Review and Author Interview: Red Queen (Substrate Wars#1) by Jeb Kinnison

After taking two weeks off to start The Classics Adventure, I present to you the next book sent to me in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you very much for Shannon (the author of The Timely Death Trilogy and Take Me Tomorrow) collaborated with the author, Jeb Kinnison to send me a copy to check out his novel, Red Queen, the first book in the Substrate Wars series.

Jeb Kinnison was also awesome enough to answer a few of my questions.  Lets start with a little interview before we head into the review.

Author Interview

1. What made you want to become a writer?

I have been reading science fiction since I was 7, and writing fiction since I was 18. I’d never had an opportunity to do it full-time until recently. I see it as a way of giving back some of what I know to a younger generation who has yet to live long enough to be appropriately cynical.

2. Who is your target audience for Red Queen?

Intelligent young people of a scientific bent, though it’s apparently a good read for older people as well.

3. Where do you get your ideas for Red Queen?

I have been following the war in academia between free speech and politically-correct censorship, which while driven by idealism about treating everyone kindly, ends up being oppressive and contrary to the free inquiry science requires to operate. I extrapolated what it might look like if those trends continued, and added my experience as a computer science researcher. The thriller aspects come out of the daily news about NSA surveillance, mind control experiments, and Homeland Security.

4. Do you identify with the characters you had in Red Queen? If so, who?

Almost all my characters are self-motivating individuals who refuse to be pigeonholed by class or group affiliation. There’s a little of me in most of them, or you could say it is not a stretch for me to be them, even though they’re modeled on people I have known. When I’m feeling old, I am similar to Prof. Wilson, and the younger Justin resembles me when I was a college student, except he’s better-looking and less awkward! Even my villains are trying to accomplish something—avoiding loss of power, at least.

5. What are your writing habits?

When I am in mid-book, I write in three periods. An hour or two mid-morning, and hour or two after lunch, and an hour or two after dinner. I hole up in my home office and go to work.

6. Who is your favorite author?

Hard to say since I have favorites in many types of fiction. Neal Asher is one of the best in adult hard SF; the late Iain Banks was also great. In literary fiction, I love “Mr. Bridge” and Mrs. Bridge” by Evan Connell.

7. What are your plans for the future? Do you have a second book in the works?

I am about two-thirds of the way through the sequel to “Red Queen” — tentatively titled “Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars,” where the fight continues. Our heroes manage to survive attacks and propaganda to subdue the Earth’s governments and stop them from waging war. Colonizing other planets and getting married are two aspects of the plot!

 There you go! Here’s to knowing Jeb, the author of Red Queen, a little better.  Its great to read about the concepts and ideas and understand a little more about the author before or after reading their novel. 🙂

(Substrate Wars #1)

By: Jeb Kinnison

red queen jeb kinnison

Set on a California college campus just a decade or two from now, the world of Red Queen is post-terrorist disaster, repressive and censored — governed like China today, but with a stagnant economy and no jobs for young people. In that sense it is a dystopia, though not so far from our own day and time; only a few steps beyond where we are now. The students are cowed but not unaware, and they seize the opportunity to make a difference when their smarts and courage allow it. And so they change the world.

This is Book 1 of Substrate Wars, the series: A growing band of campus freedom-fighters discover a new technology that could either destroy the world, or save it. They take on the responsibility of using it for good. Homeland Security is one step behind them. Spies and traitors lurk. Shall it be repressive bureaucratic stagnation, or expansion to the stars? – extract from Red Queen synopsis, Goodreads

 Let me confess that I’m not a very science-y person.  I used to be until Physical Science split into Physics and Chemistry in high school and then some principle reassured me that science was the last place I wanted to study in. Plus, I’ve never heard of the Red Queen hypothesis either. With that said, Red Queen starts with a good bit of science that took me a little while to pick up on.  I remember seeing the word “quasiparticle: and then scratching my head in confusion.  However, it doesn’t take long before I did catch onto what this new technological invention was and thats when the real adventure begins!  Especially when Homeland Security gets on the tail of our main characters.  Which leads this into a political thriller of sorts.  Talk about a mixed genre (political sci-fi thriller) that truly escapes my knowledge, right? Let me assure you that Red Queen successfully reeled me into its plot.

