Unwinding the Serpent

by Robert Paul Blumenstein
Atmosphere Press

book review by Nicole Yurcaba

“The Mass halted momentarily and hovered directly above the town.”

This intricate and extraterrestrial tale begins for readers in 1793 in the small town of Johnnycake, Virginia. Strange lights in the skies alert the townspeople, and when a few men discover an even stranger disc-like object on a far ridge, an unworldly truth propels the townspeople into events they could never have imagined. Then, in 1973, a man named Richard submits to hypnosis, which leads him into various events related to those that happened in 1793. By the book’s conclusion, readers have been transported to the year 3197, where a millennia-old secret the universe has been holding is unlocked.

In this book, readers find elements of science fiction that will likely shock and engage them from the novel’s beginning to its end. Unique in its structure and plot, the narrative examines multiple elements of the human psyche, including communication, the power of dreams, and the unexplained. It also closely looks at faith and beliefs and the difference between the modern and the primitive in both: “‘This is an impression from a woodcut showing villagers driving a devil from their town. Others, as you see, have been staked and set afire to burn. Very cruel, especially when, later in history, man routed out his own kind falsely and accused them of being witches, warlocks and devils and put them to death.'” Readers with a flare for tales of UFOs and extraterrestrial-themed science fiction works will find this book a page-turner. Perfect for young adult and adult readers, this book contains elements of a series like Animorphs for young readers and films like Fire in the Sky for adults.

Starlight in the Dawn: The poetic priestess who chose to fight

by Naveen Sridhar
KDP Amazon

book review by Mihir Shah

“Fate and faith are like friends who fail. Yet Enheduanna remained faithful to her faith, her only friend.”

Set on the banks of the Euphrates in 2286 BCE, Sridhar’s narrative is driven by compelling worldbuilding and character development. While the novel revolves around Enheduanna, the high priestess of the Temple of Ur, each character has a well-developed backstory that is instrumental to bringing the intricate system of government, politics, and power (and often the abuses of each) to life. Through the narrative, audiences will gain exposure to age-old questions such as the constant clash between church and state.

A seemingly insignificant exchange involving a foreigner, Beshi, and Ninlil, niece of Mashda the potter, has ripple effects that kickstart the plot from the opening scene. Simultaneously, the author uses this scene to introduce numerous integral characters, chiefly High Priestess Enheduanna, for whom the gift of the pitcher has been delivered. While the trajectory of every character is intriguing, the high priestess is multidimensional in nature and talent. Daughter of the emperor, Sargon the Great, Enheduanna—better known as Hedu—demonstrates an incredible commitment to her responsibility of spiritual guidance that commences with a morning terrace prayer to Inanna, the goddess that represents love, fertility, and war. As Hedu continues to see the atrocities being exacted upon the citizens of Ur by those in power, she begins navigating her internal struggle between limiting herself to just a spiritual guide (a liaison of sorts between the gods and her people) and fully channeling her inner Inanna and becoming a warrior priestess.

Hedu’s reluctance presents her as even more human, a strongly relatable and likable character whose gracefulness with the creation of hymns, poetry, and dance portends to what her ferocity may look like. Her call to action is aided by Atrahasis, leader of the Council of Elders, whose impact on Hedu is akin to Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and Obi-Wan in Star Wars. True to Campbellian storytelling, Sridhar’s incorporation of characters like Damkina, Hedu’s right-hand woman, and Atrahasis propel Hedu toward her call to action that begins with her commitment to protecting Mashda and Ninlil—and their pottery shop—from the likes of Governor Obares, dominating figures who seek to exercise their power on the most vulnerable.

Aside from strong character development, Sridhar’s work is imbued with mythological references, with Greek and Hindu myths being most prevalent. Specifically, the backstory of Sargon’s mother is intriguing in its parallels with the Hindu epic, Mahabharata, and the story of Queen Kunit of Hastinapura and her eldest son out of wedlock, Karna. With many mythological references and parallels, the author demonstrates his strong knowledge of history spanning multiple cultures, civilizations, and time periods.

Many themes flow concurrently throughout Sridhar’s work. Chiefly, the idea of power versus duty is a recurring theme best depicted by the greed of King Lugalanne and the lust of Governor Obares, neither of whom fully respect the temple’s authority. In fact, Lugalanne is determined to teach priests and priestesses like Hedu a lesson by completely stripping them of any authority they might have in the name of security and protection. Conversely, characters like Hedu, Beshi, and city commander Sisuthros are governed entirely by a sense of duty to their people and city, be that through the pen or the sword.

