Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category


Thin Air cover(Thin Air, by Richard K. Morgan. Del Rey, 2018, 528 pp, $28.00)

by Zeke Teflon

It’s nice to have Richard K. Morgan (aka Richard Morgan in the UK, for god knows what reason) back writing sci-fi after what seems to have been a decade wasted writing fantasy, the Landpit for Heroes trilogy. Having been a huge fan of Morgan’s previous sci-fi novels (especially the Kovacs trilogy and Black Man) I read the first thick-as-a-brick book in the trilogy, The Steel Remains — notable for its lack of plot — and got through the first two pages of the second book, The Cold Commands, before deciding I couldn’t stand reading any more of it.

Thin Air is a return to form. The tone is reminiscent of both the Kovacs books and Black Man (Thirteen in the U.S.) in both grittiness and political subtext. It’s set on a very dystopian Mars a couple of centuries hence, and is a commentary on the results of colonialism in a neo-liberal context. (Various streets and buildings are dubbed Gingrich, Hayek, Reagan, Rand, etc.)

One of the opening quotes sets the tone:

Far from heroic and romantic heraldry that customarily is used to symbolize the European settlement of the Americas, the emblem most congruent with reality would be a pyramid of skulls. (Dean Stannard, American Holocaust)

For the purposes of this review, suffice it to say that the anti-hero of this brutal tale, Veil, a genetically modified former corporate mercenary, is every bit as emotionally numbed and damaged as former envoy Takeshi Kovacs in the Kovacs trilogy. (FYI, the first book in the Kovacs series, Altered Carbon, and its sequels, is much different and considerably better than the still-good Netflix series based on it.)

The plot is intricate; every single corporate, political and governmental entity is corrupt and treacherous; and the action is almost nonstop and graphically described. There’s a huge amount of violence in this book, all of it very well and stomach-churningly depicted, and a much smaller amount of graphic and accurately described sexual content — a very welcome departure from the customary sci-fi norm of cartoonish ultraviolence and prudish sexual avoidance.

Welcome back Richard K. Morgan.

Highly recommended.

(The only thing I’d add is that for those interested in the psychology of colonialism, the best sci-fi work is Mike Resnick’s A Hunger in the Soul, regarding a barely disguised East Africa. The two best works period are Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and his appallingly funny short story “An Outpost of Progress.” Barbara Kingsolver’s horrifying The Poisonwood Bible is also well worth a read.)

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel, a Spanish-English translation on Venezuelan anarchist history, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, two compilations, and an unrelated sci-fi novel.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover

 

 


(The Consuming Fire, by John Scalzi. Tor, 2018, 316 pp., $26.99)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

 

The Consuming Fire is the second book in Scalzi’s Interdependency series, following 2017’s The Collapsing Empire. Both books seem purely commercial, lowest-common-denominator fantasy that’s set in space to give them a sci-fi gloss. There’s nothing new in either book. There’s a standard medieval political/social set-up, and the sci-fi elements are all well worn: computer simulations of the dead; “the flow,” a path between stars that somehow allows faster than light travel; and . . . well, there isn’t much else.

Worse, this second book in the series is dull. There’s nothing of political, social, scientific, or technological interest in it, and it revolves entirely around personal conflicts and political maneuvering among the nobility. (Those entertained by such things would do well to stick with Game of Thrones.) One of the reasons that this maneuvering is so uninteresting is that the characters are unconvincing: the good guys are unrelievedly pure of heart, and the villains are unrelievedly evil. In other words, they’re cardboard characters, and it’s difficult for a reader to care about such characters.

One might also mention that Scalzi appears to have had historical and political amnesia when he wrote Consuming Fire, because the “emperox,” the primary character, appears entirely uncorrupted by being the most powerful person alive. In Scalzi’s Interdependency universe, power doesn’t corrupt and absolute power doesn’t corrupt at all.

Even worse, the story is largely built upon exposition rather than narrative (telling rather than showing), the amount of dialogue is ungodly, often page after page of it — Chapter 5, for instance, is eleven pages long, and eight of those pages are devoted to dialogue — and the purpose of the dialogue is primarily expository. One odd aspect is that Scalzi throws in quite a bit of swearing into the dialogue. The end result is that Consuming Fire reads like a YA novel the author has attempted to spice up with gratuitous cursing.

