Book Review: Zon by Maureen A. Miller @MaureenAMiller @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Zon
Series: Beyond #5
Author: Maureen A. Miller
Publisher: Maureen A. Miller
Publication Date: June 22, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Zon
Beyond #5
Maureen A. Miller
Maureen A. Miller, June 2020
ISBN 979-8639843747
Trade Paperback

From the author—

With a father from the planet, Ziratak, and a mother from Earth, Zon’s challenges are galactic. Zon doesn’t possess superpowers, though. If anything, he’s a bit of a klutz.

In Ziratakian folklore, the tale of the Temple of the Monarch has been passed down for generations. As legend has it, a series of miniature globes lead to the temple’s gate.

Folklore…nothing more.

Except, Zon knows of a cave with small globes in it. And with one clumsy mishap, he triggers the gate–opening a portal to other worlds.

A trip through this vortex transports him to Earth, where the first human he encounters is a young woman with challenges of her own.

This is a brand new saga, and a new generation. There is no need to read the BEYOND series. However, for readers of the series, you will enjoy this continuation of the epic science fiction adventure.

Zon is not your usual teenager having an identity crisis—his crisis comes about because he’s what we used to call, very crudely and meanly, a half-breed and that’s how most people see him. What makes him truly different from the kids we see around us is that it is his Earthling side that’s foreign. Zon is the son of an Earth-born human and a native of the planet Ziratak. Zak and Aimee are handsome people and well-respected but Zon, unfortunately, is not seen in quite as generous a light.

Zon does have one very good friend, JOH, and the two are inseparable, JOH being an android who understands his young companion very well. JOH is a good listener and he helps Zon get through his angsty times. One day, the two discover a portal to other worlds, eventually one that happens to be Earth on a different plane, and Zon and JOH’s excellent adventure begins. Naturally, they meet a girl, Cassy, and Zon will have to make a crucial choice that will affect the rest of his life.

Zon is a charming, lighthearted science fiction tale with an appealing plot and truly likeable characters, most especially JOH and it’s refreshing to have a teenaged boy as the protagonist. Also, if I ever get to experience having an android for a friend, I hope he or she will be half as interesting and funny as JOH. 😄

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2020.

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An Excerpt from Zon

Zon picked up on another sound. Hoofsteps. Footsteps. The tread of some unimaginable creature.

He spun, confused by the acoustics. As he swung back, he distinctly heard the approach from his right. Wrenching the utility beacon off his belt, he retreated a step towards the whirling shadows in the grove of trees.

A creature crested the hill, it’s blue beak the first thing visible.

“Oh!” It cried, lifting its head and freezing.

Zon swallowed, his legs paralyzed between flight and fight.

“You scared me,” a soft voice claimed. “I’ll just–go–”

The blue beak pivoted, although now he recognized it wasn’t a beak at all. It was a headpiece of some sort. The word eluded him, but he remembered seeing one before.

“Wait,” he called.

The figure halted, but did not look back.

“You speak–” he hesitated, assessing the slight profile, “—English?”

The hat snapped back and brown eyes narrowed under the shade of the brim.

Baseball hat! That’s what his mother called it.

“Uhh, yeah.”

The figure cocked its head.

She.

Not it.

He was pretty sure it was a female, but the slim figure was cloaked in oversized garments, and the long hair was pulled back by a twine, which was something the males on Ziratak did.

The brown eyes slid down his body.

“Your pants are moving,” she observed with a slight blush.

A nagging thump against his thigh alerted him that JOH was trying to get out. Zon slapped his hand down to still the motion.

“It’s just my droid.” He shrugged uncomfortably.

“Droid? Oh, your drone? Were you flying it?”

Her head tipped back and he saw a pale throat.

“Good day for it,” she murmured, and stared curiously at him.

English.

She was talking to him in English.

And she looked mecaw–human.

Zon took another glance around, hoping that his body eclipsed the swirling portal behind him.

“Is this Earth?” he asked, searching the trees, but not seeing any buildings.

The girl’s eyes flared in alarm. She stumbled backwards.

Inside his pants pocket, JOH demanded attention, his incessant vibration driving Zon crazy. He pulled open his pocket to give the droid a stern look. JOH’s animated face was replaced with a string of text.

This IS Earth!

Childhood alarms registered in Zon’s mind. The last time he came to this planet he was quite young. But he remembered his mother’s caution.

