Book Review – The Legacy Human

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legacy humanSusan Kaye Quinn has a winner on her hands with The Legacy Human. It is compelling, exciting, and a fine example of intelligent fiction. Susan doesn’t dumb it down for her audience, instead trusting her readers to challenge their ideas of what it means to be human as the story unfolds. If the next books in the Singularity series are anything like this book, I can easily see teenagers swapping The Hunger Games or the Divergent Series for her books. In a heartbeat.

Our hero is a 17-year-old artist named Eli, who craves one thing — to ascend. Eli is a Legacy Human, kept because of his genetic code. Once he ascends, he can join the elite group on the planet, ones that don’t age because their consciousness now inhabit bodies of metal. And, his ascension will bring his mother along with him, thereby curing her of her debilitating sickness. Unfortunately for Eli, that ascension can only come after he competes at the Olympics — an event not known for sports in the future, rather for the arts, such as writing, dancing, and painting. Eli isn’t good enough on his own to compete and win at the Olympics, until he goes into his “fugue” state. One painting done under these conditions catches the eye of one Ascender, Marcus, who sponsors Eli at the games.

Once Eli and his friend Cyrus get to the Olympics, they find the competition deadly fierce, but not always between the competitors. The Ascenders themselves have their own political games to play, and the Legacy Humans are just pawns in their eternal games. They also meet competitors who bring out the best in Eli — a dancer, and a writer who both challenge his way of thinking. The world suddenly expands for Eli, all while it seems to close in around him.

What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to have a soul? Can a machine possess a soul?

Eli struggles to answer these questions, all while striving to figure out his own abilities leading up to the climax of the competition. There are secrets at play, many of which Eli doesn’t even know are there, but finding them out could change his life forever.

I really enjoyed The Legacy Human. I can see similarities between The Hunger Games and Divergent for sure: the games, the separate groups the teens get placed into, the grand machinations going on behind the scenes. The story has a very intimate feel, focusing on Eli and his role in this world, but the scope is so much larger than he could have possibly imagined. In another way, I really got a Ready Player One feel from this novel as well. There was hope even in the midst of a human dystopia and a lot of other slight ways I could connect RPO to Legacy Human.

I would definitely recommend this book to any lover of Young Adult thrillers and look forward to Quinn’s second book in the series. Well done!


Note: The Legacy Human will be available for purchase on Monday, March 2. 

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Book Deals of the Week

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There are some great books out there for a great price this week. Let’s take a look at a few:

Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole

spsSoda Pop Soldier will be on my list of my favorite books of 2014, you can count on that. I loved Ready Player One, and Nick Cole took that technological society and showcased it through a different lens. I reviewed it a couple months ago here.

Thankfully you can get Soda Pop Soldier for much less right now. Just $1.99 for your Kindle copy. Michael Bunker says this is his favorite book of the year and I won’t disagree. Fantastic book.

This is really one of those books you will read and want others to read as well. That’s what makes the $1.99 price point so great. Buy one for yourself and a couple for friends — all for less than the original price of the book.

Dead Sleep by Will Swardstrom

You don’t think I would do this without including my own book, on sale this week for just 99 cents? This was my first novel and the first in a planned trilogy. The sequel is also available and the third book is about 40 percent done.

Dead Sleep tells a story of discovery with an action-fueled chase pushing the narrative. I was really inspired by Clive Cussler and Lee Child as I was writing this, with a definite sci-fi angle.

Dead Sleep is 99 cents for the rest of the week.

Linear Shift, Part 2 by Paul Kohler

linear shift 2Paul Kohler’s Linear Shift is soon to get its third installment in November, so now is a great time to catch up on what has happened in Part 1 and 2.

Kohler boldly takes on the time travel story, but takes his time setting the scene. Part 2 is longer and deeper than the first part and I fully expect the third story to really advance the plot when it drops next month.

Right now you can pick up Linear Shift, Part 2 for just 99 cents.

Janey X39: Rebirth by Nina Tozzi

janey x39Not really a deal, but after reading it, you’ll feel like you got one. Nina’s first foray into self-publishing tells the story about Janey, a household robot. Of course, there is more to see than just a standard robot story and Tozzi really makes the reader feel.

I picked this story up and read it the same day. Here is some of my review: “I can’t say I was surprised by the ending, but Tozzi does such a fantastic job of portraying heartbreak and loss that I didn’t even mind not being shocked at the reveal. The point is — Janey is shocked. In spite of everything that had happened to her and her existence as an “android,” Janey shows a lot of humanity in the pages of this story.”

Janey X39: Rebirth is just 99 cents.

Book Review: Soda Pop Soldier

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spsWith a name like Soda Pop Soldier, I half-expected a light-hearted romp through modern video games. What I got was something completely different. Something telling about how many of us live our lives online and the anonymity that we expect. Something visceral and violent, yet clean and sanitized at the same time. Something that fully engaged my head and heart alike. 

Nick Cole’s Wasteland Saga led by The Old Man and the Wasteland was Cole’s bleak dystopian debut. He impressed me with the deliberate and purposeful pace of that novel, but in SPS, he treats the reader to something completely different. Is the future portrayed in Cole’s new novel a dystopia? I would say it is, but it resembles more of a Ready Player One-type future rather than the post-apocalyptic tone of his previous work. 