As well, due to the moderately distant third-person narration, there’s essentially no interior monologue — Scalzi tells you what his characters are thinking and feeling rather than allowing his characters to do it themselves — as well, there’s not much in the way of action sequences, and the comparatively few descriptive passages are nothing out of the ordinary.

Given Scalzi’s previous achievements, especially the vivid “Old Man’s War” military sci-fi series and his fine comic sci-fi novels, Agent to the Stars, Fuzzy Nation, and Redshirts, The Consuming Fire is shockingly bad.

Very much not recommended.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel, a Spanish-English translation on Venezuelan anarchist history, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, two compilations, and an unrelated sci-fi novel.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover

 


Corrupted Science front cover

We’ve been running a NetGalley promo, and will be changing the available titles shortly. Corrupted Science will be archived this coming Sunday night, August 26, and replaced by another title, so if you review books and are interested in Corrupted Science, it’d be a good idea to sign on with NetGalley now.

We’ll be archiving most of the other currently available e-books a week after that, so again it’d be a good idea to sign up with NetGalley now if any of the following are of interest.

Here’s a brief description of NetGalley followed by a list of currently available titles.

* * *

If you read e-books and even occasionally review them on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, etc., or your blog (if you have one), you might want to check out NetGalley. Ditto if you work for a library or a bookstore.

NetGalley a service that provides free e-books to those who review at least some of the free books they download, or who work for institutions (bookstores, libraries) that order books. This differs from the unrestricted book-giveaway sites in that while anyone can create a NetGalley reader account, prior to okaying a book download publishers can check to see how many of the books a particular reviewer downloaded he or she reviewed. So, publishers are free to turn down “reviewers” who have downloaded say 20 or 30 books and haven’t reviewed any of them.

But if you like to read e-books and at least occasionally review some of them, or work for a library or a bookstore, it’s great. It couldn’t be easier to sign up for this free service at NetGalley’s web site, and even very short, one- or two-sentence reviews count.

We currently have the following e-books available for download by reviewers:

  • Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science (revised & expanded), by two-time Hugo Award winner John Grant. This brand new book (pub date June 15) covers the historical period from the days of Galileo to the present, and covers a very wide range of topics including fraud by scientists themselves, the vast array of corporate misuse and misrepresentation of science, and the misuse and misrepresentation of science by authoritarian regimes, notably Nazi Germany under Hitler, the Soviet Union under Stalin, and the USA under Trump, with a special focus on climate change denial under Trump.
  • Sleep State Interrupt, by T.C. Weber. This cyberpunk thriller deals with an even more overtly repressive near-future America and the struggle against that repression by a multicultural crew of hackers and political activists attempting to wake the USA from its “sleep state.” Sleep State Interrupt received a Compton Crook Award nomination in 2017 for Best First Science Fiction Novel and has received dozens of favorable reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.
  • Anarchist Cookbook front coverThe Anarchist Cookbook, by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe, introduction by Chris Hedges. Anarchists have talked for decades about producing an anarchist cookbook, a book whose contents accurately reflect its title. A book written by anarchists that delivers recipes for social change, recipes for tasty food, and accurate information about anarchism. There have been several false starts on such a book, but no one has ever published one. Until now.Topics covered include the nature of anarchism, approaches to social and political change—what works and what doesn’t, avoiding entrapment by the FBI, food politics, and vegan recipes and cooking for both large and small groups. Popmatters says that this book “features a lively tone and inspiring argument. . . . [It’s an] affordable and handsomely produced compendium.”
  • Cover for Stage Fright:40 Stars Tell You How You Can Beat America's #1 FearStage Fright: 40 Stars Tell You How They Beat America’s #1 Fear, by Mick Berry and Michael Edelstein, PhD. This groundbreaking book contains 40 interviews with highly accomplished public figures on dealing with stage fright, offering tips from their own experiences in overcoming it. Jason Alexander, Mose Allison, Maya Angelou, David Brenner, Peter Coyote, Olympia Dukakis, Melissa Etheridge, Richard Lewis, Ron Paul, Robin Williams, and 30 others sound off about their trials with stage fright, candidly discussing their fears and insecurities with life in the public eye and ultimately revealing the various paths they followed to overcoming them.
    Stage fright sufferers from all walks of life—whether a high school freshman nervous about an oral presentation or a professional baseball player with the eyes of the world on him—will find consolation by understanding the commonality of their problem, as well as helpful information to finally shed their inhibitions.
  • Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front coverFree Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia, by Zeke Teflon. The reviews tell you all you need to know regarding this sci-fi novel about a hard-bitten bar musician exiled to a prison planet filled with religious and political cults:

