Book Review — The End Of The World As We Knew It

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With the long weekend and another day off yesterday, I was able to polish off some of that reading list that never seems to shrink. I posted my review of Hank Garner’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son yesterday, but that was really the tip of the iceberg.

On Tuesday night, I finished Nick Cole’s latest book, The End Of The World As We Knew It (TEOTWAWKI). It was epic. It was grand. It was heartbreaking and yet hopeful. More on that in a bit.

In a Nick Cole hangover today, I finally got around to starting Matthew Mather’s Nomad. I kept hearing great things about it, but it just came out at a bad time to get to it immediately (same thing with Cole’s book). With a few hours riding in a car today, I figured it was as good as a time to start as any. I couldn’t stop. Any free moment I had, I was back at the Kindle, craving more of Mather’s version of the apocalypse. I LOVED it, but for different reasons than why I loved Cole’s novel. I’ll share my thoughts on Nomad later this week…first I want to get TEOTWAWKI off my chest.

teotwawkiFirst off…I hate Nick Cole. I hate that he can write like he can. I hate that he makes me care about his deeply flawed characters. I hate him so much I can’t help but love him just a bit.

I will admit when I first opened the book, I struggled with the first few pages. Found footage in book form. Ugh. It seemed like an unnecessary plot device, but after a few pages, it settles down. Yes, there is the aspect of these recordings and journals being found and pieced together, but the stories are quite broad and involved.  As a reader I found the two main stories quite distinct and after a while I forgot they were “found footage.”

In that case, it does draw comparisons to the modern-day standard in zombie fiction — World War Z. Max Brooks’ classic is well known for being a series of vignettes that are only tied together by the slimmest of threads (NOT the movie, which features Brad Pitt as a very capable thread). In this case, there is a sense of that as well, but instead of it showcasing the tales of survival (or death) at the hands (and teeth) of the zombies, Cole shows us the humanity left behind in its wake. He shows the emotions, the torment, the shame, the bitterness, the economics, the brutality, the…life that is left when the plague wipes out most of the nation. What he does better than Brooks from a narrative point of view is he uses the protagonists of Alex and Jasonn (mostly Jason) to find all of those aspects of humanity in the aftermath. Jason’s journey is one made by countless characters throughout literature, starting with Odysseus. He needs to find the love of his life, but with Alex he only has the vaguest idea of where to look. Along the way we see his faults, his fears, his failures on his trek from New York to Los Angeles.

There really is so much to take in along the way, Cole could have easily tripled the size of the book with the rich details he added with developed secondary characters. Shoot, Cole could write a whole other story with just the character of Chris, or The Lady, or…any number of them.

But we get Jason and Alex. Star-crossed lovers, separated by thousands of miles of land and millions of infected zombies between them. Who are they? What choices do they make? How does that affect everyone else? What does that do to their very souls?

I loved Nick Cole’s book. Described as “The Walking Dead” meets “The Notebook,” I can honestly say as someone who hasn’t watched either (I know, I know!) that this book delivers. If you like a healthy dose of philosophy and romance with your zombie literature, this book is for you. I really could go on and on about what I felt as I flipped each page of this book, but suffice it to say I felt all the things. I felt joy, sadness, anger, shame, courage, and fear. Cole places you at the center of the apocalypse and makes sure that you know that each character has their own apocalypse. Each person gets their own ending and even with similar circumstances, each ending is unique. Read this book. You won’t regret it.

Flash Fiction Challenge – Repulse

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Repulse (2)

What’s this? 

A little cover I whipped up for a flash fiction story I wrote last week. It’s called Repulse and it’s up for voting at The Leighgendarium, Preston Leigh’s blog. He’s had an open call for Flash Fiction for the past couple weeks with some sweet prizes up for grabs. I’m not gonna deny I would like to win, but there are some great stories up on the Flash Fiction Challenge page. What I am going to ask you to do is read through the stories (including mine) and vote with your heart. (and your fingers of course) You can vote for three at a time and you can vote once each day (24 hours). If my story is good enough for your top three, thank you very much. If it isn’t, thanks anyway.

Regardless, I plan to include Repulse in a short story collection down the road, so you’ll see it again.

