Yeah, that sums up my experience with this book. I really enjoyed it. There’s tons of science-y bits, and you know how I like my science. There’s the mosquitoes that eat carbon fumes (and then pee rainwater), the personal assistant AIs, self-driving vehicles, and teleportation. Yep! The 22nd century is looking mighty fine indeed. Then in steps Joel Byram.
Joel is such a smart ass and I had a lot of fun with this character. He’s a Salter, someone who is paid to provide conundrums to AIs. Legally, benignly, salting teaches the AI. However, Joel could use his salting skills to backdoor hack an AI, which is totally illegal and our hero would never do that. Or would he? The author did a great job of showing us this job, which is totally fascinating to me, but is rather humdrum boring to Joel. There are tons of Salters and Joel makes it sound as boring as customer service.
Then there’s Joel’s fascination with 1980s music. Oh my! I had so many of those songs stuck in my head while listening to this book, especially Karma Chameleon by Culture Club. At least some, if not all, of the chapters were named after 1980s songs. I’m sure I missed some of the references. Which makes this a perfect book for a reread.
It did take me a little bit to figure out the title of the book. At one point, Joel goes over the philosophy of this 17th century British dude, John Punch along with Ockham’s Razor. It wasn’t until halfway through that I finally understood the ‘escrow’ part of the title: holding in trust. As Joel learns the true mechanism behind International Transport’s teleportation, the title becomes clear and it is a very chilling and horrifying truth indeed! Tal Klein, hats off to you. You made my blood run cold with that reveal.
OK, so I loved all the science though if you’re not into science, some of the info dumps might bore you a little. Fear not! This tale is full of action and danger and snark. Oh yes, we get plenty of snark (yay!). Joel goes to great lengths to ensure his wife Sylvia is OK. She works for International Transport on top secret classified stuff and after the Big Event, all sorts of people are either trying to kill or capture Joel and Sylvia. Joel resorts to various types of trickery, torturing people with 1980s songs, hijacking an emergency vehicle, and teaming up with questionable people. It is a wonderful roller coaster ride.
In short, this was a unique and completely engaging story. The mix of science and snark captured my brain and my heart. Klein is a talented author and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
Narration: Matthew Mercer – you rocked this book! Literally, you rocked it 1980s style. Thank you for pulling out all the stops and making Punch Escrow a total delight to listen to. You were the perfect smart ass Joel and I loved the bits of song. As Joel went through his myriad of emotions, you were right there portraying them to the listeners. All together, it was a great performance.
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Tal M. Klein. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
While K-lee Klein's not exactly a new to me author 'Unbreak My Heart' is the first novel that I've read and really I'm just wondering...what the hell was I thinking taking so long to enjoy one of her novels...ok, I admit it was once again a case of so many books, so little time and thank heavens for audio books and Nick J. Russo because once again he's done a superb job with narrating this audio book resulting in the fact that I'm actually kind of glad that I didn't get to this book sooner...nah, that's not true because I'm sure I would have totally enjoyed reading this and still would have made grabby hands for the audio book. But all that's neither here nor there because what's done is done and I totally and thoroughly enjoyed the audio book.
I love stories about damaged men putting themselves back together and grabbing the second chance that life has given them and if at least one of those men happens to be a cowboy well...happy me and ironically while I'm not a huge fan of stories with rock stars in them for some reason country and western singers totally do it for me which is hilarious because I'm really not a big fan of the music...go figure we like what we like.
My only niggle with this story was the use of the endearment Darlin', it was used by Brett both in his letters to his deceased lover Walter and with JT and I have to admit I would really have preferred if Brett had used another endearment for JT...even the dreaded Babe...maybe. However, while this was as I said a bit of a niggle overall it didn't really spoil how much I enjoyed this story.
JT Campbell is looking to get away from his life and ends up at Brett Taylor's farm when Brett's mom picks him up at the side of the road. Brett's mom to say the least is a character. Despite his reluctance Brett gives JT a place to stay and a job.
Brett and JT have a few things in common not the least of which both men are looking to escape their past. JT's doing it by leaving his home in California and Brett's choice of escape lies in the bottom of a bottle that he keeps in his office where he hides out most evenings. Brett's days as a country music star ended when he lost the love of his life three years ago and he's spent the time since swirling in the pain and grief brought on by that loss and he's more than willing to let life go on in this mode.