“Solidly entertaining . . . reminiscent of early Mick Farren.” –Publishers Weekly

“The plot holds the reader’s interest and should appeal to a fairly wide audience.” —Booklist

“[Free Radicals] is among the best future-shock reads in years. . . . Teflon wields a dark sense of humor . . . and is a terrific depicter of violence. . . . [Free Radicals] is the only sci-fi novel I’ve read that captures the gritty existence of a futuristic bar musician . . . [It also] makes great use of border Spanish; . . . If we lived in the ’60s and ’70s when audience-rattling paperbacks like Naked Lunch were cheap, plentiful and available on pharmacy spinner-racks, critics would hail Free Radicals as a masterpiece.” —Tucson Weekly

So, if you review books and any of these titles appeal to you, we’d suggest signing up with NetGalley now, as we’ll be taking down these titles from NetGalley shortly and replacing them with others.

Finally, just a reminder that book reviews are fun to write and that your reviews do matter and can be a tremendous help to both small publishers and to other readers.


Corrupted Science front cover

We’ve been running a NetGalley promo, and just changed some of the available books. Corrupted Science will be down soon, replaced by another title, so if you review books and are interested in Corrupted Science, it’d be a good idea to sign on with NetGalley now.

The titles we archived were The American Heretic’s Dictionary, by Chaz Bufe (the 21st-century successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary); Disbelief 101: A Young Person’s Guide to Atheism, by S.C. Hitchcock; and Nicolas Oakley’s far-future coming of age social/political sci-fi novel The Watcher.

Here’s a brief description of NetGalley followed by a list of currently available titles.

* * *

If you read e-books and even occasionally review them on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, etc., or your blog (if you have one), you might want to check out NetGalley. It’s a service that provides free e-books to those who review at least some of the free books they download. This differs from the unrestricted book-giveaway sites. While anyone can create a NetGalley reader account, prior to okaying a book download publishers can check to see how many of the books a particular reviewer downloaded he or she reviewed. So, publishers are free to turn down “reviewers” who have downloaded say 20 or 30 books and haven’t reviewed any of them.

But if you like to read e-books and at least occasionally review some of them, it’s great. It couldn’t be easier to sign up for this free service at NetGalley’s web site, and even very short, one- or two-sentence reviews count.

We currently have the following e-books available for download by reviewers:

  • Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science (revised & expanded), by two-time Hugo Award winner John Grant. This brand new book (pub date June 15) covers the historical period from the days of Galileo to the present, and covers a very wide range of topics including fraud by scientists themselves, the vast array of corporate misuse and misrepresentation of science, and the misuse and misrepresentation of science by authoritarian regimes, notably Nazi Germany under Hitler, the Soviet Union under Stalin, and the USA under Trump, with a special focus on climate change denial under Trump.
  • Sleep State Interrupt, by T.C. Weber. This cyberpunk thriller deals with an even more overtly repressive near-future America and the struggle against that repression by a multicultural crew of hackers and political activists attempting to wake the USA from its “sleep state.” Sleep State Interrupt received a Compton Crook Award nomination in 2017 for Best First Science Fiction Novel and has received dozens of favorable reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.
  • Anarchist Cookbook front coverThe Anarchist Cookbook, by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe, introduction by Chris Hedges. Anarchists have talked for decades about producing an anarchist cookbook, a book whose contents accurately reflect its title. A book written by anarchists that delivers recipes for social change, recipes for tasty food, and accurate information about anarchism. There have been several false starts on such a book, but no one has ever published one. Until now.Topics covered include the nature of anarchism, approaches to social and political change—what works and what doesn’t, avoiding entrapment by the FBI, food politics, and vegan recipes and cooking for both large and small groups. Popmatters says that this book “features a lively tone and inspiring argument. . . . [It’s an] affordable and handsomely produced compendium.”
  • Cover for Stage Fright:40 Stars Tell You How You Can Beat America's #1 FearStage Fright: 40 Stars Tell You How They Beat America’s #1 Fear, by Mick Berry and Michael Edelstein, PhD. This groundbreaking book contains 40 interviews with highly accomplished public figures on dealing with stage fright, offering tips from their own experiences in overcoming it. Jason Alexander, Mose Allison, Maya Angelou, David Brenner, Peter Coyote, Olympia Dukakis, Melissa Etheridge, Richard Lewis, Ron Paul, Robin Williams, and 30 others sound off about their trials with stage fright, candidly discussing their fears and insecurities with life in the public eye and ultimately revealing the various paths they followed to overcoming them.
    Stage fright sufferers from all walks of life—whether a high school freshman nervous about an oral presentation or a professional baseball player with the eyes of the world on his bat—will find consolation by understanding the commonality of their problem, as well as helpful information to finally shed their inhibitions.
  • Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front coverFree Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia, by Zeke Teflon. The reviews tell you all you need to know regarding this sci-fi novel about a hard-bitten bar musician exiled to a prison planet filled with religious and political cults:

