Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Five Things I Learned Recording My First Audiobook(s)

As has previously been mentioned, the audiobook The Ghost Box, by Mike Duran, is now available. I'm also pleased to say I'm polishing the final edits on Timothy Ayers'Cruel Messenger and currently recording another three. One is a sort of "ghost-reading;" the author is paying me -- well -- to produce the book and walk away. The second is of course the continuation of Reagan Moon's adventures in Mike Duran's Saint Death. And the third is a novella I was only very recently contacted about and am very happy to be a part of producing. Details on that one later.

I'm thrilled to continue my work in audiobook production and expand my newfound freelance business in that arena. But this is still actually pretty new for me. In fact, The Ghost Box and Cruel Messenger were contracted within weeks of one another and were the very first audiobooks I had the pleasure to narrate. And with firsts come lessons! Since I'm still finalizing the latter book and those lessons are still at the top of mind, I thought I'd share them with you -- because you're interested, right? That's why you're here, after all!

The following is not in order of importance, but in order of "appearance."

1. The Pleasure Read
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this because in general time to do this isn't necessarily guaranteed. However, it is a wonderful luxury if you can get it. I had the chance to read both The Ghost Box and Saint Death before starting work on the audiobooks (truth be told, I had bought both and read the first before I even knew there would be an audiobook). If you're able to build the time into the contract, a pre-read is valuable. Don't take notes. Don't read it as a narrator. Read it as a reader. This will give you an idea of timing. It will prepare you for jumps and gags. It will allow you to put character voices in your head. It really is useful.

But it's not strictly necessary. Sometimes, even more useful is the...

2. Author's Notes
With Cruel Messenger, I received a character list from the author. Not only did he provide a list, but also some general notes on characterization as he heard them. Now, this could be more than necessary -- on some level, the author does need to allow the narrator to do his or her thing. But, having notes helps. The short version is this: if I'm going to find out one to 100 pages AFTER starting to do a character that he or she speaks with a southern accent, it's extremely helpful to go into it knowing that in the first place. This is what this author did for me. I didn't have to guess about how the characters' voices were going to be described in the book, because he told me up front. That is a vital time-saver and, for the authors reading this, will save your narrator a TON of aggravation.

3. Consistency
Again, not a lot of time is necessary on this. If you're a pro, you know how important it is to have a consistent sound. This means settings are standardized. Production is standardized.

Since my studio is in my home, one of the major house rules is, "nobody touches Daddy's equipment." This goes double when I'm mid-project. Every time I turn on the mic, it sounds the same as the time before. Every time I close out a chapter, the audio is compressed the same way as the chapter before it. Again, if you're a professional, this is academic. However, it's an important reminder largely because of...

4. The Sound of Silence
I'm going to spend a minute on this, because it made my life very difficult with my first audiobook, and pushed the release date back at least a week.

With a very, very few exquisitely- (and expensively-) engineered exceptions, there is no such thing as a perfectly silent room to an open microphone. The low level hum of Life On This Planet that the human ear mostly fails to notice is what most people call ambience, and what ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) and sound engineers call "Room Tone." ACX, with whom most of us will be producing audiobooks, has a requirement that each chapter or section submitted (i.e., each separate file) must have a couple seconds of Room Tone at the front and another few seconds at the tail. Do not cheat this. You can't simply eliminate the sound and opt to give them pure silence, because, A, though I've never tried it, I'm reasonably sure the ACX Quality Check team won't be fooled, and more importantly, B, because you're shooting yourself in the foot if you do. Room Tone allows your listener's ear to adjust to the ambience of recording before your voice starts. In other words, it keeps you from sounding like a recording. Further, it allows for consistent editing.

The problem is, Room Tone has to be basically flawless. Yes, there's a hum to any given environment, but basically, your needle doesn't move. You're not making a discernible noise. And if there is a discernible noise, your Room Tone is useless. When I sent my first files off for Quality Approval, easily a third of my chapters were rejected specifically and only because of noise in the Room Tone segments. Because of this difficulty, and how important it is to your final product, I would say Room Tone is possibly the most important five seconds in your entire production.

