Tag Archives: dystopian thriller

New Life in Autumn by Michael G. Williams Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A newly dead detective tries to find a group of missing children and solve the mysteries of the floating city of Autumn’s long-lost history in author Michael G. Williams’s “New Life in Autumn”. 

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The Synopsis

RETURN TO THE MEAN STREETS OF AUTUMN

Valerius Bakhoum is dead and buried.

Too bad he’s still flat broke and behind on the rent.

Unsure what to do with himself—and of who he is—Valerius resumes his career as a detective by taking up the oldest case in his files: where do the children go?

Throughout his own youth on the streets of Autumn, last of the Great Flying Cities, Valerius knew his fellow runaways disappeared from back alleys and other hiding places more than anyone realized. Street kids even had a myth to explain it: the Gotchas, who steal urchins away in the night.

With nothing but time on his hands, Valerius dives in head-first to settle the question once and for all and runs smack into a more pressing mystery: who killed one of Valerius’ former lovers?

And do they know Valerius is still alive?

Stalk the shadows of Autumn’s hidden places by Valerius Bakhoum’s side as he shines a light on secrets both sacred and profane, ones with shockingly personal connections to who he was—and who he might become.

New Life in Autumn is the sequel to the Manly Wade Wellman Award-winning A Fall in Autumn.

The Review

What immediately struck me about this novel was just how much the setting of this floating city called Autumn felt so alive on the page. A beautiful blend of dystopian sci-fi meets fantasy and hard-boiled detective mysteries, the author found a way to make the city itself feel like a character all its own. The intrigue and drama that the author’s narrative brought forth kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

The character growth of this narrative was such an engaging aspect of the story. The protagonist was so versatile and complex, both emoting the tough-as-nails attitude one expects of a seasoned detective and showing the raw emotions and shock of experiencing death and rebirth all at once. The LGBTQ-forward romance and inspired character development made this story shine brightly as well, making for a rich and diverse dystopian read.

The Verdict

Gripping, captivating, and entertaining, author Michael G. Williams’s “New Life in Autumn” is a must-read novel! The action and mystery surrounding this story feel both classic and yet futuristic all at once, and the rich character development, both the protagonist and the city, in particular, make for an emotionally engaging and mind-blowing hook that keeps us readers invested in this series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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A New Life in Autumn - Michael G. Williams

Michael G. Williams has a new gay sci-fi mystery out, Books of Autumn book 2: A New Life in Autumn. And there’s a giveaway!

THE HARDEST PART OF DYING IS DECIDING HOW TO PASS THE TIME

Valerius Bakhoum died and kept no living. Now he can walk the streets of his city with a new face and a new name and finally feel a little bit respected. Too bad he’s still flat broke and behind on the rent. Unsure what to do with himself—and perhaps even of who he is—Valerius resumes his career as a detective by taking up the oldest case in his files: where do the children go?

Throughout his own youth on the streets of Autumn, last of the Great Flying Cities, Valerius knew his fellow runaways disappear from back alleys and other hiding places more than people realize. Street kids even have a myth to explain it: the Gotchas, who steal them away in the night. With nothing but time on his hands, Valerius dives in head-first to settle the question once and for all and runs smack into a more pressing mystery:

Who killed one of Valerius’ former lovers?

And do they know he’s still alive?

Return to the mean streets of Autumn by Valerius Bakhoum’s side as he shines a light into shadowy corners and finds secrets both sacred and profane with shockingly personal connections to who he was—and who he might become.

Warnings: This book does involve mild violence, capture and impending torture by antagonists, and discussion of the murder of children.

About the Series:

What would you do if you found yourself free at last–and all alone–in the sin-drenched paradise you were told you’d never reach?

Books of Autumn is a series telling the story of Valerius Bakhoum, a down and out private eye in Autumn, last of the great flying Cities, at various points in his life.

In A Fall in Autumn (2020 Manly Wade Wellman Award), we meet Valerius as he winds down his career and his too-short life.

In New Life in Autumn, Valerius navigates a surprising second chance and questions of who he is–and who he might become.

Walk the mean streets of Autumn by Valerius’ side in this award-winning study of the kindness and compassion found in the places where humanity’s lowest ambitions lurk!

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Giveaway

Michael is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47243/?


Excerpt

New Life in Autumn meme

Across three quarters of the City of Autumn, street kids are an unthinkable paradox. For the most part, the Pluses and the PlusPlus and all the other manifold forms of intentional humankinds only ever run into the sorts of kids someone wanted badly enough to design. There are already a billion people in the world between the Empire, the Eastern Expanse, and the less-organized places nobody’s fought over quite yet. Having kids willy-nilly wouldn’t add up, not with so many people already in line for the breakfast bar. That’s one of the many objections the Spiralists put forward to continued cultivation of Artisanal Humans like me—well, like I was.

That’s going to take some getting used to.