Don’t say you’re from another planet.

Most of the people on Earth don’t know much about intergalactic travel. They don’t know about life in other galaxies. And what they don’t know–scares them.

Remember, you are half Earthling.

On Earth your name is Jon. It is for your protection.

Half Earthling.

All that it meant was he was a Gorzot…again.

Encouraged that the female hesitated in her flight, he tried for a more reasonable approach.

“Umm, just kidding,” he fumbled. “I’m not from here.” Where’s here? “I’m visiting.”

A tentative glimpse over her shoulder, and the woman–girl–she looked young–more like his age–finally turned back to face him.

“I can tell.”

He felt awkward under her probing gaze, but he always felt awkward when anyone looked at him for too long.

“How can you tell?”

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About the Author

USA TODAY bestselling author, Maureen A. Miller worked in the software industry for fifteen years. She crawled around plant floors in a hard hat and safety glasses hooking up computers to behemoth manufacturing machines. The job required extensive travel. The best form of escapism during those lengthy airport layovers became writing.

Maureen’s first novel, WIDOW’S TALE, earned her a Golden Heart nomination in Romantic Suspense. After that she became hooked to the genre. In fact, she was so hooked she is the founder of the JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE website.

Recently, Maureen branched out into the Young Adult Science Fiction market with the popular BEYOND Series. To her it was still Romantic Suspense…just on another planet!

Find more about Maureen at www.maureenamiller.com

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram // Bookbub

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Book Reviews: Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb and The Man Who Was Poe by Avi @chickenhsebooks @avi3writer @avonbooks

Where the Rock Splits the Sky
Philip Webb
Chicken House, March 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-55701-6
Hardcover

Mr. Webb’s Where the Rock Splits the Sky is a stellar sci-fi, dystopian story beyond my wildest imagination. Perhaps because I could not fathom a unique paranormal situation which essentially creates chasms, both metaphorical and literal, all over the continental United States. Rather than banding together, people pretend to be in some sort of survival mode. In reality, society splintered and regressed to the ways of the “wild, wild west.”

Everyone can see that an invasion is underway, but only a select few know why. The Navaho people had prayed to the White Shell Woman believing her to be a goddess; Wife of the Moon, Mother of the Navajo people. They are honest and trusting people but the she is an unabashed liar, master manipulator and nothing resembling a goddess.

In the chaos, Megan’s father is missing. She knows, with an inexplicable certainty, that he is trapped in The Zone. She has yet to learn that she is the only person on the planet capable of freeing him and Megan may never be ready to understand why. Shoving doubt aside, she saddles her horse to head into The Zone.

In a rush, but feeling she owes her best bud an explanation, she makes a quick stop. Since Luis is easily as stubborn as she is, Megan isn’t really surprised when he insists on accompanying her. She’s just not sure how she feels about it. Their old, but seemingly uncertain, friendship may not be destined to survive the journey, even if they do find Megan’s father and miraculously make it out alive.

Once inside The Zone, they encounter Kelly. Determinedly cheerful, Kelly announces her intent to join the duo on their quest. Not a problem for Luis, he always believes there’s room for one more. Megan is not so quick to accept a new acquaintance.

Kelly is a large presence with plenty to say and not too much time for politeness. Her overwhelming attitude has Megan and Luis independently soul-searching and even reevaluating their relationship. The dynamic among the three solidified this sweetly-strange little story. I admit, I did not fully understand exactly what was happening or where the story was heading, but I was absolutely invested enough to be shocked, then tickled by a sneaky twist.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2019.

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The Man Who Was Poe
Avi
Avon, July 1997
ISBN 978-0-380-73022-3
Trade Paperback

I have just “discovered” the author, Avi. Meaning, of course, that one of “my” students brought him to my attention. I had asked the students to fill in a wish-list of books to be added to their classroom library and someone requested a book by Avi. The name stuck with me, and wouldn’t you know, after digging through my stacks o’ books, I actually had something from this very author!

Not just any book, either. This casts Edgar Allan Poe as a supporting character. Famous in his own rights, Mr. Poe is almost legendary here in Richmond, VA, where he occupies a predominant place in history. Clearly, I had to read The Man Who Was Poe right then. Fortunately, this Juvenile Historical Fiction was a fast read.