“Solidly entertaining . . . reminiscent of early Mick Farren.” –Publishers Weekly

“The plot holds the reader’s interest and should appeal to a fairly wide audience.” —Booklist

“[Free Radicals] is among the best future-shock reads in years. . . . Teflon wields a dark sense of humor . . . and is a terrific depicter of violence. . . . [Free Radicals] is the only sci-fi novel I’ve read that captures the gritty existence of a futuristic bar musician . . . [It also] makes great use of border Spanish; . . . If we lived in the ’60s and ’70s when audience-rattling paperbacks like Naked Lunch were cheap, plentiful and available on pharmacy spinner-racks, critics would hail Free Radicals as a masterpiece.” —Tucson Weekly

So, if you review books and any of these titles appeal to you, we’d suggest signing up with NetGalley now, as over the coming months we’ll be taking down these titles from NetGalley and replacing them with others.

Finally, just a reminder that book reviews are fun to write and that your reviews do matter and can be a tremendous help to both small publishers and to other readers.


Corrupted Science front cover

We’ve been running a NetGalley promo, and will be changing the available titles at the close of next weekend. The books listed here are the ones currently available.

For those unfamiliar with NetGalley, here’s a slightly revised piece we ran last month:

* * *

If you read e-books and even occasionally review them on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, etc., or your blog (if you have one), you might want to check out NetGalley NetGalley. It’s a service that provides free e-books to those who review at least some of the free books they download. This differs from the unrestricted book-giveaway sites. While anyone can create a NetGalley reader account, prior to okaying a book download publishers can check to see how many of the books a particular reviewer downloaded he or she reviewed. So, publishers are free to turn down “reviewers” who have downloaded say 20 or 30 books and haven’t reviewed any of them.

But if you like to read e-books and at least occasionally review some of them, it’s great. It couldn’t be easier to sign up for this free service at NetGalley’s web site, and even very short, one- or two-sentence reviews count.

We currently (through July 29) have the following e-books available for download by reviewers:

  • Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology, and Politics in Science (revised & expanded), by two-time Hugo Award winner John Grant. This brand new book (pub date June 15) covers the historical period from the days of Galileo to the present, and covers a very wide range of topics including fraud by scientists themselves, the vast array of corporate misuse and misrepresentation of science, and the misuse and misrepresentation of science by authoritarian regimes, notably Nazi Germany under Hitler, the Soviet Union under Stalin, and the USA under Trump, with a special focus on climate change denial under Trump.
  • Sleep State Interrupt, by T.C. Weber. This cyberpunk thriller deals with an even more overtly repressive near-future America and the struggle against that repression by a multicultural crew of hackers and political activists attempting to wake the USA from its “sleep state.” Sleep State Interrupt received a Compton Crook Award nomination in 2017 for Best First Science Fiction Novel and has received dozens of favorable reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.
  • Disbelief 101 front coverDisbelief 101: A Young Person’s Guide to Atheism, by S.C. Hitchcock. Not confined to atheism, this crash course in logical thinking covers the evils of childhood indoctrination, the incompatibility of rational thinking and religion, and the harm done by Christianity and Islam. The reviews were positive, with Booklist calling Disbelief 101 “Totally irreverent . . . cheeky and thought provoking” and The Moral Atheist saying, “We’ve read a library full of atheist books and this one ranks with the best. . . . Ignore the subtitle that says this book is for young people. It’s for everyone!”
  • The Watcher, by Nicholas P. Oakley. This far-future tale is a fine coming-of-age story brimming with social and political questions on technology, primitivism, ecology, and the uses and misuses of consensus process. Publishers Weekly noted: “Oakley provides a degree of complexity in what could very easily have been a one-sided didactic novel. This ambivalent examination of an idealist society and its less than ideal behavior offers the hope that Oakley will grow into a significant SF novelist.”
  • The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded), by Chaz Bufe, illustrated by J.R. Swanson. This is the 21st-century successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary and contains over 650 definitions and 60 illustrations, more than twice the number of each in the original edition. The book’s targets include the religious right, the “right to life” movement, capitalism, government, men, women, male-female relationships, and hypocrisy in all its multi-hued and multitudinous forms. As an appendix, The American Heretic’s Dictionary includes the best 200+ definitions from Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary. The reviews have been overall quite positive, with the Mensa Bulletin commenting, “Such bitterness, such negativity, such unbridled humor, wit and sarcasm,” and Free Inquiry noting, “The quirky cartoons by J.R. Swanson nicely complement Bufe’s cruel wit. Recommended.” In contrast, we were pleased to see that Small Press deemed the book “sick and offensive” in that at least one reviewer seemed to recognize that there’s something to offend everyone in The Heretic’s Dictionary.

So, if you review books and any of these titles appeal to you, we’d suggest signing up with NetGalley now, as over the coming months we’ll be taking down these titles from NetGalley and replacing them with others. (As mentioned above, we’ll be changing the available titles at the close of next weekend.)

Finally, just a reminder that book reviews are fun to write and that your reviews do matter and can be a tremendous help to small publishers.


84K cover(84K, by Claire North. Orbit. 2018, 452 pp., $15.99)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

 

As anyone who’s paying attention knows, the rich often get away with murder. In Claire North’s fine new dystopian novel, 84K, they always get away with it.

Why? Privatization: The takeover of state functions by corporations including, in 84K, the takeover of the legal and prison systems in the UK. As part of the revamping of those institutions, crimes, including murder, are no longer punishable by prison, but rather fines, unless the perpetrator can’t pay. So the rich get away with anything and everything, while the poor (“patties”) are thrown into private prison hell for paltry offenses, where they’re enslaved. (Not incidentally, enslavement of prisoners — the vast majority poor — in the U.S. is very common.)

In this laissez-faire nightmare of a society, human rights are nonexistent and money determines everything, including the value of a human life. Hence the title: 84K refers to the “indemnity” paid by the murderer of one of the book’s heroic characters.

That murder spurs the book’s primary character, “the man called Theo Miller,” into action after a lifetime of going along to get along, never standing up for himself or anything or anyone else. Theo is an “auditor” who assesses the fines, the  “indemnities,” for various crimes, based on the circumstances and the victims’ socio-economic status. Once he’s assigned to the “84K” murder and begins doing a more than perfunctory job, all hell breaks loose, sending him down a convoluted, dangerous path, which eventually leads to resistance to the ghastly social structures under which he lives, or rather exists.

84K has virtues aplenty. North does a fine job of showing the disastrous, degrading effects upon the poor of a privatized government (a fascist government in which political and corporate power are merged), and also the degrading effects upon the rich, who are callous, entitled, brutal, and who treat the poor as things to be bought and sold (literally) rather than as human beings. As well, North adeptly demolishes the standard bullshit talking points used to justify economic privilege and gross inequality, and to dehumanize those at the bottom of the socioeconomic heap.

The writing in 84K is skillful, with North adeptly shifting back and forth between past and present, and doing an unusually good job of portraying the primary character’s emotional and mental states. She does the latter in part through her use of idiosyncratic typography, something of which I’m most decidedly not a fan. But, strangely enough, for the most part it works, so I found it less bothersome than other instances of gimmicky typography I’ve seen over the years.

