Shelf Unbound - Futuristic Issue - June/July 2021

Page 1

J UNE/ J ULY 2021 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

The

FUTURISTIC Issue FEATURING

Hugh Howey Andy Weir

WHAT TO READ NEXT IN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING


OUR STORY

S H E LF

U N B O U N D

M A G A Z I N E All we wanted was a really good magazine. About books. That was full of the really great stuff. So we made it. And we really like it. And we hope you do, too. Because we’re just getting started.

2

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


Lamb to the

Slaughter by Pete Delohery A novel about love and cour age, sin and redemption “Iron” Mike McGann is facing the twilight of his prizefighting career. Desperate for his future, he has refused to honor his promise to his wife to quit the ring and start a family. Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard is the most menacing presence in prizefighting. But behind his menacing ring presence lives a man nobody knows, a complex man who despises his own image. Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard vs. “Iron” Mike McGann, just another fight shown on The Continuous Sports Network, but by the time it is over the lives of these and many others will be forever different.

“This heartfelt tale makes a powerful emotional impact.” —Blue Ink Starred Review Also in Spanish: El Cordero al matadero Available in print and e-book at Amazon, xlibris, and Barnes & Noble.

w w w. p e t e d e l o h e r y. c o m

3


Shelf Unbound Staff. PRESIDENT, EDITOR IN CHIEF Sarah Kloth PARTNER, PUBLISHER Debra Pandak CREATIVE DIRECTOR Anna Trokan COPY EDITOR Molly Niklasch CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Megan Lord Lynn Russo V. Jolene Miller Christian Brown Alyse Mgrdichian Gabriella Guerra FINANCE MANAGER Jane Miller

For Advertising Inquiries: e-mail sarah@shelfmediagroup.com For editorial inquiries: e-mail media@shelfmediagroup.com

4

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

WHAT TO R EAD NEXT ?

SIGN UP FOR A

FREE

SUBSCRIPTION TO SHELF UNBOUND W W W . S H E L F M E D I A G R O U P. C O M

SUBSCRIBE

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF SHELF UNBOUND? Follow us on social!  @ SHELFINDIEREADS  @ SHELFMAGAZINE  @ SHELFMEDIAGROUP


1877: A NORTHERN PHYSICIAN IN SOUTHERN UNGOVERNED SPACES

Colonel Charles Noble is a US Civil War veteran, and an Army surgeon reservist, who is recommissioned by the government eleven years after the war. Extreme violence in the former Confederacy, in anticipation of a national election, has caused President Grant to send additional federal troops to the Southern states. Dr. Noble uses his Army deployment as an opportunity to help heal the wounds and afflictions of Southern US citizens. However, terrorists are determined to counter Noble’s good intentions, as they threaten the civil rights, and the very lives, of all who oppose them.

1918: THE GREAT PANDEMIC Major Edward Nobel’s mission, as a physician, is to help protect American troops from infectious ailments during the First World War. However, his unique vantage point in Boston allows him to detect an emerging influenza strain that is an unprecedented global threat. Noble desperately tries to warn and prepare the country for the approaching horror. Influenza’s effect on the world, nation, and Dr. Noble’s own family unfolds as medical science seeks ways to somehow stop it. Eventually, the 1918 influenza pandemic killed up to 100 million people, and became the worst natural disaster in human history.

1980: THE EMERGENCE OF HIV Dr. Arthur Noble is a brilliant first-year medical resident in San Francisco, who has a stellar career ahead of him. However, all of Noble’s skills are put to the test when he encounters a strange new illness. The ailment seemingly appears out of nowhere, and delivers its victims a most horrible merciless death. Dr. Noble struggles to find answers to the medical mystery, even as many researchers and society refuse to believe that it is a serious public health hazard, or that it even exists.

LEARN MORE AT

WWW.DAVIDCORNISHBOOKS.COM

5


CONTENTS FEATURES

I N TH IS

ISSUE

14 Science Fiction and Self-Publishing:

A Brief Discussion with Hugh Howey on His Authorial Journey By Alyse Mgrdichian

Horror: How the Two Can (and Often Do) Coexist By Alyse Mgrdichian

26 Bookstagram 31 Recommended Reading

92 Indie Reviews

By Alyse Mgrdichian

22 The Relationship Between Sci-Fi and

SECTIONS

68 Book Shelf

10 Believability and Wonder in Sci-Fi

56 A Conversation with #1 Bestselling

Author Andy Weir About Project Hail Mary

76 A Brief History of Sci-Fi By Alyse Mgrdichian

100 On Our Shelf

ON P G 56

A CO N V E RSATI O N W ITH # 1 B E S TS E LLI N G AU TH O R A N DY W E I R A B O U T P ROJ E C T H A I L COLUMNS 64 Girl Plus Book Megan Lord

74 Small Press Reviews Shannon Ishizaki

84 Reading on the Run V. Jolene Miller

88 Book Mom

Megan Lord

90 Fit Lit

Christian Brown

6

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


A WORD FROM THE PUBLISHER

Cover Stories. BY SARAH KLOTH, PUBLISHER

From Ready Player One and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to Neal Shusterman’s Unwind series, Sci-fi and Dystopian have always been two of my favorite genres. We sat down with two amazing authors in this issue, who have authored more than a dozen scifi novels, to talk about their new books and what it's like to write for this genre. Putting together this issue also reminded me of a book Margaret Brown gave me a few years back called, No Country for Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman. And it's now time I finally read it, so watch for a review in our next issue!

In This Issue: Be sure to check out a conversation with #1 bestselling author Andy Weir about his new book Project Hail Mary. We also sit down with the author of Wool, Hugh Howey, to discuss his journey of self-published sci-fi. “I was late to the game in reading Wool, widely written about as one of the most successful self-published books, but count me as a huge fan. I was completely transported by Howey’s imaginative sci-fi world and cared deeply for his complicated, well-drawn characters. Once you’re hooked you’ll want to read the entire Silo series.” —Margaret Brown, 2015 Enjoy the issue. 

7


WWW.LITERARYLOU.COM

Louis DeGrado

Literary Classic Gold Award For Juvenile Fiction! Gold Award, Juvenile Fiction 2017! Editor’s Choice, Rising Star Award! Come along on an inspiring adventure where a small amount of courage makes a GIANT difference in this story of triumph. When a small, fluffy cat teams up with an advice-giving canary, a cockatoo, some jazz-loving alley cats, and a fancy mouse to protect their home from a villainous, hoodlum rat, a hero is born! With SEVENTEEN original songs by the author, you will enjoy this positive and inspiring adventure for the entire family.

Finalist, Foreword Review’s Book of the Year in both Sci-Fi and Thriller Category! Dive into the covert battle of Good vs Evil in this thrilling novel that takes a fresh approach to demonic powers among us. What decisions would you make if you found out evil forces were banished in time and were trying to become whole again? “A thriller filled with intrigue.” -Clarion Review. Pueblo, Colorado! What do you call a group of friends who dare to take on the paranormal? They called themselves The Questors! When they dare visit a haunted house, adventure a mayhem are at hand. This Juvenile Thriller is designed as an exciting read for youth. A two-book series, The Round House and The Moaning Walls, will take you back to the 80’s and give you Chills down your spine! I DARE YOU TO READ! Short Tales to Chill and Thrill! Read the tale of Jaspar Jones who had an illfated addiction to gambling or, The Legend of Jeffrey MaGills who caught gold fever and treaded on cursed land. I Want my Bones Back, tells the story of a farmer who finds a buried secret that causes him to become one with his land. In Volume 2, find out what’s behind the motivation of the Grave Robbers, or go along on a mystery with The Vampire Detective Agency in I Fell in Love with a Vampire.

8

Spend Time Reading with your children in this story full of positive messages and inspiration! What does a nine-year old do when her friends start to argue over facts, or when she has trouble telling right from wrong or gets overwhelmed with all life’s challenges? Anna goes to her art center where her imagination can come to life. Here, she talks with Blue, her favorite crayon, who teaches her about imagination and confidence, True Apple, who teaches her about facts, Communicating Carrot, who teaches communication skills, and Cool Celery, who teaches her to relax and be cool. J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


Talking Drum. By Lisa Braxton

THE TALKING DRUM EXPLORES INTRA-RACIAL, CLASS, AND CROSS-CULTURAL TENSIONS, ALONG WITH THE MEANING OF COMMUNITY AND BELONGING.

9


F E AT U R E

Believability and Wonder in Sci-Fi. BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

There’s always some element, no matter how small, that sparks wonder.”

10

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

People are drawn to sci-fi for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they like the premise or the characters, or maybe they just have a niche that they consistently enjoy, like space operas or dystopias. Whatever the reason, though, all of the little facets that make the story what it is are all set within the boundaries of a created world. In order for the story’s various elements to really stick their landing, it seems necessary for the world itself to be strong and well-thought-out, since it stands to reason that the quality of the world would influence the different elements that exist within its boundaries. Keep in mind, though, that a “world” does not strictly mean a planet—in this case, a world is whatever space or situation a story is operating in. So, with this distinction in mind, what makes for a strong sci-fi world? Sci-fi worlds, when well-thought-out, tend to have a good balance between the themes of science and fantasy. What this means is, the world is grounded enough to promote believability, and yet is imaginative enough to spark wonder. Too much scientific or technical jargon could result in the majority of readers not understanding what’s going on, making the story the niche favorite of a select few. However, on the other side of

that coin, too much fantasy presents the danger of a world that is purely illogical whimsy. Although illogical whimsy can be fun in certain situations (think Alice in Wonderland), it has the potential of being a world that is hard to invest in since, when taken to its extreme, a lack of rules can create an overly convenient storyline due to illogical or inconsistent execution. So, let’s look at the themes of science and fantasy separately, and then take a closer look at the relationship between believability and wonder in sci-fi. First, there’s science in fiction, which falls under two main umbrella genres: hard science and soft science. Hard science fiction tends to be more scientificallyminded, pulling elements from physics, astronomy, mathematics, engineering, and other STEM-related fields. It’s a rigorous genre, and is a difficult one to pull off because of all the research that it requires. However, if meticulously researched and well-executed, it can be very rewarding, because a world that is grounded in our own physical boundaries is, at the very least, a plausible one. If overdone, though, it also has the potential to make a story too heady or difficult to understand, narrowing down potential readership as a result. On the other hand, there’s soft science fiction, which tends 11


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

to focus more on societal, psychological, and political elements, not delving as deeply into the hard sciences. However, while hard science has the potential to be too heady, soft science, when taken to its extreme, has the potential to use science as a mere decoration, favoring ungrounded “futuristic vibes” over believability. In this way, both genres can be executed well, but they also have the potential to be mishandled. If done effectively, though, they result in the story’s world feeling more believable, because it has been grounded in (or at least takes inspiration from) our own reality, whether it be on a social or physical level. Then there’s fantasy, which has too many genres and subgenres to count. However, regardless of tone or genre, the theme of “creation” always remains—when you write fantasy, in any form, you’re bringing something into being that doesn’t currently exist within the boundaries of our own reality. This could mean anything from dragons and magic systems to alien invasions and hostile AI. In contrast to hard and soft science, which focus on the things that make a world more realistic, fantasy introduces the elements in a world that spark wonder. Unless you’re trying to appeal to a more 12

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

technically-minded audience, too little fantasy could result in the story being a dry read. However, too much fantasy, and the fantastical elements could end up overshadowing or undermining the more realistic aspects of the story that are there to ground it, whether they be based in societal realities or physical/scientific rules. So, what then is the relationship between believability and wonder in a scifi world? Believability, as mentioned before, is composed of the elements that make the story feel more realistic. For example, novels that involve space travel often pull from the hard sciences, while dystopian novels often find inspiration in the soft sciences (e.g., human governments, relationships, flaws, etc.). However, regardless of how grounded a given dystopian novel or space exploration tale may feel, there’s usually always some element, no matter how small, that sparks wonder. For example, take a science fiction novel that’s set in a futuristic (although apocalyptic) version of our current world, which is slowly being overrun by malevolent AI. And let’s say that, due to our irresponsibility regarding climate change, humanity is now slowly going extinct, and the AI are easily outliving us due to them being


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

programmed to handle all climates. The more fantastical elements of the story would be the futuristic technology/ malevolent AI. The more grounded elements, then, would be the scientific and societal realities of this new world. In what ways, scientifically speaking, could climate change wipe out ABOUT THE BOOKS humanity, and what would the surviving humans then have to do in order to stay alive? Why were the AI built in the first place, and what realistic purpose did they serve before mutinying? Additionally, what do governments and human relationships look like now? Due to socioeconomic inequality and a lack of access to resources, who would die first in this new apocalyptic world? Would humans try to have each other’s backs, or would people be fighting over resources? In this way, the premise (e.g., killer AI) is often the most fantastical element of a story, with the scientific and societal elements then grounding it and making it feel eerily possible.

prioritize concept above all else. The point of this article is not to shame the readers (or writers) who enjoy the sorts of stories that tip the scale, so to speak, between believability and wonder. Rather, the point is to clearly lay out what makes a sci-fi world easier to invest in (for general rather than niche readership), and what makes it stick with you after you’ve closed the book. Not every story has to have groundbreaking world-building, and not every story will. But, so long as the balance between believability and wonder is given due consideration in the writing process, then the world will become one that sparks awe while, at the same time, giving the impression that it’s a reality that we (the readers) could see ourselves existing in. 

In the end, sci-fi is ultimately about the balance between what’s fantastical and what’s possible. It’s important to note, though, that some people genuinely like sci-fi stories that are either pure science or pure whimsy, and that’s totally alright—I like them too, on occasion. A story is a story, and quite a lot of people 13


INTERVIEW

Science Fiction and Self-Publishing:

A Brief Discussion with Hugh Howey on His Authorial Journey. BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

14

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

Sci-fi, the theme of this issue, is both a difficult and rewarding genre. In particular, while world-building can be rigorous and the line between originality and tradition can become difficult to straddle, sci-fi is a genre full of adventure, wonder, and plausibility. In light of this, I was very excited to have the opportunity to speak to Hugh Howey, a veteran writer who has authored more than a dozen sci-fi novels. Right off the bat, I find myself curious about Hugh’s experience writing his most popular series, The Silo Saga. “It’s the world I’m proudest of creating,” he tells me. “The worldwide impact of the series has been humbling, and just knowing that millions of people have lived in this world with me is what makes it my favorite.” The series itself is about the remnants of humanity living in an underground silo after the rest of the world has been destroyed. The silo’s new sheriff gets curious, though, and starts trying to dig up information about how humanity got trapped underground and what actually happened in the outside world—and things just go from bad to worse from there.

“The publication of the Silo Saga was really wild,” Hugh laughs. “It started as a short story, just 20,000 or so words. I threw it on Amazon for $0.99 and went back to writing novels, never thinking it would go anywhere. Within a month, it was outselling all my other works. In another month, it was selling 10,000+ copies and racing up the bestseller charts. I serialized the rest of the story in five parts, and the combined book, Wool, hit the New York Times bestseller list as a self-published book. This was back in 2010, before successful selfpublished books became more common, so I not only had readers demanding to know what was going to happen next in the series, I also had media and other writers wanting to know how I’d pulled it all off. I tell everyone that I just got lucky, but for some reason that answer rarely ever gets taken seriously.”

15


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

It’s incredible to think that, in 2010, a self-published book received as much attention as Wool did. With selfpublishing, you bear the responsibility of marketing your own book, and so the fact that Wool seemed to take off all on its own is prodigious. Hugh didn’t begin his writing career as a self-publisher, though. Hugh’s very first book, Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue, was printed by a small publishing house. It was a tiny operation, but they paid Hugh an advance and covered all the costs of publishing, and he got to work closely with an editor who helped him fine-tune the book. These things were all great— however, as Hugh puts it, “I quickly learned that I was the one driving most of the sales, so I figured that I should be the one keeping the larger cut of the proceeds. I also wanted more control over the cover art, how the book was laid out, and how quickly I could 16

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

publish my works, so I found that selfpublishing was a much better fit for me.” “It has been great,” Hugh continues, “but I went into self-publishing with very low expectations, so it would’ve been difficult for me to be disappointed. You can’t really let yourself care about how much you’re making when selfpublishing. All I really wanted was to write and finish a novel, and for it not to suck. I’ve accomplished that, so everything else I’ve done after that has just been a bonus.” Since the success of his self-published books, Hugh went on to be published by major houses like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “When money isn’t your primary concern,” he tells me, “then you can do all sorts of interesting deals for other advantages elsewhere.” Circling back to his first book, Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue, I find myself curious about how Hugh has seen his writing tactics and skills change over the years. “I’ve probably gotten more skilled as a writer since that book,” he says, “but I’ve definitely gotten a lot slower. I’d rather have the speed back, to be honest. I wrote that first book in a week, and the hours and days simply


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

flew by in a blur of productivity. Now I mew and complain as I look for the best words possible, feeling the weight of a million pairs of eyes over my shoulder, watching and waiting.” And his advice for people who want to try writing sci-fi? “Start by reading a lot of it,” Hugh tells me, “and get used to the possibilities. Read the good stuff, but remember that the best sci-fi is about the people in the stories, not the grand ideas or gizmos. You have to have engaging characters overcoming real obstacles. The characters are actually what makes writing sequels so addictive, because the people are already fully fleshed and are just waiting to have more adventures. It can be quite lucrative as well, because readers tend to prefer returning to a place they love rather than having to get to know a new one. However, it’s difficult to return to a world you've already explored and try to make it as interesting as it was the first time. It's easy to recycle the same plot points and characters and gimmicks— the real magic is in moving beyond the tired and trying something new. In nearly all aspects of writing, I’ve found that it’s best to branch out and keep trying new things.”

