All Genes Are Not Equal

From the title, we can guess that A Perfect Society is a series prequel. This short story sets the scene for an ideal world community. It is proposed that money will no longer be used. The currency for everyday transactions will be the worth of the individual to society. A person’s potential lifetime worth will be measured at birth and a value assigned by the government to everyone. The individual then will trade on his/her assigned worth to obtain daily necessities. But not everybody will have the same potential worth. As this story begins, it seems people of color are valued less.

Starting out as a YA novel, Persephone (Pepper) is in the fifth grade. At home, there is a barn where a friend of her father, Dr. Terry, works. Dr. Terry is black, the son of a man who was a soldier with Pepper’s father. Cort and Tuck had served together in Iraq where Cort had contracted a disabling disease due to chemical weapons. Tuck permitted Cort’s son, Dr. Terry, to conduct research in a barn behind his home. Dr. Terry, an MIT graduate, was doing genetic research, the kind of stuff that might affect values of social worth assigned by the government at birth.

The year is 2020. The government has finally passed a law institutionalizing the digital society, the perfect society based on a person’s predicted worth. Pepper’s personal life is terrible. She has no friends as all previous ones shunned her as the daughter of a family harboring and supporting a man whose research will disturb the new proposed society. Her only friends are two boys, one black and one white, who are in a romantic relationship. At school, the three sit at a table for the rejected as they suffer taunts based on racism and sexist intolerance. At home, Pepper’s mom has separated from the family. There are no friends or visitors other than Government representatives who visit to enlist Dr. Terry with Tuck’s help.

This short story ends with an unexpected event, a tragedy, and a surprise ending. It is followed by an excerpt from Skin Trials. I don’t usually read follow-on excerpts out of some contrarian reaction to being manipulated into buying a novel by the cliffhanger from the prequel. In this case, I am glad I read it. It carries forward but does not really explain, what happened in the prequel. I was quite happy, surprised, and intrigued by the unusual and well worked out premise to these stories. I will read further books by this author as they become available.

Don’t Take the Dummy on the Robbery

After being impressed by Fallen Angel by James Harper, I followed links and found another freebie No Rest for the Wicked, a lengthier short story than Fallen Angel. There is a subtitle on the cover that might be a mantra: “There Ain’t No Such Thing as Free.”

There is a robbery gone wrong. Three people entered a store, all were wearing masks. The store owner tried to protect what was his and was shot for his troubles. There wasn’t supposed to be any shooting but one of the three gang members, one who was short several cards of a full deck, overreacted. The three fled, taking a female clerk hostage. Intending to flee to a nearby hotel deserted for the winter, they had not counted on the entrepreneurial spirit of the hotel owners. There was a promotion to which only three select couples were invited as test guests prior to a grand opening. Unfortunately for the evildoers, Evan Buckley (it’s a series) and girlfriend Gina were one of the couples. Another couple canceled. But that left two guest couples, a manager and a chef, four bad guys, a hostage store clerk, and one small child (brought by the other couple) to weave an entertaining tale.

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Mistaken Angel

Fallen Angel by James Harper is a short story published in 2017. The short story is remarkably good for being so surprising while still being remarkably short. Evan and Kate begin the story at a bar where the inebriated Kate is telling Evan about the horrible nature of suicide, about how a body sounds when it descends from a high altitude and meets street pavement. She can give an authoritative account to Evan because a few hours prior such a body had made such a sound as it landed inches away from her on a pavement that she was traveling. The police ruled it suicide. Kate, being a cop, could accept this. She didn’t want a mind-wasting analysis of possibilities from Evan.

Evan wasn’t going to supply alternatives until a client appeared at his office to ask for help. Claire Henderson didn’t accept the police theory of suicide. She wanted to know who killed sister Jessica. When she visited the police, she overheard police officer Kate disparaging the notions of Evan about the possibilities of a homicide. Claire tracked down Evan, now working as a private investigator. Evan could grudgingly accept Kate’s police assessment. Claire’s appearance changed his mind. She was a double for Evan’s missing wife. Missing, lost, not found, we learn nothing more about Evan’s wife. This is not her story. Another surprise comes when Evan learns that the near double for his wife is also a double for dead sister Jessica. The reader’s mind starts to take weird paths.

The investigation is on with Evan, open to all possibilities, Kate, determined to stick with a police determination of suicide, Claire, determined that her sister’s death was a homicide and equally determined to find the murderer and a classic case of how a murder could have taken place. No one was seen entering the apartment complex. There was a doorman on duty. No one left the complex after the murder, the doorman had locked the doors before going to investigate the cause of all the pedestrian screaming. A suicide chain was in place at the window where the body exited the apartment. It was still attached and could not be reattached if a murderer had left by the window.

There were two questions. What really happened and how had it happened? There is quite a surprise ending and this is a short story worth reading to find out what the ending is. Along the way, there is snappy dialogue between investigative rivals Evan and Kate. James Harper has written a couple of novels with subtitles “An Evan Buckley Mystery.” Those that read this intriguing novel will join the ranks of his readership. I could not find this on Amazon and got it from the author’s mailing list. Two of his novels, Bad to the Bones and Bad Call are available on Amazon, Bad to the Bones is free through KU.

Follow the Rules

I Am Karma by Dawn Cano is a 53-page short story that has elements of extreme horror in the first half of the story. You might want not to let the kids (under 16 at least) read this one. There is language describing extreme physical brutality. Then the story turns to one of vengeance and that might not sit well with those who believe that revenge carried out by one’s fellow man is not justified. So there are a bunch of negatives going into the story. But I liked it.

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Let Them Eat (Chocolate) Cake

From the cover of Sam ’n’ Patty’s 1st Adventure Hidden Gems by Jerry Dawson we can infer that there might be some follow-up stories coming. That is true, there is a three-story series that follows Sam and Patty plus other novels written by this author. I received an author request to read and review this short novel. I was quite happy with the reading experience because I learned new things presented in an entertaining way. This short adventure novel should appeal to the YA crowd. I couldn’t find anything offensive as far as language or cultural slights. The author does take aim at a “southern” way of speaking that can become so pronounced it borders on unintelligible but the observations are appreciative, not critical.

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Unrealistic Premise

In The Disappearance: A Jill Hunter Short #13, we find that Rory, computer hacker and partner to Jill, has disappeared. Jill thought it was an argument over the milk but we are at a point 24% into the story where we find out Rory has been kidnapped by someone. Jill had been planning to change her life entirely, close her business, and travel until she got the anonymous phone call that said Rory was in trouble. She had almost made a huge mistake about the “why” of Rory’s disappearance.

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A Small Sacrifice

From the Prequel: A New Beginning straight The Cult: Part Two: A Jill Hunter Short #9, there were bound to be some problems. I am sure that reading these short stories in the order prescribed by the author is the way to go. For example, I can’t say I was surprised by the presence of the love interest, Rory, but it seems we are almost back to the prequel except this time it is Rory who is about to walk out. Also, this is a continuation of Short #8. But short #8 is in a boxed set that costs money. This one, #9, was free on the Amazon site.

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