic inscription conspires to thrust him back to reality. So to speak.

Mostly Harmless
Just when Arthur Dent makes the terrible mistake of starting to enjoy life, all hell breaks loose. Can he save the Earth from total obliteration? Can he save the Guide from a hostile alien takeover? Can he save his daughter from herself?

If I were stranded on a deserted island, and I had the choice of only one book, the Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would be it. Never mind that it consists of five books. It comes in one binding, and therefore it’s a book! (Also, I don’t know what sort of sadistic cretin would require me to be stranded on a desert island with only one book, but these things rarely make sense.)

My introduction to HHGTTG was at a library book sale in my hometown in junior high or high school. Something about that goofy-looking green smiley face with its tongue sticking out called to me. It actually didn’t seem like my kind of book–I liked more serious fare–but hey, it was cheap. I’m so glad I picked it up (and I’m still a little peeved that my library got rid of it).

My favorite, by far, is the second book, Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The absurdity of a cow bred to beg the diners to choose which part of its body to eat for dinner is both macabre and hilarious. Lest you be offended, as our hero Arthur Dent was, don’t have the salad: The cow knows a number of lettuce heads that would be upset with your choice. It’s asking you to eat it! Eat the cow!

Though the plot meanders and sometimes outright makes no sense, Douglas Adams wove a brilliantly created world throughout his ridiculousness. His writing is snappy, his character dialog is quick-witted, and his ideas are fabulous. After all, I’m still trying to learn to fly by throwing myself at the ground and missing.

C’mon, you guys–what’s your favorite part of HHGTTG? Is it Marvin? I love a depressed robot. Is it the sentient pot of petunias? That kills me. Is it how Zaphod Beeblebrox is so hip, he has trouble seeing over his pelvis? I laughed hysterically when I read that part.

Douglas Adams was a genius. May he rest in peace.

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