Anyway, widespread cultural insistence on bespoke offspring leaves a lot of kids out in the cold, literally. The ones I described before, orphaned by chance or abandoned for turning out imperfect or who got tired of their old life and decided to chase a new one are, in the remaining fourth-to-fifth of the City, as common as cobblestones and just as underfoot. There are plenty of them, and the supply continually refreshes, and I went to distinctly other streets than theirs. It isn’t that I wanted to avoid them, but talking would have taken money or some sort of barter and I was too short by half on either. I suspected it would have generated too much information rather than too little. A street kid asked to tell a story for a steam bun or a little reliably spendable scrip will gin up all the story you want and then some. I didn’t need urban legends. I needed facts, and that meant a much more gruesome start than some urchin milking my wallet with tall tales of what goes bump in the night.

I mentioned to Clodia one time that I had a friend who worked the Cisterns. The City of Autumn is like any town: its people have to piss like anybody else and its gutters often swell with rain. Autumn routinely flies into weather systems to gather up fresh water, and there’s a vast infrastructure to purify it for use by humankinds. I could spend ten pages telling you about the ponds in Down Preserves where rainwater burbles and bubbles under pressure, mixing in fresh air. The whole City sleeps atop a bed stuffed with pumps and gravity lines, charcoal and scrub algae, grates and artificial reefs and purpose-built shrimp—but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll simply say this: by the time water gets to us, the only thing left is the scent of the air where it first fell as rain. I don’t understand how the process works. I don’t care, either. The important thing, the thing none of us think about too much in case it, too, is another pretty lie in the quilt of them we make over our lives, is it happens. Sip from Lotta’s to remember the dead, cup your hands in the fountains of Domino, turn on a tap in the average Autumn kitchen, and you’ll enjoy the aroma of a field somewhere in Afrique, or a mutant blossom somewhere on a nameless plain in the vast Recovery Zone between Big River and the Salt Flat.

But on the other end of the system? Once all that delicious water has run its course through bodies and beer kegs and ice machines and steam plants?

That’s called Cistern Intake. I knew a gal who worked that part of the system. You could smell it on her from ten meters away. I always felt sorry for her, because it was so baked into her skin, ground down into her pores, she didn’t even smell it anymore herself.

On the plus side, she always had plenty of room in a bar. Nobody crowded her for long.

Frankie was a Mannie. Generally speaking, no variety of Plus—nice, “normal” people with designer genes—would even be considered for her job. Even applying for it might result in getting a replication error assessment. Odds are good you’ve already heard the story from a few years ago about the PlusPlus whose big ideas on “lived egalitarianism” got her carted off for genotoxicity screening. What most folks don’t know, however, is it was a stunt on both sides. Sure, she only wanted to make a point by suing the City for the right to join a scrubber team, not actually take the job if they offered it. But the City went out of its way to make the counterpoint in response, escorting her kicking and screaming away from the workhouse where they keep the little gliders they use to clean the Fore Barrier’s external face.

I assume she hoped to drum up publicity for her so-called perverse beliefs. I think she expected the City would do something to make an example of her, sure, but something more symbolic. You know, a big fine she could never pay, or maybe a few nights in the Palace of Imperial Justice. Something Imperial media could print without making anybody lose their lunch.

Instead, they dragged her —did I mention the kicking and screaming?—straight to the Hive. No trial. No judge. No pretenses. The Hive is right there at the front of the City, and the tiny portion of it sticking out above street level is visible if you climb high enough in Down Preserves and look to the Fore. The joke goes, they put the City’s worst criminals out there so we’ll hear them screaming if we crash into anything. This lady’s worst crime, though, was trying to prove we’re not all equal, not in the lives we’re allowed to lead or the risks we’re expected to take in the course of them. It sounds like heroism to you or me, but to the powers that be, the Sinceres, the Spiralists, and all the other people who don’t care if the Empire is a heap of shit as long as they’re near enough the top to catch a breeze, she’d committed the worst kind of social treason: she’d violated the spoken and unspoken rules propping up the class system on which they relied.


Author Bio

New Life in Autumn - Michael G. Williams

Michael G. Williams writes queer-themed science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror celebrating monsters, macabre humor, and subverted expectations. He’s the author of three series for Falstaff Books: the award-winning vampire/urban fantasy series The Withrow Chronicles; the thrilling urban fantasy series SERVANT/SOVEREIGN featuring real estate, time travel, and San Francisco’s greatest historical figures; the science fiction noir A Fall in Autumn, winner of the 2020 Manly Wade Wellman Award; and a bunch of short stories. He strives to present the humor and humanity at the heart of horror and mystery with stories of outcasts and loners finding their people.

Michael will be the Guest of Honor at Ret-Con in 2023, co-hosts Arcane Carolinas, studies Appalachian history and folklore at Appalachian State University, and is a brother in St. Anthony Hall. He lives in Durham, NC, with his husband, a variety of animals, and more and better friends than he probably deserves.