84K does, though, have problems. Theo is the only fully formed character, with most of the secondary characters being not much more than names attached to superficial physical descriptions. As well, it’s hard to buy some of the ways in which the poor vent their frustration in 84K, such as howling like dogs en masse for hours on end. The gratuitous, pointless violence North portrays as pervasive among the poor is also a bit of a stretch. And the resistance movement she sketchily describes is depressingly pedestrian, a standard authoritarian structure with, of all things, a “queen.”

If North had done a better job describing the forms a resistance movement could take, and the practices it could employ — see Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway for examples — 84K would have been a more useful book.

Still, there’s great value in pointing to the dangers of the screw-the-poor laissez-faire path down which both the USA and UK are plunging. So . . . . .

Highly recommended.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel, a Spanish-English translation, a nonfiction book, two compilations, and an unrelated sci-fi novel in his copious free time.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover

 


Bandwidth by Eliot Peper(Bandwidth, by Eliot Peper. 47 North, 2018, 252 pp., $24.95)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

(Warning: This review contains mild spoilers concerning the first two dozen or so pages of the book.)

In recent years, the beer mega corporations have been buying up independent small breweries. They’re continuing to use the small breweries’ names as marketing tools while avoiding disclosure of the relationship of the formerly independent breweries with the conglomerates. The list of fake craft brands includes Ballast Point, Breckenridge, Kona, Pyramid, Redhook. . . . . The list goes on.

Now this trend has reached the publishing industry in perhaps even worse form. Meet 47 North.

When I picked up Bandwidth and saw the 47 North logo and name, I said “Ah! another small press publishing science fiction! Haven’t seen this before!” Then, after I finished the book and was preparing to write this review, I looked at the fine print on the copyright page. It read in part, “Amazon, the Amazon logo, and 47 North are trademarks of Amazon.com Inc. or its affiliates.”

So, we’ve now reached the point where we not only have fake craft breweries, but also fake small presses. (Yes, I know, traditional large publishing houses — almost all bought up in recent years by media conglomerates — have imprints, but Amazon is not a traditional publisher: it’s now vertically integrated in its bookselling/publishing arm, and seems to be attempting to achieve a monopoly in the bookselling trade. It’s already close, selling approximately 50% of all print books in the U.S. and 70% of e-books.)

As well, Amazon (following in the steps of the chain bookstores) has been largely responsible for the decimation of American independent bookstores over the last two decades, and has also been an absolute disaster for small presses. (The reasons for this are too complicated to go into in this review, however you can read more about the damage Amazon does to small publishers here and here.)

So, what to do about a book published by one of the tentacles of this octopus? To review or not to review? (Not coincidentally, U.S. independent bookstores almost across the board refuse to carry books published by Amazon.)

Unfortunately, I liked Bandwidth and don’t want to hold the publisher against the author, so . . . . .

Bandwidth is a near-future techno-thriller whose primary character, Dag Calhoun, is a highly placed lobbyist for sale to anyone with the money to buy. Those with the cash include fossil-fuels corporations engaged in climate-change denial, and The Feed, a world-spanning company that has subsumed Facebook, Google, and to a large extent the Internet itself, and to which almost all people are connected 24 hours a day.

While on a lobbying assignment in Mexico City, Dag meets a mysterious woman, and shortly after is shocked to find that someone has total access to his Feed and its archives, including information that could send him and his clients to prison.

From there, he goes on a quest to find the woman who he suspects is the one responsible for the data breach.

The remainder of the book revolves around Dag’s search, how Facebook-like entities can be used to shape perceptions and even personalities, the character transformation Dag undergoes — he’s initially very unlikable — while on his quest, climate change, climate-change denial, and especially whether the ends, no matter how high minded, ever justify the means.

Peper comes down on the right side of this question in Bandwidth, which makes his choice of a publisher highly ironic. It would have been hard for him to find a more evil means of conveying his message that the ends never justify the means. If he was conscious of the damage Amazon has done, and is continuing to do, to independent bookstores and small presses, his choice of Amazon as a publisher was quite hypocritical.

Authors, however, are often amazingly oblivious to the workings of the bookselling and book publishing industries, so it’s entirely possible that Peper wasn’t aware of how toxic Amazon is to the book trade, small publishers, and ultimately the authors those small presses publish.

Despite the clear contradiction between Bandwidth‘s noble message and its odious means of delivery, I do recommend the book.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel, two translations, a nonfiction book, two compilations, and an unrelated sci-fi novel in his copious free time.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover