Review: Futurity by Michael Bunker

Futurity by Michael BunkerTitle: Futurity
Author: Michael Bunker
Genre(s): Adult Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Everyone wants to travel to the past. Not Malcolm. He wants to go into the future… and he’s just found out that Dr. Paulsen, Professor of Optics at Rochester-Finney University has figured out how to do it. Malcolm is a third year physics student and a gamer. He’s about to get more than he ever bargained for and he’s going to take you along for the ride.

I really liked Futurity, really, really a lot. It was something I’d been craving for awhile–a science fiction grounded in real science–so I was happy to find it in my pile of Bookbub bargains. There was so much of it to like: The only slightly fictional science unfolded amid an interesting plot and likable main character.

At times, protagonist Malcolm reminded me of myself, the young and eager physics student who wants to unlock all the mysteries of the universe. (Yes, I was all those things ten years ago, believe it or not.) At other times, his cheerful density–college age guys, so clueless when dealing with their girlfriends, *rolls eyes and smiles*–was frustrating but completely endearing.

I completely agreed with Malcolm’s interest in the future. When spending lazy nights talking over time travel with my physics friends, I’d look forward to the future, not the past, as many others do. The future is where the interesting stuff happens! The past is, well, the past. Before you ask, yes, Part II was my favorite Back to the Future movie. So I enjoyed the time spent on developing “the pinnacle of technology” that Malcolm travels to in the end.

While I enjoyed the culmination of the story, the heavy-handed morality lesson got under my skin. It’s been done … and done … and done … to compare our society of people disconnected by technology to the collapses of other empires. I would have liked to see the book end on a different note than “and so the world’s gonna end cause we don’t ‘see’ each other any more.'” I will, however, admit that it was done in a surprising and unique way.

I sat down and read this book in one session, which is something I don’t do much any more. It helps that it was short. The author himself notes that it evolved from a short story to a short novel. If you like science fiction and time travel stories, you’ll like Futurity. Just steel yourself for the lecture at the end.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

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Division by Karen A. Wyle releases in paperback today!

I thought I’d send out a quick blog post announcing that Division by Karen A. Wyle (click for my 4.5-star review) is out in paperback today.

Title: Division
Author: Karen A. Wyle
Genre(s): Near-Future Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo | Paperback (NEW!) – US or UK

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Check out my review here or purchase it at the links above.

Review: Acts of Violence by Ross Harrison

Acts of Violence by Ross HarrisonTitle: Acts of Violence
Author: Ross Harrison
Genre(s): Sci-Fi Thriller
How To Purchase: Kindle | UK Kindle | Smashwords

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Acts of Violence in exchange for an honest review.

My name’s Jack Mason. I made a mistake. Took home the wrong girl. Now she’s dead. Cut up. And they’re telling me I did it.

It’s the same cop that tried to take me down ten years ago. Now he’s coming at me hard. And he’s not the only one. Cole Webster, the city’s crime lord, thinks I stole from him. Broke me out of custody just to ask me about it. Then I killed his son. Now he really wants me.

Add to this equation a government agent, and I’m a real popular guy right now. Pretty much everyone I meet wants me dead, lawfully or otherwise. There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. I’ve got till morning to uncover Webster’s trafficking operation and take the heat off me. And all I’ve got to go on is a pissed off homeless girl with a thirst for revenge.

Guess it could be worse. Can’t quite figure how.

Acts of Violence is more thriller than sci-fi, which isn’t quite my cup of tea, but in the end, it unveiled a shocking twist–and that’s always sure to make me love it.

Jack Mason is a guy with a purpose, although his purpose is veiled in mystery. He’s hunting a bigwig in a backwater colony whose shady business dealings, quite frankly, just piss him off. He’s not a cop or a private investigator–though for years, he’s tried to get his license. He’s a guy with a mission. Maybe just a guy seeking redemption.

I was hoping for a bit more science fiction when I decided to read it. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy/urban fantasy and wanted some awesome tech that I could really get wrapped up in. Alas, the sci-fi is a backdrop to Jack’s hunt for the truth, gadgets and vehicles that help him along his way but never come to the forefront.

The thriller part was interesting. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not something I usually care to read, but the details of the fight scenes were so realistic that I’m convinced the author has spent time in combat situations. The details about taking care of his gun, about when he has time to aim or not aim, and keeping a picture of the layout of the room he’s fighting in–Well, I would never think of those things, which is probably why I don’t write thrillers.

