Orange City by Lee Matthew Goldberg is an exciting dystopian thriller and pretty much a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s about Orange City: a bizarre place where its inhabitants are kept firmly under the control of the Man. Here they toil away for faceless organizations and use petty distractions to not drown in the misery of their jobs. Here, Graham Weatherend is placed in a unique position– he has to decide whether he will work for a dangerous and addictive new product, innocuously named Pow! Soda or whether he will take up the more risky path of finding out exactly what is going on in a world where he can trust few.
Graham is an introverted and humorous character with neat tricks up his sleeve in the most unlikely situations. His quest is to find out the truth about the soda while avoiding being banished to The Zones. All the while navigating the unexpected effects of Pow! Soda. There are some other difficult topics also addressed in this book– especially surrounding Gayle’s situation. The abuse of power and free will are central to the characters’ motivations and behavior.
I kept trying to anticipate the next twist of the plot but I could never guess where this book was going to go- the book is not only a few steps ahead of me, it simply does not follow regular science fiction rules. Which is not a bad thing at all- I was strapped in for a fun romp and ended up with a substantial and thoughtful novel. There’s probably thousands of science fiction books and movies in the world but the best of the lot have always been the ones that are adjacent to reality. The sweet spot in the uncanny valley where if the universe were merely a few degrees askew the characters’ lives would be our lives. This is what happens here.
The writing is sharp and cool- it has a neo-noir thriller vibe to it that wouldn’t be out of place in a movie where a tortured Ryan Gosling runs around town saving people while being drenched in moral ambiguity. Meaningful prose and intense drama ensues.
Orange City is a great read for anyone who enjoys science fiction thrillers or just cool and atmospheric books in general. Just be prepared to have a mini-existential crisis about where our world is headed!
Pages: 231 | ASIN: B08R96Z37G
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Health Reformation follows a relatively healthy man on a journey through a dystopian healthcare system that is supposed to be perfect but turns out to be a nightmare. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
As 2020 opened with the pandemic, and life around the country deteriorated, I wondered about how emergent diseases might change our lives and institutions. Buried beneath the sorrow and the mayhem, a nascent idea started forming about how healthcare might evolve in the future, but in a provocative and entertaining way. This effort meandered and flowed through much of January and February. But I only decided to write this story once I determined the name of one of the main characters. That lightning strike propelled this curiosity from a possible future project into something that deserved my immediate attention, and the mere mention of that name to those in my inner circle reinforced that assessment. Energized by the feedback I received, I started writing in March of 2020 and released it in November of the same year.
But I also didn’t want it to be “about the pandemic.” The various fictitious viruses in the story provide a background against which the characters venture into a revamped healthcare system. The inspiration was thus multifaceted: the 2020 health crisis, the repeated calls for free universal healthcare, the ubiquitous push for ever more automation and the loss of jobs to overseas labor markets. Furthermore, people nowadays have to fill their own gas tanks and go through self-checkout lanes at supermarkets—and at some restaurants. Robots build more than people do. And trying to get customer service over the phone is a maddening descent into insanity. This story is not a commentary or analysis of any of those topics, though. Those were the ingredients and the viruses were the oven that helped bake this morsel into a darkened future that looms all too possible.
Jason is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
He’s a young man with a new bride and big plans for his future. The pandemics are just background noise for him. Looking back at 2020, I think a lot of people had big objectives that got dashed by the advent of covid-19. But imagine when we collectively get past the lockdowns, quarantines and business closures, and things open up again. Dreams will flourish anew. People will want to travel again. Jason encapsulates all of that optimism. And he’s generous. He sees the best in people, and he didn’t care that his wife was convicted of murder and has a trail of dead husbands in her wake. But he also has some flaws that are exposed as the plot advances.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
The military has a saying: “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” Likewise, intentions get twisted by reality, whether it’s because of cost, greed, unexpected delays or something else. I wanted to expose a healthcare system that was born from the finest intentions, but fails to deliver actual value. It’s an extrapolation of what we see around us today. Among the hindrances that deform this imaginary healthcare system are the regulations that helped create it.
The second main theme revolves around the offshoring of jobs. As Jason emerges from the hospital, and the hidden costs of “free” becomes apparent, he has to face a new nightmare. In this situation, I chose an entire industry that employs thousands and eliminated it outright from the national scene. For Jason, that has dire implications—but it does give him that chance to finally travel abroad, albeit not to his ideal destination.