I totally appreciated the fact that 'Unbreak My Heart' isn't a 'love-at-first-sight-story'. Brett and JT start out essentially as two men who are brought together by circumstances and initially Brett's really not in a place for any kind of relationship. It takes time and effort on JT's part for Brett to even really consider a relationship as a possibility and while JT's patient, he's not perfect making a few mistakes of his own as things progress between the two men.
Much of Brett's story is shared with us through his letters to Walter, letters that were both touching and heartbreaking and along with his time spent getting to know JT a sweet slow building romance is created...one that was made even more enjoyable through Nick J. Russo's skilled narration of the audio book.
While there was a definite age gap here of 13 years once again it wasn't an issue for me. JT was 28 to Brett's 41. I liked both of these characters and the fact that while JT was in some ways in a better place in his life he wasn't perfect, but he did have a maturity that helped him to realize that more than anything Brett needed him as a patient friend...a friend who was willing to wait for Brett's own feelings to catch up with JT's growing feelings.
I loved the ending of this book or maybe I should say the beginning of Brett and JT's life together. I'm looking forward to more of their story as I continue with this series my only quandry is do I want to read the e-books or hopefully wait for the remainder of the series to be released on audio...decisions, decisions...really whatever is a girl to do?
An audio book of 'Unbreak My Heart' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher, Penguin Books UK-Allen Lane, for providing me with an ARC e-copy of this book that I freely chose to review.
I have a long list of books to read and I am trying to organise it somehow, mostly in order of acquisition, but this book arrived just as I had finished reading another book and it stuck in my mind. It is a very current and momentous book, so it was for the best that I read it promptly.
I am familiar with the name of Naomi Klein and I have seen many of her books and read about her and her ideas, but this is the first book I have read by her (I have read some short articles but although I kept seeing books by her that sounded interesting, it was usually when I was doing research on an unrelated topic or at a time when I could not read them and this time I grabbed the opportunity).
The book builds on much of her previous work, particularly on the issue of brands and how they have come to dominate our lives (the subject of No Logo) and also how politics and politicians exploit any disasters and shocks to impose ever harsher neo-liberal economic policies (that she discusses in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism) and applies it to the current situation, particularly to Trump’s election and his policies since.
I started highlighting text through the book, to the point that sometimes I would be doing something and listening to the text to speech version and would have to stop to highlight something. This happened very often and I realised Klein was saying many of the things I had been thinking and some that I had not thought of but I recognised and agreed with as I read them. Her reflections about Trump as a brand and his presidency as the latest feather to add to this brand made sense (I learned new things about him and was reminded of others that had long forgotten but helped to build up a clear picture). It was curious that she referred to his time in the Apprentice and his appearances in WWE (televised professional wrestling) as (in a certain way) training for what was to come. She noted that some of his behaviours during the campaign were very similar to those of the fighters in WWE. And lo and behold, a few hours after I had read that part of the book, Trump tweeted the doctored video of one of his appearances in the WWE putting the CNN logo instead of the head of Vince McMahon, whom he was pretending to punch. And if I had already thought that was a very convincing comparison when I read it, even more so now.
The book is well-written, easy to read (well, or not, depending on what your point of view and your political leanings are), and develops the thesis that although many are shocked by Trump’s rise to power (and Brexit), it was not a total surprise, and there are people, organisations, and even whole countries who have resisted the move towards materialism and brands where only things, money, and profits matter, and where fingers are pointed at sectors of the population (immigrants, asylum seekers, ethnic minorities, women, environmentalists…) who become the scapegoats for a situation they are the victims of. Klein looks at many of these groups and populations and how they have resisted the situation and taken a stand but she also notes that something else is required. Resisting and saying no is important, and it does not matter how big or small we are, we can all do it, but we need to find something to aim for, something that can unite us and something we can fight together for.