Unlike RPO, however, Cole infuses his world with a much darker tone. RPO always had a certain Reagan-era optimism. That everything would be OK even if Parzifal didn’t succeed. Here though, there is a certain amount of fear behind the scenes. If PerfectQuestion doesn’t get everything just right his existence is definitely in question.

The gamer PerfectQuestion is a key piece in ColaCorp’s ongoing war for advertising space. The winner in the online arena gets billboard space in Times Square and other key spots around the world. PerfectQuestion is good at what he does, but his squad finds itself outmatched in their latest round of battles, leading to his pay getting cut.

In order to make ends meet, he takes to the back alleys and signs up for an illegal game called the Black, where twisted fantasies play out for those who want to indulge in that sort of thing. This game, however, turns into something more for PerfectQuestion and an additional quest to finish alongside his professional life in WarWorld.

Throughout it all, we see the real world, but in many ways Cole presents this as almost more fantastic and ridiculous than the online worlds that PerfectQuestion plays in. There are scientific advancements that take humans to other planets and planes that seemingly traverse around the world without stopping, but most of that is unavailable to the average person. The more the book explores those areas – the areas inhabited by the rich and powerful – the more the reader finds themselves in foreign territory.

In many ways PerfectQuestion is more at home in the war and fantasy of his online games than in the real world.

Hence why we never really get a clear picture of who our protagonist really is. What’s his name? PerfectQuestion is the name of his online avatar, but we are lead to believe that the names he gives others in real life are false ones. His name – his true name – is PerfectQuestion. He is more at home online.

I don’t know if he was intending it, but I think Nick Cole is certainly saying something in this book about our online behavior and the idea of anonymity. Are we truly anonymous online? In an age when the NSA could be spying on our every behavior, what protections do we truly have? When PerfectQuestion meets others in real life, they seemingly all know him by online personas. He doesn’t have an identity outside of the computer until the final pages of the book and we as the reader are left to decide if that is a good or a bad thing.

PerfectQuestion plays the part of a samurai in the Black game he launches into to supplement his income and that aspect of his life transcends and bleeds through every facet of his life. He is a noble person who truly wants to do what is right. There is an honor code he follows, even when the easy option is staring him in the face.

I loved Soda Pop Soldier. It definitely wasn’t light-hearted, showing off a fast-paced action with only brief pauses to catch your breath. Cole upped his game for this novel and I look forward to what he has up his sleeve next.

 

Baking With Swords: My Take

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Concept 3With all the blog posts I’ve shared lately, I haven’t offered my own take on Baking With Swords — why I decided to collaborate with my brother and sister, and what prompted me to write the story I included.

While I was whittling down the days until I was finished writing and editing Dead Sight, back in February and March, I started writing a short story. I never had any ambition beyond it being a short story that I would just release as a stand-alone tale, similar to the first story I’d ever written and published, Perfect Game.

I happened to say something on Facebook about it, and my brother, Paul, asked if I could wait to publish it until he was done writing a story. (Here is his story on how he started writing.) It was a strange request, so I waited a little bit. After some more inquiry, I found out he wanted to just throw it in at the end of my story as a “bonus” of a sort to any potential readers.

I read his story — or at least, what it was at that time. It was good. There was some great ideas in it and it just needed some polishing. It was better than just an unmentioned add-on to a little short story I was writing. I also knew my word count on A Whimper wasn’t going to be much — probably 6-8,000 words — and his was going to be about the same.

So, I proposed the idea of splitting the book title, or even inviting our sister, Betsy, along for the ride. I knew she had been dabbling with writing fiction since I started my publishing journey and figured maybe she had something she could work up fairly quickly. (Read more about her road to her inclusion here.)

Betsy was game, so I put my story on the backburner for a little while. School took over and I let the two of them tinker and finish their stories. In the end, each of our stories clocked in at roughly the same length — about 7,000 words a piece.

I love Paul’s story because it really is heartfelt. There is a lot of emotion from his main character, Max, and the choices he has made in his life. Obviously Paul isn’t Max, but you can see the questions he has asked are questions Max faces as well.

Betsy’s story fits her, as well. She is a mother to two little boys, both under the age of four. There are so many fears and insecurities that accompany being a parent to a toddler and an infant and she confronts them head-on in this tale. Paul and I really challenged her in the editing process and I think she came out of it with a great story that will connect with a lot of readers.

As for my story? Well, I shared a bit of it with you a few months ago. (Here’s that link.) I must’ve read some technology story, or even Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania, and thought of the ramifications should we ever have chips in our heads (PIPs as I call them in A Whimper). What would the effects be? I think there are so many effects worldwide that I really could have written a full-length novel, but I chose personal ones to the main character. It is told first person and my brother said the tone reminded him of Ready, Player One, which is a huge compliment and may be true since I had just re-read it prior to starting the work on it.

How will the end come for humanity? Will it go out in a blaze of glory, or will it go in a whimper? Most books and stories choose the former, but I wanted a look at the latter.