More importantly, Sridhar uses his characters to ignite stimulating conversations on the topic of God, faith, prayer, etc. For one, a discussion between Hedu and Ninlil on the necessity of temples delves into the role of God, ultimately presenting an understanding that one does not need a temple or deity to pray. Nonetheless, deities and temples represent man’s limitations and provide an ability for one to hone in and focus thoughts and energies on a singular entity. Such profound conversations exist between numerous characters and are only heightened as the principal players journey toward an inevitable collision course. Above all else, impeccable character development, strong worldbuilding, a well-flowing storyline, and an ability to make the reader feel present in character dialogues makes for an educational and entertaining read.

Sridhar’s Candlelight in a Storm was 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award da Vinci Eye Finalist.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

And Throw Away the Skins

by Scott Archer Jones
Fomite

book review by Joe Kilgore

“All things on earth, both good and bad, last only a little while.”

Good books have advantages over good friends. Like friends, they can provide diversion, comfort, and the sharing of a plethora of emotions; but unlike friends, you don’t need to take their feelings, needs, or desires into account. You can gobble them up in massive chunks or simply nibble at them now and then, returning only when you decide to do so. Good books never feel slighted, nor do they ever take offense. Yes, good books have their advantages, and Scott Archer Jones writes good books. This is one of them.

Character-driven, though certainly not lacking in plot construction and story appeal, this novel maps the terrain of the human heart both intimately and intricately as it explores a woman’s struggles with her past, present, and future. Bec, short for Rebecca, is forty-two. Her life seems to be unraveling around her. Her and her husband’s finances are virtually nil. She knows it because she’s responsible for overseeing what little is left. He’s unaware of their predicament because he’s serving as a chaplain overseas. She sells everything that’s left to sell and relocates from Dallas to New Mexico. There she takes up residence in a ramshackle cabin that’s been in her family for years. It is in this tiny house where she will come to terms with the enormous winds buffeting her life—gales that threaten not only her marriage but her core, her very essence, as well.

In Bec, Jones has created an exceptionally realistic character conflicted by the human foibles that plague us all. She is strong and self-reliant, a study apparently in rugged individualism. Yet in one way or another, it seems she is continually seeking companionship. A proud survivor of cancer, she is a disillusioned victim of her husband’s inability to deal with how the dreaded disease has treated her. Unfailingly practical in what it takes for her to eke out her existence, she frequently makes decisions that threaten her ability to do so. As Bec’s trials play out in the present, there are also recurrent flashbacks to her childhood and upbringing. We learn of her unremittingly overbearing father who continually relied on intimidation and corporal punishment in the rearing of his daughter. We’re also made aware of the love and affection of her mother, plus a secret, shared but unresolved, due to death’s untimely arrival.

The supporting characters throughout Bec’s story ring with authenticity. From the ex-teacher who’s become the town lush to the hash slinger with a heart of gold to a gaggle of wacky women and a squad of broken soldiers, the author depicts them all as real folk with their own crosses to bear and, therefore, worthy of compassion. Jones is a writer whose words often make emotions explode in silence, such as when he describes a marriage slowly crumbling. He writes, “They lay apart, a full twelve inches of separation. The space between them cut a thousand yards deep, a ditch of human suffering.” His insights also bite with the sting of truth, as when he’s describing Bec and her husband (in uniform) strolling through a crowded airport. “From the curb, through the door and to the counter, William received nods, friendly expressions, small waves. Everyone could be thankful for his service, as long as they didn’t have to serve. Or send their children.”