Fortunately, this issue taught me a valuable and time-saving lesson. It's very, very hard to create 5 seconds of pure Room Tone for every chapter. So don't. Here's what I do:
Set up my microphone, ready to record my first chapter. Hit Record. Say... something. Anything. Maybe "Room Tone Recording." Or, "Why am I doing this myself instead of hiring a professional?" Whatever. It doesn't matter. It's not going to be there long. After you say something, walk away and shut up. For at least 60 seconds. Do nothing after you walk away. The desire here is an empty studio space in which nothing is happening. Once you've recorded a full minute of nothing, come back in and stop the recording. Next: produce it. Any compression and normalizing you normally do to your chapters, do here. After you do that, trim out the best, most silent 3 seconds, title it "Room Tone End," and save it as a high quality file. Trim one second off that, save the remaining 2 as "Room Tone Beginning."

And then, simply drop them in as your last step before saving every chapter. highlight and replace the front and back of your chapter (everything before and after you talk) with your Room Tone. Just copy and paste. As long as you're consistent in your recording per #3, this will work just fine for your entire book -- and if you're really consistent, it'll work across several without ever having to re-record it.

5. Edit As You Go
With the first two books, I didn't know what I was doing, time-wise, and so didn't manage it well. At the end, after I was finally finished the narration, I was still quite far from actually being finished. This is no good for your voice, for your time management, or, ultimately, for your morale. With the books on which I'm currently working, I've found a much better system that has multiple benefits. I record 2-5 chapters (depending on length), and then walk away and edit them. This provides my voice with necessary rest, gives you some finished files, and really helps break up the day. Furthermore, when you have a lot of editing to do at once, the tendency and temptation will be to move quickly and get sloppy. By breaking up your editing into a shorter group of files, you'll be mentally prepared to pay them the attention they deserve. Believe me: you'll thank yourself for taking the extra time (he says, waiting for ACX to finish replacing some old files with cleaner edits).

On top of that, be sure to finalize production on the files before moving on so you can submit or upload them. This will allow your author or publisher access to the finished files and moves the entire approval process along more quickly.

Well, thanks for reading. If you're new to audiobook recording, hopefully this helped you out. If you're an Old Pro, maybe this puts you in mind of the things you learned after the first few attempts. Hey, if so, drop them in the comments. And if you have any questions, drop those off, too! Commenters with a valid email address are automatically entered to win a free audiobook!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Latest Audiobook is Pure Paranoir Joy (FREEBIES available)

Well, it was pure paranoir joy for ME, anyway.

I am honored to announce that Mike Duran's The Ghost Box is now available as an audiobook, narrated by me. In fact, I've been contracted as the voice of Reagan Moon and company for book 2 in the series, Saint Death, as well.

The books follow paranormal tabloid reporter Moon as he discovers there is much more to his beloved Los Angeles -- and to the world itself -- than meets the eye. More than his skeptic mind wants to admit. And, worse than that, he learns he is to play a significant role in the events to come!

You can download the audiobook from Audible or iTunes.

I also happen to have some freebies to give away. I have up to five Audible vouchers for The Ghost Box, which I would love to give in exchange for a fair review on If you'd like a free copy, please send an email to r2streu (at) gmail (dot) com.

And enjoy!!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

NaNoBlog: Day 2 -- No Rainouts For Writers

It is the evening of November 2nd, and most of my friends are watching baseball.

Most of my friends don't even like baseball.

Actually, most of my friends are lamenting the rain delay that is preventing them from watching baseball. They want to watch History Being Made. Hey, the Cubs might win. If they do, it will indeed be historical. Not, you know, Felix Baumgartner jumping from the stratosphere historical, but yeah, historical. I get it.

