Damaged Beyond All Recognition follows a man who is unwilling to accept an afterlife that provides nothing more than eternal self-awareness. What was the inspiration behind the idea for this novel?
I finally got around to reading The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut just before I started my novel. I was blown away by Vonnegut’s masterful handling of such a complicated story. It was the type of book that I had always wanted to write. So, I thought I would give it a try and see what would happen. I had a short story idea about a fractured afterlife, and I took it from there.
I enjoyed reading about your unique take on God and how the Creator is dependent upon others. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing about this topic?
I always found it interesting that humans have such wide-ranging views about God. Some think that God controls our every action while others think He doesn’t even exist. We read about how God created man in His own image, but I haven’t run across too many who see him as another guy. What if He just has the necessary job experience that would come from living countless lives through the Planes of Existence?
I loved Paul and Maggie Mae’s relationship and admired their dedication to one another. Did their relationship develop organically while writing or was it planned?
That relationship is based on a college romance that I had with the real-life Maggie Mae. She is the subject of a chapter (“There’s A Little Black Spot On The Fun Today”) in my first book, Damaged Right Out Of The Box, a humorous and wistful autobiography of sorts. The description of how Paul and Maggie Mae met and how their relationship flowered tracks what really happened. And it was my girlfriend’s career drive that prompted me to walk away. I couldn’t see myself playing second fiddle at the time.
But now I regret what happened and how it happened. So, I thought I would extrapolate the what-if. What if Paul and Maggie Mae said goodbye, but not a forever goodbye? What if he would wait for her while she proved to herself that she could be all that she could be?
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on the sequel to Damaged Beyond All Recognition. It’s entitled Damaged And No Longer Under Warranty, and it continues the story of whether the Paraverse was really the answer to preserving eternity. I hope to have it out in about 18 months or less.
Paul Tomenko is no stranger to the improbable. He became a magazine sweepstakes winner and celebrated counterculture writer by age 19. Now, after reaching for a can of Chef Boy-ar-dee spaghetti and meatballs, he’s traveling to and from God’s library somewhere outside the Universe to prevent the end of eternity.
Because of a DNA flaw, humanity no longer can ascend through the Planes of Existence after they die. They can’t access memories from countless past lives in previous versions of the Universe or acquire new recollections. That means no one will have the needed expertise to replace God when He dies. And, to complicate matters, Paul must enlist the help of his two lovers–Maggie Mae Monahan and Allie Briarsworth–because of their unique abilities. But the trio discovers the preservation of forevermore can turn someone’s soul inside out. Literally.
The novel chronicles the life of an ordinary man under extraordinary circumstances. Paul is unwilling to accept a broken Afterlife that provides nothing more than eternal self-awareness. He is also reluctant to choose between Maggie Mae, a brilliant geneticist who has the uncanny ability to “connect the dots,” and Allie, a novelist who inexplicably senses past and future events in the cosmos. The unexpected is to be expected from an unusual cast of supporting characters: Cher the Gatekeeper and Katharine Ross the Librarian, figments patterned after two celebrities for whom Paul has lusted; Gronk and Grita, two “resurrected” six-year-old neo-Neanderthals who are the most intelligent humans on Earth; Tsutomu Yamaguchi, an innovative bioengineer named after a Japanese man who survived nuclear bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and Dr. Peter Lexington Townshend, the head of a genetics laboratory that already has prevented the Russians from stripping politicians in Washington, D.C., of all their memories.
Be prepared for a book that examines our metaphysical questions with a mixture of mind-bending possibilities, laughter, and tears.
Posted in Interviews
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H.A.L.F by Natalie Wright tells the story of H.A.L.F 9, a Human-Alien Life Form that escapes from the military facility where he was created. During the course of his escape, H.A.L.F 9 meets teenagers, Erika, Jack and Ian, with whom he strikes up a friendship. Among other abilities, H.A.L.F 9 has extreme telekinetic and telepathic powers which make him a valuable asset to the government and one that they are not willing to lose. The government, claiming ownership of H.A.L.F 9’s life, sets out to retrieve him. Having no human technology that can match H.A.L.F 9’s power, they have to enlist a force stronger and more cunning than even H.A.L.F 9 is prepared to face.
