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Regrets

Regrets by [Milton Schacter]

Bradley, a grumpy old man, goes into his favorite liquor store one night to get a bottle of wine. Not knowing of what is awaiting him, everything changes when he is shot by a mugger. It would be obvious for Bradley’s story to end with his death but he wakes up in his former school where he used to play basketball and meets Pete who explains to him that his life is not over yet and how linear time works. Bradley is given another chance to live and face all the things he regrets from his younger age and makes amends but this will happen in the body of a young African American teen named DeShawn.

The author introduces his readers to the life of Bradley in a unique manner that I found to be full of gripping twists. The plot is easy to follow and captivating. The readers can feel the confusion of Bradley when he wakes up in his former high school in a different teens body, yet he is in his seventies. This opens the reader to another world of intriguing possibilities and a unique view at what things would look like if something of the sort happened like what Bradley faced. Pete is a representation of the state between heaven and hell. The conversation between Pete and Brad is philosophical and riveting. When Brad is given another chance to go back, make amends and face his regrets, it superbly sets up the story to explore possibilities, and the plethora of possibilities is what makes this novel immensely engaging.

Every piece of this book has been crafted carefully and the story line is fascinating. More than just being a great book, it creates a bond between two different worlds; the Midwestern life of Bradley and the “hood” life of DeShawn. Regrets uses a unique idea to explore the choices we all make in life. The author has also done a marvelous job of addressing the issues that most African Americans face in America and he advocates for Black Lives Matter in a fictional yet realistic way. I highly recommend this book.

Pages: 319 | ASIN: B0892P99KN

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VanWest The Past

VanWest The Past by [Kenneth Thomas]

VanWest The Past by Kenneth Thomas is a thrilling intergalactic, dystopian space adventure taking place in the year 3000. Captain VanWest is our infallible protagonist. His mission is to escape the authoritarian society under the control of the Universal Council in order to reach the year 1951. The scenes and settings of all the years and places are extremely vivid and detailed, whether it be the futuristic Black Mirror-esque 3000 or simply 1990s Florida. VanWest has to prove again and again the strength of his character as he battles impossible odds, so that the restoration of the Earth to an earlier, brighter time may be possible.

It wasn’t a stretch for me to imagine that this would be our world in a few centuries or so. The author has created an extremely believable dystopia, simply by extrapolating the consequences of mankind’s current issues: everything from the deteriorating state of the environment or an increasingly unstable global political atmosphere. The best and scariest dystopian novels are those which aren’t too far from our reality.

The side plots are also well-developed. Even though VanWest is single-minded with his mission, he faces numerous other personal issues, including a complicated romantic situation that poses a threat to his goals. The way he navigates his moral, social, and ethical dilemmas is also presented in a very interesting way. Even though he had to make some tough choices along the way, VanWest remained consistent to his character and had me rooting for him throughout.

A lot of the creepy crawly creatures and characters of this book reminded me of a variety of other great stories I had read in the past. It harkens back to everything from Brave New World in the way it portrays the nature of the ruling body and Percy Jackson in the way its action scenes are jam-packed and relentless. I thought it was the mark of  great science fiction noveol the way it incorporated the best elements from some of the best examples in the field.

The pace is extremely fast, but it is suitable for the nature of the plot. Even though it ended in a cliffhanger, it felt like a well-rounded end to an enthralling story. I cannot wait for the next in the series.

Pages: 168 | ASIN: B088WYFK9Q

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Code of Evil: Ascension

Aenna Lucini, is a young ambitious medical student in an escape from poverty and small community into big city in hope for a better life.During her educational struggles of a student she also explores relativity of friendships, wild sexual encounters, existential, and moral questions from the peculiar perspective of Aenna’s mindset loaded with dark humour inspired by harsh reality. However, in it’s essence Code of Evil follows internal and external motives that turn emotionally damaged child into an insane scientist along with potential threats of the upcoming future.

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They Just Can’t Fit into the Orthodox World

Harold Benjamin Author Interview

Harold Benjamin Author Interview

Judenrein follows a man with a checkered past who must stop a world changing conspiracy. What was the inspiration for setup to this dystopian thriller?

I got the idea for this book when I started to see white supremacists become more vocal and visible in American politics, and face remarkably little official pushback – at least from the current president. These groups make no secret of their goal of driving the Jews (and a lot of other non-white groups) either out of the country, into slavery or death. I became intrigued with the possibility of a secret white supremacist group seizing power behind the scenes. This would be the ultimate “suits not boots” strategy for them, as they might call it.

Zack is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that guided his character development?

