Category: Reading

Mycroft Holmes – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse

img_0135

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career has extended well beyond the sphere of his tremendous success as an athlete. He is a regular contributor to Time, has starred in many films (even opposite Bruce Lee!), and has written a number of books, the most recent of which, Mycroft Holmes, written with screenwriter Anna Waterhouse, is excellent.

Audible.com generously supplied a review copy of the audiobook, which I gobbled voraciously.

The narrator, Damian Lynch, was exquisite, and brought to life the multi-ethnic cast of characters with extraordinary skill. His accents were flawless—except perhaps his American, which was a bit cartoonish, but appropriate for its character. His narration was one of the highlights of the experience, and I found myself listening with two sets of ears: one to a great story, and the other to Lynch’s wonderful performance.

The story follows a young Mycroft Holmes, elder brother of Sherlock Holmes, on an adventure from London to Trinidad.

When Cyrus Douglas, friend to Mycroft and purveyor of fine tobaccos, learns of children dying mysteriously on Trinidad, he informs Mycroft, who investigates by asking his fiancée Georgiana, a white woman who grew up on Trinidad, if she has heard anything from her family. Her unexpected response—leaving for Trinidad at once, and refusing to tell Mycroft why—sends Mycroft on a wild chase, exercising every bit of his prodigious intelligence to place himself on the same ship as Georgiana.

The ensuing adventure is exciting in all of the typical ways a Holmesian mystery excites: physical violence, battles of wits, fascinating settings, and twists upon twists. There are a number of things beyond the central plot of Mycroft Holmes, however, that I think bear discussing.

The first is that I think this might be the most solidly structured novel that I’ve read in a very long time. No loose ends, everything accounted for, foreshadowing in all the right places, and red herrings delicately placed. It was remarkable to read, structurally, because of how tidy it was.

The second is that Mycroft Holmes deals with serious issues of race and slavery with tremendous delicacy and achieves a powerful impact. There are moments of raw pain that eclipse the emotional median of the novel, and others that gave me more pause than I’d expect from a “simple” mystery novel. When you read this book, and I highly recommend that you do—better yet, why don’t you head over to Audible and pick it up—look out for those moments. They’re sprinkled throughout the whole novel, and they transform a good story into a great book.

2015 Year in Review

yearinreview

This year has been terrific for the Warbler. I decided—I believe in November of last year—to read and review one book every week. While I haven’t kept to that weekly cadence, I’m proud of what I accomplished as a reviewer and as a reader.

I read forty-three books this year. I published thirty-four posts on the blog, and am a couple books behind in my review schedule. 2,197 different people from around the world viewed the Warbler 3,525 times in 2015. It’s marvelous to see how the site has grown—turns out that regular posts bring more viewers.

Stats aside, some wonderful things have happened this year:

  • The Warbler is now on Twitter, FacebookTumblr, and Medium.
  • I’ve developed a working relationship with two publishers, Tachyon and Inkshares
  • Audible.com contacted me and began sending audiobooks for review
  • I’ve begun receiving review galleys from several publishers through NetGalley, including Tor/Forge, Oxford University Press, Random House, and others
  • I attempted to publish my own work through Inkshares! Your support was invaluable—I’m immensely grateful to you all
  • Through that effort, I met a group of fantastically talented independent authors, which has lead to:
  1. I have been brought on as an apprentice editor at Story Perfect Editing Services (see the site for your fiction-editing needs)
  2. I’ve joined forces with the Epic Fantasy Writer Blog, where I’ll be a monthly contributor! My first post, a short Sci-Fi tale went up today!