Growing up, I loved baseball. A deep part of me still loves baseball. I played baseball. I collected baseball cards. Even chewed the crappy gum. I rooted for the Tigers, even though they have never, within the span of my personal memory, not sucked. (Actually, that's not true. In 1987, they were pretty darned good. The one game I ever saw from inside Tiger Stadium, they beat the Angels.)

A big part of me wishes I had as much passion for the game as I did back then. That I wanted nothing more than to sit through this rain delay until the game resumed at 12:15 tomorrow morning and maybe watch the Cubs win the series for the first time in over a century. That I was on the phone with my Dad, both of us watching the field dry, talking about how, either way, this was one hell of a game.

Me? I wrote. I encouraged my kids to write. While the world focuses on the final game of the World Series (it IS the final game, right?), November 2 is, in my household, Day Two of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and we've been focusing instead on our word count goals.

And while it's not a World Series Pennant, I'm pretty happy with our progress. Both my older children are participating this year, and so far our days one and two have actually been pretty similar. All three of us got off to a slow start on Day One -- something under 1% or so... and all three of us hauled today and landed very close to our daily word count average that will help us to hit our overall goals for the month. For me, doing the full NaNo experience, I'm shooting for 50,000 words by the end of November. My children, who haven't ever really written anything over 1,000 words, I talked them into putting themselves out there and shooting for 20,000.

And I'm pretty darned proud of 'em, because tomorrow, if things work out half as well as they did today, they'll be ahead of schedule.

And I'm happy to be here for them, encouraging them and coaxing them to victory. It may not make history, but it'll make a difference to them, and, really, that's all the history I need.

NaNoWriMo Day TWO WordCount
ME: 3348/50,000
Son: 1332/20,000
Daughter: 1133/20,000

Sunday, October 23, 2016

NaNoWriMo: Here we go again!!!

Last year (or was it two years ago? I've already forgotten) I once again failed spectacularly to create a novel in one month. But -- and I say this knowing full well I say it every time -- this year will be different.

Actually, though, I have good reason to believe it really will. First, there's the issue of time. As in, this year, I actually have it. Being unemployed sucks, but if there's an upside for an aspiring novelist, time has to be the number one positive.

Secondly, I'm walking into this more prepared than I've ever been. I have stacks of notes. Pieces of unfinished works that'll be incorporated into this piece. An actual outline (that I'm still working on, but anticipate finishing before the 1st). And, for the first time ever, I even have a decent sense of what's going to happen in the middle of my story! (This last is of particular importance because I tend to love beginnings and endings, but middles always scare and confuse me. That's why I usually write short stories.)

Third, I have something to prove. And this year, I'm not just proving it to myself, but to my kids as well. I'm pleased to announce, my two 11-year-olds will be joining me in this year's NaNo, under the Young Writers Program! We'll be holding one another accountable, and if they're going to hit their 20k (that's the realistic goal we set together for them), I'm not going to let them down. I've promised them 50k, and that's what they're going to get.

And fourth, speaking of my kids, I have a deeper reason for writing this year. For the first time ever, I've decided to write something in the YA category because I want my children to have something to read that they'll enjoy, that fits their advanced reading level, and that I'd be happy to know they're reading. So this is for them. It's not about finishing my first novel. It's about creating a book that's good enough for their discerning tastes.

Now, last year, I promised and failed to deliver a NaNo live blog. I'm going to promise it this year, too... but this time, like the book, I'm going to deliver. Each night, as I update my wordcount for the day, I'll have something for you, here. Maybe a story excerpt. Maybe a tip I've stumbled across along the way. Maybe even a little something from my kids. Just hit the #NaNoWriMo label and subscribe to the blog.

Are YOU NaNo-ing this year? Tell me how YOU'RE going to accomplish your 50k in the comments!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Bad Day

Today is... not a good day. It should be. I've finalized some contracts for freelance work. I've been on the phone with a new client talking about not only this current project but future work. I have paying clients. As a freelancer, I really ought to be very happy.