There’s something completely quirky about enjoying the interactions between two totally different types of people, neither of which I would expect to covet as a companion in real-life. In Avi’s world, however, it is the perfect plot presentation. This mystery moves quickly, even with the hair-pin twists and turns. I wanted to sympathize with young Edmund, or at least his pathetic predicament; but, he’s simply too tenacious and tough to pity. After all, this kid continues to go toe-to-toe with Edgar Allan Poe.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.

Book Review: Refraction by Naomi Hughes @NaomiHughesYA @PageStreetKids @The_FFBC

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Title: Refraction
Author: Naomi Hughes
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Refraction
Naomi Hughes
Page Street Kids, November 2019
ISBN 978-1624148903
Hardcover

From the publisher—

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.

There is much to like about this book but two things in particular really made me love it—(1) the main characters are boys and (2) there’s no romance. No, girls do not have to be the stars of everything 😉

Marty is a flawed character in any number of ways, not least of which is his propensity to do what’s best for himself even if it’s not legal or good for anyone else; in fact, he has been known to actually put others in harm’s way. Despite that, he works hard to control his OCD and his ultimate goal is to find his brother. Before the alien attack, Marty was making progress under therapy to manage his OCD but it’s much more difficult now without professional help and, of course, medication is no longer available.

Earth is in shambles after the aliens brought monsters and survival is predicated on a strict ban on reflective surfaces because that’s how the monsters get through. That ban, quite naturally, created a black market for mirrors and Marty is a player. When he gets caught by another teen, Elliott, both are headed for real trouble, sent into the deadly fog. The two boys are on their own and have to rely on each other, developing a real friendship as they come to know and trust each other.

The plot here is creative and well-planned, keeping me flipping electronic pages to find out what would happen next. The author’s characterizations are vivid and appealing and the monsters are just as scary as they should be…almost as much as Elliott’s mother. Also, not to repeat myself, it’s really refreshing to have a story focused on two boys.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, Novenber 2019.

About the Author

Hey! I’m Naomi Hughes, writer of quirky young adult fiction (usually involving physics and/or unicorns). I live in the Midwest US, a region I love even though it tries to murder me with tornadoes every spring. When not writing, my hobbies include reading (of course), traveling, and geeking out over Marvel superheroes and certain time-traveling Doctors. My debut YA sci-fi standalone novel, Afterimage, is available now from Page Street Publishing. My next novel, Refraction (also a standalone YA sci-fi), comes out in Nov 2019. I also offer freelance critique services at naomiedits.com.

Author Links:
Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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PRIZE: Win (1) copy of REFRACTION
by Naomi Hughes (US Only)

STARTS: November 5th 2019

ENDS: November 19th 2019

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Book Review: Beneath the Surface by Rebecca Langham @rlangham85 @ninestarpress @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Beneath the Surface
Series: Outsider Project #1
Author: Rebecca Langham
Narrator: Kate Roth
Publication Date: March 18, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction

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Beneath the Surface
Outsider Project #1
Rebecca Langham
Narrated by Kate Roth
NineStar Press, March 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

When a change in collective conscious sends the Outsiders, a group of aliens, to the shadows below the city, humans reason that the demonetization of their peers is simply more “humane”. There’s no question nor doubt. Just acceptance.

Lydia had embraced that sense of “truth” for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a powerful governor, she has been able to live her life with more comforts than most. Comforts can be suffocating, though, and when the opportunity to teach Outsider children in their private, “humane” community becomes available, she takes it.

What she finds beneath the city is far from the truth she had grown to know. There she meets Alessia, an Outsider with the knowledge and will to shake the foundation of all those who walk above ground. The two find a new and unexpected connection despite a complete disconnect from the technological world. Or perhaps in spite of it.

Still, it takes a lot more than an immutable connection to change the world. Lydia, Alessia, and a small group of Outsiders must navigate a system of corruption, falsehoods, and twists none of them ever saw coming, all while holding on to the hope to come out alive in the end. But it’s a risk worth taking and a future worth fighting for.

Days after reading Beneath the Surface, I’m still unsure of just what I think about it and it keeps popping back into my mind. That’s not a normal state of events for me but it must be a good thing that I’m still cogitating over this book, right?

The premise is a good one, that humans have won the war with the aliens and have subjugated the survivors, and it’s refreshing to see aliens that are so close in appearance to humans and so subject to many of our behaviors. I missed having any  of the initial conflict between the two because that would have brought a lot of frenetic action to the page and, in fact, the story suffered, for me, by being sort of staid. I also could have done with less attention to the romantic entanglements—I always think there’s too much of that—but the characters did appeal to me a good deal.