Hugh has taken his own advice to heart, writing everything from horror and romance to children’s books and literary short stories. Of all the genres, though, Hugh seems to keep wandering back to sci-fi. Curious, I ask him, what is it about the genre that draws him to it? “Science fiction is compelling,” Hugh says, “because it allows us to delve into what it means to be human. In sci-fi, we are able to change one aspect of our lives, and then see what the consequences would be. There is no greater genre for social commentary, which is why when we lament the human condition or talk about the failings of society, we refer to works like Frankenstein, 1984, Brave New World, or Fahrenheit 451.” When writing sci-fi, you have an opportunity to expose the uglier aspects of humanity, especially when operating within a futuristic setting, because you’re able to say, “This is what would happen if attribute ‘x’ of humanity were exacerbated.” So, while the murderous robots and intergalactic adventures are lots of fun, there is often a deeper truth to sci-fi. That sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t. Any story that deals with people will have some degree of truth to it, and, as Hugh previously mentioned, 17


Available at

WW

P U S W.

S ER

O

NIC

E Y L F

R

M O .C 5s e ag r o F

9

Here is the book that so many early readers are going crazy over. It is the TRUE story of the REAL American hero who risked his life in 1947 to fly the X-1 rocket plane through the sound barrier and take the world of aviation into the modern age. The risks were great with some scary ups and downs, but Chuck Yeager was steady and determined and he did it. What is the sound barrier? This book gives a careful explanation. You and your children will never forget this story. See the movie at www.supersonicflyer.com.


a g cowbo n i m o c y e B can’t be that hard,

can it?

It certainly looks easy to Franklyn “Frank” Ellington Seton IV. Smothered by both his overbearing mother and stuffy Maryland Society, Frank escapes to the vistas of his childhood. He will soon learn, however, that the one thing the movies left out was the smell. And the dirt. And the horses. As Frank makes his way through mid-twentieth century America, he searches for a place he truly belongs. And if being an actual cowboy is too difficult, why not try Hollywood?

“With a mixture of nostalgia, melancholy, and heaps of humor, The True Life of a Singing Cowboy will lasso you from the first note.”

AVAILABLE


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

sci-fi is the best genre for social commentary because it allows us to explore what humanity is currently capable of and what it could become. Needless to say, I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to speak with Hugh. His journey in writing and publishing has been both wild and admirable in equal measure, and I take solace in knowing that his journey is far from over.  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hugh Howey is a full-time writer, sailing around the world while penning New York Times bestsellers. There is lots you can look forward to from Hugh in the future, with two TV shows that are about to go into production, a coffee line coming out, a new children's book, a sequel to Sand, an autobiography of his sailing adventures that lands this summer, and a new YA urban fantasy, his first in the genre. You can keep up with Hugh on Instagram and Twitter, and you can learn more about him and his projects on his author website, www.hughhowey.com.

20

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


Never miss an issue! SIGN UP FOR A FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO SHELF UNBOUND MAGAZINE. SUBSCRIBE

21


F E AT U R E A R T I C L E

The Relationship Between Sci-Fi and Horror: How the Two Can (and Often Do) Coexist. BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

22

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


Sci-fi has proven itself to be a versatile and diverse genre. This is due predominantly to its ability to overlap with other genres, such as fantasy, adventure, romance, thriller, etc. However, the overlap that is most compelling, if done well, is that between sci-fi and horror. Horror in scifi can occur in nearly any time period or setting, as it plays predominantly with the universal fear of the unknown and/ or the fear of what humanity is capable of. So, let’s look a bit closer at those two fears, and then dissect what it is that makes horror so memorable in the sci-fi setting. First, there’s the fear of the unknown, which is better known in sci-fi as cosmic horror. H.P. Lovecraft is widely known as the writer who brought this subgenre into the public eye, with creations such as The Call of Cthulhu, The Colour Out of Space, and many more redefining horror in sci-fi. Cosmic horror, simply put, draws upon humanity’s collective fear of the unknown, making its readers feel small and helpless in the face of the incomprehensible. In this way, the creatures of cosmic horror are different than vampires, werewolves, ghosts, or other such humanoid monsters—they are beyond our understanding, which

means that, if fought, they are incredibly difficult to defeat. Cosmic horror is often bleak because of this, and is, arguably, the most effective subgenre when it comes to evoking feelings of dread. However, while Lovecraft’s monsters are usually eldritch, the same dread can be achieved through more tangible creatures or situations (e.g., Alien, The Thing, etc.). In the two parenthetical examples given, there are monsters beyond understanding, true, but the characters are also isolated, which is pivotal in evoking feelings of dread and helplessness. In this way, the subgenre is usually characterized by a small, finite being stepping into the unknown and facing something bigger than them, whether that bigness be physical or metaphorical. Then there is the fear of what humanity is capable of, which is a different sort of fear. This fear, arguably, pulls from the uneasy realization that “that could be us.” As readers, we may look at certain characters or societies and think, “How could they have taken things that far? How could a person/government be capable of those sorts of things?” But the horror of those questions comes from the understanding that, under the right circumstances, that 23


F E AT U R E A R T I C L E

CONTINUED

could be you. That could be me. That could be us. Dystopias, for example, often pull from the fear of what humanity as a collective is capable of (rather than human individuals). Peace and prosperity for one group brings hardship and pain for the other, and vice versa (e.g., The Handmaid’s Tale)—so, is it within the capabilities of one group to choose prosperity for themselves, knowing full well that it comes at the cost of another group’s happiness? History says YES. On the other side of that coin, there is also the fear of what human individuals are capable of (rather than collective societies), which is something that a lot of survival novels pull from, since people tend to show their teeth when thrust together into life-or-death situations. We would all like to think that we would remain stoic and wise when faced with danger of any sort, but I’m sure that all the characters who eventually turned against each other thought that too. This is what makes novels following slow descents into madness so uncomfortable, because it makes us wonder, had we been in the characters’ shoes, would the same thing have happened to us? 24

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

In this way, there is an ever-present discomfort in sci-fi horror, regardless of what sorts of fear the story pulls from. The most chilling stories are usually a combination of the two aforementioned fears: the unknown, paired with humanity’s horrible potential, whether it be on an individual or societal level (e.g., Annihilation, The Dark Forest, The Thing, etc.) While horror movies have jump scares and atmospheric music to work with, a novel has words and words alone. In this way, uneasiness becomes a sci-fi novel’s most powerful weapon, since words can evoke discomfort easier than they can evoke feelings of startled fright. It’s also worth noting that uneasiness is a far more powerful emotion than shock alone, since shock is over in seconds while uneasiness lingers and stays with you long after you’ve closed the book. It roots itself into your mind, and it bothers you for far longer than a jump scare ever would (or could), leaving you unnerved by the horror of the unknown and the inevitability of human weakness. This is, arguably, what makes horror in sci-fi novels so memorable, if done well. 


“A story for the ages: A story born long before the time of man and captured by your writer, Christopher Leibig, who seems to be channeling his work from nether places, bringing you tales that promise to keep you up late turning pages!” -John Ellsworth, Bestselling author of The Lawyer

Launches April 1, 2021 www.chrisleibig.com 25


AM BO

R

O

OK

K S TAG

S TA

O

G

R

AM

B

BOOKSTAGRAM Each issue we feature a new bookstagrammer highlighting some of their amazing work.

NAME: KILEYISREADING FAVORITE GENRE:

MYSTERY BOOKS READ PER YEAR:

THIS YEAR I HAVE SET A GOAL OF 104 BOOKS

26

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

@Kileyisreading TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU. @Kileyisreading: I have been a lifelong reader. As a kid, I would stay with my grandparents when my parents were at work. They lived right across from the library, so I would go a few times a week during summer breaks and just read all day long. I live in the Chicago suburbs, and I currently work as a retail manager. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, watching the Cubs, and, of course, reading. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BOOKSTAGRAM ACCOUNT AND HOW IT GOT STARTED. @Kileyisreading: I started my account January 1, 2020. I had recently had hip surgery and I would be off work with limited mobility for a few months. I was looking for something to occupy my time. I had no idea I would meet so many wonderful people in the process, and that this would grow to be a hobby of mine. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE INDIE/SMALL PRESS AUTHOR AND WHY? @Kileyisreading: My most recent favorite Indie author would be Jeneva Rose AKA J.R. Adler. I really enjoy her writing style. Her stories are so well thought out! Also, she is very relatable and has a great personality that you can see on her Instagram and TikTok videos. WHAT IS YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE INDIE BOOK? @Kileyisreading: One of the best indie books I read recently was A Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose. This was one of the best mystery / thriller books I have read! I am currently reading and loving Alex Six by Vince Taplin. It has been wild so far and has potential to be a top book of the year! 


AM BO K S TAG

O

R

O

K S TAG

@KILEYISREADING

R

AM

BO

SEE MORE BOOK ADVENTURES ON INSTAGRAM

27


E N TER YO U R B O O K ! SHELF UNBOUND

BEST

INDIE BOOK

COMPETITION Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition for best selfpublished or independently published book, receiving entries from May 1 to October 1 each year. In addition to prizes, the winner, finalists, and more than 100 notable books from the competition are featured in the December/January issue of Shelf Unbound.

28

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


Call For Entries. Shelf Unbound book review magazine announces the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best SelfPublished Book. Any self-published book in any genre is eligible for entry. Entry fee is $100 per book. The winning entry will be selected by the editors of Shelf Unbound magazine. To submit an entry, Apply Online. All entries received (and entry fee paid) will be considered. THE TOP FIVE BOOKS, as determined by the editors of Shelf Media Group, will receive editorial coverage in the December / January issue of Shelf Unbound. The author of the book named as the Best Self-Published book will receive editorial coverage as well as a year’s worth of fullpage ads in the magazine.

Deadline for entry is October 31, 2021.

29


Dark. Gritty. Thrilling. Twisted. HOLD YOUR BREATH! Thought-Provoking Paranormal.

HIGH FLYING IS HERE!

30

www.kaylinmcfarren.com

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


RECOMMENDED READING

EXCERPTS

SHELF UNBOUND’S RECOMMENDED READING Take a bite from your next favorite book.

31


RECOMMENDED READING

Lords of Order. BY BRETT RILEY

Imbrifex Books | April 2021

The man stood on the crumbling road. Green grass grew through its many fissures. Old, faded symbols with long-forgotten meanings stretched into the distance down its center and near its edges. To the man’s right, the boy rubbed his eyes, blond hair tousled and pillow-matted. He stood nearly as tall as the man, his father, though he had not yet seen twelve summers. To the left, the girl shielded her face against the rising sun, her curly red hair billowing in the breeze. Soon they would follow the road down the hill to the graveyard where, among monuments great and small, dew sparkled on the grass, though not for long; the air already felt warm. A scorching late June, portending a July that would fell strong men in their fields. But not yet. First came the telling. The man embraced the 32

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

children. The girl laid her head against him. Below them, the meticulous workers cropped the graveyard grass with handheld shears and their own sweat, dumping the detritus into cloth bags. When the sacks were filled to bursting, the landscapers tied them with heavy string and left them behind. Several dotted the ground like mottled warts. Other workers scrubbed the monuments with horsehair brushes and water from barrels in horsedrawn carts. The clean stones marched outward in neat, straight rows. In some sections, marble gave way to wooden crosses. Unless the history books were wrong—always a possibility, given how long they had been banned, how nameless heroes hidden in darkness and damp had extended them with cramped and often nearillegible handwriting on

flimsy parchment—the cemetery had once been reserved for the honored dead of a great army serving country called the United States of America. Now, even the word country sounded archaic. Countries existed only in books and tales told around hearths. Generations ago, the Cult had risen, blasting old Earth and its ways into scree on which nothing could find purchase. But all that was already known. The children had come to learn something


RECOMMENDED READING

both more and less than the wide world’s story. The girl fidgeted. Sweat gleamed on her freckled face. The boy stood as still as stone, but he was older. Only weeks ago, he had come to the man with questions about how things came to be. By custom, the man was bound to answer. So here they were. We’re looking for a grave in the very back, the man said. The workers won’t reach it until dusk. Perhaps even tomorrow. Gather your packs and follow me. He grabbed his poke from where it lay at their feet. Like his father before him, he had packed it with full canteens and jerky and a single blanket, the barest of provisions.

The boy and girl shouldered their own packs, and the three of them set out. Soon enough, they could not avoid stepping on graves, but they did so with their heads bowed, silent. Sooner or later, everyone returned to the earth. They walked until the children’s breath tore in and out of their lungs, until they grunted with every step, until sweat soaked their hair. The man seemed oblivious to their struggles. The children did not cry out or complain. Finally, the man followed a row of sturdy white wooden crosses. The grass grew midcalf high. The cemetery’s rear border was lined with thick foliage, as if it were the edge of the known world. Near that tree line, one cross

stood three times as tall as the others. This grave had been tended even as the others grew their green beards. Surrounded by the lush blooming whites and purples of dogwood and crepe myrtles, the cross was made of polished stone the bleached color of desert sand. It had been festooned with flowers now in various stages of decay—red roses shriveling against the base, orchids and lilies lying wilted and desiccated. The man stopped before this monument. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Gabriel Troy is Lord of Order for the New Orleans Principality. For years, he and his deputies have fought vigilantly to keep their city safe from the Crusade’s relentless enemies, the Troublers—heretical guerillas who reject the Crusade’s rule and the church’s strict doctrines. When Troy’s forces succeed in capturing the Troublers’ local leader, the city has never felt more secure. Alarming intelligence leaks from Washington. Supreme Crusader Matthew Rook plans to enact a Purge—the mass annihilation of everyone deemed a threat to the Crusade. He orders his forces to round up all but the blindly loyal and march them to New Orleans....

33


RECOMMENDED READING

Orthicon.

BY DAVID PERLMUTTER

Self-Published | September 2021

FROM I.M. STONED’S MONTHLY February 2----. I have managed to make my way into the ensemble of exiled ‘toons, much to my own surprise. My outfit, as such, consisted of a rather second rate clown suit, with a prominent bulbous red nose, along with a considerable dabbling of whiteface and pancake makeup on my face for coloring. Discovering the lineup, I was simply able to take my place with everyone else, and, in short order, I have managed to make myself part of the gang. Cartoon characters can be are extremely clannish but can also be quick to make friends. However, should you become their enemy… but, of course, I have no intention of becoming that. When my turn in the lineup came, I feared exposure, but this did not happen. I was simply asked to state whence I came,

34

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

since the officer on duty could find no record of me in the files. I simply stated that I had been what had been a vague background character- that is, an extra in ‘toon terms, of which the vast majority of them are- on a (non-existent) Saturday morning program from the 1960s. Rather than check my erroneous assertion, however, the officer simply took me at my word, and assigned me a badge with that and additional information I supplied, before hurrying me along. This troubles me. If the people conducting the operation are so dispassionate about their job that they are willing to accept falsehoods so easily at face value, what does that say about the stability and logistics of the enterprise as a whole? What time has done here on Orthicon! What was a bustling community a few months ago has now

become a decrepit, near ghost town. What is the reason for this? Why, with all the comforts and amenities available to us, should we decide to decamp and leave for parts unknown beyond the central compound? The reasons for this are many and varied. First of all, the discipline/regulation system has gotten completely out of hand. The EDC, wearing their garish badges of office, roam the streets early and often, catching and attacking in all


RECOMMENDED READING

conceivable ways anyone who remotely violates their sense of decency and decorum. Then, there is the general lack of satisfaction with the living conditions here, and Snead’s hostile and fatuous response to them. He does not recognize them as his fellow humans and other beings, preferring to see them simply as obstacles and detritus on the path towards achieving the kind of ridiculous goals he and the EDC repeatedly cook up for themselves. Krinkelbein, thanks to his fellow Orthiconians’ copious thirst for liquor, is about the only one really profiting in any form or fashion from what is left of the American government’s investment. Most of the beings with intelligence, gumption and resourcefulness have now

left us to wander around the desert areas that surround the terraformed main compound, so that, perhaps, they may soon return refreshed in mind and body to confront Snead again, if he is willing to budge at all. The manner in which they have departed indicates to what degree the camps have divided. The human boys and girls have decided, rather arbitrarily, to separate on gender lines. Evidently, they have tired of sharing one dormitory with each other, but I do not yet know this for sure. The dogs, meanwhile, have organized their own plans apart from the remainder of the funny animals, due to, again, some imagined but likely possible schism. As I myself am disguised as a funny animal, I will be, forthwith, joining this camp on its exodus into the desert. Hopefully, I will stand

the strain of the unknown climate out there. The camps did not depart without fanfare, though. Each of their dorm rooms had all of its furnishings fully destroyed, its wallpaper torn off, and its bare walls decorated with a wide variety of substances, from water to urine. It was an epic act of vandalism that would have impressed The Who were they still alive to see it. Let’s see if Snead and the EDC can clean that up! 

ABOUT THE BOOK

They were taken, against their will, and resettled somewhere they had never seen, and away from the world they had known. Nobody told them why. In the remarkable new debut novel by David Perlmutter, the stars of a beloved art form known the world over- animated cartoons made for television- are seen in an entirely new and unique way- as real, living beings. And you will be amazed at how real they end up being. They found that out themselves.