But there were also tertiary themes at play, too. Protests were a staple of 2020, and there’s a vociferous march demanding change in the book. I also wanted to showcase a reality where gangs peddle access to unemployed doctors instead of selling illicit substances, stores have disappeared from city streets, and hospitals have built-in furnaces.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
At the time I started writing Health Reformation: Murder, Medicine and Rehab in the Age of Pandemics, I was already in the finishing stages of what will now be my next book. Peace through Purpose is a Book Zero (or prequel) for my next series, a galactic epic that will provide [fictional] answers to the big questions that have always vexed us. Why are we here? What is humanity’s future? How will life on Earth end? What role will artificial intelligence play in the future?
Peace through Purpose is a collection of six tales that introduce an alien utopia before it is destroyed by an unforeseen enemy. Each enjoys a distinctive flair while also building upon a unifying foundation, with topics ranging from resettling refugees to raising a family to eradicating threats that imperil the ongoing harmony to managing planetary ecosystems. The main series will take place in the aftermath of the aforementioned apocalyptic event.
Like Health Reformation, this galaxy-spanning civilization is not perfect despite the ideals espoused by its governing authorities. Scratch beneath the agencies and the mantras, and universal peace is, as it is on Earth today, within reach but always beyond our grasp.
This prequel to the upcoming series should be available later in 2021.
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The world is succumbing to a zombie infestation, and society is crumbling. It’s every man for himself in Christopher Cole’s post-apocalyptic novel. Through chance meetings, a ragtag team of children and teenagers stick together to fight their way to the only known safe place in the world, Fort Gold Rush. But Sonny and his friends soon have to pick up their arms again as they must undertake training that will equip them with the skills needed to become protectors of their new haven. Out in the wild again, they soon discover that flesh-eating zombies aren’t the only enemies. They must also contend with human predators. In these dark days, it’s a battle on three fronts for these noble kids. They fight zombies, bandits, and the darkness that threatens to consume their hearts.
Author Christopher Cole’s Sanctuary is a unique combination of a dystopian city, in a post-apocalyptic world. It takes readers on a journey through man’s struggles to hang onto hope in the face of mounting adversity. There is hardly anything that is straightforward in this twisted world. Cole reminds us of this fact by posing the philosophical question – what is good and evil?
One of my favorite things about the book is what Cole does with the characters. I didn’t get to know some of the characters’ backstory until I was more than halfway through the book. But by that time, I had already connected with them. Instead of using backstories to evoke a quick connection, Cole invests heavily in the characters’ personalities – flaws and quirks.
The book pushes several emotional buttons. Exploring humanity through a dark lens that doesn’t hold back commentary on the darker problems with society. The dystopian city of Fort Gold Rush provides ample opportunity for readers to see contemporary societal issues magnified to entertaining effect. The author uses detailed imagery to build this gritty world. I must warn you, though, you’ll visualize shimmering sunrise and picturesque landscapes, but you’ll also imagine gory sights like knives thrusting into brains and bullets drilling into flesh. A stimulating combination for the right audience. And if you are a gun enthusiast, the battle scenes are littered with gun mentions you can geek over. Although, having to read through the multiple types of guns everyone carried was a little tiring.
Sanctuary continues the thrilling post-apocalyptic action that fans expect in Christopher Cole’s Dark Days series. With such an intriguing cast of characters, it is fascinating to see where they’ll end up, how they’ll get there, and what price is paid along the way.
Pages: 292 | ASIN: B08L84KY32
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Sanctuary follows Sonny to a militarized city where he’s conscripted into the city’s guard. What were some new ideas you wanted to introduce in this book that was different from book one?
Some ideas I wanted in my book were things like showing humanity and compassion towards others. Like how Sonny agreed to pretend to be Clara’s son Nathan or sparing a bandits life. Other ideas were defending their home by training the next generation for thinking ahead. The first book was mainly about survival while the second book was about finding a sanctuary and protecting it and its people inside.
I enjoyed the contrast between the sanctuary and the outside world. Was this dichotomy intentional or incidental to the story you wanted to tell?
It was completely intentional. In a dystopian world, it brings out the worst in people. So, it would make sense that certain people would be desperate for protection and supplies to stay alive. So much so that they would be willing to slaughter innocent people for it.
I thought this story had a unique setup and an interesting premise. What were some sources that informed this novel’s development?
I was inspired by many other stories such as The Walking Dead, The Road, The Last of Us, etc. These stories helped give me an idea of how savage people can be in an apocalyptic world. As for the story, I was inspired by some of Gary Paulsen’s books and Neal Shutterman’s books. Gary Paulsen can make you feel like you’re in the action, especially through the character’s point of view. Neal Shutterman helped me learn that stories can be more interesting if told through different character’s points of view and how their events with the main character’s events collide together can build up excitement.