Jones is an author working at the top of his game. You appreciate getting to know the people he creates. You love the sound of his voice on the page. Perhaps best of all, when you reach the end of his novel, you know that your time has been profoundly well spent.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

In the Aftermath: 9/11 Through a Volunteer’s Eyes

by Beth SK Morris
Poetica Publishing
book review by Nicole Yurcaba

“Subway destroyed, they fled east
on foot, heads covered with ash,
some wearing masks, some still
bleeding from the debris”

This cathartic, eye-opening account of the tragedy that 9/11 bestowed upon the United States transports readers to Ground Zero, where ash and debris fall, where loved ones disappear, and where for years to come, the day’s physical, emotional, and psychological scarrings refuse to disappear, let alone fade. In this haunting collection, the poem “By the Numbers, 6000” reduces humanity to “body parts recovered, sorted / into segments small enough / to fit in a test tube.” Readers find themselves face-to-face with a wife who “buries her face in her workbook, lowers her eyes” as she confesses the potential loss of her husband and the consequences his disappearance bestows upon her and her daughter’s future in the poem “The Lesson.” Meanwhile, toxic xenophobia permeates American society and shocks readers to their cores as they experience it for themselves in the poem “The Physics of Ripples.”

This collection’s power lies in its exploration of the often unmentioned—the lives and experiences of countless volunteers who risked life and limb to transform Ground Zero from a place of debris and rubble to one of pristine streets and reconstruction. As recollections and memories combine, their release onto the page and full disclosure to readers who may or may not remember that infamous day act as a great reckoning. The author’s experimentations with form and spacing create the sensations of reliving and then releasing the experiences depicted in the book, actively engaging the readers in the narrator’s catharsis. In “At the Doctor’s Office” and poems like it, readers learn of the health crises volunteers and emergency workers face. Nostalgic and poignant, honorary and honest, with a voice raw and uniquely its own, this collection captures the immediate and distant aftermath of a tragedy still prominent in American minds.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

The Devil’s Bookkeepers: Book 3: The Noose Closes

by Mark H Newhouse
NCG Key
book review by Mihir Shah

“‘There is an emptiness inside all of us. Even you, my most logical friend, must someday find something that fills that void inside you.'”

In this final volume of Newhouse’s trilogy on the Lodz Ghetto in Poland, the Jewish community’s harrowing existence continues to be tested at astronomical levels, systematically breaking down their humanity until emptiness remains. That said, the author’s attempt to honor his upbringing and parents that were one of fewer than 5,000 survivors at Lodz by shedding light on the atrocities and persecution there is wildly successful. The phrase, “the truth shall set you free,” is tailor-made for this work of historical fiction that is authentic and fearless in simply writing what is.

As the Nazi noose closes, the Lodz Ghetto residents are reduced to living in three primary states of being: hunger, mourning, and working. Focusing on the main character from the previous books, Benny Ostrowski, Newhouse wastes no time delving into the gaping void left by the deportation of Ostrowski’s infant daughter, Regina, and wife, Miriam. Those that were spared deportation were in equally dire straits. While this third book is just as character-driven as the previous two, the heightened focus on existential themes is captured seamlessly by the empty work chairs of vanished coworkers Dr. Oskar Rosenfeld and Julian Cukier as Ostrowski grabs onto Rosenfeld’s pipe bowl he lifted from Oskar’s apartment.

Now with Jozef as his roommate, Benny’s denial toward the entire situation—the loss of his wife, child, friends—is on full display in this one moment. Almost mechanically, he and everyone remaining thrust themselves into their work because that is all that remains between them and insanity. Making matters worse, the Nazis are hell-bent on stripping away any semblance of the Jewish identity, even canceling Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The irony, of course, is not lost on readers that Yom Kippur commemorates sincere repentance and forgiveness, though there is zero intent to redeem and repent from the Nazi side.

Whether it is the outright burning down of hospitals or the gradual deportation of everyone but the most able-bodied workers, the industrial value of Lodz is a double-edged sword, leaving residents “in an envelope made of barbed wire, trigger happy, Nazi sentries.” Many questions can be posed, but the one central to this text would be how one can find purpose amid such darkness. Ostrowski’s commitment to his wife and child is admirable, and it is his reason for survival. If Elie Wiesel and Viktor Frankl still graced the earth, there is little doubt that Newhouse’s work would resonate with them as it embodies their same fierce spirit of survival and purpose with an uncompromising eye toward the unfolding of events. In the same vein, the introduction of Pola, the only woman in Benny’s office, leads the author to explore the need for companionship. For the longest time, Benny sees Miriam’s face in every woman. But is it betrayal to crave intimacy when one is in the eye of a seemingly never-ending storm, and uncertainty is all-encompassing?