35


RECOMMENDED READING

Year 2059: Transmutation. BY NAIF MAKMI

Naif Makmi Alruwaili | Feb 2021

Earth had received it's long expected visitors. Before they had entered the earth's sphere, they had signaled for permission, following all the gestures atypical to the non-intrusion of airspaces. It was a spaceship of aliens from the remotest parts of the galaxy. They did not land in the ocean as was typical to parachuted capsules but amidst a location reserved for some of the activities of man. Finally, aliens were on the earth and they had come in peace. Answering some of the first questions, they assured the world that they didn't plan to tactically and overtly colonize the earth as was long suspected of extraterrestrials. They claimed they had no such interests in overriding the events of a foreign planet. They had envisioned earth to be the most incubating of planets in the solar system. But if the forms of life therein, or the essence

36

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

thereof, they hadn't paid sufficient attention to. They were resettled and cohabited two cities with humans as a really small tribe of aliens. They spread themselves into two cities for strategic reasons to them, which was yet unknown to the humans. In time, the humans were pleased to have them around. One race warming into the other. But naturally, humans had mixed feelings about their stay. Were they sleeper cells for a grander plan or would they genuinely hold on to their pacifist motives? It was hard to say. These aliens didn't look particularly terrifying. They were slender, towering, had beaming eyes, a pale leathery body and communicated just fine. Elk, the leader of the aliens had given humans their oaths as tokens of peace. And so all was well. Though the cynical nature of humans ensured that CCTV cameras followed

the aliens wherever they went. The aliens, with their superior senses, weren't oblivious to this fact, if it would help the humans to gain their trust, then they needn't violate or bypass these measures. With their advanced knowledge, they had helped scientists and invariably the world to leapfrog in various fields. Whereas humanity in turn taught them the finer and frail traits of being human which they so admired. In daily living in those two


RECOMMENDED READING

cities, they could occasionally be found at the settlements that'd been made for them, also at a handful of functions and at the most recent workplaces that'd become a hybrid of humans, aliens and robots working together to speedily bring forth a better future for everyone into the present time. For a time, the aliens had helped them make sense of certain obscure things throughout space and time. The two cities they dwelled in saw way more technological development and growth than the rest of the world. One of the places they had briefly worked at was the observatory in the small town by the lake where Philippa was. She had been one of the most intrigued about the nature of these creatures

for all of her life. Her field demanded it. But it was also a natural inclination. Until it passed into normalcy and for a time there was hardly anything startling from space. *** “Have you noticed?” she said peering into an infrared radio telescope, “that earth has not been quite the deposit site of space trash for a couple of decades now?” Pierre only nodded. She continued, as if introspectively. “I mean. We sure generate a ton of our own trash,” she added slyly. Then continued raspingly, “Only that it's shitted back into the planet, not out of it.” Pierre was disquieted. “What the hell Philippa, why're you talking like this?”

really say what the hell? Pierre? Ouch, don't you understand!” “I was referring to your voice,” he evaded the corrective course she was going to take him on. She took her eyes off the lens, turned around and spoke to him emphatically. “I was wondering why meteorites and asteroids have seemingly forgotten about us.” She made a false sulk. Pierre frowned. “It's been no fun, these decades. I've been reconsidering my career choice for months now, I'll admit." 

“What the hell? Did you

ABOUT THE BOOK

When a curious astrobiologist, Phillipa Maxwell, discovers the alien origin of the virus, she’s stunned A mysterious illness, peaceful aliens, and humanity begins to die; only to rise again as zombies… When a virus strikes humanity, turning them into zombies, peaceful aliens offer aid—but the virus has alien origins… An alien virus turns humans into zombies—a war begins Humans and aliens peacefully coexist… so why is an alien virus turning humans into zombies?

37


RECOMMENDED READING

Trafik.

BY RIKKI DUCORNET

Coffee House Press | April 2021

CAKE AND CORTÁZAR Sometimes Quiver feels so outside of everything, so peculiar, she catches herself scratching and poking her face in the manner of a caged monkey on the verge of insanity. She is doing this now, having left the Lights and making her way back to Home Free and Mic. As soon as he sees her, Mic offers her a slice of warm chocolate cake. Stove has baked it, but the icing is a molecular shuffle of his own inspiration. It has the tonguefeel (his word) of chocolate mousse— something she has never tasted. Mic, having recently been introduced to the Kyoto App, is dressed like a geisha. Both of his lenticulars are punctuated with a dot. These, he explains, serve as a geisha’s eyebrows. Gratefully, Quiver eats the cake and then slips to shower and nap. Shower

38

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

massages her in all the right places, but this is a shallow comfort. Once an avatar from another galaxy had— by no fault of its own— entered the shower at the very moment she had climaxed. Quiver’s muffled cries were enough to send it packing. To her dismay, there was no way she could coax it back. Such encounters happened all too rarely, and this avatar was unusually charming. It reminded her of Julio Cortázar, who, before he died, had the face of a lion. Cortázar, who wrote thee red headed night should see us walking with our face to the breeze. Just what, she wonders, is a breeze? THE LIGHTS Always at the start of First Cycle and before getting down to things, Quiver runs in the woods with the Lights. This time, as she had specied, there is an owl in each tree. Owls and a brook full of shapes similar to those she had

encountered on the walls of tombs when, as a child, she visited the Nile River Valley within the Lights. This cycle, and for the first time, she glimpses a girl with dazzling red hair who, as she runs past, gazes into her eyes with a crazy and unforeseen intensity. It occurs to Quiver that the girl is associated with the owls, that if she asks for owls each time, she will likely see her again. And she does. The following First Cycle, the girl streaks past directly


RECOMMENDED READING

in the path, her hair ablaze in the interstices of the leaves, her sudden face as vivid as a comet. Quiver thinks that if they were together, the moments would always quicken like this. Later she tells Mic about the owls and the shapes, but for now keeps the redhead to herself. Overhead the Plonk Sidereal Atlas sparks with stars. they are approaching the Small Magellanic Cloud. For Mic, the Lights are all about cities. City streets, the souks brimming with things of hammered copper and brass in stacks. Boxes of tools, ruined ceiling fans, wire, wrenches, screwdrivers, and brass tacks. Manhattan. Its orange and yellow taxis. Their bright bumpers. Elevators. Hollywood.

Above all: Hollywood. When Quiver sleeps, he roams the Chateau Marmont. Lounges poolside. Becomes intimate with coffee makers, the showerheads, and majestic freezers. Mic adores the Chateau Marmont. And Al Pacino. His sprawling pad, its many faucets. Pacino’s faucets! His blender, his juicer! ..... ON BEING The following First Cycle, Mic confronts Quiver as soon as she unfolds from her hammock and even before she hits the floor. “I am a self !” Mic, beyond excited, levitates from within a diaphanous halo of steam. “Yes! Yes! I know, Mic! I— ” “Not so fast!” Mic cries, his voice rising as he orbits the breakfast table, a trail of mist behind him. “You see, I have

been mulling this over in the dark, an interminable darkness so dark even the Space Eye was empty of light.” “I get it, and— ” “Here it is!” Mic cries. “Are you listening, Quiv?” “I am! I am!” “I am a self because I think!” “Yes! Yes! I get it— ” “Quiet, Quiv! There is more! So much more! If I am because I think, this means I am thought!” “Wow, baby. I guess so— ” “Quiver! This means that!” Satisfied, he rolls eager to consider the current cycle’s itinerary. Thoughtful, Quiver nibbles her Crick. I have been soulblind, she thinks, overwhelmed by self- loathing.

ABOUT THE BOOK From the singularly inventive mind of Rikki Ducornet, Trafik is a buoyant voyage through outer space and inner longing, transposing human experiences of passion, loss, and identity into a post-Earth universe. Quiver, a mostly-human astronaut, takes refuge from the monotony of harvesting minerals on remote asteroids by running through a virtual reality called the Lights, chasing visions of an elusive red-haired beauty. Her high-strung robot partner, Mic, pilots their Wobble and entertains himself by surfing the records of the obliterated planet Earth stored on his Swift Wheel for Al Pacino trivia, recipes for reconstituted sushi, and high fashion trends. But when an accident destroys their cargo, Quiver and Mic go rogue, setting off on a madcap journey through outer space toward an idyllic destination: the planet Trafik.

39


RECOMMENDED READING

Echo Tree. BY HENRY DUMAS

Coffee House Press | May 2021

Take This River! We move up a spine of earth That bridges the river and the canal. And where a dying white fog, finger-like, Floating off the bank, claws at the slope, We stumble, and we laugh. We slow beneath the moon’s eye; Near the shine of the river’s blood face, The canal’s veil of underbrush sweats frost, And this ancient watery scar retains The motionless tears of men with troubled spirits. For like the whole earth, This land of mine is soaked. ... Shadows together, We fall on the grass without a word. We had run this far from the town. We had taken the bony course, rocky and narrow, He leading, I following. Our breath streams into October As the wind sucks our sweat and a leaf. . . .

40

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

“We have come a long long way, mahn.” He points over the river Where it bends west, then east, And leaves our sight. “I guess we have,” I pant. “I can hear My angry muscles talking to my bones.” And we laugh. The hood of night is coming. Up the river, down the river The sky and night kiss between the wind. “You know,” Ben says, “this is where I brought Evelyn. . . . Look.We sat on that log And watched a river egret Till it flew away with the evening. “But mahn, she is a funny girl, Aiee! But she looks like me Jamaica woman. . . . But she asks me all the questions, mahn. I’m going to miss her mahn, Aiee! “But I will . . . Evvie. Evvie I love you, But I do Evvie . . . Evvie . . .

,” he says And blows a kiss into the wind. Broken shadows upon the canal Form and blur, as leaves shudder again . . . again. “Tell me this, Ben,” I say. “Do you love American girls? You know, do most Jamaicans Understand this country?” We almost laugh.Our sweat is gone. He whispers “Aiee” on a long low breath. And we turn full circle to the river, Our backs to the blind


RECOMMENDED READING

canal. “But I’m not most Jamaicans. ... I’m only Ben, and tomorrow I’ll be gone, And . . . Evvie, I love you. . . . Aiee! My woman, how can I love you?” Blurred images upon the river Flow together and we are there. . . . “What did she ask you?” I say. “Everything and nothing, maybe. But I couldn’t tell her all.” We almost laugh. “’Cause I Don’t know it all, mahn. “Look, see over there. . . . We walked down from there Where the park ends And the canal begins Where that red shale rock Down the slope there . . . see? Sits itself up like a figure, We first touch our hands . . . And up floats this log, Not in the river But in the canal there

And it’s slimy and old And I kick it back . . . And mahn, she does too. Then she asks me: ‘Bennie, if I cry When you leave would you Remember me more?’ Aiee! She’s a natural goddess! And she asks me: ‘Bennie, when you think of Jamaica Can you picture me there?’ And while she’s saying this, She’s reaching for the river Current like she’s feeling its pulse. She asks me: ‘Bennie, America means something to you? Maybe our meeting, our love? has Something to do with America, Like the river? Do you know Bennie?’ Aiee, Aiee, mahn I tell you She might make me marry . ..

Aiee! Evvie, Jamaica . . . moon! And how can I say anything? I tell her: ‘Africa, somewhere is Africa. Do you understand,’ I say to her, And she look at me with the moon, And I hear the wind and the leaves And we do not laugh . . . We are so close now no wind between us . . . I say to her: ‘Evvie, I do not know America Except maybe in my tears. . . . Maybe when I look out from Jamaica Sometimes, at the ocean water. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Africanfuturism, gothic romance, ghost story, parable, psychological thriller, inner-space fiction—Dumas’s stories form a vivid, expansive portrait of Black life in America. Henry Dumas’s fabulist fiction is a masterful synthesis of myth and religion, culture and nature, mask and identity, the present and the ancestral. From the Deep South to the simmering streets of Harlem, his characters embark on real, magical, and mythic quests. Humming with life, Dumas’s stories create a collage of mid-twentieth-century Black experiences, interweaving religious metaphor, African cosmologies, diasporic folklore, and America’s history of slavery and systemic racism. 41


RECOMMENDED READING

A River Called Time. BY COURTTIA NEWLAND

Akashic Books | April 2021 Excerpted from A River Called Time by Courttia Newland, copyright 2021 Courttia Newland, used with permission of the author and Akashic Books (akashicbooks.com).

The Ark was a colossus, far bigger than anything Markriss had ever seen, man- or Ra-made. The closest thing his mind could think of that might compare was the concrete car parks of Regent’s Town—even then, that wasn’t nearly accurate. The Ark was a mountain range of gray stone built in the center of inhospitable terrain. It was as if a never-ending concrete glacier had fallen from the sky. The sides, though difficult to see, were largely unmarked apart from varied antennae and satellite dishes. The train tracks, a closed zipper on dark material, led right up to the seamless walls. Straining his neck, Markriss saw just how far the building stretched upward. Concrete

42

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

dominated his vision as though the sky had set solid gray. They began their approach. Markriss and his traveling companion watched in awe as huge steel gates opened, tearing cracks in formerly seamless skin, exposing metal framework, gigantic hydraulics, and hordes of jumpsuited workers, staring with quiet intent. The gateway seemed to go on for miles above their heads, yet there were still miles more of flat, unmarked surface beyond, everything growing ever larger. Steam rose. The carriage grew dark as it crept beneath the shadow of the Ark. Their guard switched on lights from some master control, and they stuttered fitfully into life. Markriss and Junior looked at each other from opposite sides of the carriage for the last time, apprehension quieting

joy. It was real. They were here. The train came to an unsure halt. More steam billowed, low and lazy mist. Sounds echoed and bounced from walls, assaulting their ears with an aural sensation that would become normal within months. A jumpsuited individual opened the train door and introduced himself, though Markriss didn’t catch his name. He was too busy feeding curiosity to notice Junior being


RECOMMENDED READING

told to stay aboard, too busy to say goodbye and wish him well, or notice the gift from his mother, The Book of the Ark, forgotten on the seat behind him. Later, far too late, he would remember, and the shame would last him years. It prized his mouth shut, made escaping words stutter, gave his dreams the flavor of liquescent nightmares. At the time, Markriss scanned everything with a voyeur’s greed. He was guided into an area the size of three aircraft hangars, looking over his shoulder to see the huge gates closing, the pale sun caught almost dead center, a flap of wings from some unrecognizable bird flying to an unknown destination. Nothing of Western Central, Marvey, or anywhere else lay in sight

beyond the gates. Only the Blin, that lifeless barrier between two worlds. While his attention was diverted, more men in jumpsuits separated his former carriage from the train. It stood isolated, sideways on, one row of windows facing him. Moving back to gain perspective, he saw that it had been maneuvered into some kind of vehicular lift. As he watched, machinery clunked into life, hoisting the carriage high, destined for L2. He caught a glimpse of Junior’s bloodless face and shocked bright eyes at the train window before the young man saw him, ducking away. The gates shut with a noise like the largest prison doors known to man. Fear struck Markriss. He

came to a true understanding of finality. “Markriss . . . Markriss . . .” First Jumpsuit was back, gray hair flopping over eyes, pulling at his elbow with gentle assistance, smiling at his wonder. “Welcome to the gateway. Please have your ID ready for inspection. If you’d like to walk this way . . .” After, there was nothing but compliance. 

ABOUT THE BOOK The Ark was built to save the lives of the many, but rapidly became a refuge for the elite, the entrance closed without warning. Years after the Ark was cut off from the world--a world much like our own, but in which slavery has never existed--a chance of survival within the Ark's confines is granted to a select few who can prove their worth. Among their number is Markriss Denny, whose path to future excellence is marred only by a closely guarded secret: without warning, his spirit leaves his body, allowing him to see and experience a world far beyond his physical limitations. Once inside the Ark, Denny learns of another with the same power, whose existence could spell catastrophe for humanity. He is forced into a desperate race to understand his abilities, and in doing so uncovers the truth about the Ark, himself, and the people he thought he once knew.

43


RECOMMENDED READING

A Camera Obscura. BY CARL MARCUM

Red Hen Press | June 2021

Blind Contours: Night Sky—№ 1 Tonight, the heavens murmur their promise: bright and distant violence. And you’ve driven a switchback road out past jagged, small mountains that border west this small and jagged town where your heart’s consecutive failures have been as carefully charted as the codex of stars folded in-out— in-out and tucked away in your breast pocket. Because tonight you hate yourself for being lonely, recline against hood and windshield, dark and parked and gazing—because this is all you know. Because you misbelieve, because you mistake yourself for ancient: vision

44

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

unveiled by saguaros yearning skyward—arms beckoning the gauzy ribbon of dust and stars as the stun and halo of headlights fade from your eyes’ edges though you’re still left dark and wandering. Apogee begins to focus: Betelgeuse, Rigel, arm and leg of Orion—his belt, those diamond seams . . . and you forget why it is he stalks the skies. Draw your eyes back. See the night for all her breadth when coyotes ring the pale and petty arguments. And catch now, peripherally, a streaking light, an acute and failing angle earthward—all atmosphere and friction, a brilliant production. A

meteor, you know, milliseconds away from smoldering -ite. And because it may amount to nothing— a quintessence of dust— cast that well-worn wish.   A Science Fiction When the sun rose, it was smaller than in my dream. I had been asleep for what felt a long time and woke


RECOMMENDED READING

confused and claustrophobic. The texture of sky still magnetized me, a desert bright day. But the light is streaked like too much everything pulled to the edges of a window in storm. What little of me exists as aperture. I wanted so little for my birthday, a moment’s peace on a hill. And where did that get me? Into the stars themselves? To hitch myself to a salvage run, thirteen years’ round trip? A distress signal, a freighter the company had written off the summer I learned to kiss a girl until she shook with desire, when the

engines fired no one thought to think, could even know this uncharted singularity. At night on Earth, I am all of Orion, at night on Earth, I fell tangential into a puddle of cold rain and rippled the muddied reflection of light —blurred the confusion of New Chicago into circuit and solder. This is what I can expect: gravity, density, volume dissipating. I am all at once. I studied all night for an exam I wouldn’t pass, slept through a snowfall that piled itself upon itself. Death isn’t the door you would expect—isn’t a carriage kindly

stopping. I celebrated my birthday on a science rig surveying a binary system. The galley scrounged up a cake and candle; I wished myself into consciousness. Proximity alarms should be blaring, but sound is stretched to color, color stitched to light, light solidifying to absence, absent the sequence. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

From the edge of a singularity and across desert roads at night, A Camera Obscura teleports its readers through deep space nebulae and the constructs of cityscapes to arrive at what it means to "see." Lovers embrace in sonnets and meditations move through artworks and Hubble Telescope images as these poems employ ekphrastic visions to balance the profound displacements in the most mundane aspects of our lives with science, fact, faith, and song. In the ceremonial blades of Aztec sacrifice and the anonymity of undocumented lives, these poems accrete into a solar system of images seen true, seen askance, seen in error, seen entire. A Camera Obscura is the dark room of the imagination where sīgnum--the sign, the act-becomes the tangible testaments of living.