Okay, that covers the business updates. Let’s go over the best books of the year:

Non-Fiction

MyStruggle_cvrforwebMy Struggle Volume 1 – Karl Ove Knausgaard
(Runner-Up: Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Fantasy

Shadows of SelfShadows of Self – Brandon Sanderson
(Runner-Up: Updraft – Fran Wilde)

Science Fiction

AncillaryJAncillary Justice – Ann Leckie
(Runner-Up: Ready Player One – Earnest Cline)

 

For what it’s worth, I loved almost everything I read this year, and these choices were actually difficult to make. I’m going to try to get two more reviews published before January first, so keep an eye on the blog over the next few days.

Thank you for visiting the blog and taking part in this experiment with me. I’m excited for the future, and I’ve got plans in the hopper for the Warbler that will lead to more reading, reviewing, and general writerly activity. I hope you’ll join me next year, too.

Of Sorrow and Such – Angela Slatter

SorrowsandSuch_FINAL_hiresOne of the biggest unforeseen benefits of ramping up review cadence and outreach on The Warbler is the opportunity I’ve had to read so many different works by authors of whom I hadn’t heard, in formats outside the long-form epic fantasies I long favored.

Through this new, widened lens, I’ve (re)discovered that novellas are wonderful things.

Angela Slatter’s Of Sorrow and Such is one such thing of wonder. Slatter is an award-winning Australian author—a doctor of creative writing—with an impressive list of published short fiction, flash fiction, and anthologies in her CV. Of Sorrow and Such is published by Tor’s new imprint dedicated to short fiction, Tor.com Publishing.

Of Sorrow and Such occupies that special space in speculative fiction, wherein a fantastical, dystopian, or utopian setting is a vehicle for the expression of raw human experiences. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a great story in it, but the novella deals with hard, human truths that reach beyond the fiction and into the everyday lives of many of its readers.

There’s mesmerizing rhythm and poetry in the way Slatter writes. Patience Gideon, the story’s protagonist-who evidently features in a number of other works by Slatter—has a way of observing the world which both enriches it and robs it of its color. She sees through the manifold lens of her many hardships: The difficulty of being a woman in a medieval-ish society; of being a witch among superstitious villagers; of raising an orphaned girl as her daughter; of maintaining anonymity in plain sight.

In a society that sees women as little more than chattel and burns women with magic at the stake, privacy and secrecy are paramount to survival. So when a village woman arrives at Patience’s door, holding up her severely injured sister, and reveals herself as a shapeshifter, things get complicated. We are tested alongside Patience and by her, when she and the other characters in the novella do things that disturb us, or leave us feeling weak, having no idea what we’d do in her stead.

Fantasy often glorifies the magically-gifted, and Of Sorrow and Such is another great example where this isn’t the case. Witches, in Slatter’s world, are just like us, but with more to fear. I’ll leave you with a sentence I found particularly good from the novella, from which the name of the story is derived.

“My girl, my darling girl, don’t wish for what I’ve got—a witch’s life is made of sorrow and such. Be happy you’ve a chance at something else.”

Tor.com publishing’s catalog of novellas has intrigued me for a few weeks now, and reading Of Sorrow and Such makes me want to head to their site and pick up a number of other novellas. The joy of reading a satisfying story in an hour or two is intoxicating. I highly recommend reading Of Sorrow and Such, and checking out the rest of the Tor.com catalog.

Slow Bullets – Alastair Reynolds

tumblr_inline_n8gc9oz9fk1s0669x

When he was a graduate student in astronomy, Welsh writer Alastair Reynolds published four short stories that marked the beginning of his career as an author. While working at the European Space Agency, he began work on what was to be his debut novel, Revelation Space. He’s been a published writer for almost 30 years, with over forty published short stories and twelve novels.

But I hadn’t heard of Alastair Reynolds until I saw the cover of Slow Bullets in Tachyon’s catalogue. The cover intrigued me—a spaceship seemingly in good repair that, when examined closely, exhibits signs of decay, over a planet covered in swirling storm clouds that shows no sign of advanced life: no lights twinkling from cities on the night side. No speckling of settlements on the light side.

The description of the novella hooked me as well, with one line in particular: “Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable.”