Sometimes, hope alone is a weapon strong enough to withstand darkness. However, throughout the novel, there are unshakable graphics that will leave audiences understanding the full scope of the evil and despair in Lodz. Specifically, the desensitization to death is downright shocking. For example, twenty gallows from a public execution remain for all to see as a sign from the Nazis. Conversely, the relief that sweeps over Benny upon learning that millions of toys made from paper and trash have been delivered is heartbreaking as he holds onto the faintest hope that his baby girl might still be alive.

Nevertheless, the one moment from the many the author portrays that is especially spine-chilling and will forever be etched into memories is a truck full of residents being deported out of Lodz—likely on their way to their deaths—singing the Hatikvah in jubilation and hope. Whether Mordechai Chaim (M.C.) Rumkowski, Chairman of the Judenrat and anointed Eldest of the Jews, is the devil or the shield prolonging the inevitable fate of the Jewish residents of Lodz is up for debate, but what is undeniable is Newhouse’s ability to take one of the darkest moments of suffering in human history and portray it with a grace and clarity that returns the dignity of these myriad souls sacrificed by the doings of man.

Winner of the 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Award Historical Fiction Categoryda Vinci Eye Finalist, and Montaigne Medal Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Tara’s Treasures

by Betty Elza
Archway Publishing
book review by Michael Radon

“Tara smiled. Everything was all right. Tara went home. At bedtime Tara said to her mother, ‘We are silent friends, we are givers.'”

When young Tara moves to a new neighborhood with her mother, she quickly wants to make friends and settle in. Spotting a woman working in a garden full of flowers, she goes into her yard to introduce herself and make friends, only to be ignored. Trying again the next day, Tara greets her neighbor only to be snubbed again. Undeterred, she returns to the garden, and this time taps her neighbor on the arm, startling her. The woman introduces herself as Zura, and soon the pair are working together on Zura’s garden, swapping stories and becoming fast friends. Zura begins to give small trinkets from various places to Tara to thank her for her friendship, but this puts Tara in a bind: how can she reciprocate Zura’s friendship when she has no treasures of her own?

Paired with vibrant, full-page illustrations in soothing pastels, the mellow, friendly tone of this book is perfect for pre-nap reading or just a relaxing afternoon. Children either reading this book or having it read to them will be treated with a story about how friendships are made and kept as well as understanding what life is like with someone who is hearing impaired. A story like this is perfect for young children of all manner of sensibilities, as it is non-confrontational and generally upbeat. Even as she wonders why Zura won’t pay attention to her, and before she understands that she cannot hear her, Tara’s frustrations are palpable but manifest in a positive direction. With a wholesome, direct message and plenty of learning opportunities, this is a wonderful book to share with any young reader.

The Book Killers: Weak Point of View

The Book Killers: Poor Revisions – Executing the Process

In this ongoing series, Christopher Klim, author and senior editor of the US Review of Books, takes a look at common errors that undermine books.

All fine writing is the result of rewriting. I don’t know who coined that phrase, but it is certainly a fact. The first draft is the art of writing. The revision process exists to recognize mistakes and mop up the mess, and readers never witness the accident. Readers seek the ease of flawlessness.

EXECUTING REVISIONS

The four level revision process in Write to Publish a top down approach. Work the levels in iterations. Be comfortable with the work at one level, before moving onto the next. This builds the structure of the story before fixing the mess wrought by the construction. It also saves time. Why perfect a scene or paragraph that might not remain in the finished version? Upon passing from level two to three, a solid story stands in place. All scenes will remain on the story line and in their current position. It is now a matter of making them resonate in the reader’s mind.

A story is a unique creation, requiring a special effort to complete. During the draft process, pause to make note of ideas, weaknesses, and potential areas of research. I record story ideas and research information in a composition book. I also number revision concerns from the last page toward the front. I fill six to ten pages of notes on grammar, theme, tone, research requirements, and other specific story concerns. These are concrete problems, and I won’t slow the momentum of the draft to solve them. I might use too many passive verbs or fudge the details of an unfamiliar profession. Bad habits and the assumption of guesswork as fact are two comfortably dangerous behaviors, but the back of my composition book saves me, detailing my story’s shortcomings. It holds a checklist of needed revisions.

While good draft work is often brave and ground-breaking, the revision process requires another kind of courage. It is akin to self-surgery, knowing when to amputate one of your limbs. Be ruthless with your prose. If a word, sentence, scene, or chapter doesn’t serve the story, lop it off. It might contain the most brilliant prose of the piece, but it is cancer to the story, driving it off course and killing reader interest. Save it for another day. It might form the centerpiece of a new story. Trust your ability to think of even better words down the line.