Besides the fight scenes going on for too long (but then someone who likes that sort of thing would probably disagree), my one small gripe was the writing style. Jack’s voice was what drew me into the story, but after awhile, it started to annoy me. He spoke in clipped sentences. Wrote without a lot of commas. Used a bunch of phrases. Got a little annoying. But maybe that was just Jack, since I could never decide whether to trust him or not.

If you like thrillers with a dash of sci-fi, this is the story for you. I hate to overplay endings because then you end up over-anticipating, but I really did not see it coming. Then again, I never do, so take that with a grain of salt.

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Review: Confessions of a ChimpManZee by J. E. Murphy

Confessions of a Chimpmanzee by J. E. MurphyTitle: Confessions of a ChimpManZee
Author: J. E. Murphy
Genre(s): Near-Future Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle | CreateSpace

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Confessions of a ChimpManZee in exchange for an honest review.

Arthur Godschalk, an undergraduate student, innocent in the ways of the world and of women, finds part-time work at a lab that has contracted with the government to do experimental development of an army of killer chimpanzees. Becoming intimately involved with the family that owns the lab, as well as with several other women who work there, Arthur finds himself in a precarious position when he wakes up after an accident to find his fate is totally in the hands the person who hates him most in the world, his mother-in-law.

Leading his new chimp army from California to Africa, Arthur struggles to survive his new situation as he discovers secrets about himself, as well as the search for meaning that has driven all hominids for a million years–the quest of Life itself.

As Arthur’s mentor says, DNA is the wheel, and Life is the turning. This story tells how sex and evolution combine to make for one hell of an adventure.

Confessions of a ChimpManZee is a unique book. It’s broken into three major sections: Arthur’s life as a human, Arthur’s life in the body of a chimpanzee who translates between humans and chimpanzees, and Arthur’s life leading a group of chimpanzees in the wild. One of the reasons I was interested in reading it is that it sounded like it was about more than just a guy living in the body of a chimpanzee, and I was right. It’s about the nature of life, of humanity, and of the differences (if any) between people and animals.

Arthur, despite being self-described as unattractive, has a lot–a lot–of sex. For awhile, I was wondering if this was the author’s Mary Sue (What’s a male Mary Sue? Captain Kirk? Haha, a little gender humor there for you). But no, this is the point of the book–the human drive to procreate, the call of DNA, the need to sow one’s seed widely, and how little difference there really is between humans and chimpanzees.

The book made me think, which, as you probably already know, I love. Most of the biology and genetics lessons were rehashes of my introductory courses in college, but they were told in an endearing way. Arthur’s mentor, Dr. Axel, loved to talk … and talk … and talk … But it fit the story and didn’t seem too much like an info dump, even when it became one, since the guy loved the sound of his voice so much that it seemed real. (Hey, we all know that guy.) The narrator’s voice was what brought me into the story right away; I loved the conversational way that Arthur told his story.

The biggest frustration I had with this book was that it seemed unpolished. Proofreading errors abounded: Missing quotation marks, possessives in the place of plurals, and misplaced commas. One of the things that slowed down my reading and made the book feel like a slog at times was the dialogue. The author used some contractions in speech, but not enough. I have plenty of pet peeves, and that’s one of them, so take that commentary as you will.

I also got frustrated at time with the manner of storytelling, which would probably fall into the “developmental edit” category. I’m working on developmental edits on my book right now, so maybe this is my hammer and everything is a nail, so you’ll have to forgive me on that one. The way Arthur tells him story is to the reader from a point in the future, which is fine. But that point is undefined–we never get to it, or if we do, it’s not revealed as “now”–and some of what he says is misleading or unclear. For instance, he mentions a character that accuses him of murder. That sidebar mention brings to mind jail time, possibly, or another major plot point. Yet when the story comes to that point, it’s one small detail amidst a number of large, more important plot points. Don’t get me wrong: I liked the way Arthur told the story. It just needed, as I mentioned earlier, polish.

If you like books that make you think and don’t mind the ridiculousness of an overly amorous twenty-something man (whose antics made the story all the more entertaining), I would recommend Confessions of a ChimpManZee.

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Review: Division by Karen A. Wyle

Title: Division
Author: Karen A. Wyle
Genre(s): Near-Future Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo| Paperback (NEW!) – US or UK

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Division in exchange for an honest review.

Conjoined twins Gordon and Johnny have never let their condition keep them from living full and fulfilling lives. Gordon looks forward to many years of closeness and cooperation. Johnny, however, faces their future with increasing restlessness, even dread.

When the boys are in their teens, the new technologies of accelerated human cloning and brain transplants are combined into a single medical procedure — Transplant to Clone, or TTC. Someone whose body has suffered such extensive damage as to make normal life impossible may — with court approval — be cloned and then given a brain transplant into the clone body. With Gordon’s unwitting assistance, Johnny realizes that the TTC procedure provides the chance he had never dared to hope for — the chance to live in a “normal,” separate body.