I cracked open the book the minute it arrived at my house, even though it was a few lines down in my “priority” reading list, because something about it called to me. I wanted to hold it; to raise its intriguing cover closer to my eyes and see if there was more to be learned from it. To read its first page.

And on the first page alone, I was sold. It’s been a long while since I felt so strongly about an opening page. In fact, I can’t remember the last book I read whose first page affected me the same way.

So much character and world was built in to those few lines. So much that pulled me in and invested me in the protagonist, who had already lost so much, and would obviously lose more as the story unfolded. So much about a galaxy at war, wherein expression was forbidden.

So I turned the page. Then another. And another. And before long I was sunk deep in Scur’s plight, horrified and enraged for her and the other soldiers subjected to the tortuous slow bullets that shackled them to their duty. And when she was taken prisoner, I shared her terror and was inspired by her bravery.

Then, darkness. And reawakening. And with that awakening, an entirely new set of problems. A villain on the loose, and an unfamiliar universe outside the hull of a dying ship.

The story that Slow Bullets became had me enthralled—it is full of tension, confusion, fear, horror, and loss. It fascinated and inspired me. Most of all, I really, really enjoyed it. With Slow Bullets, I’ve become a fan of Alastair Reynolds. If science fiction, mystery, and political thrillers intrigue you, I highly recommend Slow Bullets-. It’ll sate your hunger as it did mine.

One Who Waits – John Robin

OneWhoWaitsWhen I started writing reviews for Inkshares, I made a daily habit of perusing the site for appealing projects.  Among the projects I found interesting was Blood Dawn, by John Robin, an epic fantasy with hints of horror and what appears to be a mountain of world building behind it.

Through various mechanisms, John has quickly gone from author-whose-book-I-preordered, to collaborator-and-group-mentor to the Inkshares community at large, to co-blogger, and finally to part-time employer. In that time, I’ve exchanged a substantial number of typed words with John, and I say, confidently, that he is the genuine article. He can write, he cares deeply about the craft and community, and is inspired by the shifting world of publishing. He’s a go-getter, and when it comes time to put my own self-marketing hat back on, I’ll be going to him for some pro tips.

Now, on to One Who Waits.

One Who Waits  is a short story that acts as a prelude to John Robin’s aforementioned forthcoming debut novel, Blood Dawn.

The world of Blood Dawn goes deep, and One Who Waits provides the barest, tantalizing glimpse of the darkness that lurks behind the cover of the novel. Blood magic, dragons, betrayal, murder, patricide—and that’s just in the short story!

In One Who Waits we find a twisted retelling of the Binding of Isaac, wherein a boy, too curious for his own good, awaits the bite of a magical blade held firmly in his father’s hand. Things get a bit out of hand when, as the knife begins to drink the boy’s blood, his magic awakens.

The short story has just enough exposition to attract your interest before slamming you into action, building the world and characters alongside the budding conflict. I raced through the short and, completely satisfied by the scene’s conclusion, gnashed my teeth at the wait for Blood Dawn which was made to feel that much longer by the teaser of One Who Waits.

If One Who Waits is any indication, I’m going to gobble up Blood Dawn with a ferocious appetite. John Robin’s writing skills shine in this short, and I’m already hungry for more.

One Who Waits can be purchased on Amazon.

Blood Dawn, which will head into its publication phase in April, is available for preorder on Inkshares.

An Apprentice to Elves – Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

apprenticetoelves I want to preface this review with a caveat, whereby I am fully aware that reading only the final book in a trilogy can be a risky affair. In truth, I wasn’t even aware that Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear’s An Apprentice to Elves was part of a trilogy until I was about halfway through the prologue.

It’s risky for two reasons:

1. You might not get character motivation, intensity of risks and threats, or lore that was better defined in the other books. You might think the characters overreact to things as a result. Undefined terminology might knock you out of the story as you scratch your heard, trying to define a made-up word.
2. In the (likely) event you enjoy the book, you might not enjoy reading the first two, having already spoiled the ending.