Right from the start of the book the characters are likable and relatable. Even though the first couple of chapters were a bit confusing, each one was intriguing enough to make me want to keep reading. It isn’t immediately obvious how the characters in the first chapters are related to one another, but once you do discover the connection the direction of the story makes perfect sense. The writing is actually done very well for a Young Adult novel; which the book appears to be, as all the main characters are teenagers. I was very surprised at how each chapter really kept me on the edge of my seat; my interest in finishing the book never waned. Most books have at least a few chapters that are somewhat slow but I didn’t find this to be the case with H.A.L.F., it kept a great pace and remained interesting throughout. I think the struggle within H.A.L.F 9 between his alien and human personalities were done incredibly well. Having spent hardly any time at all actually interacting with humans on a personal level, he isn’t quite sure what to make of the new feelings that he experiences outside of the facility. For instance, there is a moment at which he finds himself wanting Jack to feel pain, even though he can acknowledge that Jack has never done anything to deserve his ill will. H.A.L.F 9 isn’t able to recognize that he feels this way toward Jack because of Jack’s romantic involvement with Erika, whom H.A.L.F 9 is also developing romantic feelings towards. I also appreciated how this aspect of the characters relationships is subtle and not the focus of any particular chapter in the story. Sometimes Young Adult fiction does not have a good balance of romance to substance but this book does not have that problem.
Natalie Wright does an excellent job with the element of surprise. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I will just say that in several places throughout the book the outcome that I was imagining is not at all what came to pass. I eagerly await the next installment of this series.
Pages: 293 | ASIN: B00R6U32CA
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A sterilization syrum is being inserted into genetically modified super bulls, threatening to hurt the profits of the beef industry. Semi-retired, former Special Forces bad-ass Joe Garner is hired by a private security firm to track down the culprits, a cell of Islamic terrorists, and to take them out by whatever means necessary. Joe and his crew of ex-military tough guys track down the scientist who created the syrum, all the while getting in plenty of gunfights with Jihadists. In the end, they team up with a Russian General, with whom Joe has a history, and together, they take down the Imam, and restore the scientist to the cattle industry.
The 2016 Presidential election has made it very clear that there are two United States of America existing simultaneously: the coastal, liberal thinking, urban populous, and its white male dominated conservative counterpart. Taurus, Taurus, Taurus, a novel by Gordon Rayner, will appeal to the latter. It is chock full of espionage tech, a litany of government organizations bumbling through red tape towards a collective goal, descriptions of guns, and derogatory terms for people of Middle Eastern descent. America, fuck yeah!
Most of the book follows the protagonist, Joe Garner, a former special ops tough guy extraordinaire with too much integrity to toe the company line, who goes to work for a private black ops security company. (Bruce Willis could play him in the film). Joe’s got a bad leg, drinks a lot, and makes frequent mention of other men’s cowboy boots. Joe’s wife is also some kind of operative who goes on “spooky wooky missions,” though her character is for the most part left unexplored. In one of the least plot related, and kinkiest scenes in the book, Joe and his wife go to Jamaica, get “ganja” from the “tall black porter,” and then they end up back in the hotel room with his wife dabbing cannabis syrup on her nipples?! The sexy talk doesn’t stop there. There is a physical therapist who reads porno mags at his desk, and at some point the operatives are implanted with scrotum tracking chips.
Not surprisingly, this book is about sperm. In a meeting with a client, Joe discovers that a big beef conglomerate based in Houston is the top provider for cattle worldwide, and has developed a “dream sperm machine.” But, the plant where the super sperm was being developed has been blown sky high. Years later, a mysterious ransom note appears from the dream sperm’s creator, Dr. Gambil, who turns out is in cahoots with terrorists from Kyrgyzstan, setting the plot in motion.
Joe and his highly paid team of former special ops trained killer-cowboys travel around the globe chasing down the doctor and the Jihadists. From New Jersey to Argentina to Kyrgyzstan, Joe and his guys are always one step ahead of the Islamic Brigade, whose attempts to sterilize the super bulls continue to be halted by American bullets. They win every battle in overwhelming fashion.
In one section, Joe and his guys realize that since they are a private organization, the Geneva Convention can be disregarded. They discuss the best ways to torture an Islamic militant, including making him watch a pig get slaughtered and then covering him in its entrails, and having a naked woman attack him.
This book is for meat eating, red-blooded, cowboy boot wearing country boys. Fans of John Le Carre and Robert Ludlum will enjoy the way these all American heroes kick tons of ass.
Pages: 271 | ASIN: B01H8WPPNE
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On a distant moon, a miner stumbles upon an apparent catacomb of an alien species, but when one is brought to the surface for study, it sparks a strange and violent invasion as the species wakes and makes their way to Earth. While on vacation in southern Australia, Laura and Jason Sinclair are the first to view the aliens’ arrival, but while trying to put the strange sighting behind them, their vacation turns into a nightmare as Jason’s sudden abduction and physical interaction with the aliens sparks a journey across the desert in search of answers. As the mother and son are pursued by law enforcement, military personnel, and the otherworldly beings, they’ll have to discover who is friend and who is foe in a world where any human may harbor an alien within.