Author Website: https://michaelgwilliamsbooks.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/mcmanlypants

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/MichaelGWilliamsAuthor

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/mcmanlypants

Author Instagram: https://instagram.com/mcmanlypants

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6429992.Michael_G_Williams

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/michael-g-williams/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Michael-G-Williams/e/B001KIYBBU/

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Parched: The Days Before Exile (The Wastelands Book 1) by Anne Joyce Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

In a world torn apart by nuclear war and water barons tightening their grip on the worsening water supplies, two people find themselves confronted with a dark and hidden agenda in the wake of a string of disappearances in author Anne Joyce’s “Parched: The Days Before Exile”, the first book in The Wastelands series.

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The Synopsis

It’s the 2040’s and the world has become a more terrifying place than anyone could’ve foreseen. The country is recovering from a devastating nuclear war that has left much of the earth scourged and uninhabitable. Some billion-dollar corporations took advantage of the destruction by purchasing the rights to water and selling it back to the public at ridiculous prices.

Joshua Wyman and Maria Perez struggle to adapt to this new violent world where muggings and murder over water are a common occurrence. The new water barons assign an army of brutes called “Purifiers” to instill order, but when people start mysteriously vanishing, Joshua and Maria begin to wonder if the Purifiers are behind their disappearance.

When Maria receives a frantic email from a friend in danger, she learns of the water barons’ plans for the “indigents” who can’t afford water. She desperately searches for someone to share her dark secret with who might be able to help. When her information falls into the hands of a violent anarchist group, their beaten down, oppressed city must confront what its inhabitants have long since hinted about, but never dared to whisper. Uprising

The Review

This was such a unique and fun read for me. Coming into this story, I was intrigued as this was the “prequel” to the author’s book “Arid”, which I read and reviewed here before. Getting to return to this world and the characters before the events of that initial book from the author was such a unique and fun experience as a reader and reviewer. The story felt fresh and the mythos behind the water barons and the brutality of the Purifiers has perfectly mirrored in the dystopian atmosphere and haunting tone that the narrative took on as things began to break down at an accelerating rate in this narrative.

The blend of strong character development that really pulled the reader into the emotional element of this narrative along with the very real-world themes that this narrative dealt with made this such a brilliant story. The fight for survival and the desperation that comes in the face of society’s breakdown was palpable on the page, and the exploration of nuclear war, fallout, global warming, and big business controlling much of our society really has never felt more real or scary as it does now, especially in the face of more radical groups rising out in not only our nation but the world armed to the teeth hoping to impose their own way of thinking. The haunting atmosphere comes from the author’s natural ability to tap into the real-world fears we all have in this current climate.

The Verdict

Haunting, gripping, and entertaining, author Anne Joyce’s “Parched: The Days Before Exile” is a must-read narrative in 2022. The dystopian thriller was so engaging and was able to use creativity to highlight the real-world dangers and fears many have around the world today. If you haven’t yet, preorder your own copy of this book today, or grab your own copy on May 2nd, 2022!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Anne Rasico (AKA Anne Joyce) was born in a small town in Indiana you’ve probably never heard of. She composed short stories and comic books as a child to amuse her family and began writing poetry at the age of thirteen.

In 1998 she received an Honorable Mention for Literary Excellence for her poem “She Didn’t Come Home.” She attended business school and made the Dean’s List for three consecutive years, putting her love for writing on the back burner. It wasn’t until her mid-twenties that a political post on social networking rekindled her literary flame that has since become a bonfire.

In 2013 her novella When the Chips Are Down was named a Finalist in the MARSocial Author of the Year Contest. When she is not writing, thinking about writing, or going insane from writing she enjoys camping, fishing, swimming, and otherwise spending time with loved ones. She is mother to three extremely spoiled cats. Crazy cat lady? Probably.

Babouc’s Vision by Glenn Searfoss Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

An appliance repairman finds himself overwhelmed when the gods choose him to be the one to condemn the people of his city, and as the lives of several others flood his mind, he must prove the people’s lives worthy of saving instead in author Glenn Searfoss’s “Babouc’s Vision”.

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The Synopsis

Babouc’s Vision is a riveting dystopian science fiction novel with thought-provoking commentary on society.

The year is 2041– and the gods are angry. While Carissa scours the city garbage for food and pretty things to show her grandfather, Tom and April strive to prove themselves genetically suitable to conceive a child. Luis becomes a man fighting to protect his unborn son from the gangs. Nora sits alone in her dark apartment, old, tired, and ready to die. And Izzy, how did he land in the streets destitute? In the backroom of his appliance repair shop, Harl putters at his workbench unaware the Gods have chosen him to condemn the people of CynCity. Harl’s world turns upside-down as his mind explodes with the lives of strangers. Struggling to remain sane, he must somehow prove the city’s population deserves to survive.

The works of Voltaire (The World as it is) and Dante (The Divine Comedy) inspired this book. As well, many events in the work reflect newspaper reports of criminal, social, environmental, and scientific events happening around the world. The bleak nature of these accounts explains the book’s overall dystopian feel, while the hope buried in the stories is gleaned from human perseverance.