Red Queen was a good read and the only reason that it lost a little bit of points was that it felt like it never had that massive peak moment where things boiled into something *really* intense (emphasis on really).  This book truly felt like the first book of a series where it was a set-up for a much bigger plot.  Except, as I thought about it, every step of the way, expecting and trying to predict whether something was going to happen next kept me turning those pages on my tablet.  And I lie when the little turnpoint that it had didn’t surprise me, because it did and opened up a million ways the story can lead to now.  Which is why, I have extremely high hopes for Book 2.

But wait, getting ahead of myself again.  Now that we’ve looked at what doesn’t work too well (in a way).  There are a ton of aspects that work very well.  For one, Red Queen as a good balance of characters.  We have the older Prof. Wilson, a young and brave Justin and a genius Steven, adding in a little romance with Samantha and then a bunch of supporting characters who give the story substance building the dynamic of Homeland Security motives, the rebellious Grey Tribe and the students who want a better future. Other than characters, this future world in Red Queen is worth a mention.  Its based on a world in complete equality but doesn’t function well because the new generation has no job demand while privacy don’t exactly exist because the government can make up false stories to cover the truth without any questions asked. I guess anything has a offsetting balance because there is no perfect world to be in, eh?

Overall, Red Queen is a intriguing read.  At first, it is because its a new world with new characters and understanding this new technology.  When this happens, its watching the characters make decisions that put themselves in danger or choosing who is trustworthy.  Although there was nothing that was extreme, the book sets up perfectly for the next one with more possibilities.  With that said, Red Queen is no doubt a political sci-fi thriller pageturner that I recommend for all of you.

Thank you again to Jeb and Shannon for sending me this lovely book! 🙂

Remember to check out more info for the author and his works right HERE.  This is also his blog so drop by and check out his posts and show him some support!

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner #2) by James Dashner

Putting together the 15 Anticipated Movies for 2015 was great because I got a good general idea of what to look out for.  I never looked up whether the sequel of Maze Runner had gotten the green light to move ahead. Although, judging from the general reviews from the blogosphere, it was generally well received, right? Anyways, I loved it

If you’ve missed my review on The Maze Runner, please see the book review HERE.  In addition, I also reviewed the movie HERE.

When I realized that it would be released in September, I pulled up the sequel from my stack of books to read. Its one of the newer purchases but who cares? I just had to check it out 🙂

THE SCORCH TRIALS (Maze Runner #2)

by James Dashner

Scorch Trials

The Gladers arrived into safe haven.  They found a way to escape and they were safely rescued to a place where they could freshen up, eat and rest.  Except the next morning, Thomas wakes up to raging noise around them.  Some crazies are screaming through the windows.  When they escape the room, he realizes that he can’t connect with Teresa and she’s taken away.  The only message they get is a strange man telling them that they have a virus in their system and they need to get to a safe point in 2 weeks to get the cure.  They have embarked in what the man called the Scorch Trials.  What dangers and challenges lie ahead of them? What is the point of all these trials? Will they make it out alive?

Sequels usually don’t have quite the hype of the first one.  Scorch Trials starts off pretty good, setting off a new scenario, danger and its own set of problems.  Questions and mysteries start to spiral in the reader’s minds almost immediately as one thing leads to another and they start seeing and learning about their new quest.  They still wonder what this virus is and why they are doing these trials and what this all means.

The Scorch Trials leads up to learning what this virus is.  Plus, Teresa plays a heavier behind the scenes role.  The virus is a scary one that turns people in the most extreme forms to crazies.  Hints of zombie apocalypse anyone? These crazies are completely out there: no reason, no care and completely out of control and extremely deadly.  Everything in the Scorch Trials is just like what it sounds like.  Unlike the Maze, where all the factors were controlled and was pretty artificial, the Scorch Trials is more realistic (because they are supposedly in the hottest desert area on the face of the earth).  They experience extreme heat and destroyed buildings and bigger environment.  That should make this a little more interesting. Its a lot of walking and encountering unexpected situations and threats that come up. The Scorch Trials does have one little thing that doesn’t quite live up to the Maze.  Maybe its the pacing of the middle part, because once they hit the final third of the novel, the intense pace of the first comes back into play.