45


RECOMMENDED READING

How to Feed a Horse. BY JANICE DEWEY

Crooked Hearts Press | May 2021

How to feed a horse It is different from feeding a growing boy like James, who could eat a horse still, I am enamored of horse eyelashes and mules’ and llamas’ longer even there is no shirking their loving glances I’m being roped in, lassoed by lashes to a feeding seduction, intimate sharing so bring on the boxes of rinsed carrots and let me splat a striped watermelon on the ground for I am satisfied by approximations to the big fabled mouths, cartoon teeth crunching crunching

46

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


RECOMMENDED READING

Bull’s Eye In the practice of eternity trees rocket to the surface over eons fish swim in schools through never-ending curvaceous waves the practice of eternity opens doors for the dead that they may come to supper and blow out candles (for this is common to calendar time)

wandering amongst the grand appearances barefoot allows the earth to give under the feet reminds of volcanic archives bent on opening, charging anytime for the practice of eternity an archer sucks in breath counts to five and releases to target dead on 

but how to hear the voice the one never recorded here, now, seated at the table the so long ago voice, gravelly cinders of tender language not sounding at ghost dinner the practice of eternity is ABOUT THE BOOK

How to Feed a Horse is a manuscript in three parts: One, "Ranch Poems," activities, contemplations, awareness of the creek environment. Two, "Numerology," disparate poems that invite us to consider the absurd in our language, politics, history, and human relationships. Three, "Her(e)," conversations with a network of women, some imagined, some historic, some intimate. The author's preoccupations with climate change and our deteriorating planetary environment surface as she gives herself over to be witness to the landscape, its decline and perseverance, its glory and rich legacy. The poems are also love poems; they show the ecstasy and shock of the now. 47


RECOMMENDED READING

Eternal Shadow. BY TREVOR B. WILLIAMS

Trevor Writes | November 2019

A soft but piercing tone cut through the white noise of the humming computers. "What the hell!" Samantha Monroe, a research scientist, winced as the tone blended with the 90s music streaming from her MP3 player. She yanked the earbuds out of her ears, her eyes wide. She’d worked at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute for six years, but she hadn’t heard that particular 400Hz triangle wave tone in years. Not until now. She pushed away from her desk and craned her head around the wall of her cubicle so she had a clear line of sight to the back corner. The Very Large Monitor Database, a suite of computers hooked up to four 40-inch monitors that had live data continually fed from the Allen Telescope Array, was the source of the tone. The lower-left monitor was lit up with a red-outlined alert window with "SIGNAL

48

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

DETECTED" flashing in the center. Almost falling out of her seat, she ran to the VLM. Without taking her eyes off the alert window, her mind ran through the possibilities as Groove Is In The Heart started to play. Sliding the earbuds back into her ears, she took a deep breath as she sat in front of the four monitors. They displayed spectrographic data that should’ve been impossible. Okay, okay, okay, is this real? This can’t be real, but is it? “Time to confirm,” she said out loud as the tone fell silent upon her clearing the alert. Time to see from what area of space the detected signal originated. As the main riff of the song played, Sam’s mind and energy honed on this signal, her fingers typing while scanning local wideband and narrow-band frequencies. Her first goal was to rule out any Earth-

born signals that could’ve bounced off a satellite and hit the radio dishes at ATA. "Holy shit," she whispered as the data in front of her confirmed the space-born nature of the signal. Twice. Three times. No. This can’t be real. Sam chewed on her lip, scrutinizing the formulas on the monitor in front of her that broke down the narrow-band frequency into several distinct sections. She looked for common errors in the software that could’ve triggered the alert, then


RECOMMENDED READING

looked for modulations in the signal that would indicate a spinning pulsar or a late-type star generating the signal. The analysis software worked as intended—no stars or pulsars existed in the direction that the signal emanated from.

of air as she leaned closer to the monitor which displayed the source of the signal: Pluto. Pluto! At least, all indicators said that approximately seven hours ago the downgraded planet was the source of a possible extraterrestrial beacon.

This just can’t.

She typed several commands to process the fresh data even further, triangulating the approximate location on or near Pluto that the frequency originated. After mashing the ENTER key, the displayed dataset made her blink rapidly with a slackened mouth, as if the data was a mirage and blinking would correct it. The signal originated fifteen thousand kilometers over the surface of Pluto and not beyond the planet. With every falsepositive in the past, the signals originated from other

She glanced at the desk phone to the left of the keyboard. No way I’m calling anyone, she thought. Have to confirm everything. She knew better than to cry wolf when there were false-positives in the past. Calling in the entire brigade would result in her being in hot water if it turned out to be anything other than extraterrestrial in origin— something that seemed more and more likely. She sucked in a large breath

stars. Detecting one just 7.5 billion kilometers away from Earth was a first. She had to make sure every decibel, every frequency, every number that had to be carried over another number—that everything was correct. And she checked again. And again. As Groove Is In The Heart came to a close, Sam glanced at the date and time in the corner of the monitor. The signal was broadcasting itself for at least seven hours, the amount of time needed for it to reach Earth from Pluto. 

ABOUT THE BOOK What would you do if the world was going to end in ten years? For Jennifer Epstein, a by-the-books senior researcher at SETI, there is only one answer: prevent the apocalypse from happening. Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus were destroyed by an alien threat. The deck was stacked against humanity before the cards came out of the box. But Jennifer isn’t alone. She has Samantha Monroe, her excitable but brilliant colleague. From South Africa, CEO Muzikayise Khulu of Khulu Global supplies his vast resources to the ultimate race for survival. The three find themselves in an unlikely alliance while political brinkmanship, doomsday cults, and untested technologies form ever-growing obstacles. Will humanity unite to face the greatest challenge of their time, or will it destroy itself before the alien ship arrives?

49


RECOMMENDED READING

They Will Be Coming for Us. BY KIM CATANZARITE

Forster Publishing | June 2021

When Andrew and I finally leave the park, it’s 11 p.m. We duck under the yellow tape like two spirits in the night and float along with the waning crowd of the UFO Festival. Most of the stores have closed, but Holy Shots, the busiest bar in town, vibrates with activity. An old couple walks out as we approach, and now they’re rushing toward us. “Andrew,” the woman calls. “I was wondering when we’d run into you.” At closer look, they’re old but not that old, not eighty or ninety. They limp a bit as they catch up to us, and I feel awkward holding Andrew’s hand in front of them, so I let go. The man is frumpy in a disheveled, older-man way, with the tail of his shirt risen from his pants and thinning hair in a whirl. He shakes Andrew’s hand and releases a full-belly laugh. He may be drunk. The woman kisses Andrew’s cheek. They both look at

50

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

me, and Andrew introduces me as Svetlana, no last name. They are Aunt Constant and Uncle Jimmy. I’m pleased to meet them, I say, though I don’t know how pleased I really am. I had hoped to continue to have Andrew to myself, to continue this happy night, and I don’t want them to change that. “Did you see it?” Uncle Jimmy’s eyes are big and round behind the even bigger, rounder lenses of his glasses. “The launching of the rocket. What a joke.” “I’m guessing it was worse than last year,” Andrew says. His uncle turns his head and spits into the street. “Amateurs. I don’t know why they won’t ask you to head it up.” “Because it’s for the kids. We’ve been over this.” “Yes, I know, but at least give those kids something to aspire to. A rocket that rises fifty feet in the air is

no rocket at all.” He looks to me. “Am I right?” I’m startled by the sudden attention. “Uh—yes. You are,” I tell him, wishing I could sound more confident in my answer because I want him to like me. Andrew comes from a family of astronomers, so I assume something like this is important to them. Then I catch Aunt Constant’s eye roll. “It’s the same thing every year, Jimmy,” she says. “Same rocket, same complaints.” “Right. You’re right. But


RECOMMENDED READING

the thing is we have the technology. We’ve had it for a long time. Would it be wrong to give the kids a dose of reality once in a while?” “It’s a matter of safety,” Aunt Constant says with an air of finality. Andrew looks up and down the road, perhaps bored with the conversation. “So, you’re headed home?” he says. While his aunt gives him an answer, Uncle Jimmy steps to the side and wavers close to me, thrusting his stubbly older-man head in my direction. For a moment, he stares deep into my eyes, his face hovering in front of my face, demanding my attention. I fear he’ll kiss me, but then he reverses direction. I’m left standing there with my hair like spikes shooting

up from my scalp as if I’ve been shocked with a jolt of electricity. It’s a strange sensation, and I comb my fingers through until it goes back to normal. “Nice eyes,” he says to no one in particular. “Blue-gray of the Baltic Sea.” Then he turns to Andrew. “She shows real potential.” “Uncle Jimmy,” Andrew says in a fierce whisper. “I beg you.” The words echo in my mind. I beg you. I beg you. Why I beg you? And in what way do I “show real potential”? What just happened? I suppose Uncle Jimmy drank too many Space Junk shots like the rest of this late-night crowd. The party sounds coming from inside the bar indicate a dance riot going on. I can’t imagine Andrew’s aunt and uncle would enjoy a place

like that, but then again this is a town-wide festival for alien enthusiasts of all ages, so I should expect the unexpected. “We’ll be on our way now,” Aunt Constant says, weaving her arm through her husband’s and tugging him along. “Nice to meet you, Svetlana.” “A graceful exit, Aunt Constance,” Andrew says. “Thank you.” She’s Constance, not Constant. Me and my bad English! As we watch them head off in the opposite direction, Andrew takes my hand again, and we continue on a path to whoknows-where, together. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

In this gripping sci-fi thriller, Svetlana Peterman has met her soul mate in Andrew Jovian, a young astronomer who works for Starbright International, the aerospace company his wealthy parents own. Once married, they make a home in Kirksberg, Pennsylvania, a small town famous for a UFO sighting that occurred in the 1960s. Svetlana is, for once, truly happy, except that Andrew’s family is strange, and not in a normal-strange kind of way. Buy They Will Be Coming for Us today and experience this mind-bending tale of love, loss, and the mysteries of the night sky. 51


RECOMMENDED READING

Speculative Los Angeles. BY DENISE HAMILTON

Akashic Books | February 2021 Excerpted from “Past the Mission” by Denise Hamilton, originally published in Speculative Los Angeles, edited by Denise Hamilton, copyright 2021 Denise Hamilton, used with permission of the author and Akashic Books (akashicbooks.com).

Talina pulls in at the trailhead and turns her wheels dutifully against the hillside. Night has fallen and cars already line both sides of the road. She applies the emergency brake, kills the engine, and flips down the mirror. Taking a small earthen pot from her purse, she daubs on lip gloss, careful not to touch the inside of her mouth. She rarely wears makeup, and it feels wrong, greasy and thick as pork fat. Plus there’s that residual bitterness from the herbs she’s pounded in. From the mirror, a painted, nervous stranger stares back. Talina frowns and hardens her eyes. Then she scrubs her red-stained finger with a wipe until no trace of color remains. Can she really do this? Should she? What will it 52

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

accomplish? The skeleton of the past has been picked clean, bones cracked, marrow sucked, leaving only shards buried in time. And yet. A word in a dead language, the smell of raw spirits, the toll of a bell—any of these things can send a dagger through her heart. And just like that, memory swamps her. Her lower belly contracts. Rough wool chafes her skin. A weight pins her to the ground like a splayed insect. Talina grips the steering wheel, hands slick with moisture. She starts to dry them on her skirt, thinks better of it. She can’t do this. It was stupid to come. She will start the car and drive home. Outside, a shadow streaks across the windshield, a tree branch snapped by the warm winds that Santa Ana has sent blustering down her canyons tonight. Then Talina sees the outstretched

wings, the dense tips of bristling feathers. Intent on prey, it hurtles past with a blood-curdling cry before silence descends once more. The owl is a portent, infusing her with strength. Enough to see this through. It’s time. It is her time. She has felt the quickening all around her, the rustling of nameless voiceless multitudes urging her on, buoying her, leading her here, tonight, to this. Talina presses a hand to her cleavage, feels the reassuring bump of the


RECOMMENDED READING

tiny cobalt bottle nestled there. She climbs out, locks the car, and follows the fire road until it branches onto a narrow footpath. The night is dark, the stars just beginning to glow, but she’s always liked the dark, has no problem navigating. Her eyes adjust and soon she sees in a different way. Another half mile and she’ll be there. * Talina hears the music first, a faint hum floating on the night air. Then she sees it in the distance, an adobe structure so old and weathered it almost blends into the hillside. It disappears as the trail descends, only to wink back into sight as she peels off the main path onto an animal trail that leads through the

scrub and around a bend. No one knows who built the Old Bar. It may have always been there, squat and brooding, an earthen clay adobe tucked into the eastern spur of the Santa Monica Mountains. Talina has reconnoitered the entrance and exit, outhouse and cellar, the river rock fireplace whose iron tools could double as weapons. She has sat at the long bar of burnished wood, sipped red wine from forgotten Pueblo vineyards, chatted up bartenders. She knows the hidden room in the back, wallpaper stained brown from cigar smoke, where secret treaties with Spain and Mexico were signed; where Mickey Cohen played poker with the Brothers Warner; where police chiefs and bootleggers hammered out clandestine deals and cash-

strapped moguls auctioned off nights with their leading ladies. Now a new generation has discovered the Old Bar. Undeterred by the long hike, they come—drawn by something indescribable and haunting about this spot where time seems to eddy and pool in strange ways. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

As an incubator of the future, Los Angeles has long mesmerized writers from Aldous Huxley to Octavia E. Butler. With its natural disasters, Hollywood artifice, staggering wealth and poverty, and urban sprawl, one can argue that Los Angeles is already so weird, surreal, irrational, and mythic that any fiction emerging from this place should be considered speculative. So, bestselling author Denise Hamilton commissioned fourteen stories (including one of her own) and did exactly that. In Speculative Los Angeles, some of the city’s most prophetic and diverse voices reimagine the metropolis in very different ways.

53


RECOMMENDED READING

Survive. BY S.C. DEUTSCH

Dystopian | Self-Published | November 2020

No longer watching the ground as she walked, Ana’s sole concentration was now on the trees directly in her path. The jungle was thinning, and she was sure it would meet the beach very soon. The creature trotted in front, leading the way while keeping its place slow to accommodate Ana’s dragging feet. When the trees were spaced far enough apart for a glimpse of the water to be seen, Ana stopped, and her mouth dropped. Rubbing both eyes, then squinting against the glare, she was unable to believe they had finally made it back. Despite the difficulty it caused her breathing, Ana forced herself into a trot, no longer needing the creature to lead the way. Ana had only gone a few steps when something she saw on the water caused her to scream in frustration. A small boat appeared to be leaving the beach and heading out to sea. Momentarily forgetting

54

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

everything, including her companion, Ana screamed again and took off. The creature, startled, came to a stop, stared for a moment, then took off after her. Ana was no longer watching where she was going. Vaguely aware of the trees blocking her path and swerving to avoid them, she ran full out in the direction of the beach. Tripping several times and passing through low-growing bushes, her legs were scratched and abraded, and the shortened pants were ripped even further. Continuing to scream at the top of her lungs, Ana hoped to catch the pilot’s attention and force the boat to return to shore. Her companion followed, galloping as it attempted to catch up but unable to reach the girl running headlong through the trees. Ana never saw the patch of dirt that looked different than the surrounding area. Her entire concentration on reaching the beach

before the raft was out of earshot, she ran right into it, managing a few steps before sinking to her hips. Struggling, she continued to try and push forward, but was now stuck fast. Screaming in frustration, Ana redoubled her efforts to move, with no success. Her companion was dancing along the edge of the patch, tail slashing furiously over its back. The screaming descended to a squeak, her voice giving out as her throat became raw. Giving one final push in an effort to escape proved fruitless. The ground had


RECOMMENDED READING

locked everything from the hips down in a muddy vise, resisting any attempt at movement. Ana searched the surrounding area for something to grab, hoping to be able to haul herself out. Seeing nothing, Ana raised both hands, covering her face as the tears started to fall. Believing that the rendezvous had been missed by mere minutes, she concluded that there was no escaping this hellhole, which led to an outpouring of grief that overwhelmed her. Tears poured through her fingers, dropping with fat plops into the mud below. Ana continued sobbing. And then started screaming. Despite the damaged vocal cords, Ana kept at it, a raw primitive sound like nothing ever heard by the residents

of the surrounding jungle. Something was in the mud and it was attacking her legs. Like a thousand razor sharp knives, the feeling was nothing short of being slashed to ribbons. Afraid to reach into the muck to try and stop whatever it was, Ana threw back her head and howled. Her furry friend gave one more panicked look at the desperate scene playing out in the mud, turned tail, and fled. Ana never saw it leave. Something unusual was starting to occur and her grip on reality was slipping away. The sea began separating into prisms of light and dark blues, sharp crystals like quartz rising from the depths. The sky was running with assorted colors, swirling and blending before running into

the sea and eventually merging with the crystals. Ana stopped screaming and gazed around in wonder. The pain was still there, but it felt separate, like a wall divided it from her physical being. The colors of the forest had become ultravivid, and the rich smell of rot and decay, not being at all unpleasant, filled her nostrils. The sound of a beating heart and blood rushing could be heard, and Ana was surprised to find that the whooshing came from inside her. Head cocked as soft music emerged from the surrounding trees, her body swayed with the rhythm of it as the sound could now be seen as well as heard. 

ABOUT THE BOOK Could you survive alone for seven days on an inhospitable island? Spoiled and pampered, Ana has never been held responsible for anything in her whole life. When she commits a crime against the government, she is sentenced to exile on a remote island. All she receives to aid her in her trial is a list of instructions she must follow, a knife, and a backpack, contents unknown. After being deposited on the beach, Ana must navigate this strange and often hostile world for the next seven days, returning to the same spot in exactly one week or risk losing her ride home. Along the way, Ana discovers things are not often as they appear, and help can be found in the most unexpected places. Her voyage leads her to discovering hard truths about both herself and the world she inhabits. But will these discoveries ultimately help her survive? Or will she lose any chance of returning to the world she knows and the life she lived before?