The Review

The author found such a striking balance of world-building and thought-provoking themes. The exploration of humanity’s worst aspects and how the people in one city fair against those sins was so fascinating to read. The detailed way the author approaches this dystopian sci-fi read was amazing, as was the narrative overall, which did a great job of playing into the themes and genres of this novel with grand futuristic settings and larger-than-life characters.

The characters were the true heart of this narrative. The vast array of different characters really brought this sad and brutal reality to life so perfectly, either by adding to the chaos or becoming a victim of that chaos themselves. Yet the way the author brought out small glimmers of hope throughout the narrative to showcase how there exists those within the darkness to fight for a brighter tomorrow was amazing to read.

The Verdict

Creative, engaging, and thoughtful in its approach, author Glenn Searfoss’s “Babouc’s Vision” is a must-read dystopian sci-fi thriller. A philosophical and introspective look into the mistakes and sins humanity inflicts upon itself far too often, and those who work to fight for change for the future, this novel shines and does an amazing job of exploring the depths of humanity in an entertaining way. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Glenn Searfoss is an American author of works in science fiction, mythology, computer science, and natural history. He lives in Colorado, USA with his wife.

Trashlands by Alison Stine Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A mother struggling to save enough money to rescue her child finds an opportunity to change her and her child’s life through her art in the sci-fi dystopian thriller, “Trashlands” by author Alison Stine. 

The Synopsis

A resonant, visionary novel about the power of art and the sacrifices we are willing to make for the ones we love

A few generations from now, the coastlines of the continent have been redrawn by floods and tides. Global powers have agreed to not produce any new plastics, and what is left has become valuable: garbage is currency.

In the region-wide junkyard that Appalachia has become, Coral is a “plucker,” pulling plastic from the rivers and woods. She’s stuck in Trashlands, a dump named for the strip club at its edge, where the local women dance for an endless loop of strangers and the club’s violent owner rules as unofficial mayor.

Amid the polluted landscape, Coral works desperately to save up enough to rescue her child from the recycling factories, where he is forced to work. In her stolen free hours, she does something that seems impossible in this place: Coral makes art.

When a reporter from a struggling city on the coast arrives in Trashlands, Coral is presented with an opportunity to change her life. But is it possible to choose a future for herself?

Told in shifting perspectives, Trashlands is a beautifully drawn and wildly imaginative tale of a parent’s journey, a story of community and humanity in a changing world.

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The Review

Captivating and thought-provoking, author Alison Stine shines brightly in this emotional and relevant eco-thriller/sci-fi dystopian read. The novel’s brilliance comes through early on in the use of shifting perspectives, allowing readers not only to see how this dystopian world evolved and grew but allowing them to see how the bonds between these characters formed and how they came to be who they are. The chilling atmosphere comes not from some horrendous mutant beast or alien invasion, but the horrors humanity inflicts on our own planet, forcing the Earth to reshape its landscapes and forcing good people to do whatever it takes to survive.

The character arcs in this narrative are the true heart of this book. The various perspectives we have to allow the reader to see the balance Coral must find in not only surviving for herself but in finding the means to save her son, taken years ago from her to work in a factory. Her ability to find beauty and the means to create art for others while still putting herself through perilous work to earn the means of leaving everything behind and saving her son showcases mankind’s ability to persevere in the face of adversity and find hope in the darkness that surrounds us, a message that rings true for so many people. 

The Verdict

An engaging, emotionally-driven, and thematically important read, author Alison Stine’s “Trashlands” is a must-read novel of 2021! The perfect story of survival, hope, and finding beauty in the most troublesome of times, this story will take readers on a roller-coaster of emotions and showcase a depth of world-building that readers will come to love from this eco-thriller. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Alison Stine is an award-winning poet and author. Recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and an Ohio Arts Council grant, she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and received the Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism. She works as a freelance reporter with The New York Times, writes for The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, 100 Days in Appalachia, ELLE, The Kenyon Review, and others, and has been astoryteller on The Moth. After living in Appalachian Ohio for many years, she now lives and writes in Colorado with her partner, her son, and a small orange cat.

Buy Links: 

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Social Links:

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Twitter: @AlisonStine

Instagram: @alistinewrites

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Q&A with Author Alison Stine

1.      Give us an out of context quote from your book to warm our hearts.

“People had thought there would be no more time, but there was. Just different time. Time moving slower. Time after disaster, when they still had to live.” 

2.      What’s the last book you read that inspired you? 

Lily Cole’s Who Cares Wins: Reasons for Optimism in a Changed World. I’m quoted in the book, which is how we met. She had me on her podcast. It’s a book of ideas and hope for sustainability and environmental action. And it inspires me that she is able to leverage her platform as an actor and model to try to do good in the world. This world really wants you to be just one thing, and she resists that, and converts the attention into calls for action.