What’s it about? Here’s a short blurb:

It’s been twenty-three years since his home planet was destroyed. A typical day clearing asteroids brings him a life changing message, a voice from the past that he will never forget.

Well, what are you waiting for? GO VOTE!

Meet The Immortals — David Bruns

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Most of my reads these days tends to be sci-fi, or perhaps a fantasy book here and there. A few months ago, I had the chance to read a book outside the sci-fi/fantasy genre and it was a great experience. Took me back, in fact to my high school days. I devoured Tom Clancy books (not literally of course) when I was a teen and moved on to Clive Cussler and Vince Flynn as an adult. David Bruns (along with JR Olson) put together a top-notch military thriller called Weapons of Mass Deception that harkens back to the glory days of Clancy with a modern style. I really enjoyed it and hope he continues to pen books in the genre. But it’s also clear David Bruns is an excellent writer and his science fiction also earns him a lot of respect as well.

David Bruns’ story in The Immortality Chronicles is a welcome change of pace and one that I think a lot of people will enjoy. The Immortality Chronicles drops on Friday, Sept. 4 featuring stories by Patricia Gilliam, John Gregory Hancock, Drew Avera, Gareth Foy, D.K. Cassidy, Thomas Robins, E.E. Giorgi, Harlow C. Fallon, David Bruns, Paul B. Kohler, D. Robert Pease, and myself. The anthology is curated by Samuel Peralta and edited by Carol Davis. Until launch day, you can get the collection for just $2.99.

Now…on to Mr. Bruns:

11796327_10153423837640170_1900403244562143189_nWho are you?

I’m David Bruns, recovering corporate executive and full-time author. I think of writing career as my Third Act. In Act One, I was in the US Navy for ten years and served as a commissioned officer on a nuclear-powered submarine. Act Two was two decades was as an executive in high-tech that included seven moves, two years in Asia, and a metric butt-load of airline miles.

Writing is my Act Three. I always knew I’d get to this place in my life–it just took forty-odd years to get here. I write science fiction under my own name and alternate history-military thrillers with a writing partner, JR Olson. JR is a twenty-five year US Navy veteran who spent most of his career in naval intelligence. We write and blog together under the name The Two Navy Guys.

Since my leap into writing, I’ve released a sci-fi series called The Dream Guild Chronicles, and a bunch of short fiction. The Two Navy Guys published Weapons of Mass Deception, a novel about modern-day nuclear terrorism, in May.

Why are you writing for the Immortality Chronicles?

Did you say ImmorTality Chronicles? Oh no, I thought this was the Immorality Chronicles—I need to get my story back from Samuel right now!

Seriously, it’s such an honor to be part of what Samuel is doing with these short fiction anthologies. Ever since I reviewed Telepath Chronicles last year I wanted to be part of it. I even went so far as to write a “reserve” story for AI Chronicles called “I, Caroline,” but all the invited authors came through–which is a good thing.

The fact that the anthology is benefiting a literary cause just makes it sweeter for me. I’ve always been a huge reader and I think every kid needs books in their life.

David author pic - cropped-minWhat did you write for The Immortality Chronicles?

My story, “Legacy,” is about a brilliant inventor named Edward Stemm who loses a leg in the Iraq War. When he gets home, he is dissatisfied with the available prosthetics and forms a company called Stemm Bionics. As time goes on—and Edward gets older—he replaces most of his own body with bionics. When the story opens, Edward is being sued by his great-granddaughter and CEO of Stemm Bionics to force him out of his own company.

In “Legacy,” Edward pursues the goal of life extension to the exclusion of all else—including living. At the end of story he makes a final choice about how he wants to live. The underlying theme of the story is that our entire culture is built on the transience of human life. Much of what we do in our lives—raise children, win awards, build inheritances—is with an eye toward how we will be remembered when we’re gone.

Did I mention I was an English major as well as a naval officer? I could go on about this stuff all day…

How can we find out more about you and your writing?

The best way is to visit my website at www.davidbruns.com. You can browse all my work and even download the David Bruns Starter Library for free.

What’s next for you?