But I'm not. I have work to do today and haven't been able to bring myself to do it. I will. I'll force myself eventually. But for now, I keep watching television and telling myself I have things I need to be doing. The positive is: I've managed to finally admit to myself something I've been denying. It was easy to deny -- at first because of the sheer shock of being let go -- and later simply because keeping busy allowed me to keep it at bay. But the truth is, I'm depressed. And I'm angry. And the deeper, harder truth is, I have been this entire time. And the brave mask I've been putting on to lie to myself hasn't been any lighter for all that I've failed to notice it.

Truth is, I'm tired. I'm depressed and angry, and I'm tired of telling myself I'm not. It's shown up here and there. Little hints. Looking through the want ads and seeing jobs I've had and am perfectly capable of performing... and not being able to hit the "apply" button because part of me simply can't go back there. I don't want to work in retail again, or direct sales, or on a factory floor. I could. They're all good jobs, with great people working them. Probably even good companies to work for. But I can't. Because, the thing is, I want my job back.

That's what it comes down to. That's the depression and the anger I can't quite seem to shake: I want my old life back. The fact is, I've had dreams in which my boss came to see me, told me it was all a mistake, and that they needed me again, and I woke up happy at first, and then miserable, because I knew it could never happen that way.

But if it did.

The sad truth is, in spite of the anger, in spite of the confusion and hurt that came with my firing, if they called me and asked me back, I'd return in a second. I've said before I loved my job, and I did. I loved the people I worked with. I loved my listeners. I loved waking people up in the morning and being part of their day and knowing I was adding something to their lives. I loved it, and I miss it. 

And it still hurts. And it still makes me angry. And depressed. And now that I understand it, I hope like hell it goes away again soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Unemployment: The End Of Week 1

Last post, I was trying to explain the feeling of unemployment. To give a sense of the immediate personal aftermath and the frantic, hurry-up-and-wait pace of Day One survival mode. What I didn't mention, though, was perhaps the single most important piece of surviving unemployment: support.

When I called my wife, I had no idea what she would say. I knew she'd be sympathetic and loving, but as far as how she'd take the news? I hesitated calling her at work, but knew I didn't want to wait for her to come home tired, to a house full of kids, and then say, "oh, hey, by the way, I'm not going to work tomorrow. Or ever."  So, I dialed, she answered, I stalled with pleasantries, and then dropped the bombshell: "So, I guess I'm going to be looking for a new job..." and held my breath. Would she be frightened? Harried?

What she was, was amazing. "Well," she said after digesting the news, "now you have time to do what you've been wanting to do." And she was right. I could finish a novel, get my house in order and get my home studio ready, really dig into writing and producing my podcasts. We talked about earmarking money for studio equipment.

Yes, the reality is that I will probably, eventually have to get a real job, but even on that score she's 100% in my corner. More so than even I am at times. I told her if neither of these radio jobs I just applied for came through, I'd start looking at things like retail. I knew she'd be happy knowing I was making an effort to support the family. Her response: "We're doing okay. Use this time to find the right job. You belong in radio."

The point is, this could have been one of the worst weeks of my life. Should have been, to be honest. I hadn't only lost a job, but what was, really, the best job I'd ever have, working with the best co-workers I'd ever had, doing something I truly loved. Don't get me wrong: It hasn't been sunshine and pancakes, but my wife has made all the difference.

I've been in that other state of unemployment: That depressed, lethargic unemployment. This was several years ago, before any of my kids were born. I wasn't fired at that time -- I'd left a largely dead-end job to become a freelance videographer, and the truth was, there simply wasn't the work available to keep me afloat. Then, I felt like a failure. This time, what I feel is loved.