3.      Name one song or artist that gets you fired up.

Lana Del Rey’s “Swan Song.” It has a slow build, dark and intense, like I hope my work is. I don’t listen to music with lyrics when I draft, but I listen to the same song over and over again when I revise. That song becomes the heartbeat of the book. And “Swan Song” was one of the heartbeats of Trashlands.

4.      How do you find readers in today’s market?

There’s only so much a writer can control. I do everything in my control–post on social media, do events, publish essays–but at the end of the day, my job as a writer too is to tell the best story I can, to the best of my ability, in the time I’m given. What happens after that is a function of money and attention and decisions that don’t include me. As a disabled writer, it’s especially hard– nobody does year-end best lists about us. I try to remember that the writers I most admire–Octavia Butler, Angela Carter–wrote a ton. They just kept writing. I have to just keep writing, keeping going, too. 

5.      Do you come up with the hook first, or do you create characters first and then dig through until you find a hook?

Every book is different and every book teaches you how to write it. For me, trying to be analytical about things like plot or meaning doesn’t work. If I have a story I can’t let go of, something I dreamed, or something that keeps coming back to me, I listen to it. Often a character speaks first.

6.      Coffee or tea?

Definitely coffee. I’m a lightweight, so I try to limit myself to one cup a day.

7.       How do you create your characters?

One thing that I think is missing from some contemporary literary fiction is work. As someone from a working-class background, what characters do for money, how they feed themselves and live, is important to me, and can define character. Often what you want to do is different than what you have to do. I try to make it very clear how my characters support themselves, which can be a big part of characterization and plot–like in Trashlands, where several major characters work at a strip club at the end of the world– but also, what are their larger wishes? What are their unfulfilled dreams? What do they regret? 

8.      Who would be your dream cast if TRASHLANDS became a movie?

Lana Del Rey as Foxglove, Erin Kellyman as Coral, Eric Roberts as Trillium, MJ Rodriguez as Summer, and the late John Dunsworth as Mr. Fall. 

9.      If you could grab lunch with a literary character who would it be?

Jet from Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic series. I just read The Book of Magic, which reminded me how much I love Hoffman’s characters and that world. We all need an aunt in our lives who’s a witch, someone who’s both no nonsense and a lot of nonsense–and who serves cake for breakfast. (It just occurred to me that I may be turning into that kind of witch myself.) We need someone to remind us of our own personal magic. 

10.  What are you currently reading?

Township, a collection of stories by fellow Ohioan Jamie Lyn Smith, which is slated to be published this December. 

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Here is an Exclusive Excerpt From “Trashlands”

1

Early coralroot

Corallorhiza trifida

Coral was pregnant then. She hid it well in a dress she had found in the road, sun-bleached and mud-dotted, only a little ripped. The dress billowed to her knees, over the tops of her boots. She was named for the wildflower which hadn’t been seen since before her birth, and for ocean life, poisoned and gone. It was too dangerous to go to the beach anymore. You never knew when storms might come.

Though they were going—to get a whale.

A boy had come from up north with a rumor: a whale had beached. Far off its course, but everything was off by then: the waterways, the paths to the ocean, its salt. You went where you had to go, where weather and work and family—but mostly weather—took you.

The villagers around Lake Erie were carving the creature up, taking all the good meat and fat. The strainer in its mouth could be used for bows, the bones in its chest for tent poles or greenhouse beams.

It was a lot of fuel for maybe nothing, a rumor spun by an out-of-breath boy. But there would be pickings along the road. And there was still gas, expensive but available. So the group went, led by Mr. Fall. They brought kayaks, lashed to the top of the bus, but in the end, the water was shallow enough they could wade.

They knew where to go because they could smell it. You got used to a lot of smells in the world: rotten food, chemicals, even shit. But death… Death was hard to get used to.

“Masks up,” Mr. Fall said.

Some of the men in the group—all men except Coral—had respirators, painter’s masks, or medical masks. Coral had a handkerchief of faded blue paisley, knotted around her neck. She pulled it up over her nose. She had dotted it with lavender oil from a vial, carefully tipping out the little she had left. She breathed shallowly through fabric and flowers. Mr. Fall just had a T-shirt, wound around his face. He could have gotten a better mask, Coral knew, but he was leading the crew. He saved the good things for the others.

She was the only girl on the trip, and probably the youngest person. Maybe fifteen, she thought. Months ago, she had lain in the icehouse with her teacher, a man who would not stay. He was old enough to have an old-fashioned name, Robert, to be called after people who had lived and died as they should. Old enough to know better, Mr. Fall had said, but what was better, anymore?

Everything was temporary. Robert touched her in the straw, the ice blocks sweltering around them. He let himself want her, or pretend to, for a few hours. She tried not to miss him. His hands that shook at her buttons would shake in a fire or in a swell of floodwater. Or maybe violence had killed him.