But Gordon considers their conjoined life a blessing, rather than a curse. He has no intention of accepting separation — not without a fight . . .

Division is one of the best books I read in 2013, a year in which I read Parasite and We Need to Talk About Kevin. (And the Divergent trilogy, but I didn’t actually like those books, so no competition there.) I liked it so much that I asked author Karen A. Wyle to write a guest post for the blog, which she did last Friday.

I read books to escape and be entertained, like everyone else. But more, I read books to be challenged intellectually, and Division does just that.

This is a story about a pair of conjoined twins. One twin wants to undergo an operation to separate them into two bodies, while the other wants to stay joined. This is set in the near future, where the twins must present their arguments in court because the procedure requires the use of clones and cloning is restricted. The book follows a variety of characters as they cope with the emotional atmosphere up to and after the decision.

I get swept away by books like these that explore what it’s like living in the skin of an unusual, unexpected person. Division puts us into the experiences of a twin who want to be free, showing us what life is like chained to another person. It shows us the struggle the other twin undergoes when he’s–in his mind–rejected by someone closer than a lover could ever be. It even examines how their struggle affects their mother, who’s loved them unconditionally from birth and must watch their relationship fall apart. It follows a girlfriend who believed she would, someday soon, marry two people in one body.

A variety of moral questions are opened without direct treatment, which was skillful and impressive. Should the twins be allowed to leave their body for clones? Should a court have the responsibility to decide the future of their lives? Can there ever be a “right” answer when both of them want something mutually exclusive? Yet the morality was never heavy-handed, but was instead a backdrop for the interesting and subtle character interactions.

This book is one of the beautiful pieces of self-published literature that inspires me. The author, Karen A. Wyle, has published several other books that I’m eager to check out. Not to get on my soapbox again, but meticulous attention to detail–plot, character, premise, grammar–is what makes people want to read books. You don’t have to be traditionally published, though you may have to work your bum off twice as hard to get noticed. I heartily recommend this book.

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Review: Transcendent Tales, Volume I, by Adam Train

transcendant talesTitle: Transcendent Tales: Volume I
Author: Adam Train
How To Purchase: Kindle | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The complete first release collection from Transcendent Tales. All ten short stories and multi-part novellas come complete with vibrant covers and cinematic illustrations in a single purchase and download.

Transcendent Tales: Volume I by Adam Train is a deviation from a typical book of short stories in a couple ways. First, it’s illustrated, which I enjoyed: Illustrations are uncommon right now in books, and these enhanced the stories beautifully, catching the mood of the scene into which they were inserted. The second deviation I did not enjoy, which was that some of the longer stories had been chopped into parts, and not all the parts were included in this volume.

The storytelling itself is old school. The language and sentence construction is reminiscent of fantasies from years ago. One story, “The Voyage to Windward Atoll,” even reminded me of Edgar Allen Poe at the beginning and H.P. Lovecraft toward the end. Since I’m a sucker for both those authors, that story was one of my favorites.

Although not particularly heavy, the stories are nonetheless engaging. Whether fantasy, alternate history, or science fiction, they draw the reader into the world. I could feel the resolution of the Japanese samurai when faced with the Mongolian horde in “Saisho No Kamikaze.” I was drawn into the world of bureaucracy tainting the contact humanity made with a new species in “The Third Realm.”

Some of the extraneous words and grammar could be tightened up. I’m a stickler for dangling participles, one of the most frequent offenders in this collection. Possibly no one but professional editors and I would have noticed the problems.

My biggest frustration with this story collection is that at least one story, possibly two, were not wholly contained within. I was really into “The Treaty of Nine,” only to be told that the story continues in Part III, which is not included in the book. The last story, “The Third Realm,” was split into two parts, and I thought the end of the second part didn’t wrap the story up sufficiently. Is there more or not? I guess when Volume II comes out, we’ll find out.

Overall, the stories were engaging and enjoyable, but I’m disappointed in cliffhangers. If this were a regular periodical that came out perhaps quarterly, I would be less unhappy. I would have suspected and been prepared for missing story parts.

I gave this a 3.5 of 5 stars because of the somewhat meandering language and grammar, which could easily be fixed by an editor with a keen eye for detail. I also think this book should come with a disclaimer that the reader will be expected to pick up the next anthology to finish some of the stories. If like you science fiction, fantasy, and thorough world-building, you’ll enjoy this collection.

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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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