I place myself more in the second camp than the first, though I did get a bit lost in the sea of unfamiliar words in the first third of the novel. That issue, however, had absolutely no effect on my enjoying of An Apprentice to Elves. Once I became familiar with the terminology, I was able to fully immerse myself in Monette and Bear’s world.

I loved it.

A Viking-but-not island is besieged by a Roman-but-not army. And lest you think these cultures harkening back to real-world analogues is a point against the book, I’d like to tell you I loved it. And I have yet to mention the two factions of elves that make up the rest of the cultural tapestry of the story.

The cultures are rich, the world deep and well-formed, and the plot thick. Several layers (which I assume were introduced in the earlier novels) coalesce beautifully throughout the book, neatly foreshadowed where appropriate, fantastically surprising where otherwise. It’s a spectacularly structured thing.

Alfgyfa, a young human girl, has been living with the Svartalfar, a species of smallish dark elves who live in caves beneath a mountain, as an apprentice blacksmith. Being the only one of her kind (obviously) is problematic for her in many ways.

Otter is an escaped slave who is living with the Viking-not-Vikings, and learning to trust and love again, albeit slowly. She trusts the wolves (I forgot to mention these Vikings-not-vikings can commune with Wolves), and has taken the traditions of these Norse-esque halls into herself.

Here’s where hopping in late to this particular party threw me. I wasn’t sure about how the stories were related, even tangentially, and I was getting lost regularly with character and place names. It took me some time to figure out who was human, who was wolf, where they were, and whether or not anyone knew anyone else. But in time, to my great satisfaction, I figured it out.

In truth, this isn’t a book I want to summarize for you, dear reader, because I don’t think I’d do it justice. It is a very good book, and I urge you to read it (and highly recommend picking up the first two in the series before you do so.)

What I came share with you, friends, is how wonderful the writing is. I found myself regularly re-reading whole paragraphs and pages for the sheer enjoyment of it. I was blown away by Monette and Bear’s deliberate writing decisions, their incredibly evocative turns of phrase, and the clarity with which they were able to convey subtle notes of character through third-person narration. It’s a book that took me considerably longer to read than I thought it would, because I was learning so much as I read it, as an enthralled reader and admiring writer.

It is a marvelous read, and I am thrilled to learn that both Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear are quite prolific, Monette having written The Goblin Emperor, a book about which I’ve heard so many times I feel a magnetic pull to it when I’m in the vicinity of a bookstore. (I’ll be picking it up very soon.) Bear’s catalogue is impressive, to say the least.

There are times when, as an aspiring author, I feel the books I read push my writing in unexpected directions. Reading Knausgaard had that effect on me. An Apprentice to Elves had that effect on me too. I know I won’t be able to produce sentences and paragraphs as elegant as Monette and Bear’s on a first pass, but I think that, perhaps, with attention to detail and a rigorous rewriting practice, I can get there some day.

Into the Darkness – Jay Allan

into-the-darknessWhen I commuted to work by car—a 20-mile drive that took anywhere from one to two-and-a-half hours—I was in a pretty deep pit, emotionally speaking.

There was something oppressive about the drive. There was a misery in sitting in stop-and-go traffic, watching the drained faces of other commuters as they snailed along to their respective workplaces, wearing expressions of defeat identical to my own. I can only scratch the surface of how commuting affected me emotionally and, in truth, it’s only relevant to this review for one reason.

Audiobooks were my saving grace during those years. A beacon of light and creative expression in a world that grew increasingly gray around me. They took the restless, dissatisfied part of my mind away, to adventures on beautiful worlds, to catch a glimpse of promethean fire, to feel something other than crushing boredom.

What I’m saying is that I love audiobooks. So when Audible emailed me recently to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing audiobooks, you’ll understand why I freaked out a bit. I even have danced a jig. But you’ll never know.