I have been involved in helping recovering drug addicts throughout the last 20 years. It’s not my job, but the work has come into my life. Through this experience, I’ve seen the potential for greatness that often hides inside the addict, waiting to come out. I have also felt that a great injustice has been visited on a generation of young Americans who were recruited to serve the US, but lost to forever wars and forgotten when they returned to civilian life. I wanted to bring this experience to life in the character. As an observant Jew, I’ve also seen a lot of young people get kicked out of orthodox life for various infractions and attitude problems. I wanted the character to represent the ambivalence I see in many of these young people. They believe in God and Torah. They love being Jewish. They just can’t fit into the orthodox world. That’s Zack.

The idea of white supremacists taking over the country and setting up 21st century ghettos was striking. What were some themes you felt were important to focus on in this book?

I wanted to focus on the slippery slope to neo Nazism in the US, and the shocking thing has been to see so many predictions made int eh book come true even in the last few months – with armed men, carrying swastika flags, threatening elected officials with death in protest of COVID lockdowns – only to be called “good people” by the president. This is much closer to us than we realize.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am working on a non-fiction book about cybersecurity, which I have written under a different name. I am also going to publish an earlier book, that never came out, that deals with some similar themes of inequality and injustice in the US, but told in the form of a thriller.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

Judenrein: A Jewish Dystopian Thriller by [Harold Benjamin]Zack Gurevitz has had a checkered past. A Yeshiva boy, turned Green Beret, turned junkie, excommunicated by his one-time faith and now the potential savior of people he doesn’t even like.

As a white supremacist movement stealthily takes the reins of power in America, it is again the Jews who are made out as scapegoats. Stripped of wealth and citizenship, they are made to live in 21st century ghettos that hark back to a sinister and murky past that many had thought would never return.

But things are about to get much worse. With the revealing of a planned terror attack that will place the blame firmly at Jewish feet and condemn millions to death, Zack is contacted by Jewish leaders in Detroit, begging for his help.

Reluctantly he agrees and before long he is mired in a conspiracy that will have far reaching consequences for his country, the Jewish population and even his own sanity.

As the clock ticks down, can Zack find a way to avert a looming disaster? Who is behind the conspiracy? And can he really trust anyone?

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The Aqua Human

The Aqua Human by [J. Elizaga]

The Aqua Human by J. Elizaga is a beautiful short story about a young teenager in the Pacific during World War II. The protagonist, young Amaya, is thrust into a dangerous situation and must escape when she goes through a mysterious and unknown transformation. From here she discoveries fantastical new physical abilities underwater and must find her own way to survive.

There are many aspects of this short story that I loved from the very first page. The Aqua Human starts strong with an intense scene that immediately catches the reader’s attention. Even the very first paragraph hooks you as you are thrown into a confronting scene amid World War II. These first few pages introduce you to the protagonist’s father, Bayani, and the actions he takes here gives you a strong image of who he is and what he values above everything and everyone, which added a lot of urgency to this opening scene.

Even though this is an engaging read right up to the very end, I felt that the last quarter felt a bit desultory. Perhaps this was due to the nature of the short story format, if The Aqua Human had ten more pages the ending would be much more satisfying to me, otherwise I did enjoy the ending as it is.

The emotional intensity of this short story doesn’t decline from here but the pace does slow down and gives you time with the protagonist, Amaya, as she undergoes a mysterious and fantastical transformation. Personally, my favorite part of the story is right before the halfway point when Elizaga describes an absolutely beautiful setting of what seems like an entirely new and different world. It was during these parts of The Aqua Human that left me in awe and with an ongoing admiration for the author.

Pages: 60 | ASIN: B07W3DX48L

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With More Sinister Aspects

Catori Sarmiento Author Interview

Catori Sarmiento Author Interview

Carnival Panic is a dystopian game show where contestants must solve dangerous room puzzles to claim a life changing prize. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

The initial inspiration for this novel occurred when I walked through the Kyari Pamyu Pamyu museum in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. While there, I saw a display called “Candy Forest!” with unsettling pink rabbit statues, seen here https://matcha-jp.com/en/688. As I exited, I thought that what I had seen would make a great horror story. I pulled out my notebook and began sketching and writing ideas. I wrote about 10,000 words and then got stuck and put the story away for a few years.

It wasn’t until I went on an outing to Sanrio Puroland that I was able to continue writing the story. I often describe that day as one of the most uncomfortably horrible experiences I have ever had at a theme park. I had agreed to go to Puroland with a couple of friends, not knowing exactly what it was. After entering through the theme park gates, I realized that I was completely outside of my comfort zone.

On top of the immense claustrophobia were the inescapable sensory explosions. The air was pumped with all manner of sweet smells, there was constant music from individual speakers to the parades, it was hot due to the high summer temperatures, and there were lights everywhere both strobing and stationary. And when we stopped for lunch, all the food was of the sweetest kind; candied and dessert versions of its real counterparts. In contrast to my unpleasant experience, my friends were ecstatic and enjoyed every moment of that theme park, playing on the toys, going on the rides, and shopping with childlike enthusiasm.

On the train home, I knew exactly what I could write about and that became Carnival Panic.