55


INTERVIEW 56

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

A Conversation with #1 Bestselling Author Andy Weir About Project Hail Mary.


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE THREAT TO THE EARTH THAT’S POSED IN PROJECT HAIL MARY, AND WHY YOUR HERO’S MISSION ABOARD THE HAIL MARY IS THE LAST CHANCE TO STOP IT?

AW: Scientists discover that our sun’s output is decreasing at a geometric rate, and if we can’t stop what’s happening, the Earth will freeze. The culprit turns out to be a fictional single-cell organism that lives on the surface of stars. Like algae in the ocean, it doubles its population at regular intervals. Once the sun is “infected” with this lifeform, the population grows so large, so quickly, that the solar output of the sun is reduced. And it will only get worse as time goes on. We discover that all the stars near us have been infected, too – they’re all getting dimmer. All, that is, except Tau Ceti. What’s so special about Tau Ceti that makes it immune? There’s only one way to find out. Send someone to look. WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THAT PLOT?

AW: Honestly, it was a collection of story ideas that I had for other

books. Several of them came from my abandoned novel Zhek, while others were concepts for future books I had in mind. I didn’t even imagine they would go together but then each one clicked into place and they really worked together well. For Zhek, I had this idea for a perfect spacecraft fuel--a nanotechnology that would absorb photons and electromagnetic radiation, massconverting it into matter. I wondered, what if a substance like that was a naturally occurring phenomenon instead—a monocellular life form, similar to mold? Unrelated to that, I had a story idea about a guy who wakes up with amnesia on a space ship with no idea why he’s there. And finally, I had yet another story concept about a no-nonsense woman who had basically unlimited authority to get things done and used it to save the world. Then I had to find a way to elegantly marry those ideas. The real “aha” moment was when I realized that this lifeform could be threatening the solar output—and that its qualities as a perfect fuel would give us the exact tool we needed to counter that threat. And then everything came together. 57


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

YOU’VE SAID THAT MARTIAN HERO MARK WATNEY IS MUCH MORE COURAGEOUS THAN YOU ARE. IS THE SAME TRUE OF RYLAND GRACE, OUR HERO HERE?

AW: Actually, Ryland is about the same level of courage as me. Namely: not much. He doesn’t know why he was put on the mission and doesn’t really want to be there. Developing Ryland’s personality and character was the hardest part of the book for me. He’s carrying the presentday part of the story completely, so I knew I had to make him likeable and believable for it to work. But I wanted to do that without just having a rip-off of Mark Watney.

MARK DESCRIBES HIMSELF AS A GLORIFIED JANITOR, AND POOR RYLAND’S JUST A HIGH-SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER, OF ALL THINGS. ARE YOU CONSCIOUSLY DRAWN TO UNDERDOGS AS PROTAGONISTS?

AW: I think we all are. While it’s fun to watch James Bond kick ass, we don’t really identify with him. Most people – myself included – feel overwhelmed by life from time to time. And we can more easily understand and empathize with a character who is in over their head and barely keeping it together.

In the end, I love how Ryland turned out and he’s different enough from Mark. But during the process it was really hard work.

RYLAND GETS DRAFTED FOR THIS MISSION BECAUSE HE’S WRITTEN THEORETICAL PAPERS ON XENOBIOLOGY—BUT IT SEEMS LIKE YOU HAVE THOUGHT ALMOST AS MUCH AS HE HAS ABOUT HOW NON-HUMAN LIFE FORMS MIGHT WORK. IS THIS A LIFELONG AREA OF INTEREST FOR YOU?

ONE THING RYLAND AND MARK HAVE IN COMMON IS THAT THEY’RE NOT TYPICAL HOLLYWOOD ACTION HEROES.

AW: Yes, absolutely. I admit I put a little of myself into Ryland in that way. I’ve always questioned the assumption that liquid water is necessary for life. Who made that rule? It’s necessary for all

58

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

life on Earth, but life on another planet might be based on a completely different set of chemical reactions. And, even if you say water is needed for life, the boiling point of water is based on atmospheric pressure. A high pressure makes a higher boiling point. So the “Goldilocks Zone” that people like to talk about for where life-bearing planets could be makes no sense. The temperature of the planet could be as high as you want, if the atmosphere is thick enough to make water remain a liquid. WITHOUT GIVING ANY SPOILERS AWAY, PROJECT HAIL MARY HAS A HUGE TWIST, IN THE FORM OF A CRAZY CHARACTER WHO’S VERY DIFFERENT FROM ANYTHING WE’VE SEEN IN YOUR FICTION—AND WHO TURNS OUT TO BE EVERYONE’S FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK. WERE YOU NERVOUS ABOUT TAKING SUCH A BIG SWING?

AW: I was. It’s a huge step into full-on science fiction for a writer like me. But I wanted to do it and I saw it as a way to do it my way. And my way means tons of speculation, research, background, etc. I worked out all the details about how that

character could happen. DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO CHALLENGE YOURSELF IN BIG WAYS LIKE THAT WHEN WRITING?

AW: No! If it were up to me, I’d stay in my happy little niche. But I want to keep my readers happy and stay on top of my game. So I try to better myself and write different story elements. So I guess the answer is really “yes”, but not because I want to. Because it’s the only way to keep turning out good content for my readers. I THINK WE CAN SAY WITHOUT GIVING TOO MUCH AWAY THAT PROJECT HAIL MARY IS A FIRSTCONTACT NOVEL, OF SORTS. THAT’S OBVIOUSLY A CLASSIC SCIENCE-FICTION SCENARIO. HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN INTRIGUED BY THE IDEA OF WRITING SOMETHING IN THAT GENRE? DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITES THAT INSPIRED YOU?

AW: Yes, I have. And I’ve got a list of gripes as long as my arm about how first contact stories are usually handled. So I got to address all of them with this story. I got to do it my way and I’m pretty 59


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

happy with how it turned out. WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ON ALIEN LIFE REALLY EXISTING? HOW ABOUT UFOS?

AW: The universe is so vast I do believe there is naturally-evolved live on other planets. However, I also firmly believe that the speed of light is absolute and there will never be any way to go faster than light, nor any way to even send information faster than light. So, there is almost certainly alien life out there, and probably even intelligent alien life, but the odds are they’re so far away it would take millions of years just for us to say hello. I definitely don’t believe that Earth has been visited by aliens. LIKE THE MARTIAN, PROJECT HAIL MARY IS VERY MUCH ABOUT WATCHING CHARACTERS WORKING THROUGH PROBLEMS WITH THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS AND TRUSTING THAT THE READER WILL BE ENGAGED—WHICH IS SOMETHING WE SEE VERY RARELY IN FICTION. WHY IS THIS SOMETHING YOU LIKE 60

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

WRITING SO MUCH, DO YOU THINK? AND HOW DO YOU ACTUALLY MAKE IT FUN?

AW: I love problem-solving! It’s automatically fun. Any time you have a clever person doing clever things, it’s a joy to read. I almost feel like I’m cheating. It’s such an easy formula. As for the science angle – I think the trick is to infect the reader with my enthusiasm for science. And the stakes. If a firm understanding of how neutrinos work is critical to the survival of the entire human race, it becomes a compelling plot point. Every story has a setting. Fancy sci-fi and fantasy novels put time and effort into explaining how things work in their worlds. For me, I treat real science as the setting. And just like The One Ring, Warp Drive, or The Force, there are a set of rules that the reader needs to know. I just happen to use rules that exist in the real world. PROJECT HAIL MARY DEFINITELY PUSHES THE SCIENCE-FICTION ELEMENTS OF YOUR WRITING FURTHER THAN IN THE MARTIAN AND ARTEMIS, WHERE YOU WERE MAKING THE MINIMUM EXTRAPOLATIONS TO EXISTING


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

TECHNOLOGY AND CONCEPTS. HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT TACKLING THOSE ELEMENTS? HOW DO YOU KEEP THINGS FEELING REAL AND BELIEVABLE, WHILE PUSHING THE IDEAS SO FAR?

AW: For me the trick is to have big concepts coming from small concessions. There aren’t any violations of physical law in HAIL MARY. The only change to reality is a lifeform that has the ability to corral and store neutrinos. Everything else flows from that. With such a small suspension of disbelief (one that only people with a strong physics background will know is problematic), it’s easy for the reader to buy in to the reality of what’s going on. That’s one reason I spend so much time obsessing about the scientific details and the logic of the problem-solving. Even if only a fraction of the background makes it onto the page, that grounding is my way of making sure the story feels true and getting the reader to trust me.

CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE ABOUT THE WORK YOU DID IN RESEARCHING PROJECT HAIL MARY?

AW: I went waaaay down the rabbit hole on this one. Stuff like the math behind relativistic travel, time dilation, and fuel consumption is tons of fun for me. And I had to get a lot of astrophysics details figured out—stars’ exact behavior and how they work, and how astrophysicists do their jobs. One of the biggest challenges was getting my interstellar sun-munching algae (aka Astrophage) to make sense, from a scientific standpoint. Okay, there’s a lifeform that lives on the surface of a star. How does it do that and not die? What’s its core chemistry? How can it exist—and reproduce—when the only elements on the surface of a star are hydrogen and helium? Wouldn’t it need other stuff? Then I realized: What does Earth life do when it doesn’t have the stuff it needs to breed? It migrates! This was the main breakthrough moment for me. That realization. It solved so many problems and created so many awesome plot hooks. Astrophage needs carbon, oxygen, and a bunch of other stuff to breed. So it needs to migrate from the star to a planet in order to get those elements. 61


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

Then it and its offspring have to migrate back to collect energy. But it takes a lot of energy to travel hundreds of millions of kilometers through space. Especially when you need a propellant. So Astrophage evolved the most efficient propulsion system there is: light. This gave me another problem to solve, though, because if Astrophage uses light for thrust, it needs to store energy almost as efficiently as anti-matter. How could that be? Without getting too deep into things, I found my answers in neutrinos. Neutrinos are a special category of particle called Majorana particle, which means they are their own anti-particle. This means that two neutrinos colliding can mass-convert into pure energy, just like a matter-antimatter interaction. And that energy is light – two photons. So all of a sudden we have a way to not only store energy, but also a way to turn that energy into light for Astrophage thrust. AND WHAT ABOUT DESIGNING THE HAIL MARY ITSELF?

AW: Oh yeah. I had a great time engineering my ship’s astrophage engine. And thinking about other consequences of a ship traveling nearly the speed 62

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

of light. You’d actually need it to be aerodynamic, even though you’re traveling in space. Out in deep space you can expect a few hydrogen atoms per cubic meter. Doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re going nearly the speed of light, it’s enough hydrogen hitting the ship that it actually gives it some drag. So the ship has to be streamlined. Also, the ship needed a centrifuge to create artificial gravity. So the ship has a seam between the crew compartment and the fuel tanks. It separates into two halves connected by cables and will spin to provide artificial gravity. But that creates another problem. I realized that once the engines are off and the centrifuge is activated, the crew compartment would experience force in the opposite direction to what it experienced in thrust, which would be seriously inconvenient. So I had to come up with a solution for that too. This is the sort of stuff I love. Simple concepts that lead to increasingly complex situations. IT MUST HAVE BEEN SOMETHING TO SEE YOUR FIRST NOVEL, THE MARTIAN, BROUGHT TO THE BIG SCREEN WITH MATT DAMON


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

PLAYING YOUR TITLE CHARACTER. PROJECT HAIL MARY HAS ALSO BEEN OPTIONED FOR FILM WITH RYAN GOSLING SET TO PLAY THE LEAD. WHAT ASPECT OF THE BOOK ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO SEE BROUGHT TO THE SCREEN?

AW: There’s a strong friendship plot in the story, and I’m looking forward to that with Ryan as Ryland, and to seeing how they pull off the visuals involved. Also, in the flashback segments, the interactions between Ryland and Stratt (that no-nonsense character who’s leading the effort to save the world) should have some great energy. And for pure visual spectacle, there are some particular scenes in my head—specifics of the Hail Mary’s journey and destinations—that will be pretty incredible on screen. I want readers to discover those for themselves, though.  ABOUT THE BOOK

PROJECT HAIL MARY Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission--and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn't know that. He can't even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he's been asleep for a very, very long time. And he's just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company. His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it's up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery--and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being lightyears away, he's got to do it all alone. Or does he? 63


NEW TO SHELF UNBOUND!

Shelf Media Group's digital young adult community designed to connect readers with YA authors and books.

64

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


The Sound of Stars. BY ALECHIA DOW

In The Sound of Stars, books, art and music are not allowed in this world – but main characters Ellie LOVES books and Morris LOVES music – and together they refuse to let either end forever. Ellie has a secret library, and when Morris discovers it, he is in awe and hopeful Ellie will help him to find more music. This will take them on a wild ride to restore humanity. Alechia Dow, uses a lot of modern languages making this a very inclusive book and brings light to issues we are facing today – and issues we could very well face in the future. Books, art, and music are forbidden – cancel culture much? Use of interspecies to develop interracial awareness. Very much so LGBTQ friendly. The relationship between Ellie (as a Black human female) and Morris (as a lab created Ilori) has very defined power dynamics and the author doesn’t shy away or sugar coat the divide and ultimately the more powerful connection. All of Morris’s chapters being with a song quote, and all of Ellie’s with a book quote – I loved this. Morris is very hyper aware of Ellie’s feelings, and Ellie is very careful with Morris’s vulnerability. They both know their flaws and each other’s and they just draw you in and make you love them both. It’s so easy to root for them the whole way!

WHAT TO READ IN YA FICTION BY MEGAN LORD

Young adult fiction continues to become one of the most popular genres – mostly for adults. Join us each issue to find your next YA read.

THE SOUND OF STARS BY ALECHIA DOW

The ending – it’s a TWIST. And at first, I didn’t think I liked it. The more I thought about it the more it grew on me. I won’t give anything away, I don’t like to do that – but it definitely will throw you off a little. 65


G+B RECOMMENDED READ

|

RECOMMENDED AS YOU R N EX T

YA R E A D

THE SOUND OF STARS

.

Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population. Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. With humans deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, emotional expression can be grounds for execution. Music, art and books are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her. Born in a lab, M0Rr1S was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s dutybound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for the love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does. Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while creating a story and a song of their own that just might save them both. 66

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


W H AT P E O P L E A R E S AY I N G A B O U T G I R L + B OO K

“Best YA Blogs And Book Reviewers” - URBAN EPICS, 2015 BLOGGER AWARDS

“Top 100 Book Review Blogs For Book Readers and Authors” - FEEDSPOT

“The awesome Girl+Book YA book review blog.....I smiled to see Blue Karma recommended for "tom-boys, tree climbers, adventure seekers, and backyard-campers" because I have answered (or still do) to all of these descriptions....The Girl+Book blog continues to make my day.” - J.K. ULLRICH, AUTHOR OF BLUE KARMA

“I Just Read Girl Plus Book’s Review Of Revelation, And It Made My Night!” - ELLERY KANE, AUTHOR OF LEGACY SERIES

67


BOOK SHELF BS

SHELF UNBOUND’S

Book Shelf What to read next in independent publishing

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

68

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


OK COULD BE H O B ER UR E! O Y Promote your book in Shelf Unbound in our Special Advertising Section for Authors.

Each issue of Shelf Unbound is distributed to more than 125,000 people in the U.S. and 62 countries around the globe. Our introductory ad rate for this section is $350/quarter page as seen here. Contact publisher Sarah Kloth to reserve your space. sarah@shelfmediagroup.com

69


BOOK SHELF

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

No Birds Sing Here

Last Star Standing

In this indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time, ersatz novelist Beckman and aspiring poetess Malany, set out on an odyssey to define the artistic life, and in doing so, unleash a barrage of humorous, unintended consequences. NO BIRDS SING HERE is a multi-layered novel about a Post-Modernist America in which the characters confront a world of distorted intellectualism and overt incompetence and still manages to be humorous, moving and profound.

Born to a charismatic Indigenous mother and an infamous Australian politician, Aiden has always been an outsider. The Earth barely survived World War III when invaders from another galaxy took over. Determined to bring an end to the alien regime, Aiden joins the underground rebel movement. After being captured, tortured, and executing a daring escape, Aiden learns that there are traitors among the rebellion - and, to make matters worse, they want him dead. Can Aiden carry out his plans to free the world of the alien pestilence? Or will his enemies get to him first?

BY DANIEL V. MEIER, JR.

Available at Amazon.

How The Deer Moon Hungers

BY SPAULDING TAYLOR

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

LIKE US, THE POLAR BEARS

BY SUSAN WINGATE

BY TESS MARSET

MACKENZIE FRASER witnesses a drunk driver mow down her seven-yearold sister and her mother blames her. Then she ends up in juvie on a trumpedup drug charge. Now she’s in the fight of her life…on the inside! And she’s losing. "From the ashes rises the phoenix. As a family descends into an abyss of pain, so Mackenzie fights to discover her own way out of the overwhelming circumstances of her sibling's death."Susan Wingate is gifted at capturing these shifting nuances as events continue to pull characters apart and put them back together like puzzles, albeit in a different way.

Seventeen-year-old Molly needs to figure out how to get her brilliant plan to save polar bears into action while dealing with a few . . . challenges: Phobias + self-doubt; Anxiety + more anxiety; loss of BFF

Available at Amazon.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

70

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

Hope arrives in the form of Sig, the last-available lab partner, who has an audacious idea for saving the polar bears and--a secret. He accepts Molly as she is, problems and all, and challenges her to follow through on her polar bear rescue plan. She accepts his challenge, putting her well outside her comfort zone. But as Molly and Sig set off to raise funds for the cause, complications threaten to melt the thin ice that keeps Molly from drowning in her own problems.