SOLICITING FEEDBACK

There comes a point when a writer desires objectivity. Cultivate a trusted reader. I have a target reader in mind when I write, someone who appreciates the same aspects of storytelling. She knows when I miss the mark, and she is not afraid to tell me. I argue. I curse and moan, but in the end, I know she is right. She is not a writer. She is a reader. She doesn’t stay up at night considering character flaws or lifestyle element. She knows a good story. She laughs. She cries. She is entertained, and if I cannot do this for her, I have missed my objective.

Beyond that, build a reading circle. This is also com-posed of readers. Writers are a dangerous group to critique a work in progress. Each writer has a personal vision of a story, and it is often not yours. Good members of a reading circle are well read. They are just as happy with a biography of FDR, as the latest Robert Stone. They pick up TV Guide and The Economist in the same shopping trip. They love the written word. They are authorities to give the thumbs up or down on your work. They are a mere sample of the reading public. Try to remove your emotion and listen to them.

WHEN IS A STORY FINISHED?

Who knows? There comes a time when a writer must put the work down and move on. Writers often get a brain-storm and return to a particular piece with ideas to elevate the story, but overall, a point arrives when the writer can go no further and must let it rest on its laurels.

For my first published novel, I accepted countless pieces of advice from editors and agents, tweaking each nuance of the story. I reached a point where I was changing sentences because I was tired of reading the same lines over and over. I’d clearly spent too long with the story. I finally threw my hands up and told my writing mentor that I was finished accepting the often inane feedback leveled on my novel. An amazing thing happened. It was a moment out of a grainy kung fu movie. “Son,” my mentor said. “You’re ready to go to the next level.”

When the work is as good as it can be, move on. Begin another story. Hope for enlightenment, but learn when to quit spinning your wheels. If Michelangelo sought perfection – and he was darn near perfect in his art – he’d have chipped away at the statue of David, until it was small enough to clip on a key chain.

Finally, be patient with your talent at its current level. If you aspire to improve, you will sacrifice and work every day. You will get better. You will tell the stories you want to tell. Great artists learn to work in a vacuum, producing ideal works of art that hold a mirror to humanity, society, and themselves. Be brave.

EXERCISES

Outline your revision process. What do your talents require? Are you concentrating on your weaknesses? Can the ordinary be elevated?

Resurrect your old writing and run it through the aforementioned revision process. If the work is old enough, certain flaws will immediately stand out. See if the process doesn’t improve the story structure and prose.

Transpose a favorite writer’s passage to paper. Observe the sentence structure, pacing, and word selection.

Christopher Klim is the author of several books including the novel, Idiot!, and the short collection, True Surrealism. He is currently working on a novel trilogy about the space program past, present, and future.

Previously in The Book Killers series: Poor Revisions – Level Four, Presentation

Genealogy Lesson for the Laity

by Cathryn Shea
Unsolicited Press
book review by Michael Radon

“Use your head.
Imagination is a peculiar clay,
infinity captured
in the dark matter we don’t understand.”

One of the most alluring and powerful things about poetry is that it offers the poet the opportunity to say things indirectly, using the simple selection of words to make the ordinary magical. For example, there is the attention to detail in poems like “Drano Didn’t Work,” which chronicles the hiring of a drainage company to service the author’s home. The same care is given to poems about bad hospital food and the dread of an unpleasant diagnosis or a dying friend. This collection of poems broaches these big and small eventualities of life with the same gravity, processing them with the same levity. It illustrates how the same coping tools can tackle any problem, and how a sardonic but compassionate view will find the silver lining in any challenge.

The smallest adjustments in meter or vocabulary allow these poems to work flexibly through the eye of the reader. Each of the selections in this book can land a gut punch as heavy as a brick or flit about tragic events almost playfully. Such a duality is only possible through meticulous and precise writing. The author weaves her way through overseas atrocities, small-town Americana, and references to Scooby Doo with the same deftness. Every word is a receptacle for however much meaning the reader decides to fill it with. There still manages to be a voice and a message and meaning to these poems, giving the poet a platform to speak her mind and share her experiences. That razor’s edge of difference between ambiguity and clarity breathes immense power into these poems and absolutely makes them a worthwhile read.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Murder in the Atchafalaya

by Jim Riley

book review by Joe Kilgore
“Trixie’s unblinking gaze fixed onto whatever follows death as her last breath left her body.”