I have a short story in the upcoming Cyborg Chronicles and another in Tails of the Apocalypse, edited by Chris Pourteau. My writing partner and I have started writing the sequel to Weapons of Mass Deception. Last month, my first-ever submarine story, called Voyage of the Orca, was published as the first episode of a serial novel in the anthology, Experiments & Enchantments. Episode Two is calling. I like to work on more than one thing at a time.

Thoughts On A Birthday

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It’s my birthday. That should mean something, right? I guess in some ways it does. A moment to pause and reflect on this past year, if nothing else. A time we can look back on our lives and examine how we’ve done so far.

So far? I’m happy. Pretty stinking happy with my life. Really.

In the past year I became a dad for the second time and it’s been a wild ride for sure. I get to watch my pre-teen daughter navigate middle school while discovering who she is and what she likes. My son is a neverending source of discovery as well, if not for him, for me and my wife as well.

Speaking of the wife, we celebrated 15 years of marriage this year in a crazy summer that saw us organize and hold an estate sale for her grandmother as well as travel to North Dakota to honor the life of my grandmother who passed away just a month shy of her 100th birthday. We didn’t do anything big for our anniversary, but that’s kind of our style…at least at the moment. She’s okay with a quiet celebration and with our bank account that’s probably a good thing. She’s an amazing woman and I’m thankful every single day I met her in the first place. 

And our family continues to grow. We just adopted a new kitten named Cleo (Key-lo according to our son) and a new school year started for all of us. After being without a full-time pastor for nearly a year, our church has been blessed with a great new pastor and his family. Someone else mowed my lawn today and it looks better than it has all summer.

Yeah…life is good.

What? I didn’t mention writing or my books?

Well, those are great, but that isn’t all that I am. I have to know that if my arms fall off and I can’t type another word for the rest of my life, that what I’ve done and who I am has meant something. For the other three people in my house and the rest of my family across the country, I’m pretty sure that’s the case.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing as well. Not just the writing, but the fraternity of authors I’ve somehow stumbled into. I can’t possibly list all the people who have made a difference on my life, but my LOOW writing group, the Future Chronicles group (including my fellow authors in Alien, Z, and Immortality), and the other random authors I’ve befriended have all influenced me in one way or another. I realized today when I got a birthday message from my buddy Logan Thomas Snyder that giving gets you a lot in return.

It’s like they say at Christmas: “It’s better to give than to receive.”

Logan wished me happy birthday, but then took the moment to recall his publishing journey and how I was a friend from the get-go. If nothing else, I’d like to think I’ve been someone willing to give along the way. Give a review, give a beta read, give some time to talk, give my efforts. I know time is a limited resource so I can’t do everything I want, but when I’ve had time to give, I hope I’ve done all I can do to help others.

Have I reached the level where I can focus exclusively on my writing? No…but I don’t think I’m at the point in my life where I would have to limit myself in terms of talking to and enjoying other author’s work. I like who I am. I haven’t had to sacrifice my values to reach this point and for that, I’m grateful. I’ve met some great people over the past two years and will treasure knowing them. I may not be on the same level as some of them professionally at this point, but that’s okay. I like me and who I am, and at 36 years old, that’s a pretty good thing to be.

Chronicles Week! (with Kindle Paperwhite Giveaway!)

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Been radio silence around here for a couple months. Sorry about that…I’ll fill you in later. Suffice it to say this summer didn’t go exactly as planned on the writing front, but was still productive as well.

(Yes, yes…I’ll get to the Kindle Paperwhite giveaway in a bit…)

But while I haven’t been updating Ye Olde Blog at all this summer, I’m breaking that fast now for Chronicles Week.

Let me back up a bit. When I started writing, I credited a lot of the reasons why to one man — Hugh Howey. After reading his blog and WOOL, I was heartened by his approach and the success he had. Not success as in worldwide blockbuster multi-millionaire success, but rather just simply getting that book written and published success. I told anyone and everyone that it was due to Hugh Howey’s career that I had one as well.

While I still credit Hugh a lot, I’ve taken my own course in the past year. And what a year it’s been in my life. Exactly a year ago this week, I arrived home after flying to Africa with my wife to adopt our four (now five) year old son. If you’re familiar at all with international adoption, you know that the transition isn’t always smooth. Our son has been a blessing on our lives, but my writing schedule took a huge hit. I went from being able to write hundreds or thousands of words a day to dozens. Maybe.