And not only by my wife and family, who are all wonderful. God has also blessed us with friends who would do anything for us, and that's a great feeling to have when you're vulnerable. When I announced my unemployment I had at least one offer of a guest room whenever we needed it. Countless invitations to "whatever we can do." I have friends in the industry searching their contacts.

I have support, and because I have support, I don't feel like I've failed. I don't believe it's hopeless. I know that, one way or another, my family and I are going to be okay.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Unemployment: Day 2 Begins

I got fired Monday. Nobody made a big deal. It wasn't a blaze of Rebel DJ Glory. I simply got off the air, got called into a room with the GM and Human Resources and told that my services were no longer required. I was given the option to resign, but let's not kid ourselves, shall we?

I couldn't say anything. I packed my junk: books, CDs, notes from interviewees and listeners and coworkers, various accumulated knick-knacks -- put four years of my life back into my van and headed home.

And then I called my wife, got on the computer, and went into professional DJ mode: sent messages to colleagues and contacts and let them know I'd been shown the door and was now officially, for the first time in over nine years, "on the beach*." I searched radio jobs in the area (my wife has a great job, and moving isn't really an option) and updated my resume. Went outside, quietly celebrated my first ever firing (literally first ever) with a cigar, because it seemed like the thing to do, and prayed that God would show me what His plan was. Applied to two jobs that seemed like a good fit.

Those were my first four hours of unemployment. Things slowed down considerably after that.

Yesterday, my first full day of unemployment, was depressing. It was gray and rainy. My left hand ached with arthritis. I saw the kids off to school, which was nice, grabbed some coffee and... sat. I did manage to get industrious for a little while and went back into "unemployed professional" mode. Which mostly consisted of updating my LinkedIn profile and making contact with more colleagues to inform them of my newfound free agency. In a fit of aggressive optimism, went shopping for interview clothes and found out that if fat guys want dress shirts, we have to pay more than twice what "average" people do. So that was nice. My optimism dwindled swiftly.

Time moves differently when you're unemployed. When you have a job and are merely looking for an upgrade, you understand that job applications take some time to get into the right hands. That they have to be sorted, and gone over, and moved into piles. That it could take weeks before anyone even gets back to you with a "thanks but no thanks" or a "let's talk." In unemployment time, every phone call that isn't from a prospective employer is another reminder that you're waiting. Another reason to ask, "am I good enough?"

Because, no matter how big and strong your ego -- and in this business, they grow them pretty tough. Sampson tough. -- getting fired is a blow, and every minute you're not talking to someone who's telling you that you sound like a great fit for their organization just weakens it that much more.

And that's really what this all boils down to: Getting fired sucks.

Losing a job you loved, with people you truly enjoyed working with -- and getting the news from management you genuinely respect that you're just no longer a fit for their organization -- sucks.

So, it's 4am, the start of my second full day of unemployment.

I should be getting ready for work right now.

*("On The Beach" is a broadcaster euphemism for "unemployed." It... sounds nicer than it is.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Forgive The Radio Silence

Dear reader,

I'm not ignoring you. I promise. Indeed, I'm hard at work on all the stuff I put this site together to promote. Been reading for some upcoming projects I'm very excited to share with you (and soon will) and have been writing and doing producery things on new projects for A Flame in the Dark (If you're new here, A Flame in the Dark is my audio drama outlet). Hope to have some new things to show you on THAT front soon as well.

So, I'll ask for your continued patience and trust that I will indeed have some new content coming very soon. Including more movies, more reviews, and more, well... just more. Hold tight.

Monday, April 18, 2016

American (Zombie) Gothic: Maggie

An almost ridiculously long time ago now, I heard the news that A new zombie movie was coming out that, A, starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin, and, B, was planned as a drama about a father and his dying daughter. An aficionado of sorts, when it comes to things zombie, I confess I was both titillated and confused (in equal parts). As most anyone must have been who has a basic, media-literate understanding of the words "zombie," "drama," and "Schwarzenegger."