She remembered it felt cool in the icehouse, a relief from the outside where heat beat down. The last of the chillers sputtered out chemicals. The heat stayed trapped in people’s shelters, like ghosts circling the ceiling. Heat haunted. It would never leave.

News would stop for long stretches. The information that reached Scrappalachia would be written hastily on damp paper, across every scrawled inch. It was always old news.

The whale would be picked over by the time they reached it.

Mr. Fall led a practiced team. They would not bother Coral, were trained not to mess with anything except the mission. They parked the bus in an old lot, then descended through weeds to the beach. The stairs had washed away. And the beach, when they reached it, was not covered with dirt or rock as Coral had expected, but with a fine yellow grit so bright it hurt to look at, a blankness stretching on.

“Take off your boots,” Mr. Fall said.

Coral looked at him, but the others were listening, knot-ting plastic laces around their necks, stuffing socks into pockets.

“Go on, Coral. It’s all right.” Mr. Fall’s voice was gentle, muffled by the shirt.

Coral had her job to do. Only Mr. Fall and the midwife knew for sure she was pregnant, though others were talking. She knew how to move so that no one could see.

But maybe, she thought as she leaned on a fence post and popped off her boot, she wanted people to see. To tell her what to do, how to handle it. Help her. He had to have died, Robert—and that was the reason he didn’t come back for her. Or maybe he didn’t know about the baby?

People had thought there would be no more time, but there was. Just different time. Time moving slower. Time after disaster, when they still had to live.

She set her foot down on the yellow surface. It was warm. She shot a look at Mr. Fall.

The surface felt smooth, shifting beneath her toes. Coral slid her foot across, light and slightly painful. It was the first time she had felt sand.

The sand on the beach made only a thin layer. People had started to take it. Already, people knew sand, like everything, could be valuable, could be sold.

Coral took off her other boot. She didn’t have laces, to tie around her neck. She carried the boots under her arm. Sand clung to her, pebbles jabbing at her feet. Much of the trash on the beach had been picked through. What was left was diapers and food wrappers and cigarettes smoked down to filters.

“Watch yourselves,” Mr. Fall said.

Down the beach they followed the smell. It led them on, the sweet rot scent. They came around a rock outcropping, and there was the whale, massive as a ship run aground: red, purple, and white. The colors seemed not real. Birds were on it, the black birds of death. The enemies of scavengers, their competition. Two of the men ran forward, waving their arms and whooping to scare off the birds.

“All right everybody,” Mr. Fall said to the others. “You know what to look for.”

Except they didn’t. Not really. Animals weren’t their specialty.

Plastic was.

People had taken axes to the carcass, to carve off meat. More desperate people had taken spoons, whatever they could use to get at something to take home for candle wax or heating fuel, or to barter or beg for something else, something better.

“You ever seen a whale?” one of the men, New Orleans, asked Coral.

She shook her head. “No.”

“This isn’t a whale,” Mr. Fall said. “Not anymore. Keep your masks on.”

They approached it. The carcass sunk into the sand. Coral tried not to breathe deeply. Flesh draped from the bones of the whale. The bones were arched, soaring like buttresses, things that made up cathedrals—things she had read about in the book.

Bracing his arm over his mouth, Mr. Fall began to pry at the ribs. They were big and strong. They made a cracking sound, like a splitting tree.

New Orleans gagged and fell back.

Other men were dropping. Coral heard someone vomiting into the sand. The smell was so strong it filled her head and chest like a sound, a high ringing. She moved closer to give her feet something to do. She stood in front of the whale and looked into its gaping mouth.

There was something in the whale.

Something deep in its throat.

In one pocket she carried a knife always, and in the other she had a light: a precious flashlight that cast a weak beam. She switched it on and swept it over the whale’s tongue, picked black by the birds.

She saw a mass, opaque and shimmering, wide enough it blocked the whale’s throat. The whale had probably died of it, this blockage. The mass looked lumpy, twined with seaweed and muck, but in the mess, she could make out a water bottle.

It was plastic. Plastic in the animal’s mouth. It sparked in the beam of her flashlight.

Coral stepped into the whale.

Excerpted from Trashlands by Alison Stine, Copyright © 2021 by Alison Stine. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Four people are brought together by circumstance at the end of the world and must work together in the face of another disaster when society is slowly rebuilding itself in author Mike Chen’s “A Beginning at the End”. 

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The Synopsis

How do you start over after the end of the world?

Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs.

In postapocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on—even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.

Krista, Moira, Rob and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose.

Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.

The Review

This was a truly unique and gripping sci-fi dystopian thriller! The timing of this novel’s release was hard not to see of course, but what the author did so splendidly was not focus the entire novel on the actual “apocalypse”, but instead on the society that came after an epidemic that took out a large portion of the world’s population. The unique perspective, narratively speaking, highlights humanity’s persistence and strength in the face of adversity and overwhelming odds, even with the mental and physical tolls each of these characters are struggling with. 