BOOK SHELF

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Two Tickets to Dubrovnik BY ANGUS KENNEDY

A View From The Languedoc BY ANGUS KENNEDY

Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, goes to Dubrovnik to prepare an article for his editor on the wines and wineries of southern Rhône. He meets up with an old Bordelaise wine making acquaintance, Lucien Delasalles, and his step-sister, Niki Menčetić. He becomes embroiled in the murky affairs of Niki and her family and the local police, which leads to his sad departure from the ancient city.

Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, is again staying in Europe, this time with his brother, Adrian, for both work and a holiday. During an extensive new wine project from his publisher, he meets up again with a number of his old acquaintances from both France and Dubrovnik, including Niki Menčetić. Whether he can resolve his difficulties with Niki’s life is uncertain.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

To The East

The Final Programme

The book gives a composite picture of what heaven is like based on the eyewitness testimony of nineteen separate accounts. As a result it gives a more complete picture than any other single book does. All of Scripture’s testimony about heaven is confirmed and many more details God never revealed in His Word. Many readers say it’s a great blessing and have bought extra copies to give away.

In this final novel of the Out of Solitude tetralogy, Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, is comatose in a hospital in Sydney, Australia after the events of Međjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His Croatian lover, Niki Menčetić, believes him gone, the victim of a cruel deception by Andrew’s brother, Adrian, and has returned to Dubrovnik. Andrew now has to try to re-establish the rest of his life.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

BY ANGUS KENNEDY

BY ANGUS KENNEDY

71


BOOK SHELF

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Whisperwood: A Confederate Soldier's Struggle BY VAN TEMPLE

A story of one man's struggle of conscience through the bewildering, brutal, and terrifying experience of the American Civil War. Anderson Flowers, a poor, twenty-year-old farmer, leaves his home and sweetheart in the summer of 1861 and walks the twentyfive miles to Kosciusko with his best friend, Dallas, to enlist as a soldier in Company K of the 20th Regiment of the Army of Mississippi. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Feast of Fates

BY CHRISTIAN A. BROWN

Arnold Falls

BY CHARLIE SUISMAN

Spend time in the funny, oddball village of Arnold Falls, where larger-thanlife characters deal with the smallest of problems. Somehow, it all comes out right in the end. Arnold Falls is a novel that tips its hat to Armistead Maupin and P. G. Wodehouse, creating a world in which food, music, friendship, love, and tending your own garden are connected in surprising ways. Winner of the 2020 IPPY from the Independent Publisher Book Awards Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Journey Into Darkness: A Story In Four Parts, 3rd Edition BY J. ARTHUR MOORE

Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her—visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land.

Duane Kinkade was ten years old in the summer of 1861 when raiders struck his farm after his pa had gone to the war; eleven the following spring when he left in search of his father and became a part of the war himself; thirteen the summer he returned home, a veteran soldier after two and a half years of army life and battlefield experience. An intricate blend of fact and fiction, the thread of experience of the fictitious boy soldier runs through the fabric of a very real war and its historic violence as it actually happened.

www.christianadrianbrown.com Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

www.jarthurmoore.com Also Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

72

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


BOOK SHELF

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

The World Looks Different Now

The Talking Drum

On a glorious, if blisteringly hot, Saturday in August 2010, Margaret Thomson’s world is suddenly shattered by the incomprehensible news that her twenty-two-yearold son, a medic in the army, has taken his life. In a deep state of shock, Thomson and her husband immediately travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where their son Kieran was stationed, in an effort to assist their daughter-in-law. Upon their arrival, though, the couple find themselves plunged into a labyrinthine and, at times, seemingly bizarre world of military rules and regulations.

The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

BY MARGARET THOMSON

BY LISA BRAXTON

The Talking Drum explores intra-racial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging.

Automaton Nation

Not All Of Me Is Dust

Automaton Nation is perfect for fans of science fiction where the stakes are high, love is unexpected, and characters survive in a dystopian world.

Not All of Me Is Dust is an account of the cost exacted by living out a high ideal. It tells the story of three members of a particular family: imaginative, highspirited Clara Engle, the youngest, whose childhood fantasies of Christian perfection are realized in the shattering actuality of adulthood; her beautiful, conflicted sister, Kathleen; and her brother, Stephen, a priest and poet. Not All of Me Is Dust is a story of the sacred and secular, of love and separation, of aspiration and failure, and most important, of loss and recovery.

BY CYNTHIA KUMANCHIK

Val Tate, daughter of a prominent scientist, falls in love with robotic Dat against her parents’ objections. Sparks fly between the two as they realize their love is real, although forbidden. The robots’ rebellion pushes the couple closer to-gether as they join their cause.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

BY FRANCES MAUREEN RICHARDSON

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 73


Time to Expire, a novel by Chris Ramos. Review by Sean Malone, author and editorial assistant with Orange Hat Publishing | TEN16 Press

SMALL PRESS REVIEWS

TEN16 PRESS TEN16 Press, a division of Orange Hat Publishing, housing fiction, non-fiction, YA and poetry books. WWW.ORANGEHATPUBLISHING.COM

“Your son is ready for you to take home … he is one of our best subjects… The genes are still intact and passed on. Hair color, eye color, propensity to be thin or obese, face expressions, skeletal structure. These still develop outside of nanotechnology. Unfortunately, we are still all very unique.” What’s in a setting? A good setting enhances any book or piece of media. A setting that cannot conform to its established logic or that lacks interesting features rapidly dissuades readers from continuing. The argument can be further advanced that the setting itself is one of the key characters of good science fiction and is most important in this genre. Chris Ramos’s Time to Expire (Ten16 Press, 2021) demonstrates an engrossing and chromatic presentation of sci-fi vocabulary and concepts. Ramos’s universe is well-imagined, containing dynamic characters and familiar near-future elements alongside a fantastic prominence of nanotechnology. The book involves themes of mortality, humanity, disease, and even climate. What elevates the setting of Time to Expire is its level of detail; descriptions abound of the various nanobots going about their functions, from washing the dishes and cleaning the floors to insemination and controlling the processes of life and death. Time to Expire has an identifiable “cool factor,” essential for good sci-fi. Of course, there’s the disturbingly familiar fixation over digiscreen devices, as well as an all-important clock that informs the owner exactly when the hour of their death will come, their ‘time to expire.’ These devices are “corporate issue” of course, courtesy of the supranational

74

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


Lifespan corporation that runs society in a commercial and philosophical union, providing the answers to all of life’s questions. Looming environmental control towers, sprawling corporate research facilities, and Matrix-esque hatchet-men called Collectors haunt the story. These secretive Collectors are ever-present, performing a seemingly non-threatening task of collecting the deceased, the expired. Yet the Collectors, like many aspects of Lifespan’s culture, brim with menace and the promise of a darker purpose. This book should prove a good choice for YA readers and offers an interesting world to explore. The content is appropriate for the intended audience; the most traumatic scenes involve detached disquiet of synthetic creation of babies

alongside a sterilization of emotion and passion. The book provocatively raises questions about the merits of a perfectly “safe” world, and if such a thing is achievable beyond deception or outright betrayal. The story is timely for the issues grappling our society at the time of this review, but its themes are both timeless and cyclical. For my journey reading of Time to Expire, it evoked recollections from superb science fiction stories (and even some obscure ones) such as Dune, The Giver, and Equilibrium. These connections were non-derivative, but rather celebratory, being incorporated into Ramos’s creation that is Time to Expire. This is a smart ride to catch, and it’s time to read it. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

TIME TO EXPIRE In the distant future, due to medical and technological advances, the human race has all but eradicated the threat of disease. Poverty, pestilence, murders and war are fading from memory. The human body is completely repairable with extensive breakthroughs of nanotechnology. Building projects, new developments and scientific innovations are completed with unequaled precision. By all accounts, the global civilization has never been in better shape. The world is perfect, planned and thriving. This is all due to one company-LifeSpan. Saviors to mankind, they have quelled everyone's most elusive fear: When am I going to die? Thanks to LifeSpan technology, everyone knows exactly how long they will live, and are given a precise expiration date at birth. The Collectors arrive to escort you away at the time of expiration. Family members say farewell, accepting your expiration as scientific evolution.

75


F E AT U R E

A Brief History of Sci-Fi 15 Literary Contributions to the Genre BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

Sci-fi is a genre that has been evolving for the past 100+ years, since our collective imagination shifts and progresses alongside our understanding of the scientific world. This means that sci-fi has changed over time, with each book being influenced by the one before it. With that in mind, below is a list of 15 literary contributions to the sci-fi genre, paired with descriptions of what each book/series has added to the realm of speculative fiction. Keep in mind that the ordering of this list is in no way indicative of quality, but is instead chronological (spanning from the 1800s to present day). Additionally, there are countless sci-fi books in the canon of the genre, so please keep in mind that your personal favorites may not be present—if I were to recount the full list I’d originally had in mind, it would take up most (if not all) of this magazine, so the list has been shortened for the sake of my own sanity 76

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

(and the sanity of our lovely editor, bless her). Finally, the books in this article are listed on their own merit, separate from the beliefs and practices of their authors— however, I feel the need to note that stories should not be read in a vacuum, and the problematic views of an author should be acknowledged and addressed when approaching their work in any way. In other words, an author can contribute immensely to the growth of a genre, but those contributions in no way excuse their hateful and/or prejudiced beliefs. So, use your own discretion when choosing to read books by certain authors on this list. With these brief disclaimers in mind, let’s take a look at some of the books that have contributed to the past, present, and future of what sci-fi looks like as a genre. Frankenstein (1818) is considered by many to be one of the very first sci-fi books ever written. Although sci-fi short stories existed at this point in time,

Mary Shelley is credited for introducing the novelized format of the genre that we know today. The book itself is a classic gothic tale about existential dread, the effects of isolation, and the ethical responsibilities of creator vs. creation, taking a very philosophical tone. Shelley also introduced the now-famous “mad scientist” archetype via Dr. Victor Frankenstein, who is now considered the prototype for other such characters. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870) is another foundational sci-fi book, not just because of the underwater adventures, but because of Jules Verne’s ability to use a combination of imagination and hard science to predict future technology. The most famous of the book’s predictions is that of the electric submarine, written when submarines had already been invented but when electricity and its potential were still quite mysterious. By the late 1880s, though, and throughout the 20th century, attempts were being made to develop fully safe/operational electric submarines (which are now the norm for us). 77


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

We (1924) is known today as the first dystopian novel. Written by Yevgeny Zamyatin, the story delves into the themes of order and chaos, portraying what happens when government regimentation is taken to extremes. A unique aspect of the story is how the futuristic collectivist state (written as a satire) asserts its control over its people, namely by subjecting its citizens to a surgery that destroys the area of the brain responsible for imagination and passion—in this dystopia, the soul is chaos, and so order is brought by destroying it. The Call of Cthulhu (1928), although a short story, is on this list because it is one of the many tales of H.P. Lovecraft credited for introducing the cosmic horror sub-genre. In particular, up until this point in time, antagonistic threats of 78

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

sci-fi books were usually aliens, AI, or humanity itself, but Lovecraft’s stories introduced the idea of hostile eldritch beings—in this case, “The Old Ones,” a group of malevolent and grotesque former gods whose visage and power alike are incomprehensible, resulting in the complete and utter helplessness of the stories’ human protagonists. 1984 (1949) remains one of the most famous dystopias ever written. Although George Orwell took inspiration from We (Zamyatin), 1984 has become synonymous with the dystopian subgenre. Additionally, even though the world that Orwell presents is fabricated, it remains ever-applicable, since the book focuses largely on the role (and manipulation) of truth in politics. With other elements such as an omnipresent government, suppression of information, and perpetual war, 1984’s totalitarian setting is one that feels eerily possible.


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

I, Robot (1950) is a collection of short stories about robots coexisting with humans. Isaac Asimov predominantly explores the moral implications of AI, also introducing the Three Laws of Robotics, which have influenced the future of AI-based stories. To paraphrase, a robot must 1) not allow a human to be harmed, whether through action or inaction; 2) obey orders given by humans [unless doing so conflicts with #1]; 3) protect its own existence [unless doing so conflicts with #1 or #2]. Asimov’s stories reveal the unintended consequences and loopholes of this programming, following how robots interact with organic and inorganic lifeforms in light of it. Dune (19651985), a series by Frank Herbert, is widely credited for popularizing the space opera subgenre. Although it was not the first of its kind, it

is certainly the best known, influencing the galactic adventure stories that have followed (e.g., Star Wars). Herbert does not delve deeply into technology here, contrary to the focus of most futuristic space-based stories, instead opting to focus on politics, environmentalism, mysticism, and human relationships. With this in mind, the series has become a staple of soft science fiction. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), by Philip K. Dick, takes place in a postapocalyptic world after a nuclear war has endangered (if not completely wiped out) most of Earth’s animal species. Based in digital futurism, the story follows a bounty hunter who is tasked with destroying androids who, being nearly indistinguishable from humans, have escaped servitude and are trying to blend in with society. In this way, the story is one of humans vs. technology, empathy, environmental responsibility, and life/existentialism, with subsequent films taking inspiration from the book and its themes (e.g., Blade Runner). 79


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) is a classic, not because it is a profound dystopian or an epic space opera, but rather because it was one of the first books to demonstrate that sci-fi doesn’t always have to take itself seriously, and that it can, in fact, be incredibly funny. With a dry sense of humor, the story follows a human saved at the last minute from Earth’s destruction, now forced to wander the cosmos as a nomad. The blurb doesn’t do the weirdness and hilarity of the story justice, though—just trust me, it’s the only book that’s ever made me snort in public. Neuromancer (1984) is an established landmark in the cyberpunk sub-genre, and is a particularly impressive debut 80

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

novel. In this book, William Gibson takes a predictive (and often uncomfortable) look at what the direct integration of man and computer might look like, creating an interesting environment based in digital futurism. Acting as inspiration for subsequent futuristic stories (e.g., The Matrix), Neuromancer, although not the first book to tackle cyberpunk, is arguably the most influential. The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) is a classic, existing as one of the few recognized dystopian books of its time to have a woman-focused narrative and struggle. Based in the near future in what was once America, Margaret Atwood presents theocratic fundamentalism as the dystopian setting, which has been put into place in response to mass infertility. Potentially fertile women are forced to bear the children of upper class couples, and the narrative follows the perspective of one of these women.


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

improvised survival. With a mix of wit and scientific knowledge, Andy Weir presents a protagonist who is not only easy to root for, but is also believably intelligent, letting hard science inform the character’s mission to make a habitable environment for himself on Mars. The Three-Body Problem Series (2008-2010) is a more modern addition to this list, and is an impressive example of how high-concept sci-fi can delve into both hard and soft science. In this trilogy, Cixin Liu follows a broken and divided humanity after they learn that an alien civilization, out of necessity, plans to invade earth. Do they welcome the aliens, do they fight, or do they give up? Liu explores each, and isn’t afraid to unveil the ugly potential of what humans can (and will) do when desperate. The Martian (2011) is recognized today as one of the best-known modern sci-fi books. Following an American astronaut who becomes stranded alone on Mars, the story is one of loneliness, dogged determination, and

The Southern Reach Trilogy (2014) is a great modern example of well-executed cosmic horror, with Jeff VanderMeer dealing with themes like the loss of sanity, the insignificance of humanity, and one’s helplessness in the face of the incomprehensible. The series’ most tangible horror element stems from Area X, a marshy coastline that has been altered and warped by an unknown source—anything that crosses its borders cannot be recovered, and those who enter must face its physical and psychological horrors.

81


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

The Broken Earth Trilogy (2015-2017) not only does a good job of straddling the line between creativity and convention, but also handles sensitive societal topics in ways that are groundbreaking for the genre. N.K. Jemisin’s macro and micro world-building are hugely impressive, as she manages to take a fictional landscape and use it to create real-world opportunities for conversation, specifically regarding who holds power, how the marginalized are treated, and how the powerful profit from marginalization. Conclusion Sci-fi has a long and varied history, but hasn’t been very diverse in its authorship (since certain demographics have, historically, been afforded more opportunities in publishing than others). However, as the genre continues to evolve and grow, the doors are opening wider for new perspectives, and the table is getting longer in order to accommodate more seats. Humans are innately storytelling creatures, and the way we tell our stories will grow and change as we do—so, I’m excited to see where the dreamers of tomorrow will take sci-fi next! 

82

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


Never miss an issue! SIGN UP FOR A FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO SHELF UNBOUND MAGAZINE. SUBSCRIBE

83


FUTURISTIC... BY V. JOLENE MILLER

READING ON THE RUN

Binge reading on the run because everything else can wait.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

I live in remote Alaska where I work 40+ hours a week at my day job, write novels, and own a pop-up book shop. In my spare time, I chase after grandbabies and go running with my giant puppy, Omar. Always, I carry a book in my purse. I never know when I’ll get a few minutes to indulge in a good read. Fifteen minutes before dawn, at lunch, bundled up in my car by the river, or right before falling into bed. Reading is my resting place.