So it was a huge boon when I worked up the courage to introduce myself to Samuel Peralta.

robot chSam is the publisher and curator of The Future Chronicles. A year ago at this time he’d only published the first of the series — The Robot Chronicles. I nabbed an early copy and wrote up a review for it and honestly included it in my best-of-the-year list. I saw some of the authors he’d included in that volume and knew I was as qualified as some of them. I asked about being considered for a future anthology and he graciously read my novella Ant Apocalypse. A few weeks after returning from Africa (and writing virtually nothing the whole time), Sam got in touch with me and offered me a spot in The Alien Chronicles.

I will honestly tell you my heart skipped a beat when I read the message that Sunday afternoon (yes, I can tell you exactly where I was) and I had to read it a couple times before I would believe it.

I knew the quality of story the Chronicles called for, so I took a personal day off teaching and wrote all day. The worst part of that? I ended up scrapping the entire story I spent the day on and went a different direction. But I needed that time to convince myself the first story wasn’t as good as the story I ended up writing — Uncle Allen.

(Hold on, the Paperwhite giveaway is down a bit, hang in there…)

alien chWhen The Alien Chronicles released in early January 2015, my story was one cited in a number of reviews as a favorite, and I reached a bigger audience in that month than I had in the previous year and a half I’d been publishing put together.

The Chronicles allowed me to keep writing, but adjust my new life around quality stories with a larger audience thanks to the dozen writers featured in each volume. Being put alongside writers like Hugh Howey(!), Jen Wells, B.V. Larsen, W.J. Davies, Ann Christy, and… (I could literally go on all day…) has elevated my stories and pushed me to write even better than I did before. The relationships I’ve developed in the past few months have shown me the different ways to be an author in today’s new publishing system and Samuel Peralta is a true visionary with goals for the Future Chronicles for multiple anthologies down the road. I’m as thankful for Peralta and the universes he has had a hand in creating as I am for Hugh Howey at the start of my career.

the-z-chroncilesUncle Allen led to Z Ball (my editor says its my best yet) in The Z Chronicles and I’m one of the few veteran voices to be featured in The Immortality Chronicles (now up for preorder — get your copy now!)

With all that said, it’s CHRONICLES WEEK! All the authors behind the current Chronicles books (so far we’ve had Robot, Telepath, Alien, A.I., Dragon, Z, and Alt.History 101) plus the half-dozen or so planned in the next eight to nine months are showcasing the Future Chronicles anthologies. If you haven’t yet read a Chronicles book, there is a special edition due out in a month, entitled (appropriately enough) The Future Chronicles. It will feature ten stories which have previously appeared in Chronicles books and five NEW stories, as well as a Foreword by Hugh Howey himself(!). It’s up for preorder right now for just 99 cents.

And in honor of the celebration, The Future Chronicles authors are giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. Wait, there’s more! Not only will you get a brand new Kindle Paperwhite, this amazing machine will be pre-loaded with all the Chronicles titles already released. Each of these books have hit #1 in the Sci-fi/Fantasy Anthology list and you want to win this thing. Visit here to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway (GIVEAWAY is now closed. Thanks for all who entered!)

Still here? 

uncle allenOkay…visit The Future Chronicles this week and check out all the amazing books there. If you want a taste, my Alien Chronicles story, Uncle Allen is FREE this week only. Check it out as a taste of the collection.

Author Interview – Jennifer Ellis

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Jennifer Ellis is one of five authors with books releasing next week under the “Apocalypse Weird” banner. The series started out with The Red King by Nick Cole and is spreading like a firebomb with the next books in the series, which include entries by Ellis, Michael Bunker, Chris Pourteau, E.E. Giorgi, and Cole himself with the follow-up to Red King. After reading Ellis’ book Reversal, I knew I wanted to interview her on my blog. The novel is a great read, in or out of the AW series. It reads a lot like a Clive Cussler novel with bits of Dean Koontz mixed in for good measure. And while you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, check out that M.S. Corley cover as well. Wicked.

Oh…and there may be a few spoilers, so consider yourself warned in advance.