What the author really did a great job of was balancing the ever-shifting mythos of this dystopian world with the emotional depths of each character’s growth throughout the narrative. As a fan of Stephen King’s “The Stand”, I’ve always felt that this balance was necessary for a story about the end of the world to really feel emotionally connected to the reader, and the author perfectly hits the nail on the head with this read.

The Verdict

A masterful, heartfelt, and entertaining read, author Mike Chen’s “A Beginning At the End” is a must-read novel for fans of the sci-fi and dystopian thriller genres. The engaging way the author connected his characters and both the internal and external struggles each character faced made this novel become an instant hit. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Mike Chen is the author of Here And Now And Then (a finalist for Goodreads Choice – Best Sci-Fi, CALIBA Golden Poppy, and the Compton Crook Award) and A Beginning At The End (“a brilliant, fragile path through the darkness” — Library Journal). His short fiction is featured in Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View — The Empire Strikes Back, and he has covered geek culture for sites such as Tor.com, The Mary Sue, and StarTrek.com. In a previous life, he covered the NHL for Fox Sports, SB Nation, and other outlets. A member of SFWA, Mike lives in the Bay Area with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @mikechenwriter

Renew (The Reborn Marks Book 2) By Jenna Greene Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman born to be a slave who escaped her destiny and found freedom must contend with new challenges in author Jenna Greene’s “Renew”, the second book in The Reborn Marks series. 

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The Synopsis

Haunted by memories of those left behind, Lexil and Finn are forced to venture back into the Wastelands. The Unclaimed Cities are not the idyllic setting Lexil, Finn, and Ceera thought it would be. This new land has challenges of its own – which they soon discover. When Lexil and Finn return to the Wastelands, they are accompanied by Kaylen, someone they can’t decide is a friend or foe. As they retrace their path, they meet up with old allies and enemies, and encounter other treachery embedded in the Wastelands. The trio are forced to face their own assumptions, prejudices, and fears.

In the end, to change her fate and alter the destiny of all other Reborns.

Lexil must decide what she is willing to risk, of herself and others.The Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this new release, Renew, the sequel to Reborn.Buy Renew to find out if being branded a reborn is a myth, a curse…or a destiny.

The Review

A heart-pounding and exhilarating new chapter in a fantastic dystopian YA series. The author does a great job of focusing on themes of freedom and survivor’s guilt early on in the narrative, exploring the new world of the Unclaimed Cities as Lexil, Finn, and Kaylen are caught in the middle of a combative and explosive situation with the Reborn Council of Elders, highlighting the new laws that they must face. The balance of this new world with the world that they escaped, and for which they must now venture back into, makes this novel feel like a natural and exciting sequel to the first novel.

Yet it’s the evolution of Lexil as she showcases a well-rounded and thrilling journey of a young woman surviving after escaping enslavement to becoming a leader and heroine who must risk everything she has fought for in order to save others. This novel cements her heroic journey and highlights the shifting landscape of this dystopian world that blends realism with sci-fi and fantasy elements.

The Verdict

An action-packed, shocking, and heart-pounding dystopian YA thriller, author Jenna Greene’s “Renew” is a must-read novel. The perfect beach read for any dystopian or YA fan, the author draws the reader into the protagonist’s struggle and highlights her bond with bot Finn and Kaylen, as well as others, which gives her the strength to endure this hero’s journey. By the book’s end, readers will be on the edge of their seats as the shocking cliffhanger leaves them eager for the next chapter of this narrative. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jenna Greene is an elementary school teacher. When she isn’t teaching or writing, she is co-hosting “Quill and Ink: A Podcast for Book Lovers” with Miranda Oh. Jenna lives with her husband, daughter, and their cat, Thomas.

https://www.jennagreene.ca/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jenna-greene

The Aviator: A Story of the Sino-American War (The Aviator: Stories of Future Wars Book 1) by Craig DiLouie Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A Navy fighter pilot faces accusations of crimes against humanity after a short and bloody war between the United States and China and must decide the true meaning of heroism in author Craig DiLouie’s “The Aviator: A Story of the Sino-American War”, the first in THE AVIATOR: STORIES OF FUTURE WARS series. 

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The Synopsis

In the near future, the United States has fought a short, bloody war with China in the Pacific. The fighting is over, but the U.S. Navy maintains a blockade. Some call it the First Sino-American War. Others worry it is the start of World War Three.

In a prison cell in Beijing, Navy fighter pilot Jack Knapp tells his story about the victory in the Battle of Taiwan and how he ended up in a Chinese show trial, accused of crimes against humanity.

With his life in the balance, Jack will have to choose between survival and participating in his captors’ lies, and ultimately learn the true meaning of heroism in a war between superpowers where even stories are weapons.

The Review

A truly engaging and harrowing journey, the author has created a truly realistic and chilling look at what the future of our world could be, highlighting the very real divide and possible conflict that could arise between the United States and China. The atmosphere and setting really add to the stakes set up within the narrative, feeling both like a historical fiction read and a futuristic dystopian novel.