That’s how I came upon Into the Darkness, the first book in Jay Allan’s Crimson Worlds Refugees series, which is evidently a spinoff of another series he wrote. It was masterfully read by Jay Snyder.

Into the Darkness is classic military sci-fi; no funny business—just soldiers, admirals, and scientists doing their jobs, and dammit if they’re not all the absolute best at what they do.

Humanity is at war with a fearsome enemy: the First Imperium, an ancient machine-army bent on achieving the utter destruction of the human species. Nobody knows who built the First Imperium, or why. But their technology and capacity for war eclipses Humanity’s to such an extent that war—however noble its intentions may be—is futile.

A last-ditch, hail-Mary plan by the courageous Admiral Compton leaves Earth and most of humanity safe from the First Imperium—for a while at least. It also leaves Compton and his division of some fifty thousand women and men and 300-ish ships stranded in enemy territory.

And the Admiral will not search for a way home, knowing it would lead the enemy to a defenseless homeworld. So he decides to take the fight to the enemy, flying into unknown territory; into the darkness. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with that plan, and the enemy is never too far behind. Internal struggles and massive battles on a planetary scale make Into the Darkness a particularly exciting read—or listen, in this case.

The cast of Into the Darkness, a tenuous-at-best multinational coalition held together by rigorous training and their mutually-assured destruction, is brought to life by Jay Snyder’s wonderful delivery of accents, character, and emotion. His Compton sounds just enough like Sir Patrick Stewart that I imagined Jean-Luc Picard at the helm as often as I imagined Admiral Compton at the helm of his battleship.

A good portion of what made this book so fun was contained within the listening experience. The tension in Snyder’s delivery, the increased tempo of the frantic battles, and the personality with which he imbued each of the characters made them that much more of a pleasure to perceive.

When I started taking public transit to work, my audiobook consumption dropped precipitously, in large part because I was so excited to read paper books again. Having a chance to listen to a book again—and a very well-read book, at that—has completely rekindled my love for audiobooks. There are absolutely times and places for both. For instance, I can happily see myself putting on a new audiobook when I get home today, and mopping the floors while my mind travels to other worlds.

Perfect State – Brandon Sanderson

perfect-stateThis will be a slightly spoileriffic review, so beware, I suppose, if you haven’t read it and would very much like to.

Perfect State is a novella that takes a new look at an old classic of philosophy: the brain in a jar. My understanding of popular interpretations of the theory are limited to that one Philosophy class I took—then quickly dropped—in college, and The Matrix.

Perhaps I’m no expert in the subject. I have, however, pondered the topic with friends at great length, late at night (especially in college), only to get lost in the maze of what is reality, anyway?

Interesting conversations, those.

What I find particularly compelling about the brain-in-a-jar theory is that following any number of logical threads leads to some fundamental questions about experience and subjectivity. If we are indeed disembodied brains, our experiences the result of electrical stimuli, are they still real experiences? Is reality itself not a series of electrical stimuli interpreted through an apparatus that happens to be an organic machine? Am I not already a brain in a person-shaped jar? Are any of the people I know, the things I interact with, the routine of my life-is any of it real? How could I tell if it wasn’t?

These aren’t exactly the questions Brandon Sanderson asks in Perfect State. In fact, he does away with a good deal of the highfalutin pontification, in favor of telling a very fun story. Not to say that there are no interesting questions raised by Perfect State. There are. You should read it.

The hero of Perfect State is man who knows he is a brain in a jar. Turns out, all of humanity are brains in jars. The difference is that each and every person gets to “live” in an environment/world/locale personalized to them. A world that will challenge them and demand they ascend to positions of power. For some, like the hero, these worlds are fantasy settings, complete with cultures, creatures, magic; the whole nine. For others, like the nemesis of the story, they’re cyberpunk worlds replete with robots and (one hopes) a veritable cavalcade of sweet guns and laser noises. For still others, the challenge might be political, social, cultural.