Graham’s book Milijun is, at its core, the story of a mother trying to keep safe a son who is increasingly thrown in danger, first by others, but later at his own behest and for noble intentions. Her panicked determination and fierce protection of her teenage son are entirely relatable and hold the emotional center of the book. Around that, the sci-fi plot swirls, much like the pressurized vortex the aliens create, occasionally landing in moments of sincere character development, but otherwise surrounding the reader in the universe Graham has created. Modern technologies are newly interpreted in this year of 2179 AD, with fantastical ideas like phasing, instantaneous teleporting, and corporeal possession given plausible, scientific grounding. As with many sci-fi works, the focus is the world, the background against which the plot occurs. The expanse of space and the futuristic Australia are both described in wonderful detail, revealing great personal knowledge with both environments. The humanity and motives of every character is questioned, both for their personal interests in the new alien species and the possibility they are being possessed by that invading species. There are themes throughout of motherhood, the moral stakes in scientific exploration, the nature of the afterlife, and the existence of souls – all used to great effect.
Beyond Laura’s motivation to keep her son safe, however, the other interactions between the human characters seems plot-driven, as opposed to true connection. However, because of this, the reveals and surprises in the final third are true surprises, but I wish I could have been let in on the secret with half-hidden hints about our character’s motivations throughout the first two-thirds. As it stands, people seem to realize they’re being deceived or supported because of sudden gut intuition, not conveyed from the character but from the plot’s necessity.
One of the character devices that stuck out the most was the supposed romances – I say supposed because they either come out of nowhere, or aren’t supported by the involved character’s actions. They don’t interfere with the basic story, but they don’t add much either, many because they are unbelievable, or they aren’t necessary to the story’s development. These romantic pairings are supposed to make us feel more for the characters, but if they had been executed as well as the mother-son relationship, I would have cared more about the outcome, instead of seen them as odd personality traits thrown out to garner affection for one particular character.
In the end, these character flaws didn’t keep me from enjoying the story presented, and the eventual abolishment of the classic “good vs. evil” dichotomy was greatly welcomed, as well as that character’s choices, whether right or wrong in the end, did have consequences. The ending, which was oddly ambiguous in its instantaneous, unexpected nature, nevertheless intrigues me, especially with many plot threads still left open-ended, and I’m excited to see where the surviving characters go in subsequent works.
Pages: 322 | ISBN: 0994495609
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The Hungry Monster interviewed Simone Pond, author of The City Center and talked about her book, her experience with falling in love at first sight and we debate the moral of her story.
In your book, The City Center, Ava Rhodes is competing to become a successor candidate. You brought to my attention that she is actually competing in ballet. In the story, why did you choose ballet as the focus for her training?
Ballet is something that requires intense skill, discipline and emotion. I chose ballet as one of the main competitions to highlight the fact that the Successor Candidates aren’t supposed to show emotions because they weren’t “designed” to be that way. Ava is the exception. What makes her stand out is her ability to experience emotions on a deep level.This is why she’s a crowd favorite, but it’s also why she senses something is off with her city and ends up escaping.
Ava is a complex character and through the book she goes through a lot. Is there any inspiration that you pulled from your own life and placed in the novel?
I had a tough time relating to Ava for the first couple of drafts. Mostly because she is so reserved and unattached. But as I got to know her better, I got to see what she truly wanted (freedom from her oppressor, Morray). I was able to weave in my rebellious nature into her character. A lot of my inspiration came from the feeling of being trapped in a career that I didn’t love, and finding the strength to change that situation.
You paint some fantastic word pictures in The City Center what was your favorite scene to write?
My favorite scene to write was when Ava first stepped out of the dark tunnel and into the light – seeing the Outside world for the first time. I had to erase everything from my experience so I could see things from Ava’s perspective like what it would be like seeing the sky for the first time.
In a lot of the reviews for your book people are always comparing it to The Hunger Games. Were you trying to create something in that same genre/style when you first started writing The City Center?
I’m so flattered when people compare my book to The Hunger Games because it’s one of my favorite stories. I actually had already written a first draft of The City Center when one of my friends gave me The Hunger Games to read. I was so blown away by it, I put my book down for a little while. There are many things about The Hunger Games that I love, but my main source of inspiration came from A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I read the book in college and it stuck with me all these years.
When Ava meets Joseph it almost seems, at least to me, like love at first sight. How do you see them as a couple and how does that compare to the reader feedback you’ve been getting about their relationship?
It’s true, I’m a romantic at heart. I believe that two people can meet for the first time and have one of those automatic and unexplained connections. In high school I met a guy at a party and second we met my heart quickened – I couldn’t stop staring at him all night. I thought I’d never see him again, but a few weeks later we bumped into each other at my job, and I just knew it was meant to be.
Although this is a young adult novel there are some rather large and complex issues that set the stage for the story; genetic engineering is one of them, and what I came away from the novel with is that there is no gene for the human spirit. What moral do you hope your readers take from the novel?
When I wrote the The City Center I intended it to be for new adults, so I’m extremely pleased that it’s crossing over to the YA category. As far as moral of the story, I absolutely love what you walked away with – I’m stealing that!