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review 2015-08-21 11:48
Nation of Enemies: A Thriller
Nation of Enemies: A Thriller - H.A. Raynes

Full disclosure: I know the author. (Yeah, I'm kind of a big deal.) However, my persistent resistance against the forces of starflation (not a word, but should be), combined with the fact that I'm simply not that nice of a person (there's a reason no one shows me baby pictures anymore) should restore some faith in my reviewer-ly credibility.

 

Social Engineering & (Not-So-Distant-) Future Crimes

I don't know much about the book biz (I assume it takes more than, say, six-weeks to write, edit, and publish a novel), but I do know a thing or two about Moore's Law and exponential growth. So, I'm pretty confident that there are quite a few elements of Nation of Enemies that were much more “futuristic” at the book's inception than they are now. “House, play acoustic channel” is a real thing that real people say, courtesy of various Internet of Things (IoT) contraptions. I'm no technophobe.* However, innovation is almost always accompanied by risk. That risk, of course, usually comes in the form of other people.

Singularity Graphic

Such is the case in the year 2032– modern day technologies and policies (electronic health records, “embryo profiling,” geolocation etc.) are taken to their extremes, and mixed with a hearty dose of a Brave New World-style caste system, leaving citizens' lives all but dictated by MedID numbers (conveniently implanted into their forearms). Oh, and also, it's an election year. So, as you might imagine, the surveillance state is in full swing.

 

Conway Stern Hand

 

Cast o' Characters

One of my favorite things about this book is that it's not a clear-cut case of good versus evil. The tension between liberty and security doesn't grow out of malice. Don't get me wrong, you've got some decidedly villainous players skulking around, but it's a world of tradeoffs— decisions have consequences, and there's a selfish side to everyone involved. That being said, certain individuals piqued my interest more than others.

 

Taylor Hensley is a single mother, graffiti artist, and daughter of the Boston Brahmin-esque presidential candidate. Basically, it would be as though Shepard Fairey (of HOPE poster fame) was Mitt Romney's son. Plus, she skedaddles about rooftops using suction cups, which is just so badass.

 

Lana suction climbing

 

It's actually incredibly difficult to give my two-cents on almost any character without giving something away. Between the layers of deception (there are a lot of them), and my own fickle nature, I ran hot and cold with almost everyone.

 

So…

What separates this book from its catch-me-if-you-can kin is its tolerance for moral ambiguity. In a world of limited resources, wicked problems exist, and these problems have no definitive answers. At one point, a character reflects “How could we have brought another child into this world? What have we done?” And I found myself thinking, yeah— what were you thinking?!? (And not just for the same reasons that I found Baby Hater so gosh darn enjoyable). The story ends, but it doesn't feel like the conversation's over—and I like that. 

_________________________________

* I'm literally a member of Data Analysts for Social Good. And not just because that makes such great pick-up line.

† Pick up a copy of Future Crimes, if you're in the mood to thoroughly terrify yourself with some non-fiction insight into these emerging vulnerabilities.

‡ Though, in this case, said forearms don't seem to feature vanadium bones.

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review 2014-12-01 14:54
The Playground – Audio Freebie
The Playground - Ray Bradbury

This just in: it turns out that kids can be monstrously terrible to each other. Feel free to take a moment to integrate this revelation into your heretofore innocent worldview.

 

How did I come to know this terrifying secret? From Ray Bradbury of course. (Although I do have this weird blank spot in my memory for the duration of what should have been my middle school years, but let's ignore that for now).

 

The Playground (available for FREE on audible) manages to pack a walloping creepiness punch into a short story of a father troubled by his memories of his time at the playground, and what such an environment (“an immense iron industry whose sole product was pain, sadism and sorrow”) might entail for his young son. 

 

We want to play 1

We want to play 2

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review 2014-11-23 15:57
“Go the F--k to Sleep!” with Samuel L. Jackson and/or Levar Burton
Go the Fuck to Sleep - Adam Mansbach,Ricardo Cortés

I actually think my stomach muscles will be sore tomorrow from laughing so hard. So, in summation, listening to Samuel L. Jackson read this is an excellent alternative to going to the gym.

 

For all you Reading Rainbow fans out there, Levar Burton also nails his narration of this same gem of a bedtime story.

 

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text 2014-11-14 12:04
FREE: Bryan Cranston Reading “You Have To F--King Eat”
You Have to F*****g Eat - Adam Mansbach,Owen Brozman

Currently FREE on Audible as read by Bryan Cranston!! You Have to F--king Eat!

 

Publisher's Summary:

Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcom in the Middle) follows in the exasperated footsteps of Samuel L. Jackson, giving voice to the long-suffering father whose indifferent child will just not eat in this hilarious follow-up to Adam Mansbach's international best seller, Go the F--k to Sleep.


Mansbach's long-awaited sequel is about that other great parental frustration: getting your little angel to eat scomething that even vaguely resembles a normal meal. Profane, loving, and deeply cathartic, You Have to F--king Eat breaks the code of child-rearing silence, giving moms and dads (new, old, grand-, and expectant) a much-needed chance to laugh about a universal problem.

 

Anchored by a hilarious performance from Cranston, You Have to F--king Eat is the perfect blend of talented voice actor and subversive fun that expertly captures Mansbach’s trademark humor. Due to its explicit language, you probably shouldn't play this one for your kids.


You Have to F--king Eat is available free through 12/12/14.

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review 2014-09-15 18:43
Baby Hater
Baby Hater - C.V. Hunt

I'm not what one might call a “baby person.” I'm not against the very existence of babies*, but they make me decidedly uncomfortable. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, I don't ‘do’ babies (see disambiguation of term below). 

 

We dont do babies

 

Our titular Baby Hater, however, has a different bone to pick with the infant crowd; namely, the fact that she can't bear one. Infertile and alone, she has a decidedly grimmer view on the so-called circle of life. 

After being forsaken by two assholes for clusters of cells that multiplied and multiplied and turned into wriggling shitting machines, so the wriggling shitting machines could grow up to be raised by the assholes, therefore destined to turn into assholes themselves, I grew to despise children. 

And the children she so despises are constantly making themselves known. It seems parents these days just don't know how to keep their babies from crying.

 

Seamus Bloody Mary OC

 

So, what's to be done other than to start punching babies in the face? And boy does that turn out to be a rush! It also turns out that she's not alone in wanting to take these babies to task. 

 

The book is only 37 pages long, so I'll leave it at that. It's funny, and dark, and ridiculous, and its cover bears an uncanny resemblance to Butters' grandmother from South Park (I'd take being punched in the face over “gummy bears” any day).

 

Grandma Stotch Gummy Bears 540

 

So, next time you miss your train because a parent thinks this is a good time to let little Suzy try out her walking skills on the escalator, maybe this will make for a relaxing read.

 

But, of course, every now and then a cool baby comes around (read: I'm always looking for an excuse to do a Wee Baby Seamus montage).  

 

Wee Baby Seamus Montage

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* Unlike certain genre-defining country musicians who think all babies (those soft-skulled, fat little germ-sacks) should be drowned (well, not all babies, just baby people).

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