This is book two in your Dark Days series. What can readers expect in book three?
I’m still developing it, but readers can expect a bigger scale in conflict with forces from the outside world. The Pacific Army is trying to reclaim America by expanding its territory, but with the limited number of soldiers and resources that can take a lot of time and be difficult. The characters are growing up so they can expect romance blossoming among them, some are figuring out their sexual identity. I’ll be developing issues and situations where the characters have to deal with the fact that sometimes there is no right thing to do in a dystopian environment or warzone. I’ll try to set up where they have to draw the line in complicated situations where it’s about right and wrong or it’s about staying alive and keeping your people alive. The main theme of The Dark Days series is about humanity struggling to stay in an apocalyptic world. That can be extremely hard and even impossible at certain times like that. There’s a lot I’m working with, but it’s still in development, so there’s gonna be changes before its release.
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Rise of a Warrior is book five in your Immortal Warriors series. Has the series developed as you had planned or has the series arc changed as you’ve published the books?
I had a general idea where I wanted the series to go when I started, but it has developed into something far more complex than originally planned. I started out just wanting to write a simple fantasy romance, but I soon found myself growing bored with the characters and story. In my mind they needed more. More action, more adventure, more danger, growth, and an underlying mystery to connect one book to the next. I love the challenge of creating a standalone story involving threads that will connect one book to another. Each book is centered around one particular couple, their journey as they face difficulties in their new relationship. Though we are left with unanswered questions at the end, I shy away from cliffhangers. The reader should feel as though they’ve been given a full story, but with a desire to learn more about what is going on behind the scenes.
What is something that you’ve learned as an author that has drastically changed your writing since book one?
Book one was a learning experience. I was still trying to find my own voice, my own style. Romance novels can be extremely difficult to get right, especially if there is an erotic element involved, and I worried about it coming across as shallow. In trying to keep the conflict and action at the forefront, I unintentionally shied away from the romantic aspect of the story, and I think it suffered for it, especially where romance readers were concerned. It made it hard to know what genre to place it under, action/adventure, paranormal romance, or science fiction. I knew I wanted to combine paranormal with science fiction romance, but I don’t think I quite pulled it off in book one, “Soul of a Warrior.” I found my stride with the romance in book two “Ghost Warrior.” It was here that the continuing threads of my plot really began. I only had a vague notion of it in book one, but book two doesn’t work as well without seeing where it all started. In book 3, “A Warrior’s Nightmare,” I began to figure out how to make them stand alone without losing the threads that will eventually tie them all together.
What is one romance trope that you try hard to break in your novels?
Rescue the damsel in distress trope. I started with this in book one and have been struggling to break away from it ever since. I want my female characters to stand on their own, as equals to their powerful mates. I think I succeeded with “Rise of a Warrior.” In my first four books, the female lead starts out coming across as frightened, weak, unsure of herself, and then finds her strength during her struggles. Carla starts out strong, knowing what she wants, and only grows stronger as they go along. Her mate must work hard to earn her love, trust and respect.
What can readers expect in book six of your Immortal Warriors series?
At the end of “Rise of a Warrior,” we bring in Jada Talbot, Bryce’s fated mate. Bryce plays a fairly large part in “Rise of a Warrior.” We first met Jada and Bryce in “Dark Warrior,” a novella. They did not have a happy first meeting and Jada has been fighting against their mating ever since. As we follow Jada and Bryce, we will learn more about the Djinn and Fae, more about their past relationships with the shifters and vampires, and where this all might be headed. I have a second series “Raiden Warriors” that is set in the same universe. Raiden warriors were allies to the Laizahlian when they first drove Djinn from Earth. In this next book, I plan to start drawing these two series together because they will need to join forces again if they want any chance of defeating the Djinn.
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Forged Under Fire follows a young woman who serves a repressive government and must hide her feelings for her best friend. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting story?
This series is a prequel to another series I wrote 6 years ago called Inside that is controlled by the same repressive government. However, I wanted to explore how someone directly threatened by the extremist laws would grow up under such a regime. Unfortunately, there are those in the world who grow up having to hide how they feel or what they believe, whether that is due to societal, governmental, or familial pressures, and the decision to fight against those pressures is not an easy one to make. I drew inspiration from many elements of modern society to create a government in order to explore such political extremism through the eyes of a single character, in order to bring a human element to an otherwise politically charged fictional world.
When creating Amelia did you have a plan for development and character traits or did it grow organically as you were writing the story?
Some elements of Amelia were planned, such as her compassion and loyalty to those she loves. However, as I was writing, her reactions to the dangerous situations she encountered were more organic as the scenes progressed. The most organic growth for her as a character was her coming to terms with whether she wanted to stand up against the oppressive laws of her nation or remain hidden in order to stay safe.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I wanted to explore a lot of social themes in this book relating to minorities, but it was most important for me to showcase the commentary through the eyes of a character, rather than make it a critique or essay on society. I wanted to keep everything on a very human level so that, no matter what social issue I was exploring, the emotional connection with Amelia was never lost. Extremism in political and social policy is a heavy theme in the series, and I knew that I was walking a fine line, particularly with what has been seen in recent years around the world. I felt it was important to take everything I could to an extreme to explore the impact that could have on a character.
This is book one in your Coalition series. What can readers expect in book two?
Book 2, The Rising Tide, will be released on November 27, 2020. The third and final book of the trilogy will be released in Fall 2021.
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Carla Trystan has spent her life running from monsters. She never understood why she was different, or why she didn’t age. She just followed her instincts and ran whenever she encountered someone that wasn’t human. Vampires, shapeshifters, Djinn and Fae are all involved in this mystery. Azrael is tracking down rogue shifters, and in this hunt, he runs into Carla, he knows instantly she is his one true mate. Carla only knows she is surrounded by monsters and needs to get away but stays to save the young coworker of hers that the rogue has taken hostage. From this point Carla is now part of hunting party. Azrael introduces her to the many supernatural beings that become involved in this much deeper plot than he or the council of Laizahlia ever expected.
This is the second book by Denna Holm I have read, Rise of a Warrior did not disappoint me at all. The novel starts out with Carla telling readers that she has to run again. You can feel the fear she has, but at the same time, her deep desire to protect her friends in the diner. The desire to protect humans is a Laizahlia trait that she is unaware of in her genetic makeup. Over the first few chapters we learn just how strong Carla is. Her need to run isn’t just fear, it is survival. Azrael finds her and she starts handing everything he throws at her in stride. Going from knowing there are monsters out there, to learning you are one is intense, and Holm lets the reader experience all of it with her detailed and precise writing style.
You can find hundreds of books out there on shapeshifters, vampires, fae, and other creatures, but Holm’s version of these beings feels fresh and different. She isn’t taking the same old character sheets and giving them new names, she instead has taken traditional “knowns” about these beings and enhanced them. They come to life more and are relatable in their thoughts and actions. This book is hard to put down because the characters are so engaging, and you get attached and want to know how things turn out. The plot line is complex and layered. It isn’t just a simple story; it builds as it goes and you uncover more and more players all twisted together. There is the building romance of Carla and Azrael, but I wouldn’t classify this as a romance novel, the relationship is just part of the story and mystery, not the end all destination.
While Rise of a Warrior is book five in this series, it stands on it’s own but leaves you wanting more. With so many plot lines twisted you know there will be more to explore, more questions to answer, and even some more romance to build.
Pages: 398 | ASIN: B08KLB36FX
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From the New York Times bestselling author of the Minecraft-inspired Gameknight999 series with over 2 million copies in print.
Who do you trust when you can’t believe your eyes?
A nuclear apocalypse has devastated the human race, turning survivors into four groups of warring Giants, tree-dwelling Dryads, remnant humans, and evil radioactive scavengers. But, not everyone appears as they seem.
Brianna MineShaker was born a giant. However, she’s smaller than normal, bullied by her peers, and exiled to Harmony School, a place for misfits.
At Harmony, there is little peace as Brianna’s size continues to attract abuse, leaving her as an outcast. But then, she witnesses a shocking event…something is taking over the bodies of the other giants at the school.
Faced with an impossible choice, Brianna must venture into the dangerous Wastelands to find the truth, a place where no one has ever made it back alive.
There is no one to trust, except three unexpected companions. If their plan fails, Brianna will never make it home or even survive to help save her family.
Beware of what lurks in the Wastelands. But, also beware of a little giant with a big attitude.
Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner series, The Giant’s Giant is a gripping story of a dystopian world transformed by bravery, tolerance, and friendship. Start reading today.
Mark Cheverton is a former high school physics and math teacher, who became a research physicist, and now is an internationally published New York Times bestselling author, with 24 novels on bookshelves worldwide.
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