What was the process like for imagining and writing the different rooms and puzzles you have in the book?

For the most part, the inspiration for the rooms came from various areas of Sanrio Puroland that I visited but with more sinister aspects. I also love to watch anime and at the time I was binging Deadman Wonderland so some of the themes from that anime made their way into the novel.

Your characters were all well developed and interesting. Who was your favorite character to write for?

Fletch. I enjoyed writing from her point of view because she is an unapologetic anarchist.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have two finished novels at the moment which I am querying for publication. A science fiction alien invasion novel called Darkness in a Sky of Embers and a narrative fiction novel called Elephants Have No Sleeves.

As for currents projects, I am working on a supernatural murder mystery that follows the main character, Tzipora, who comes back from the dead to find her murderer.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Carnival Panic by [Catori Sarmiento]Candy makes the PonPon Bunnies sweet. Be careful if they’re angry. And watch out for traps! These are the dangers of competing in the Carnival Panic game show, a ruthless competition that tests the chosen competitors with mental and physical struggles. In order to claim the substantial monetary prize, the winner must solve a series of room puzzles and succeed in entertaining the fickle masses.

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Tentoria

Tentoria by [Sorin Banu]

In Sorin Banu’s epic dystopian science fiction novel, man creates a group of human-like cyborgs called Tentorians to end a new world war in the 22nd century. From that point onwards, the Tentorians grow and morph into power-hungry killing machines. They pose a threat to all around them and end up being forcefully ejected from their first settlement by an alliance of nations of the earth. These Tentorians then proceed to create a sovereign state called Tentoria. Here, a new leader envisions a future marked by peaceful coexistence between Tentorians and the rest of mankind. But some powerful Tentorians would have none of that. These rebels set their sights on forcefully taking over the otherworldly Island as their new home. In a series of revealing and riveting events, Cole, a 27-year old Islander, a surprising ally and the Island’s authorities try to protect this unique piece of land. But how will this end? Will the soulless cyborgs seize the last place on earth where people could truly live as humans?

Sorin Banu pings us between the 21st and the 25th centuries as he tells a story of a fallen world. He  artfully illustrates what the earth might look like in the 25th century based on man’s hunger to continually tinker with technology. Banu’s fictional future is marked by stunning advancements in the development of artificial intelligence. But he doesn’t just create futuristic innovations many already envision; he shows us where such breakthroughs could lead humanity.

In this book, Banu suggests that man’s technological creations could come back to haunt him. According to Banu we could end up creating real-life terminators that would later turn on us. But the problem could even run deeper. We could lose our essence as humans.

To drive home his point, he uses an intriguing story line to highlight the things that make us human and how technology could take them away from us. And this wouldn’t be because we created cyborgs to fight our wars. It would be because we’d become overly attached to technology. As we seek greater control and improved solutions, nature’s imprints on our lives will slowly fade away.

The book’s central theme was just one of the many things that thrilled me. Amongst those other things was how Banu weaved the story. I could easily follow the plot even though the author was going back and forth in time. He was also smart enough to insert gaps that kept me guessing and coming up with plausible theories. Also, the characters were relatable, and I could share their emotions.

The book engages your mind, challenges you to reassess some values and appreciate both the limitations and privileges of being human.

Pages: 352 | ASIN: B07QF59Y92

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Liberty Bound

Liberty Bound by [Nathaniel M Wrey]

Liberty Bound by Nathaniel M. Wrey is a novel set thousands of years in the future from our present day, where a small city, Athenia, remains as the last known beacon of civilization. Finbarl is the main character, and he works to protect the city from the threat of Ferrals, a supposed sub-human race of creatures that seek to destroy the city, if they could ever breach the walls. Inside the city, Finbarl and the other soldiers addictively rely on the Jumblar plant to keep them sharp and ready for the threat.

The novel certainly brims with creativity, which stands in contrast with the rigid system that the characters live with in their lonesome city. There are many varied issues with class and social standing, and Liberty Bound seeks to create meaningful commentary regarding them. The author has developed a fascinating arrangement of a post apocalyptic civilization and tries to use these societal systems to bring about a provocative purpose for their existence in terms of the story told.

However, the story excels within Finbarl’s decisions and the consequences of those choices. He eventually finds himself at odds with the society he has worked so hard to become a part of, and he must decide what he is going to do once he is no longer able to remain within the social structure provided by the city. Will Finbarl find a way to re-enter the good standing in his society, or will he strive to make bigger changes to the city and the people within it? The question was clear throughout the story and I enjoyed watching Finbarl’s evolution as the novel progressed. I could empathize with his character and that connection made the novel thrilling.

All the while, the threat of the Ferral remains, putting pressure on every character, making every decision carry much more weight. The story thrives on this tension, and it makes the pages very easy to turn.

Pages: 227 | ASIN: B087YXKKT3

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