She discusses in detail the importance of trying to find common ground, rather than working for small goals, and states that the way the political centre has tried to introduce minor changes will not suffice. As an example of what could be done she focuses on the meeting that took place in Canada, bringing many groups together (unions, environmentalists, indigenous people, women’s groups, groups working towards racial equality…) and that produced the Leap Manifesto, because they think a leap is required to truly change things. We must leap towards hope and dare to embrace a revolutionary way of changing the world.
She notices the rise of dystopian fiction (and films) and the ever growing popularity of some classics (Orwell’s 1984) that she observes are a warning (not necessarily a prediction) and says we need more utopias; we need to be able to think of a better future. And she writes (and as she quotes a big favourite of mine, Oscar Wilde, I could not resist sharing it):
Because, as Oscar Wilde wrote in 1891, “a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.”
I read some of the comments on the book, and they are separated along ideological lines. I agree that perhaps she uses examples that might not be as simply black or white as she makes them sound, and I also agree (and thought the same as I read it), that perhaps the Leap Manifesto falls short of going as far as it should (as it offers and statement of good intentions but not much in the way of implementation) although it is an attempt at reaching an agreement and a compromise between very different groups, so it is not surprising that it is not all that radical. I must clarify that I read an ARC copy and therefore did not have access to what I have read are very extensive notes at the end of the final version of the book. Without the notes, it is not a very long book.
The book made me think of an essay we had to write, when I was studying American Literature at the University of Sussex, discussing what could have been done, or rather, what could be done in the present, to somehow repair the gap between whites and African Americans in the US that comes from the time of slavery and was discussed after the Civil War and the freeing of all slaves, a gap that has never been fully resolved (as we all know). At the time of the Reconstruction, the suggestion had been that each freed slave be given 40 acres of land (therefore redistributing the slave owners’ property) and a mule (if you’ve ever wondered why Spike Lee’s production company is called that and never checked, now you know) so they could build up a life for themselves. Of course, that did not happen (or only in few cases) but I remember that after talking to the professor I did write a somewhat utopic essay that he could not fault for its reach, although he could not see how any government would go down that route. (I’ve been looking for it but I think it must have been in one of the floppy disks that disintegrated, although I might have a paper copy. I’ll investigate). It also made me think about how much emphasis on brands is made, even in the world of writing, and how a lot of the advice to sell anything (a physical product or anything else) is to create a brand and market yourself (rather than the product). As she notes, if you are swimming in the world of media, in whatever capacity, it is very difficult not to be swamped by the allure of branding and its fraught logic. This is something that I have been thinking more and more about recently, and something that I care for less and less. Yes, perhaps this book arrives at the right moment, at least for me, but hopefully for many others too.
As I said, I highlighted a lot of content, and of course, I cannot share it all. But I could not resist and had to share a few bits.
First, one that shows her wit (and that made me write: olé! as a comment)
The truth, which doesn’t sound nearly as glamorous, is that the Trump brand stands for wealth itself or, to put it more crassly, money. That’s why its aesthetics are Dynasty-meets-Louis XIV. It’s why Trump’s relationship to gold is the inverse of Superman’s relationship to kryptonite: Trump crumples when he is more than three feet away from something big and shiny.
This one I think will give you an idea of what the book is about, in her own words:
We have to question not only Trump but the stories that ineluctably produced him. It’s not enough to superficially challenge him as an individual, foul and alarmingly ignorant though he may be. We have to confront the deep-seated trends that rewarded him and exalted him until he became the most powerful person in the world. The values that have been sold to us through reality TV, get-rich-quick books, billionaire saviors, philanthrocapitalists. The same values that have been playing out in destroyed safety nets, exploding prison numbers, normalized rape culture, democracy-destroying trade deals, rising seas and privatized disaster response, and in a world of Green Zones and Red Zones.
And I love the way she ends the book (do not worry, it is not a spoiler):
My deepest thanks are for patient little Toma, who missed his mom over these last months, but feels strongly that, “Donald Trump is too rude to be president.
This book is not for everybody and if you really like Trump and what he stands for, or do not care about climate change and other issues such as the rights of women, equality, diversity, the rights of indigenous people… I’d advise you not to read it. If you don’t, I’d recommend you check a sample of the writing and see if it speaks to you. I now know why she is so well-known and respected. A compelling writer, whatever one’s political views.