It's been well over a year, but I finally had the chance to give Maggie her shot. Let me put this out there right away: Maggie is not a horror movie. Zombies have been a part of our culture long enough now that they are, truly, their own cultural icon. While it's granted most movies, books, and TV shows featuring zombies are indeed of the horror genre, the reality is, they've grown above and beyond that narrow label. Or would, if we would let it. While we certainly have zombie comedies, for example, even they tend to stay planted pretty firmly in the realm of horror. The obvious reason for this -- fandom -- has been more or less enough to keep media companies from taking the zombie too far away from where Box Office wisdom had it firmly planted.

So kudos, first of all, to the team behind Maggie, simply for having the guts to explore where else this particular bogey could hide. Drama was an interesting choice, but the right one -- if for no other reason than the very proliferation of zombie movies that made such a risk possible. Even as a fan of zombie media, it must be admitted that far too often the zombie movie, like most horror media, revels in death nearly to the point of glorification without often pausing long enough to allow the audience to soak in the horror. We settle for the cheaper thrills -- what's behind the curtain? Who's that in the woods over there? -- and ignore the most substantial elements of the fear these movies allow us to explore.

With Maggie, we get something different. We get a movie that, at its heart, is about a father's love for his child. It's not merely a movie about a girl (Breslin) who becomes a zombie. It's about a girl who is dying slowly, watching her body and her mind slowly betray her, worrying simultaneously about what's happening to her and what it's doing to her family -- emotionally and physically. It's about a father (Schwarzenegger) watching his daughter go through all these things and worrying about whether he ultimately will have the courage to let her go. It's a beautiful -- if depressing -- story, and one oddly, uniquely suited for exploration within the realm of zombie cinema.

So, zombie aficionados, I'm not really sad at all to say there are no exploding heads in this picture. In spite of both the subject matter and the headlining actor, there is little in the way of gore, and a surprisingly minuscule body count. Because that's not what this is about.

The traditional zombie movies shows you that the walking undead are scary and dangerous.

Maggie, with its dark social commentary and moments of slow, quiet terror, has the guts to show you what truly makes the zombie horrifying.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Friday Night Feature: Last Man on Earth

There have been at least four adaptations of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend." Four, that is, if you don't count Night of the Living Dead (and I do not, no matter what Matheson himself says). The second filmed version starred Charleon Heston, and was called The Omega Man. The most recently famous adaptation was, of course, the only moderately awful Will Smith vehicle. I almost didn't count the Syfy mockbuster I Am Omega, but fair is fair. The best adaptation, however, in my opinion, is the very first. 1964's The Last Man on Earth is a decently faithful adaptation of the source material, and is hugely entertaining despite being a mostly one-man show.

This last fact is thanks, largely, to the charisma of star Vincent Price. I personally count this as one of the best-acted films of his career, which, when you consider The Fly and House on Haunted Hill, is saying something.

So pull up a chair. Turn out the lights, and enjoy, with me, The Last Man on Earth!

(Don't forget to add to the conversation in the comments section and on social media with #FriNiFeature)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Adapting for Audio: Shoo, Fly - the introduction

Since I'm adapting some of my short stories into audio dramas for A Flame in the Dark, I thought it might be fun to chronicle some of the differences and similarities in writing for the two formats. In this case, I'm adapting my short story "Shoo, Fly" (available now as part of the 'Zine Killers collection) into a miniseries. Though I'll be adding quite a bit in the way of action and even characters to the series itself, I'm cutting quite a lot out of the narration. As you might expect, narration for readers is a far different animal than narration for listeners. 

So, as an example, here's an excerpt from the opening narration of the short story:

I don't want to speak for what's left of humanity. I have no idea how they thought the world was going to end. Or even if they thought about it at all. If they did, I imagine they thought pretty much along the same lines as I did: A World War III nuclear blast scenario, a fast-acting pestilence -- hell, a zombie apocalypse. But I do guarantee that nobody -- not the Mayans with that calendar they always talked about on the History Channel, not those Nostradamus freaks, not the Nike-wearing Koolaid-drinkers who waited for that comet -- believed that the kingdom of man would be destroyed by houseflies. 