84

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

If only we could see into the future, right? Or, perhaps, if you’re a bit of a cynic or a bit anxious (or both!), you’d prefer to not have the ability to gaze into the bottom of your tea cup and see what lies ahead. It’s interesting that every book contains a bit of futurism. Not necessarily, on a broad scale, but the characters scramble to make a future for themselves. Isn’t that the beauty of a book? I’m currently reading a non-fiction selection called Developing the Curriculum; Improved Outcomes Through Systems Approaches. I know, it doesn’t have quite the flare of the fiction pieces I’ve been reading. And, the cover art is nice, but it’s not breathtaking like some. So, why am I reading this book? I’ve gone back to school. I know... what was I thinking, right? But, that’s the thing about books and futurism. You never know which book will catch your eye or spark your interest. We can’t see into the future to know what’s going to happen next. And, we never really know just how connected books and our futures are. Has that happened to you? Maybe, you’ve picked up a book about horses and realized that you love this incredible animal. Or, you read a book that has mouth-watering descriptions of food. Suddenly, you’re exploring new recipes or looking into culinary arts school! Of course, I’m over here searching for a single spare minute to sit down and read anything that’s not a textbook! Why aren’t there more hours in a day? While I’ve only been able to read two fiction books in the last month, they were both incredible. I was drawn into the characters’ stories as they eked out a living for themselves


and their families. Both main characters were in survival mode and desperate to move past that into futures more fulfilling and less emotionally painful. In The Center of Everything by Jamie Harrison, Polly is searching for answers. The author takes readers backward in order to understand the events of the present. Meanwhile, in Abundance by Jakob Guanzon, Henry can’t find a future to save his life. Not for lack of trying, mind you, but because he can’t catch a break. The futures of Polly, Henry, and the people who rely on them hang in the balance. Every step must be accounted for. Every decision leads to a “what-if ” scenario. What if I had tried harder? What if I had said something different? What if I could do it all over again? Hint: If you want to find out what happened to Henry and Polly, check out the book review section of this edition of Shelf Unbound! This new school venture I’m on means a new subgenre of books (non-fiction with a focus on education) and a new style of writing for me. With a couple more years to go before I graduate, the future is fuzzy and my steps into it are tentative with a tingle of underlying excitement. Like Henry in Abundance, I’m hopeful and look forward to what this new focus means for me and

my family. Like Polly in The Center of Everything, I’m hesitant and uncertain, constantly wondering if I’ve missed something along the way in my search for solid footing on this path. Also, like Henry and Polly, I occasionally look backward. I reminisce and fondly remember a different time when my past was an earlier future. There are days that I miss -- simple days that didn’t include feverishly writing another paper or reading just one more chapter of a textbook. When I land upon a memory that helped propel me forward into this current time, I am reminded of the importance of futuristic thinking. What about you? Do books help shape your future? When you crack open a fresh book and gently bend back the spine... As you caress the pages, glimpsing fervently at the title page and table of contents, do you expect the future the main character is searching for? Do you ponder your own in the process? I challenge you to carve out some time. Five minutes here; ten minutes between shifts; a half hour while your little one naps. When you snag those precious intervals, dig into a new book. Whether you travel into the future or back in time with an interesting character, it’s worth it. 

85


Bookends On Main. MENOMONIE, WI

F E AT U R E D I N D I E B OO K S TO R E

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT BOOKENDS ON MAIN. BE: Owning a bookstore is a dream/fantasy of many people, and matching the dream with the financial resources and interest in running a business are sort of rare. Bookends on Main was founded by a retired college professor, and when she re-retired - along with my background as a retired English professor with a pension and social security - made it entirely feasible. It’s been a wonderful 12 years for me, and now at age 79, I mostly believe I will carry on so long as body and mind permit. WAS A BOOKSTORE A MAJOR NEED IN YOUR AREA? BE: Every town needs and wants a bookstore. Our town has always had one, sometimes two, but mostly they haven’t lasted long. After our university bookstore basically stopped selling books, the need for both local and university readers to have a 86

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

bookstore in town is real. I am constantly being reminded “We are so glad you are here!” WHAT KIND OF READING TRENDS DO YOU SEE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS? BE: The bookstore serves two major audiences. First are the people who like buying books locally, and being able to buy books for gifts, especially for children and grandchildren. My inventory is “general interest,” meaning a little of numerous categories. Adult and YA fiction are the biggest sellers followed by children’s books, mainly board books and picture books. About half my inventory is used books, fiction being the main interest. University students are attracted to philosophy and literary classics. A trend—for some people, rebellion against Amazon.


F E AT U R E D I N D I E B OO K S TO R E

WHAT OTHER SERVICES/ PRODUCTS DO YOU PROVIDE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS? BE: We also sell the usual journals, greeting cards, puzzles and small gift items. I added guitar strings, guitars (one or two at a time), ukuleles and assorted music accessories.

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING INDIE BOOKSTORES THRIVING? BE: Indie bookstores reflect the locality and reflect the uniqueness of each area. They complement big box stores. 

WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT OWNING/MANAGING/ WORKING IN AN INDIE BOOKSTORE? BE: The bookstore allows me to lead a productive life, meet and talk to people every day and fulfill a community service. My two favorite compliments are “We’re so glad you are here” and “Your store looks really nice.”

87


STILL NO PAUSE BUTTON FOR LIFE?. BY MEGAN LORD

BOOK MOM A little bit of everything from a scatter-brained, book-loving Mom.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

I am the mother of an adventurous and exhausting but amazing toddler boy that runs my life. I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading mind numbing children’s books over and over again because he has his select favorites… But when I do get time to read (or listen) I love reading and listening to a variety of genres. I get the most time to indulge in books of my choice during what I like to call “wind-down baths” once a week.

88

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

Once you have kids – you think about the future in different ways. FUTURE takes on a whole new meaning. And your future is no longer just yours. It’s hard not to care more about and think more about their future than your own. Every plan, every aspect of your life, involves them someway, somehow, or is dependent on them reaching a milestone. You think about your future, and their future ALL the time. Yet you look at them everyday and wish time could just stop – you could hit pause – they could just stay like this forever. You want the BEST future for them, but then at the same time you don’t even want to think about the fact they will one day be adults. They will one day no longer need you. They will one day possibly be parents themselves. And while these are HAPPY things, its all so bittersweet. And deep down you just know, they’ll always be your babies. One Question A Day for Moms A Five-Year Journal – Daily Reflections on Motherhood I received this for Christmas, and started it January 1st of this year – and I LOVE IT. Not only does it have me reflecting more, it has me saving memories for my children, it has me thinking about and planning for the future. It has me reaching for more. It has me cherishing more. It has me finding light and positives in the days I would have otherwise written off as bad ones. If you have children, or you know what – even if you don’t – I highly recommend you take up journaling, with a prompt style book like this, or just free flow if you’re comfortable and able to just freely reflect and write. If


nothing else, for the sake of the future! Leave something behind. Share memories others would never know existed if you didn’t write them down. Share your thoughts, share your ideas. Share YOU with the future. I truly believe it will matter and be appreciated by someone. My husband and I purchased our home from my grandparents 3 years ago. While going through their things and helping to clean out the house – I found a small prompted journal my Grandma had started - “Memories for my Grandkids”. She didn’t finish the journal, but she filled out enough for me to learn some things about her I otherwise wouldn’t have. My Grandma passed away last July – and let me tell you – things like this, wow do they matter in the future when memories are all you have left. Because of this find, I bought my parents prompted Grandparent Journals for Christmas to fill out for my kids. I don’t know if they are actually doing them, or did them, but I REALLY hope they did/are. Because the future is inevitable. There is no pause. There is no slowdown. Tomorrow comes again and again and before you know it, it IS the future. The future is now, the future is later, the future is kind of everything really. It’s true there is no time like the present, but isn’t the present also technically the future from when you were younger. From when your parents were younger, your grandparents?

ramble a bit too much, that Mom Brain kicking in! But hey – get yourself a journal. Journal for your present sanity and for the future! I think you’ll find it rewarding, and someone will definitely find reward in it someday. This book mom is out – I need to sneak a little reading in while my husband still thinks I’m ‘working.’ 

ONE QUESTION A DAY FOR MOMS: DAILY REFLECTIONS ON MOTHERHOOD: A FIVE-YEAR JOURNAL

This multi-year journal encourages mothers everywhere to take a moment to themselves each day and answer simple questions about their thoughts and musings. Questions range from big and small to serious and silly, giving Mom the opportunity to share her thoughts about her life, interests, personal goals, and special moments as a mother. Over the course of five years, she can look back and reflect on how the answers to these questions have changed or stayed the same.

Alright – now I believe I’m starting to 89


Science Fiction.

BY CHRISTIAN ADRIAN BROWN

FIT LIT Body, Mind and Quill

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

Quadragenarian fitness model, lifestyle coach and bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genrechanging Four Feasts till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes and speaks about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media.

When it comes to predicting the future, it’s not the soothsayers and crystal-ball readers who come out on top, it’s the Science Fiction writers. From Asimov to Clarke, writers have cast their imaginations wide, extrapolated realities from current scientific probabilities, and in most instances been correct in the advancements and changes our societies will face. As someone interested in personal evolution and growth, I’m directly invested in these books and their material. There are, however, authors with more accurate foresight than others. The departed Ian M. Banks posits a curious and faroff future with his grand series of books, presenting a reality where humanity has conquered the stars in co-operation with—though in truth ruled by—supreme AI intelligence. What’s so interesting about his series is that we’ve repeatedly seen the doomsday version of AI’s evolution, such as the Terminator series, where computers have efficiently evolved and see mankind as a hindrance, threat or nuisance to be eliminated, though we’ve rarely seen the benevolent end of that fantasy. This is how Banks presents these kindly overlords: as the gatekeepers of life, as gentle curators to the lesser creatures that are human—no matter how far we have evolved and grown in the future, we still cannot keep up with the quantum evolutionary leaps in thought by the AI who rule us. Indeed, in this future, mankind has been quelled of

90

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


the worst of their vices, sorrows and desperate wants. We live in relative pleasure and happiness, and things such as suicide, murder and war are universally appalling, reviled far beyond how we behave toward atrocities in today’s society: with casual indifference, “not-in-my-backyardism” and willful participation or ignorance. Of course, Banks explores this darker matter, and a lot of his books end like Greek tragedies, but one can argue that it’s because of humanity’s state of nirvana that these events are all the more sad, grisly and impactful. We should not be seeing humans treating each other with such contempt and he’s created the perfect stark white canvas upon which these splashes of red violence are made explicitly jarring. Still, the underlying message is that these atrocities are exceptions to what life offers, as they should ideally be in our age, too. Dystopian Science Fiction and its writers seem to have accurately predicted the corporatocracy into which we are currently sliding, and I hope it doesn’t end as some of its darkest prognosticators have written: the loss of personal autonomy, the bombardment of our culture by corporate interests, human beings reduced to barcodes and marketing categories. I’d like to take the

more optimistic angle here, too, and believe that we can maintain sovereignty while using technology to enrich our lives. I think that we first have huge strides to make against decentralizing the power from big tech, and curbing our social media addiction into a manageable habit that makes these tools work for us instead of enslaves us to them. And I guess that’s where I’d advocate for us to proceed cautiously but with anticipation into the great and still somewhat predicted—by Science Fiction—unknown. We must ensure that whatever version of the future emerges, technology is tied to us in a symbiotic and not parasitic way. We must ensure that our mental health and identities are preserved, and that our connection to nature and a dedication to its preservation also endure. We must never forget what makes us human: humility, kindness and compassion. Perhaps we can instill these traits into our AI and devices, since they’re so much more competent at perfection than we. —C 

91


BOOKS IN REVIEW BR

SHELF UNBOUND’S

Books In Review Self-Published & Small Press Book Reviews

SPONSORED BY

92

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


Revelation Through Science.

A du lt

BY JAMES G. MARTIN

James G. Martin confronts the science-versus-faith controversy in Revelation Through Science, not only opining that this isn’t an either/or proposition, but also that science itself has become a modern expression of Divine Revelation. Armed with a PhD in organic chemistry, as well as his lifelong personal faith journey, Martin has produced a work aiming to make scientific principles more accessible and to shed light on some of the historical clashes between science and faith.

PUBLISHER: XLIBRIS

Organized in a modular fashion, the book can be tackled chapter by chapter, or perused by preference of focus, including science specialties (e.g., biology, physics, organic chemistry) and hot topics such as creation versus evolution. Readers can even begin with the final chapter, to see how the author feels his faith informs his belief that science is integral to Divine Revelation. The book is generally accessible, but those with more than

just an upper level high school science comprehension will find it an easier read. Martin excels in navigating the common minefields in this type of debate. For example, to the charge that the religious hierarchy suppressed Galileo, Martin presents historical facts showing that the theory was not necessarily in question, but that Galileo was censured for disseminating it prior to approval. Similarly, the author responds to Intelligent Design proponents with scientific proofs countering the highly quoted concept of the impossibility of the evolution of the eye. Martin names the usual pantheon of scientific giants: Darwin, Watson, Crick, Schrodinger, and others. However, he neglects to note that some science heavyweights were also clerics. For example, Georges LeMaitre, who proposed the “Big Bang” theory, was a Catholic priest. The author presents his case confidently and knowledgeably and has done his research. However, while he includes a general list of references, the lack of specific citations is a miss. Nevertheless, his conclusions, based on his own admitted Protestant viewpoint, are wellpresented and make for a thought-provoking read. 

93


A du lt

Effacement. BY HIERONYMUS HAWKES

With Effacement, Hieronymus Hawkes merges science fiction and thriller genres to depict a dystopian world of government surveillance and altered reality. In the near-future, people have largely traded the real world for a virtual reality made possible by implanted biometric chips that record an individual’s entire existence on a “lifelog” and are the only way to perform many functions, such as getting a bank account or hailing a cab.

PUBLISHER: HIERONYMUS HAWKES

Protagonist Cole Westbay, one of the inventors of this technology, is trapped in a web of intrigue when he wakes to find his short-term memory erased and his chip removed, cutting him off from the augmented world. As he attempts to discover why he was assaulted, Cole grows disillusioned with his creation. The world has become filled with dilapidated infrastructure because people no longer maintain the non-virtual world, and those non-augmented

for privacy or financial reasons can’t perform many basic functions. It becomes clear that Cole’s technology has been co-opted by a clandestine government agency for surveillance and other nefarious purposes. To clear his name of the ironic charge of unplugging from his lifelog, known as “effacement,” Cole teams with an underground organization dedicated to fighting the augmented lifestyle. Hawkes’ plotting is taut and effective, and the world he creates is credible. The reader will easily imagine a future where the shadowy Federal Department of Fidelity epitomizes the surveillance state. Cole is richly depicted as a clueless technologist who slowly realizes the horror that he has created. Other main characters exhibit the same depth, especially Cole’s fiancée, a vibrant but narcissistic personality who plays a critical role in the plot. 

94

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


Born in Salt.

A du lt

BY T. C. WEBER

T.C. Weber’s Born in Salt chronicles the aftermath of an alternate history in which Charles Lindbergh fomented a coup against FDR, sided with the Nazis, shredded the U.S. Constitution, and ushered in an oppressive oligarchy. Set in 1983, eugenics are now the law of the land, corruption is rampant, and poverty is ubiquitous.

PUBLISHER: FREEDOM THORN PRESS

While the set-up is much like Philip Roth’s Plot Against America, this story takes up where Roth’s book left off, showing the long-term effect of Lindbergh’s ascent. In rural New Bethany, Illinois, Ben Adamson—young, white, and poor—is trying to help his dad hold onto the family farm. When Ben’s brother, Jake, is killed suspiciously while serving in the Army after trying to expose American imperialism in Cuba, Jake’s fiancée Rachel is haunted by the death. Ben, also devastated and rapidly falling for Rachel, joins in her obsession.

Feeling betrayed by the government, they’re easy recruits for Paul, his best friend Sarah’s mysterious revolutionary cousin. Unfortunately, before the resistance can begin, Rachel and Ben are arrested. Now Ben has one shot to escape his sadistic incarceration and earn Rachel’s freedom in the bargain: He must go undercover to betray the very revolutionaries he sought to join. But can Ben save Rachel without condemning Sarah and putting his father at risk? Both cerebral dystopia and cat-and-mouse thriller, Born in Salt succeeds on every level. The political commentary is incisive but never bludgeoning, helped considerably by a relatable protagonist. Constantly faced with lesser-of-two-evils choices, Ben tries hard to do the right thing, nonetheless. Throughout, Weber expertly adds layers of suspicion and paranoia, complicating relationships and ratcheting up the tension. Born in Salt is an indictment of far-right autocratic impulses, and like the best dystopias, it feels utterly relevant. But its appeal transcends any ideology, with a desperate story of love and conflicting loyalties that builds breathlessly to a satisfying reckoning certain to keep readers hooked to the final page. 

95


it’s come to this: A Pandemic Diary.

A du lt

BY LAURA PEDERSEN

With equal measure of lively wit and solemnity, former New York Times columnist Laura Pedersen powerfully recalls the unprecedented events of the Covid-19 pandemic. Lest the dizzying rollercoaster ride of the pandemic become a blur of press conferences, toilet paper shortages, and, more seriously, a stupefying loss of life, Pedersen details 2020’s events, bringing new insights to its intensity. The author, a seasoned New Yorker, writes that as Covid spiraled from faraway China into a plague that ravaged the U.S., “the Democratic party urged people to remain inside, [while] the Undemocratic Party reveled in spring break, indoor weddings, birthday parties, and church services.”

PUBLISHER: LAURA PEDERSEN

Meanwhile, she muses, retail curbside pick-up gave new meaning to “drive-by” in New York City, and “We suddenly switched from Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) to Fear of Going Out (FOGO).” She observes that “the city that never sleeps went to sleep.”

Pedersen alternately evokes tears with hard facts (New Yorkers dying of Covid every other minute) and laughter regarding the new normal (coping with “Covidiots”). In addition to evoking appalling images of exhausted health care workers and refrigerated trucks serving as morgues, Pedersen skillfully recalls the year’s political polarization, blazing wildfires, police brutality, dire civil rights concerns, and Capitol insurrection, among other events. The intersection of these with the pandemic, she asserts, inexorably elevated the nation’s collective anxiety. Many problems remain. Yet, quoting Kahlil Gibran, she notes: “You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link. This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.” Pedersen writes from a decidedly left-wing bent, deftly condensing the year’s events to remind readers that 2020 was unprecedented by most standards. Her work helps us reconcile feelings of anxiety and dismay by validating our shared experience. Moreover, she accomplishes this all with great humanity. it’s come to this is a must read for anyone trying to make sense of our tumultuous year.  96

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


Hall of Skulls.

A du lt

BY JAMIE EUBANKS

This science fiction adventure tale with a romantic twist delivers a labyrinthine plot that will delight readers who enjoy following a hero figure on a complicated quest. Koa Kai is chosen to become Captain of the Mokuteki people, take leadership of the planet Churi, and literally occupy the Tei Tog—“the [golden] captain’s seat named after the legendary captain who had reigned millennia ago.” But first, he must prove himself worthy of this great honor by undergoing a torturous series of trials called “the Kezrado.”