A lot of things can kill you in the Louisiana swamps, not the least of which are water moccasins, alligators, and maybe even something unworldly called a Rougarou. But as the body count rises in this jambalaya mystery, it becomes apparent that the increasing death toll is mostly due to some very bad villains and some very tough law enforcers.

Kristi is a young college graduate from West Texas recently hired and trained by the Treasury Department. While on the hunt for two of her colleagues, she manages to get herself assaulted and lost in the Atchafalaya Basin. Hawk is an ex-military combat vet now working for the United States Ranger Services. He’s asked by his old friend, the Parish Sheriff, to try to find Kristi. What he finds is not only the woman he’s looking for but also a hell of a lot of trouble. Together, Hawke and Kristi wind up in the middle of ruffians, counterfeiters, financial scalawags, and murderers. As they try to figure out what’s happening and why, while continually staying one step ahead of assassins, they begin to form a bond of respect, friendship, and perhaps even more.

Author Riley does a first-rate job of steeping the reader in the milieu of South Louisiana and Cajun mores. From murders at mudbug fests to menacing mosquito swarms to monumentally malevolent snake pits, he puts the heat and humidly on every page. He’s also adept at weaving a spider-webbed plot that is both intricate and credible. There’s action, suspense, humor, and even a dash of romance in this gumbo of a novel that promises to start a series of adventures for Kristi and Hawke.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

The Perfection of Fish

by J.S. Morrison
Black Rose Writing
book review by Gabriella Tutino

“Maybe there’s something in the water.”

In the small town of Assurance, North Carolina, agoraphobe Nadia Holman is the last remaining resident. Nadia relies on Berky Benson, a former student and resident, to take care of her while she attempts to document and preserve Assurance’s history. What Nadia doesn’t realize is that her genes are being used and manipulated by Berky, who believes that society is trying to eradicate masculinity, and who funds a genetic manipulation research project in the hopes of creating subservient women. Diana, Nadia’s twin sister, stops by Assurance for a visit and realizes both her sister and her sister’s love for their hometown are being exploited. Diana joins a ragtag team of rebels who work together to uncover and undo the dangerous experiments helmed by Berky’s laboratory team, Xanadu. What ensues is a clash of cultures, beliefs, science, and manpower with the future of humanity at stake.

The author imagines the United States about 20 years or so into the future. Men of this time can take a drug known as Testrial to make them less aggressive. Technology is also integrated into society in the form of almost constant surveillance. The town of Assurance plays a huge role in this novel, in part because it is “off the map,” but also because the town’s own mythology and roots drive much of the story. Assurance is believed to be a blessed place, founded at the center of intersecting ley lines and their power. It is home to a new species of fish in the nearby river, which is believed to possess some form of immortality power. These two beliefs have been passed down to residents of the town, mainly Nadia and Berky. Their conviction in the mysticism of Assurance and in Ichthy’s fish bones drive their motivations. Nadia’s beliefs about Assurance, Ichthy, and saving the town make her susceptible to exploitation. Meanwhile, Berky’s beliefs about Ichthy’s bones make him power-hungry.

Genetic manipulation and bioengineering are common tropes in science fiction, and the author ties them into gender and control, much like in the novel Viral War by Josephine DeBois. In this book, however, it seems the author borrows an idea from the Jurassic Park franchise—splicing different DNA together to create a more perfect specimen. Whereas the scientists in Jurassic Park used multiple animal DNA to build the ultimate dinosaur, Berky and his lab have used fish genetics from the beloved Ichthy to test out genetic manipulation. Transhumanism is a big theme in this novel, and it is something that Berky and his team use to inspire people to join his cause. But while transhumanism is something to aspire to in the eyes of Berky’s cohorts, it is also a lie used to sell their purpose and bypass the law for genetic experimentation. The author plays around with this idea, questioning what it means to be human on a moral scale when actions seem to be inspired and twisted into acts of malevolence. A sci-fi novel that satirizes social norms and conspiracy theories, this story is a wild tale from start to finish. This book was a Maxy Award Sci-Fi/Fantasy finalist.