WS: Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Why don’t you start with a short background about who Jennifer Ellis is and your career thus far.

JE: Well, I’m a bit of an enigma, even to myself. I started off as a serious academic and have a PhD in Geography, but quickly decided academia was not for me. I always wanted to be a writer and I could not see how a career teaching at a university and being forced to publish or perish could fit with my writing aspirations. I’m also a bit of a lone wolf. I like working on short-term projects, over which I have significant control, on my own, preferably in my house, in my pajamas, with the option to sneak out for a skate ski in the afternoon. So for the past sixteen years, I’ve worked as an independent consultant doing research, coordinating projects, and writing reports for multiple clients in the fields of sustainability and climate change. I started writing fiction seriously in 2007, and after having an agent and trying the traditional route for several years, published my first novel , A Pair of Docks, in 2013, which is a middle-grade science fiction fantasy. I have published two more since then—the second in my middle grade series, called A Quill Ladder, and a dystopian action adventure novel for adults, called In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation. Reversal will be my fourth novel. I also have published two short stories in anthologies—Synchronic and Tales from Pennsylvania.

My writing career thus far has been pretty fun, and I’m so glad I decided to go indie. I have had lots of amazing breaks and met lots of fantastic people. I’m still very much at the beginning of my career, but plan to ramp things up significantly in the coming year. I had just started two pretty major and intense consulting contracts in December 2013, which left very little time for writing over the past year. Those two projects will be done in March, and I’m really looking forward to focusing more on writing.

Reversal_FT_FINALWS: How did your involvement in AW come about?

JE: I had met Nick Cole and Michael Bunker through my involvement in Synchronic, which I was invited to join by my editor, David Gatewood, and got to know them a bit through the Facebook Launch Party and subsequent Facebook interactions. You know Michael and Nick—never a dull Facebook moment when they are around, beards and all. It’s sort of like working with Iceman and Maverick. And more importantly, they are both seriously great writers. Then I worked with them both in the Tales From Pennsylvania anthology. They asked me to join the AW crew and after doing some quick math in terms of whether I could generate the required word count to produce a complete novel by December, I gave them a resounding yes, and have been thrilled to be along for the ride ever since.

WS: What inspired your story Reversal?

JE: Well, I am Canadian, so I wanted to do something with a bit of a Canadian and snowy spin. I also have friends who have done Arctic research and I thought the Ellesmere Island setting offered a lot of scope to do something a bit different than what the others were doing. Also, since I do have a background in climate change and geography, I wanted to take more of a geomorphological and environmental approach to the apocalypse with pole reversal, solar flares, super volcanoes and methane-venting craters. I’ve always been interested in the different theories of mass extinction and what from an environmental perspective might finally do us in.

WS: One aspect I was impressed with was the authenticity. Do you have a background in Arctic research?

JE: Thanks so much. No, I don’t have a background in Arctic research. But I did hang out with people who did do northern research in grad school and heard a lot of their stories, mostly about not being able to shower for 45 days. I also spend a lot of time in a snowy climate, as I live in a ski town. We have bears in town and our yard routinely. Regular black bears of course, but I am accustomed to thinking about bears every time I go out for a run in the summer. I also did a research paper on penguins in university, and when I started writing Reversal, I had just finished reading a book about Shackleton’s voyage to the Antarctic. Pulling the rest together was just pure straight research, which I am pretty used to doing.

WS: What’s it been being a part of the initial AW team?

JE: The best! They are such a great group and have been fantastic to work with. It has also been super exciting to be part of something that is such a revolution in publishing. But it has also been a bit nerve-wracking because of course I wanted to make sure my novel measured up to Nick’s and Michael’s and the other two launch books by Chris Pourteau and E.E. Giorgi.

WS: How about that Corley cover?

JE; I love it. He is a pro and totally worked with me to develop the elements that I wanted to include. It was great fun to be able to imagine what my characters looked like and how I saw the various settings and be able to send him links and have him just produce them with his pencil. That is true talent.

WS: Any hints on your next book?