I’ll confess I’m not the closest person to his family. I don’t talk to them much. I last talked on the phone to my mother probably two weeks ago (Reminder to myself to get on that), and Facebook and text messaging is the best way to get a hold of my brothers and sister. I live in Southern Illinois, one brother lives in northern Illinois, my sister in Michigan, and my older brother in Oregon. We are spread out, but when it counts, we are there for one another.

I don’t know if Paul and Betsy will continue to write and publish, but with my limited expertise, I wanted to be able to help them on their first trip into self-publishing.

As of this writing, the collaboration has received five reviews, four of which are five-star and the other is four-star. I would love to hear back from anyone else who has read it. Really, you should buy the book for my brother and sister and hopefully my story in this book is the bonus, not their’s.


Oh…don’t forget about the BWS Launch Party Monday on Facebook. <– Click there to join.

Find the link and the massive amount of giveaways I’ve got scheduled right here —> LOOK AT ALL THESE GIVEAWAYS!

 

The Martian vs. Old Man and the Wasteland

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What does a person do when they are all alone with no one else to depend on? With the world and the universe conspiring to get them at every turn? When all hope is seemingly lost?

That’s the problem faced by the two protagonists of the last two novels I read.

Mark Watney of The Martian by Andy Weir and The Old Man of The Old Man and the Wasteland by Nick Cole.

Both are terrific reads and I look forward to re-reading both at some point in the future when I’ve forgotten how great they are.

But anyway, let’s get back to the topic at hand – a man struggling against nature, alone in an inhospitable world. Both books have this in spades, but the approach they take is decidedly different.

Let’s begin with The Martian.

ImageI’d been told for the last few months how great this book was. I guess I missed out on the Andy Weir as an Indie writer bandwagon, and that great bright orange cover seemed to be taunting me whenever I paid a visit to Amazon to browse. Finally I decided the $9.99 price point wasn’t too big of an obstacle and pulled the trigger.

I started reading the book on a Friday afternoon and was finished the next evening. With my schedule these days, that is a ridiculous timetable, but it was truly one of those books that as soon as I started reading, I had a difficult time putting down. Andy Weir tells an excellent story here; the closest reading experience I had to this was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

(and to tell you how much I loved that book, I can tell you there is a time period each year that I set aside just to read and lavish in RPO…)

The Martian is a near-future story about a man who gets stranded on Mars and is forced to survive “off the land” so to speak. With a planet trying to kill him at every turn, the character of Mark Watney could have turned out to be a bitter and jaded man. Alone on an alien planet with death around each corner. I don’t know how I would have survived, but thankfully Mark Watney was not me. Watney is an engineer and botanist. In spite of the surroundings, he makes it work for him with plenty of humor along the way. I can’t tell you the number of times I chuckled to myself or flat-out laughed out loud at Watney’s crazy stunt on the barren surface of Mars.

If this was written as a “true story,” I would have believed it. It is that good.

Throughout it all, there is a general Apollo 13 vibe. Bad things are happening and just when you think Watney’s in the clear – BAM! – Mars is out for blood. But, there is a lightness to the tone and a feeling that something good will come out of this story no matter what. The ending isn’t a guarantee by any stretch, but you find yourself rooting over the final few pages for him to make it.

Compare that to Old Man and the Wasteland.

ImageObviously there is a tonal shift between the two. While Weir takes a serious yet lighthearted tone, Cole evokes Hemingway mixed with Cormac McCarthy. Bleak and desperate.

It’s been 40 years after the bombs struck the cities of America. One by one they fell until all that was left was desolate and feral. The Old Man (we don’t get a name) goes on a journey of survival and (to him) necessity from Yuma to Tucson in Arizona. Before he even encounters any of the remnants of civilization, the man has to overcome the stark landscape and the lack of water. When he bests his environment, turn after turn, the world is trying to defeat him. We see the world through his eyes and realize while he is old and grizzled, he is comparatively sane in the insanity all around him. The ones left behind after the bombs have mostly become unrecognizable as humans and are therefore aspects of a lethal environment trying to do him in at every chance.

Nick Cole does a masterful job painting a post-apocalyptic picture using a lens borrowed from Hemingway while adding in his own 21st century elements. I enjoyed this book immensely and the ending is poignant and will pull at your heart.

Both of these books are fascinating looks at what a man will do to survive in a deadly environment – one on a planet 35 million miles from Earth, the other on an unfamiliar wasteland in a poisoned future. While Watney has his situation thrust upon him suddenly, the Old Man takes his journey 40 years after the bombs. Both are a terrific view of Man V. Nature and what will come of it and that’s the beauty of these books.

Both The Martian and Old Man and the Wasteland are 5-star reads. Both are vastly different, but take us places unexpected and thrilling.

Both times I started reading these two books, I mentioned on Facebook I was reading them. Both times I had friends tell me they were “jealous of me reading them for the first time.” I understood completely. A few weeks ago, my brother read RPO for the first time and I felt the same way – wishing I could read it all again and the little discoveries and joys when my eyes read the words for the first time.

Buy these books. Read both of them. You will not be disappointed.