Every individual lives in a world designed and specialized for them. A Perfect State, if you will. (Sorry about that.)

So how does our hero know he’s a brain-in-a-jar living in an artificially-generated reality? The beings with the keys to the mind-simulations tell him. They tell everyone, evidently, when they come of age.

So where’s the tension? Where’s the story?

I’m glad you asked, friend.

Our hero, bored as he might be with his perfect and immortal life, ruling over a world designed for him, is more comfortable ignoring the reality of his artificial reality than confronting it head-on.

And the guys with the keys to the simulation just informed him that he has to go on a date. With another brain-in-a-vat. Outside of his State. To propagate the species. (Which is, apparently, a matter of finding compatible couplings and synthesizing a new brain out of DNA taken from the pair. In case you were curious.)

The ensuing adventure is a short and thrilling ride wherein Sanderson gets to play with a number of settings—fantasy, noir, dystopian future—and ask some interesting questions about what such an existence might be like for the brains who live it.

The pacing is perfect, the action is engrossing, the characters fascinating, and the major twist spectacular. Read this one in an hour or two, and find yourself—like me—wishing there was more. The nice thing about a setting with infinite possibilities?

There are infinite possibilities.

Shadows of Self – Brandon Sanderson

Shadows of SelfThe thing about Brandon Sanderson is not just that he is prolific, nor is it the fact that the quality of his books improves with every release. Those are spectacular and admirable things that make his (many, many) fans so very happy. But it’s more than that. It’s the scale of his grand universe, and the exciting worlds he’s created that grow in complexity, and the enthralling casts of characters that fill them.

Shadows of Self is the second book of the second Mistborn series. That is to say that it’s the fifth book in the long-form series taking place on Scadrial, one of the planets in Sanderson’s Cosmere. (The Cosmere, if you’ve forgotten, is his universe.) The grand Mistborn series is being split by era, from a sort-of-Victorian, to a post-industrial western, and finally to a spacefaring culture in an 80s-ish setting (if I’m remembering that last one correctly).

The series does something I’ve never seen before in speculative fiction: it looks at how a complex magic system might affect the trajectory of technological and cultural evolution in the long term, especially when that magic is not available to everyone—social and practical issues play a huge role in the adventures that ensue. (Don’t mistake me here: there are plenty of amazing series that take place over millennia [Dune, anyone?] but Mistborn is different in that the magic specifically has an impact on the world’s development.)

Shadows of Self follows Wax and Wayne, the gunslinging Twinborn (meaning they were born able to use two kinds of Scadrial’s metal-using magic) crime-fighting duo as they continue to adjust to life in the big city after returning from the Roughs in The Alloy of Law.

“Polite” society doesn’t sit will with Wax (the Lord of a major house), who operates as a vigilante in Elendel, the city that cropped up around the fateful location of the final moments of the first Mistborn trilogy. His vigilantism, while generally appreciated, puts a burr under the saddle of several different groups: the police, who regularly have to clean up his messes; the gentry, who scoff at the idea that one of the highborn can be such a ruffian; and the crime syndicates, who are thwarted time and again by his heroic efforts. Wax tries to juggle responsibilities he dislikes with his self-imposed duties as a lawman, and between the resulting stress and the pressure of solving a series of murders, he alone makes for an exciting read.

For me, and I’m sure for many others, the treat in Shadows of Self is Wayne. Learning more about Wax’s witty companion and following him through a few emotionally challenging moments constitute some of the more rewarding parts of the read. Wayne’s incredible wit, bizarre personal morality, and impressive grasp of the subtleties of language make him equal-parts charming and hilarious to read. The shenanigans he gets into brought smiles to my lips while I read Shadows of Self.