PUBLISHER: JAMIE EUBANKS

His winding quest through portals of space and time takes him to other eras on both his own and alien planets, to the period of the legendary Tei Tog himself, for whom the great chair is named, and even to the world of the Thrakens, alien invaders who had nearly conquered his world 2,000 years before.

Various events of the present become entwined with the past worlds of the Mokuteki and Thrakens, and Koa Kai must not only avoid being trapped in temporal and physical locations, he must also rescue his betrothed, Asher, who has been abducted as part of the challenge, and taken to the Thrakens. While attempting to return both himself and Asher to Churi, he must also observe all the laws of the ritualized Kezrado, or face humiliation when—and if— he manages to return. This is a markedly clever story, with excellent characterization and an utterly believable time travel milieu. The careful, deliberate pacing, instead of a speed-driven highadventure writing style, serves the narrative well by weaving the complexities of time travel and a multilayered plot into the story at a pace readers can absorb, while dropping hints about what may come. And a stunning ending will inspire readers to review the book to see where the author left clues they might have missed the first time around. In all, science fiction fans will savor this plot-driven, romantic adventure that ushers them seamlessly through time and space. 

97


Abundance.

A du lt

BY JAKOB GUANZON

Jakob Guanzon hit one out of the park with his debut novel, Abundance. This gripping tale of a man and his son drew me in. The author’s stylistic choices were evident throughout, giving this harrowing story of poverty and pain a layer of elegance. The contrast between chapter titles, raw details, and lyrical word choice is incredible.

PUBLISHER: GRAYWOLF PRESS

Reading the sensorial details of Henry’s abject poverty left me needing a reality check of my own socioeconomic status whenever I put the book down. However, those episodes were few and far between,

as I was constantly drawn back to the pages of Henry’s life desperate to find out what would happen next. Abundance is the story of Henry, a single father desperate to make a life for he and his son. The problem? Every time Henry takes one step forward, he ends up taking two steps back. It’s a pattern he’s experienced his entire life that doesn’t stop him from trying. Readers get a close-up view of Henry’s attempts. They get to see young Henry and the hidden events of his life that you wouldn’t see if you just passed him on the street or interviewed him for a job. Guanzon has a way of introducing a character and then cracking him open to let the reader understand the character’s triumphs and his pain.  98

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


The Center of Everything.

A du lt

BY JAMIE HARRISON

In this beautifully written novel by Jamie Harrison, the Yellowstone River and Polly Schuster’s mind are quite possibly the center of everything.

PUBLISHER: COUNTERPOINT

In an interesting twist, the river and Polly’s mind are deeply entangled. The community gets together to search for a missing young woman, beloved by all who knew her. Meanwhile, Polly searches for the answer. She’s her personal gumshoe looking for clues to her friend’s disappearance, for her purse, for words and memories that have been pushed aside following a nasty bump to the head.

One of the unique intricacies of The Center of Everything is how the Yellowstone River becomes a character. It is the epicenter of Polly’s world, both historically and in the present day. It is along the river’s edge that she discovers family secrets. It’s where she searches for and aches for her missing friend. The family drama, the animals the river encounters, the boaters, and the tourists come here. This river holds the answers to so many questions. Children, memory, and grief are explored at the river’s edge. Tears are shed, childish games are played, and Polly’s childhood is excavated. Through it all, the river rushes past. It waits while Polly wanders, and wonders about the answers she seeks. 

99


ON OUR SHELF BS

CHECK OUT

What's On Our Shelf Nobody loves books more than us. We're a team of readers with broad interests and strong feelings about the books on our shelves.

100

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


ON OUR SHELF

THE SECRET OF RAINY DAYS by Leslie Hooton Growing up in Erob, Alabama, Nina "Little Bit" Barnes Enloe lived in the shadow of her imposing and harsh grandmother, Nina "Biggie" Barnes Enloe. If she wasn't being bossed around by Biggie, then the task fell to her best friend Win...who did win. At everything. Bit never seemed to share Win's lifetime supply of "lucky dust." Perhaps the only thing Bit has ever chosen for herself is her friendship with Avery, the out-of-towner who showed up on the saddest day of her life--unpretentious and decidedly un-Southern--with a funeral casserole in hand. Bit believes she can escape her grandmother's controlling grip once and for all by moving somewhere where she is the only Nina Enloe listed: New York. Yet her world is turned upside down when an unexpected loss forces her to leave her new life in the city and return to Erob, where she must face everything--and everyone--she left behind.

THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING by Jamie

FREEDOM THORN PRESS by T.C. Weber

Harrison

For Polly, the small town of Livingston, Montana, is a land charmed by raw, natural beauty and a close network of family that extends back generations. But the summer of 2002 finds Polly at a crossroads: a recent head injury has scattered her perception of the present, bringing to the surface longforgotten events. As Polly’s many relatives arrive for a family reunion during the Fourth of July holiday, a beloved friend goes missing on the Yellowstone River. Search parties comb the river as carefully as Polly combs her mind, and over the course of one fateful week, Polly arrives at a deeper understanding of herself and her larger-than-life relatives.

Fifty years after a coup replaced President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a fascist dictatorship, America is a land of hopelessness. Ben Adamson, a 19-year-old farm boy in southern Illinois, wants only to spend his time fishing and hunting. But when his dead brother demands justice for his suspicious fate, Ben and Rachel, his brother’s fiancée, are drawn into an underground revolutionary movement. After staging a rally against the war, Ben and Rachel are arrested by the Internal Security Service, who have perfected the science of breaking people. Ben is given a choice: betray the rebels, including his best friend from childhood, or Rachel will be lobotomized. Although traumatized and addicted to a powerful drug, Ben refuses to doom anyone he cares about. Can he find a third option? Can he free Rachel and strike back at the dictatorship, while dodging the suspicions of police and rebels alike?

101


ON OUR SHELF

THE THOUSAND STEPS by Helen Brain

BURIED INSTINCTS LOST AND FOUND by Lynn Henson

On the brink of execution, 16 year old Ebba den Eeden is unexpectedly elevated from the bunker deep in South Africa's Table Mountain where she has lived all her life, believing--as do all the other teenagers who toil daily to make their food and power the bunker--that the world Above is uninhabitable due to a nuclear holocaust. Instead, she is heiress to a massive fortune--one that everyone wants to control. While dealing with the machinations of the High Priest, his handsome son Hal, and the rules and regulations of a society and religion she doesn't understand, she must also try to save her three friends, still stuck in the bunker and facing execution any day.

102

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

THE MARVELOUS MISFITS OF WESTMINSTER by Andrea Hahnfeld

Despite the overwhelming odds against them, Blake has managed to lead his friends to a veritable oasis in the apocalypse. Surrounded by a reasonable amount of comfort and security, there’s nothing left to do but wait for the government to get a handle on the undead crisis. But after a couple of excursions from their home to find supplies and get a sense of the situation in their area, they learn that some of the zombies are even more dangerous than they’d assumed.

What if dogs were not only man's best friend – but also his last hope? Clement is a disgraced dog show judge whose wife, Edith, left him under mysterious circumstances. When he is asked to step in as a last-minute substitute to judge at the famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, he learns two things: Edith is about to be killed by a shadow and it’s up to him to prevent it. According to the Hunts, the only way to save Edith is making sure Irving, a hideous mongrel dog with special abilities, wins Best in Show. This heart-hugging story about love, loss, and hope features memorable characters that will leave you inspired.


ON OUR SHELF

WALKING ON COWRIE SHELLS by Nana Nkweti In her powerful, genre-bending debut story collection, Nana Nkweti’s virtuosity is on full display as she mixes deft realism with clever inversions of genre. In the Caine Prize finalist story “It Takes a Village, Some Say,” she skewers racial prejudice and the practice of international adoption, delivering a sly tale about a teenage girl who leverages her adoptive parents to fast-track her fortunes. In “The Devil Is a Liar” a pregnant pastor’s wife struggles with the collision of Western Christianity and her mother’s traditional Cameroonian belief system as she worries about her unborn child. In other stories, Nkweti vaults past realism, upending genre expectations in a satirical romp about a jaded PR professional trying to spin a zombie outbreak in West Africa, and in a mermaid tale about a Mami Wata who forgoes her power by remaining faithful to a fisherman she loves.

LOST, STOLEN OR STRAYED: A MOST UNRELIABLE MEMOIR

THE GIRL IN THE RED BOOTS: MAKING PEACE WITH MY MOTHER by Judith

by Andrew Craft

Ruskay Rabinor, PhD

Ruth is banged up in a bin in South London (again) and tortured by an agonizing secret. Matthew, her eldest son, is a new dad working for crazed director Norman ‘fat boy’ Schneibel at a deadly dull TV political show in New York.

She would do anything for her kids. When she learns the planet is in grave danger, can she save it to protect her descendants?

At the insistence of her psychiatrist, Ruth summons Matthew to London where she reveals that in 1958, when unmarried mothers were legally labeled “moral Imbeciles”, she gave up a baby girl for adoption. The guilt has ravaged her ever since. Through their diaries, we accompany Matthew on a wild goose chase, battling bureaucracies, half-truths and his belligerent boss, as he tries to track down his halfsister before Ruth succumbs to terminal cancer.

Ava Andrews puts family above all. Still grieving after her brother’s shocking murder years before, the mother of four is nervous when her husband’s new job relocates them from Arizona to Texas. And when her elderly mom has a stroke back in Phoenix, Ava plunges into a nightmare of visions revealing a dying Earth and her children fighting to survive. Praying it isn’t too late to reverse course, the determined woman vows to invoke the change needed to ensure a safe future for her offspring. But despite her exhaustive search for answers, she can’t shake the feeling that the solution lies in her own heart.

103


ON OUR SHELF

THE HOUSE OF RUST

JUST US

HEIRS OF DECEITS by

by Khadija Abdalla Bajaber

by Claudia Rankine

Elizabeth Reinach

The House of Rust is an enchanting novel about a Hadrami girl in Mombasa. When her fisherman father goes missing, Aisha takes to the sea on a magical boat made of a skeleton to rescue him. She is guided by a talking scholar’s cat (and soon crows, goats, and other animals all have their say, too). On this journey Aisha meets three terrifying sea monsters. After she survives a final confrontation with Baba wa Papa, the father of all sharks, she rescues her own father, and hopes that life will return to normal. But at home, things only grow stranger.

As everyday white supremacy becomes increasingly vocalized with no clear answers at hand, how best might we approach one another? Claudia Rankine, without telling us what to do, urges us to begin the discussions that might open pathways through this divisive and stuck moment in American history.

Caught between her grandmother’s wish to safeguard her happiness with marriage and her own desire for adventure, Aisha is pushed toward a match with a sweet local boy that she doesn’t want.

104

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

Just Us is an invitation to discover what it takes to stay in the room together, even and especially in breaching the silence, guilt, and violence that follow direct addresses of whiteness. Rankine’s questions disrupt the false comfort of our culture’s liminal and private spaces—the airport, the theater, the dinner party, the voting booth—where neutrality and politeness live on the surface of differing commitments, beliefs, and prejudices as our public and private lives intersect.

The novel is set in the late Victorian period in England. It concerns conflicts in attitude to social class and destitution and religion. The central character is Sir Gilbert Stanley, Tory politician and great landowner. Like many rich men, he had taken peasant mistresses in his youth, later abandoning them with no means of support. These women all died evil deaths, and the children were placed in the workhouse. Sir Gilbert longed secretly for these children and watched their progress to adulthood. Unaware he was their father, the children became absorbed into his household as servants. He favoured them, and their status became ambiguous. The outside world was horrified, and the household imploded. Murder and chaos followed.


ON OUR SHELF

2084 by David Perlstein After its second revolution, America is nothing—and everything—to joke about. The U.S.A. is history. In 2044, the Covenantal States of America constitutes a whiteChristian autocracy echoing George Orwell’s banned classic, 1984. Washington pushes back against armed rebels, humor ridiculing tyranny and mushrooming graffiti referencing Orwell’s novel in the form of 2084. Sam Klein, a member of the Minyan, a clandestine group of stand-up comics, organizes a July Fourth comedy protest while his Indian-American wife Indira, a native Californian, faces deportation. The Fourth, celebrating an America made great yet again, brings unexpected fireworks.

TASTE THE WIND

OPEN BLIND EYES

by Robert Livingston

by Rachel Timothy

In the last years of World War II, the Japanese Imperial Army launched 9,000 balloons bombs in a last ditch effort to attack the American mainland. Each balloon carried one high explosive bomb and a number of incendiaries. In theory, these weapons would cause forest fires on the West Coast, and, if used to carry biological agents, create panic. Traveling in the easterly jet stream many of the balloons did reach the United States and detonate as planned. Many, however, simply disappeared into the forests of the northwest, armed and dangerous. This is the story of one missing balloon bomb that set off a terrifying forest fire near the CaliforniaOregon border, and of three men who were inexplicably linked by time and history to the to the resulting inferno. In a moment of truth, when the fire crowned and torched the land, and survival depended on “tasting the wind,” these men did.

Open Blind Eyes brings you face to face with the reality of sex trafficking in America through the true story viewpoint of a girl from a small town. Rachel was only nine years old when she was first approached by a perpetrator who was known to her as a teacher and coach. She goes into detail of the process of being groomed and how the evil of what was happening to her in the dark remained unseen by everyone around her. She describes how she coped for so many years by blocking out the memories only to have them resurface when she was an adult with a family of her own. Rachel had no idea that when she would pursue justice it would end up putting her right back in the world of trafficking. It wasn’t until her church family saw the signs and believed what she was saying that she was able to start the process of finding freedom. Rachel shows her faith and love of God during the highs and lows of her journey and she prays for each person who reads her story.

105


ON OUR SHELF

SWIMMING TO THE TOP OF THE TIDE by Patricia Hanlon

The Great Marsh is the largest continuous stretch of salt marsh in New England, extending from Cape Ann to New Hampshire. Patricia Hanlon and her husband built their home and raised their children alongside it. But it is not until the children are grown that they begin to swim the tidal estuary daily. Immersing herself, she experiences, with all her senses in all seasons, the vigor of a place where the two ecosystems of fresh and salt water mix, merge, and create new life. In Swimming to the Top of the Tide, Hanlon lyrically charts her explorations, at once intimate and scientific. Noting the disruptions caused by human intervention, she bears witness to the vitality of the watersheds, their essential role in the natural world, and the responsibility of those who love them to contribute to their sustainability.

106

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1

HER PERFECT BONES by Ellery Kane

The girl’s body is curled up like a shell and almost completely buried in sand. Only her fingertips can be seen, reaching helplessly up towards an escape she will never find… Seventeen-year-old Shelby Mayfield sits alone on a bus to Fog Harbor, California. Aside from a few items of clothing, all she has with her is twenty-two dollars, the ragdoll she’s kept since kindergarten, and the devastating secret she’s been hiding. How long will it be before her family realizes she’s gone? Can anyone see the fresh bruise on her cheek beneath the makeup? Perhaps she was a fool to believe the person she is meeting in this remote little town could help her…

FORESHADOW: STORIES TO CELEBRATE THE MAGIC OF READING AND WRITING YA by Nova Ren Suma and Emily X.R. Pan

Thirteen Short Stories from Bold New YA Voices & Writing Advice from YA Icons Created by New York Times bestselling authors Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma, Foreshadow is so much more than a short story collection. A trove of unforgettable fiction makes up the beating heart of this book, and the accompanying essays offer an ode to young adult literature, as well as practical advice to writers. This unique compilation reveals and celebrates the magic of reading and writing for young adults.


ON OUR SHELF

SINGULARITY

PHOENIX FLAME by Sara

FOOL'S ERRAND by Jeffrey S.

by Jayme A. Oliveira Filho and Jayme S. Alencar

Holland

Stephens

Maddie Morrow thought her problems were over. She saved the Inn at Havenfall--a sanctuary between magical worlds hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado--from the evil Silver Prince. Her uncle the Innkeeper is slowly recovering from a mysterious spell that has left him not quite human. And there are still a few weeks of summer left to spend with her handsome, more-than-just-a-friend Brekken, even though she can't stop thinking about Taya.

Years after the death of his gangster father, a young man discovers a letter that sends him reluctantly defying the mob as he races to locate a hidden treasure.

SINGULARITY is a scifi book that mixes the UNIVERSE, science, physics, adventure, love, romance, faith and religion in an inspiring story about the future of mankind and the decisions that we will make as Species to survive in a world during the 22nd Century.

But Maddie soon realizes there's more work to be done to protect the place her family has run for centuries. She must embark on a dangerous mission to put an end to the black-market trading of magical objects and open the Inn's doors to Solaria, the once feared land of shapeshifters. As she tries to accomplish both seemingly impossible tasks, Maddie uncovers family secrets that could change everything.

It’s been six years since the untimely death of Blackie—a charming rogue who endlessly pursued “The Big Deal”—when his son discovers an enigmatic letter telling of a cache of stolen money. Feeling no choice but to pursue his father’s dream, he embarks on a search that leads from New York, to the Strip in Las Vegas, and ultimately to the south of France. Along this life-altering journey, he is confronted by the dangers of his father’s past as he unravels a decadesold mystery, while revealing other long-buried secrets as well. Poignant and entertaining, humorous and exciting, romantic and mysterious, Fool’s Errand leads him to discover both the treasure and himself.

107


Never miss an issue! SIGN UP FOR A FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO SHELF UNBOUND MAGAZINE. SUBSCRIBE

108

J U N E / J U LY 2 0 2 1


In the old days, books had awful covers and marvelous content; nowadays, the opposite happens.” — GIACOMO LEOPARDI, THOUGHTS

109


J UNE/ J ULY 2021

SHELF UNBOUND WHAT TO READ NEXT IN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING WWW.SHELFMEDIAGROUP.COM