JE: My next Apocalypse Weird book will be called Undercurrent. Sasha will carry on to the Falkland Islands in search of Murphy and Soren, and then back to the Arctic to retrieve the green folder with the mysterious coordinates with the help of Gregor, who has uncovered some information regarding the polar bear tags. They will encounter more than they bargained for, and discover that all magnetic roads lead to Mount Asgard on Baffin Island, the Deccan Traps in India, Parhump, Nevada and the year 1974. That is of course, assuming I get to write it, because that is not a given in the Apocalypse Weird world, as readers have to connect with my writing and characters, so if you want more Polar Wyrd, make sure you leave a review for Reversal.

WS: One last thing…exploding penguins???

JE: It seemed appropriately apocalyptic. I do feel a bit bad about the penguins. No real penguins were harmed in the writing of Reversal, I swear. I might have to have the penguins take over the Antarctic research station in Undercurrent to make up for it.


Seriously — if you love a good thriller, Jennifer Ellis’ Reversal might be right up your alley. A bit sci-fi, a bit mystery, a bit supernatural. All together a great read. It is just one of the five Apocalypse Weird books releasing on February 23.

Buy My Books! (If you want to, that is…)

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I’m a terrible promoter. There are a lot of indie authors out there who have no shame in sticking their books in your face and daring you to buy their books or unfriend them. I hope I’m not one of those people — I really try hard not to be. But, I’ll put out the plea here for a few days — buy my books!

I’ve put each of my eligible books up for a Kindle Countdown Deal, meaning their normal price above $2.99 will be 99 cents for the next week. You can pick up Dead SleepDead Sight, and Baking With Swords all for just 99 cents each — combined you can get them for less than the price of a Coke at the movie theatre.


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DEAD SLEEP (Dead Sleep #1)

What would you do if you could see your future?
For smalltown newspaper reporter Jackson Ellis, the answer is: nothing. Jackson wants to chart his own course – not allow his visions to influence his life. That all changes when he “meets” Kristina Walsh. He sees a future with her – a love that’s destined to be.
The trouble is, she’s lying in a casket in the local funeral home.
Dead?
That’s what it looks like to the world, but Kristina’s got a secret.
Kristina has a troubled and complicated past of her own. For over a decade, a shadowy organization called The Company has controlled her, and once they discover she’s alive and out of their grasp, they’ll stop at nothing to get her back.
In this debut novel from the best-selling author of the Silo Saga story “The Veil,” Jack and Kristina wage a desperate battle for her freedom – a journey of self-discovery, love and what it means to be human.


Dead Sight ebook

DEAD SIGHT (Dead Sleep #2)

Darkness has overtaken the path…
Once, Jack could see the future. Using that amazing ability, he saved the woman he never knew he loved from a fate she didn’t deserve.
Now, that sight has vanished. He and Kristina are flying blind. The only option? To reach South Dakota and search out the last living link to Jack’s past and discover their shared destiny. They won’t rely on Jack’s vision, but instead will put their faith in a man dead for over 70 years.
Together, they’ll find that even in their weakest moments, they’ve never been stronger. They’ll discover that the secrets they uncovered in Dead Sleep are not the end of the story.
The second book in the Dead Sleep trilogy reunites the reader with Jack and Kristina, propelling them upon a perilous journey even deeper into the stunning world created by Will Swardstrom.
Bonds will be tested. Love will be lost. When faced with an impossible choice, what will Jack choose?


Concept 3BAKING WITH SWORDS: A Short Story Collection

Three stories from two brothers and a sister: Will Swardstrom, Paul K. Swardstrom, and Betsy Baker. Each story with its own unique perspective and genre. The only thread connecting them being family ties between the three authors.

The Price of Greatness by Paul K. Swardstrom
What drives a man? Is it simply being a good person, being a family man, or that single dream of greatness that runs through us all? What if we could have the chance to go back? What is the price of greatness?

Flutter by Betsy Baker
Treasure these moments…children change so fast. What would one mother do when the changes her daughter is going through aren’t so…normal?

A Whimper by Will Swardstrom
At a certain point, human evolution and technology merge, but at what cost? How far will we go before the end is the inevitable conclusion?

EACH of these titles is just 99 cents through next Wednesday. Pick up your copies and tell your friends. And I’ll try not to shove them in your face from here on out.