The character of Jack Knapp is a phenomenal protagonist and a great way of highlighting the struggle between these two nations. The author does a great job of balancing the intricate look into the protagonist’s rise to becoming a Navy pilot and his relationships with his fellow soldiers and superiors as they spent months at sea, and the hardships and struggles he had to endure as a prisoner after a bloody war, and facing the might of an entire government as he fought to find the most heroic path available to them. It’s a psychological and emotional struggle that readers will instantly feel for.

The Verdict

Engaging, shocking, and easy-to-read, author Craig DiLouie’s “The Aviator” is the perfect first book in a new, near-future dystopian series of military novels. The author perfectly captures the lingo and the behavior of soldiers living together on a Navy carrier and flying together into battle, while crafting a protagonist that brings the heart into this global conflict of the future that readers can get behind. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

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About the Author

Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction.

In hundreds of reviews, Craig’s novels have been praised for their strong characters, action, and gritty realism. Each book promises an exciting experience with people you’ll care about in a world that feels real.

These works have been nominated for major literary awards such as the Bram Stoker Award and Audie Award, translated into multiple languages, and optioned for film. He is a member of the HWA, International Thriller Writers, and IFWA.

http://craigdilouie.com/

Reborn by Jenna Greene Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young woman destined for a life as a slave risks everything to save a young girl facing a horrific fate in author Jenna Greene’s “Reborn”. 

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The Synopsis

Those who bear marks on their skin are doomed to a life of slavery. Lexil has seven.

Sold into servitude, Lexil must deal with brutal punishments, back-breaking labor, and the loss of every freedom. When a young child she has befriended faces a horrible fate, Lexil must intervene to protect her, no matter what the risk.

With the help of a boy named Finn, the trio flee into the Wastelands. There, they must evade those who hunt them while trying to survive a barren landscape. Lexil must face challenges she’s never imagined existed, all while learning what it means to truly be reborn.

The Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this stunning new release. Buy REBORN now to find out if being branded a reborn is a myth, a curse… or a destiny.

The Review

A fantastic blend of fantasy and dystopian thriller, author Jennifer Greene has crafted an engaging world where the fight for freedom takes on a whole new meaning. Exploring a world where those born with marks on their bodies are known as Reborns, those who have lived past lives, and are considered property to serve the Once-Borns, this novel does an expert job of crafting wholly original mythology and a memorable cast of characters.

The author’s ability to blend a unique and creative new narrative with an important theme such as freedom and fighting against oppression makes this such an important read. The action and character growth are beautifully balanced with the world-building the author delves into, exploring how the fight for freedom comes from multiple sides, and there is often much more to the story than meets the eye. 

The Verdict

A shocking, entertaining yet thoughtful dystopian fantasy, author Jenna Greene’s “Reborn” is a must-read novel. Highly engaging and memorable, the author does a fantastic job of creating a great cast of characters, especially the protagonist and hero Lexil, as well as a wellspring of unique world mythology that readers will want to revisit over and over again. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this amazing read today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jenna Greene is a writer, podcaster, teacher, clumsy dancer, dragonboat coach, and semi-professional napper. She’s also the co-host of “Quill and Ink: A Podcast for Book Lovers” with Miranda Oh.

www.facebook.com/jennabutrenchukgreene

www.jennagreene.ca

Orange City (Orange City, #1) by Lee Matthew Goldberg Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A city where outcasts get a second chance at life leads to an ad executive having his eyes opened to the prison they’re in and the monster who runs their lives in author Lee Matthew Goldberg’s “Orange City”, the first in the Orange City series.

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The Synopsis

Imagine a secret, hidden city that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the city forever. You can never leave.

Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

After ten years as an advertising executive, Graham Weatherend receives an order to test a new client, Pow! Sodas. After one sip of the orange flavor, he becomes addicted, the sodas causing wild mood swings that finally wake him up to the prison he calls reality.

A dynamic mash-up of 1984 meets LOST, ORANGE CITY is a lurid, dystopian first book in a series that will continue with the explosive sequel LEMONWORLD

The Review

A haunting and breathtaking sci-fi and dystopian novel, author Lee Matthew Goldberg brings a truly gritty world to life. The author does an amazing job of delving into the thin line between “good” and “evil” that many of these characters share, as morality within a society plays a major role in the narrative. 

The imagery used in this book does a great job of fusing the colorful and in-your-face advertising that has taken over our world over the last few decades with the action-driven and darker side of technology in our society. The pacing of the narrative really is what draws the reader in, presenting figures like E and the menacing ruler known simply as “Man” so that readers are instantly hooked and driven to delve into this fantastic world the author has built.

The Verdict

A shocking, intense yet engaging sci-fi and dystopian novel, author Lee Matthew Goldberg’s “Orange City” is a great start to this brand new series. Exploring themes of consumerism, addiction, and technology, this story does a wonderful job of creating a mythos that readers can really delve into nature, and makes this a must-read book. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. 

He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. 

Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com