Catch and Neutralize by Chris Grams is an ultimate feminist revenge novel. I don’t think that is a genre but I’ll have to wait and see if similar novels are published. Revenge against what? Male sexual exploitation of females, of course. While that is a serious problem, the way it is dealt with here by a vigilante organization known as Catch and Release (CAN) is extreme to the point of fantasy. There is an author warning of strong language and mature situations that appear throughout the book. Unusual situations, yes. Strong language? Not really and only occasionally.
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 so I expected it to be at least great. I was not disappointed. My reason for reading it was selfish; it is preparation reading for a writer-reader conference in Bali during the last week of October 2016. I will attend at least one meeting with an author who writes about North Korea and I would like to be informed with enough background information to ask questions. This book, although a work of fiction, presents some mind-boggling truths about the Hermit Kingdom. There is a reader’s guide at the end of the book as well as an interview with the author. Johnson informs the reader about his sources of information and inspiration. That is a good thing because from the beginning of the book information the reader receives defies belief.
Some readers may be aware of countries that broadcast information loudly and frequently throughout the day by means of public loudspeakers. The truth as the government sees it is impossible to avoid, paying attention is demanded of the citizenry and critical analysis or questioning of facts presented is strongly discouraged and may be life threatening. A visitor from a Western nation after being exposed to this system would never criticize elevator music again. In this novel, we look at North Korea. I have seen the same system in China, Cambodia, and Vietnam. North Koreas efforts as presented in this book are unique in the extremes reached that defy belief.
The entire story is reported as a series of blog posts that appear on the internet from 03 January to 06 January 2016. The crisis, the ultimate conflict, happened just before midnight on New Year’s Eve of 2015. But Melissa doesn’t know what the crisis was. True, the guy she was in bed with was dead. So was everyone else in the buildings and on the streets around her. Television didn’t work. There was no phone service, landline or cell. What she found on the internet was not encouraging. Every religious or scientific site that was accessible published apologies for previously held beliefs and admitted the supremacy of the Heralds of Silence.
Cold, Cold Heart by Karin Slaughter is a Kindle Single and is truly a short story. The story itself is over and done by the 39% mark in the downloaded epub. It is then followed by an excerpt from The Kept Woman advertised to be on sale 20 September 2016. The prolog to that excerpt should guarantee sales. This is one of those times when it is good to take Amazon’s offer of a free sample. But back to the short story Cold, Cold Heart.
Jon (previously John, before the later than mid-life crisis) and Pam had been together and married for a long time. Both were high school teachers; they had little money and had to live on a tightly controlled budget. And Jon controlled the budget very strictly even refusing to give Pam lunch money when she had run out early in the week. He did give her advice; she was to budget more wisely.
The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee is an inspiring story of courage and bravery as one woman struggles to keep her family together after separation that included varying periods of incarceration for each of the three-member family. It is an incredible (as in hard to believe) story but if a reader wanted to check the authenticity of some of the incidents cited, it could be easily done by examining public media reports. Imagine a Korean woman (Hyeonseo) meeting a western traveler in Laos who voluntarily gives money to Hyeonseo to aid in paying corruption money to get Hyeonseo’s mother and brother out of a Lao prison. There was not an exchange of favors for money and the traveler had no assurances of ever being repaid. The incident happened, the traveler was repaid, and the story was reported by the Australian press.
Keller’s Fedora by Lawrence Block is a Kindle Single stand-alone mystery short story. Published in 2016 it follows Keller (his real name) as he reverts to a long ago profession of hired assassin. He had pretty much retired from that type of work and had settled down with his wife (who knew he was an assassin) and his daughter (who didn’t know). The money he had saved from his assassin jobs allowed him to pursue his current love, stamp collecting.
Glitch is a short story of about 5000 words by Hugh Howey. It might be considered a story on the way to, and just short of AI (artificial intelligence).
Max is a robot built specifically to fight other robots. He (and one might ask, why “he” and not “she”) is the product of a young design team that began doing this type of building while still high school colleagues. Professor Hinson took note of the successful team, decided to lead them, and parlayed their relationship into a successful military contract with DARPA, an obscure government agency. At least they want to be obscure.
Sam, Peter, and Greenie make up the three-person team that takes Max to the fights, powers him up, and repairs him after the fights. There are always damaged parts and always modifications to be made. Some of the modifications are at the suggestions of Max. The robot is designed to learn from each match, to learn from its mistakes. It is almost as if the team is there to serve Max rather than Max is there to follow directions of the team.
And that is where the trouble begins. There is a glitch. Max doesn’t want to fight anymore. Greenie and Pete have been working to find out why. They can’t. They must now rely on Sam, Pete’s ex-wife, to run diagnostics and find out what is wrong. Sam, very good with robots but bad with coffeemakers, can’t find a reason any more than Pete and Greenie can. But she can come up with a one-word theory.
This is an entertaining short story. Read to find out what sentience is and who (or what) has the last word.