The twists and turns in Shadows of Self are a pleasure, and most of them completely surprised me. The fact that each in turn could be explained (if not entirely, then at least satisfactorily) by information from the first trilogy is testament to Sanderson’s impressive planning. Granted, he gives himself room to play, but he limits himself by building complex and heavily-governed magic systems. The villain is unexpected, yet totally makes sense. The mechanism for that villain’s defeat equally so. All in all, a book that left me totally satisfied and craving the next release.

One final thought about Mr. Sanderson before we part, dear reader. A thing I like best about his work is the regular issue that his characters face with Gods, most of which are living beings within the story. Shadows of Self is no exception. The fact that Wax can literally commune with God does not change the fact that he experiences doubt, especially when he finds out that his God has betrayed him. This gnostic turmoil is one of the things I look forward to most when picking up a new Sanderson novel, and he executes brilliantly every time.

An absolutely terrific novel. Read his work. There’s a very good reason he’s considered among the best in the biz these days.

Journey, A Short Story (Vol. 1) – Richard Saunders

Journey

When Inkshares sent over the description of Journey, A Short Story (Volume 1), its description was something of a caveat emptor. The story was described as a “meta-novel” with a strange structure, which contains a cypher leading to a real-life geocache that supposedly holds items having to do with the larger story.

My interest was piqued by this description. Particularly the notion of the “meta-novel”.

The prologue, written by Mkyl Walsh, pseudonym for the actual author Richard Saunders, is a science fiction piece set in the year 10,001. A pair of explorers from a distant planet arrive on a devastated world, Earth, after some cataclysm destroyed it. They descend to the surface, and their scanning equipment detects an anomaly underground, which is turns out to be a time capsule. In the time capsule, one of the characters finds a book and begins to read. The scifi piece ends there, and a new story begins.

The story within is Secret Agent Man, an account of a man of genius-level intellect through much of his life. The story is structured oddly, each chapter covering the events of one year in the life of Lawrence Ronald Howard, that aforementioned genius, and closing with a bulleted list of events that took place in the world that year. The list of events sometimes seems irrelevant, but it does help reset the reader’s attention to the very close connection this book makes with real-time events between 1956 and today. Often, they’ll have to do with the performance of sports teams.

There are chapters, however, wherein Journey tells pieces of the story, and it’s in these that the reader can get a feel for the character Saunders is building. A fiercely intelligent man, Howard is a true jack-of-all-trades. He learns any skill he thinks may prove useful to the point of mastery, then moves on to the next skill. He uses these skills to accomplish a number of “noble” feats, from solving the ultimate problem of physics to helping secure domain names for a nonprofit from would-be extortionists. At one point, he files a discrimination lawsuit against a TV show hauntingly similar to The Apprentice, in order to advance the cause of older job applicants. (More on that in a moment.) The chapters of his life seem to fall, in the main, into orderly annual escapades.

The stories of his exploits can sometimes feel disconnected from each other, but I get the (good) feeling that this teaser—for that is ultimately what Journey is—will lead to a book (or books?) where everything comes together and makes more sense.

There are other interesting factoids about Journey worth discussing. Mr. Saunders states that he practices a technique called “method writing”, for which he imitates his protagonist, Lawrence Howard. The book details several interactions between Howard and people who are very real, from Donald Trump (named Daniel Trask in the story,) to author Dan Brown (Donald Breen). It is worth noting that, in a post on Goodreads, Saunders states that these scenes correspond to events that actually took place.

Considering that caveat, and the convolution of having a book authored by the author and his nom-de-plume, I’m not exactly sure what to believe. Is the story-within-a-story real? Is any of it? Is Richard Saunders a real person? Obviously he is. But I wonder about how deep it goes. It seems almost too far-out to be true.

Whatever the answers to those questions may be, Journey made for an interesting read, and I look forward to peeling more of the oniony layers of the story when the full novel is released.

Journey, A Short Story (Volume 1) is available for pre-order at Inkshares and on Amazon.