Until recently, Vladimir Nabokov was not a name that was familiar to me. I’ve heard of Lolita and its ugly reputation, but I was surprised to find that the same author wrote numerous other novels. One of these was Pale Fire, an excerpt from which is used in K’s baseline test in Bladerunner 2049.

…and blood-black nothingness began to spin
A system of cells interlinked within
Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

–Vladimir Nabokov, “Pale Fire”

This excerpt alone is, to me, really good. It inspired me to pick up a copy of Pale Fire at my local library and read the rest.

Continue reading “Vladimir Nabokov Part One – Pale Fire”
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Cover of Ketcel by Chad Deal

Some stories are just that: stories. Simple. One dimensional. Easily digestible entertainment.

Some stories are much, much more than that. Some are complex conductive elements comprised of dozens of vibrant, glowing fibers, woven together specifically to guide us into the psychedelic cyberpunk future that might be.

Chad Deal’s Ketcel is the latter.

Continue reading “Review: Ketcel”
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Cover of Agent G Infiltrator by C. T. Phipps

“The International Refugee Society has twenty-six cybernetically enhanced ‘Letters,’ and for the right price, they’ll eliminate anyone.”

Agent G: Infiltrator by C. T. Phipps is a science fiction espionage thriller with underlying themes of cyberpunk trans-humanism. The book description reminds me of the Hitman franchise, but initially Agent G comes across as more of a cyborg James Bond than an Agent 47. For example, G states that he gets paid exorbitant amounts of money for his work, yet during his first mission his assistant and fancy gadgets seem to do much of the heavy lifting.

Not being a huge Bond fan, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this definitely isn’t a 007 clone. While there are plenty of Machiavellian machinations going on within the Society and lots of fancy technology at play, the meat of the story is thoroughly original, and quite a bit deeper than expected.

Continue reading “Review: Agent G – Infiltrator”
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Cover of Alpha Bots by Ava Lock

Bi-curious Stepford Wives + femme Fight Club
In a small town where all the women are AI, a corrupt policewoman picks a fight with a drug-cooking housewife, igniting a provocative rivalry that could wind up killing all the men.

I stumbled across Alpha Bots on Twitter, and it immediately caught my eye. Interesting author: check. Eye-catching cover: check. Intriguing description: check. I picked up a copy, and I’m really glad I did. Here’s why.

Continue reading “Review: Alpha Bots”
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Liquid Cool cover

I’m told you’re supposed to start book reviews with something positive. Liquid Cool isn’t the worst book I’ve ever read. It’s not the most offensive, or the most appalling. It isn’t even the most poorly edited. But that’s probably the extent of the positive things I can say about it.

Liquid Cool passes itself off as cyberpunk detective novel, but calling it that is a bit of a stretch. Cruz is a laborer in generically-named Metropolis. He restores cars and does odd jobs, none of which are particularly interesting, or of much interest to him. What Cruz really wants is to be a detective.

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Movie poster for Blade Runner 2049

A few weekends ago I finally got around to watching Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited addition to the cyberpunk phenomenon that started with Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And I have to say, I’m impressed. 2049 far exceeded its predecessors.

In this review I’ll discuss what I liked and didn’t like about the movie. I’m also going to talk about some disagreements I have with the underlying premises of the original book and film. There will be mild spoilers. If you haven’t watched 2049 yet, I highly recommend you do so! This review will be waiting for you when you get back.

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“Faced with the exhausting task of building mechanical trees that produce the precious oxygen they breathe, the Greenleigh orphan slaves piece together clues about the existence of a possible forbidden paradise beyond The Wall. To find the truth, shatter the illusions, and free the children, Joy must entrust the aid of an unlikely ally who harbors dangerous secrets.”

Christina Rozelle’s The Treemakers has a lot going for it: it’s a story about a group of child slaves attempting to find their way out of captivity. They’re tough and spunky. They’re even likable at times (although my favorite character was Smudge, the mysterious guide the children meet partway through the story.) The world is strange and imaginative, and the author has a knack for thorough descriptions.

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Interesting fact: my Favorite Reads of 2018 is one of the most viewed articles on this site. It’s ranked 4th by traffic, behind only articles about Ingram Spark and Kindle Direct Publishing. This surprised me. It also tells me that people really enjoy these end-of-year summaries, and that’s more than enough reason to do another one.

Before we get into the meat of this list, a disclaimer: this isn’t a ranking of books that hit the best seller lists or received a lot of publicity. These are my personal favorites among the books I had the chance to read this year. There are fewer than last year because, unfortunately, the Other Job took a huge bite out of my free time. I haven’t had a chance to do nearly as much reading as I would have liked.

This list covers a range of genres, and many if not all of the authors are indies. (Read indie books! There are a ton of incredible stories out there from indie authors, their books are often more affordable than traditionally published ones, and you’re helping someone fulfill their dreams. What could be better than that?)

A word on how I evaluate books: I’m intrigued by new and unique concepts, subversion of expectations, and genre blending. Bonus points if it makes me laugh. Comparing most of these books to each other would be impossible, so they’re organized alphabetically by title. If you’d like to read more, each heading links to my review of that book.

Now, without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2019!

Continue reading “Favorite Reads of 2019”

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Cover of Shadow Born by Martin Frowd

Eight year old Zarynn is an orphan. His parents were killed for committing the unspeakable heresy of worshiping a deity of light, and Zarynn is slated to be ritually stoned to death for manifesting magical abilities of his own when a dark stranger intervenes to save his life.

Rescued by the necromancer Glaraz, Zarynn embarks on an epic journey to escape certain death at the hands of the druids that rule the lands his people call home.

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The Interspecies Poker Tournament by Claire Buss

Chief Thief-Catcher Ned Spinks, along with his rag-tag band of mostly-supernatural fellow Thief-Catchers, have been tasked by the fey community with catching the most dangerous thief of all: a stealer of life.

The murderer has been targeting communities of supernatural creatures one by one, from the brownies to the dryads to the mer folk, and each victim has been killed in the most insulting way possible for their race. The murdered gingerbread man was dunked in milk. The naiad (water nymph) was left on dry land. And the deceased brownie, a race that’s fond of cake and notoriously intolerant of vegetables, was left in a salad bowl. Curiously, the only thing the survivors can seem to agree on is the existence of a suspicious mustache.

Continue reading “Review: The Interspecies Poker Tournament”

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