Although Scorch Trials fell a little short in the middle section, its not completely that which bothered me.  I had to take off a few points for Thomas.  That’s right, you read right.  Our main protagonist turned from a fearless and relatively smart guy in the Maze to this slightly whiny and a little wishy-washy boy.  It was a little frustrating to read at times, but he sometimes makes these bad decisions and his characters turns really inconsistent.  Plus, Thomas was always drifting off into sleep or getting beat up.  What happened to Thomas? I just didn’t quite understand why they turned him into this weak.

Overall, it was still a good read. The middle section is a little less action-packed than the entire pacing of the first novel.  The Maze seems to be a lot more intense than the Scorch Trials but the whole deal of why I didn’t like it was how they changed the nature of Thomas.  The idea of revealing hints of what the virus was and the effects it had on humans and how it affected the real world as they went through the Scorch was a good one.  The pacing could have been better.  Still, the ending makes me wonder about the third book.  I’m hoping that its going to notch up the intensity more than this one to have a more engaging reading experience.

 Have you read The Scorch Trials yet? What did you think? Was it better or worse than the first book?

Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson

After updating everything in my rarely used tablet, I managed to get this next e-book to work.

A huge thank you for Shannon to reach out to me and send me a copy of her novel to read and review 🙂 I appreciate it a lot! If you happen to have just dropped by to my little independent writers month (and a half), I already featured Shannon in her previous novel, which was part of The Timely Death trilogy. As I patiently wait for the third book to come out, I’m ecstatic to get a chance to read this!  The synopsis she sent me had me all intrigued.

Lets take a look at Shannon’s most recent novel!

Take Me Tomorrow

by Shannon A Thompson

take me tomorrow

Take Me Tomorrow is a YA dystopian novel.  Dystopian worlds have been the new big thing.  It seems everyone digs them out especially with The Giver’s most recent adaptation into the big screen.  In the whole YA world of reading, its simply hard to avoid.  Although there are many outstanding and wildly popular novels in this genre (like The Hunger Games or Divergent), Take Me Tomorrow is in its own league.  America is now divided in various regions, each in their own downfall and structure. After the events of the uprising a few years ago against the clairvoyant drug Tomo, the government wants to remove it from harming its inhabitants and the person who possesses it has to suffer the worst consequences. The story is set in the Topeka region and we start with sixteen year old Sophia Gray who abides to the strict rules especially as her father works for the government himself.  However, when she ends up meeting up a strange boy called Noah who soon changes her life in the most literal sense, it reveals mysteries and secrets bit by bit about the people who she cares about, both her friends and her own family.  Noah is involved with Tomo but he also has his own mission and Sophia now must make a choice despite all the information overload about her life and what she thought she knew.

I’m trying to be vague about Take Me Tomorrow because I don’t want to spoil anything. If you are a fan of YA novels and the dystopian world, this one has to be added to your reading list.  Shannon A Thompson has always been an outstanding young author whose Timely Death series has me anticipating the next book.

Take Me Tomorrow is absolutely impressive.  Its engaging, intriguing and is an absolute page-turner.  I took every single second opportunity to resume reading whenever I could because I just couldn’t wait to see what happen next with Sophia and Noah as the story unfolded.  The pacing is fantastic and you never feel like there’s too much going on.  The characters all are very distinct and can be related to.  This new America is also interesting to learn about.  It gives a good observation of what is going on not only through Sophia’s observations but also through the conversation of the other characters that are involved.  Gradually, new characters are added in bit by bit and everyone has a different story and something essential to add to the overall plot.

Friendship, family, love, war, chaos, drugs are jumble together in this YA dystopian novel but its never messy but rather its an emotional journey with the characters as they embark on an adrenaline, action-packed mission over what is probably a very short about of time.  Just as the characters done slow down, our minds won’t slow down either and thats what makes this an outstanding and exciting novel to read.

I highly recommend it and I promise one of the best reading experiences you will have 🙂

Side note: I sure hope that Shannon will write a sequel because I’m waiting for one. That ending deserves one as well 😉

Make sure to visit Shannon’s blog HERE!