And here are the opening lines from the audio drama:
It’s safe, I think, to say nobody expected humanity to go out this way. Global warming. Natural disasters. All-out thermonuclear heck. Zombies, even. I think I personally expected Wrath of God, but I could have handled zombies. I mean, I’d have been alright with it.
But this? This just feels… stupid

I'll be adding more as the adaptation continues. Thoughts? Too many changes? Just enough? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Best Thing Ever: 3.20.16

Possibly the only redeeming quality of any of the Republican debates has been watching Donald Trump's facial expressions while his opponents talk. He goes from faux amused to faux incredulous in mere seconds, while managing to avoid a single moment of sincerity. It's actually kind of brilliant, and is the inspiration for today's Best Thing Ever. I didn't create this gif, but it's my favorite thing this week.

Ladies and gentlemen, #Trumpfish!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday Night Feature: Atom Age Vampire

Tonight's Featured Presentation is a cold war classic. While it is unlike many other cold war science fiction fright pics -- you won't find any irradiated giant insects here! -- it follows familiar mad scientist tropes to ask the question many have asked since before -- and especially after -- the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasake: does the end justify the means?

As you watch tonight's feature, feel free to join in the conversation. What worked? What didn't? Was it heavy-handed? A good story? Think of questions and comments of your own and post them below!

You can join the conversation in one of three ways: in the comments section below, on my official Facebook page, or by tweeting the hashtag #FriNiFeature.

And now, as they say, our Feature Presentation!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Best Thing Ever - March 13, 2016

This last week has been pretty awful. Like the week before it. At least, it you're the sort who pays attention to things like politics. One could be forgiven for believing there's very little hope of anything resembling sanity on tap for this country's political scene for the next four and a half years at least.

But enough of all that. This week's best thing ever brought itself to my attention just in time.

As an aside: in a moment of weird synchronicity, as I type this, my bride and I are watching an episode of Murder, She Wrote, co-starring non other than The Riddler himself, Frank Gorshin. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ctrl Alt Revolt: A Review

Ctrl Alt Revolt is the first Nick Cole book I've read -- the first of what I'm now sure will be many. Call it what you want: technothriller, cyberpunk, gamerpunk, what we have with C.A.R. is an enjoyable, fast-paced read.

When the first AI becomes self-aware, it immediately notices a pattern in humanity to treat its own poorly. Witnessing rampant disrespect for life among fellow humans, the AI, perhaps rightly, comes to the conclusion that, faced with the possibility of thinking machines, humans may well destroy first and explore the possibilities later. Thus faced with its first life dilemma, the AI takes the only course it believes available to it: the search for a way to eradicate humanity, fully and finally, from the face of the planet.

Taking place equally in virtual reality and a corporate-owned, politically correct dystopia, Ctrl Alt Revolt introduces us to a world in which gaming has real world consequences. And now, whether the protagonists know it or not, real world, life or death consequences. And that is perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the novel: that as earnestly as the protagonists fight and game for their own ends, they have little idea that the decisions they make could make all the difference between the end or the continuation of humanity.

Well-written and full of action, Ctrl Alt Revolt was hard to put down and VERY fast to read. Even the in-game action felt like real-life adventure, hooked you in, and made you cheer for the heroes.

While comparisons to Ready Player One are certainly appropriate, this is an entirely different animal, not copying but adding another great work into a budding new genre.

Ctrl Alt Revolt, it bears mentioning, is the prequel to Soda Pop Soldier -- a book I haven't read, but which, on the strength of this work, has made it right to the top of my TBR pile.

Disclaimer: I was given an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for a FAIR review. In no way did this impact my critique.