Perhaps my indecision about this book lies in the feeling that there are too many threads to follow, too many soapbox issues. Did the author really intend that? I don’t truly know but there’s no doubt that this felt like an allegory for our current conditions in the US (and in a few other countries but most noticeably here) what with our government’s treatment of immigrants and the rise of racism, corruption, terrorism, broken promises and all the other ill will going on here.

Narrator Kate Roth does a nice job other than having some difficulty with male voices and her use of varying accents helped bring it all to life. I’ll gladly listen to more from her.

So, bottomline, Beneath the Surface has a lot to offer but there are facets that prevented me from liking it 100%. I’m hoping for—and expecting—some more booklove with the next installment  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

About the Author

Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, children, and a menagerie of pets. She has been a foster carer for over ten years.

A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, Rebecca is a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine.  When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.

Connect with Rebecca:

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

A global voice, Kate brings her broad experience and expertise into the studio and into her voice over delivery. With her unique blend of accents, a project can only “shine” with the versatility and distinct sound of her voice

Australian, British and North American accents are within Kate’s range.

Adaptive in style and tone, depending on your needs, Kate can deliver a wide range of voices. From conversational to authoritative; fun to serious; sophisticated to knowledgeable and beyond.

Connect with Kate:

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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Book Review: Passage by Indie Gantz

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Title: Passage
Series: The Akasha Series #1
Author: Indie Gantz
Publication Date: March 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Passage
The Akasha Series #1
Indie Gantz
Cromulent Press, March 2018
ISBN
Trade Paperback

From the author—

On day one, Charlie Damuzi and her mute twin brother Tirigan are blissfully unaware of the dangerous world they live in. They may be aliens living on Earth after the extinction of humans, but to Charlie, life is pretty mundane.

On day two, the Damuzi family is ripped apart by a family secret that forces the twins to flee the only home they’ve ever known.

Determined to find a way to reunite their family, Charlie and Tirigan travel to uncharted territory in search of their salvation.

But that’s just Charlie’s side of the story.

In the future, forty days from when we first meet the Damuzi twins, Tirigan is on the move. His destination is unknown, as are the people he’s surrounded himself with, but his mission is still the same. Keep his sister safe and reunite their family.

However, as Tirigan attempts to navigate the complex bonds he’s formed with his companions, he’s forced to confront the one thing in life he has yet to fully understand.

Himself.

Family. Deception. Power. Destruction.

It all begins on day one.

There are elements in this story that set it apart from many other science fiction tales, not least of which is the premise that Earth is now populated by aliens, long after humans as we know them have gone extinct. That alone gives the reader the promise that the two principals, Charlie and Tirigan, are going to be very different beings than what we’re accustomed to and so they are but…they’re also quite familiar. This brother and sister are really appealing and it’s very easy to forget that they are, indeed, aliens.

These fraternal twins have the bond that we see between twins now but they take it further. Tirigan is essentially mute but that doesn’t hurt his connection to Charlie because they can communicate telepathically. The two live a comfortable existence until everything is suddenly turned topsyturvy and they are forced to leave it all behind.

Another compelling facet of this book is the author’s use of flash forwards, told by Tirigan. That can often be confusing and disruptive but Ms. Gantz handles it well and the future episodes allowed me to feel an even stronger rapport with Tirigan. In fact, they helped to round out the worldbuilding that is so critical to any science fiction story.

On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed Passage and, while much of the book is taken up by the setup and worldbuilding, I was still engaged by Charlie’s and Tirigan’s adventures and I’m anticipating even better things to come next year in the second book, Kindred.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2018.

About the Author

Indie Gantz grew up in Northern Virginia and received her Psychology degree at George Mason University. Despite her passion and curiosity for the human mind, Indie left her chosen field of study to finally give voice to the many imagined minds she has created.

Indie lives with her family in North Carolina. She spends her days drinking tea and clacking keys.

Author Links:

Website // Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

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Book Reviews: Exo by Fonda Lee, R.I.P. Eliza Hart by Alyssa Sheinmel and The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

Exo
Fonda Lee
Scholastic Press, February 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-93343-8
Hardcover

Peace Day may be quickly approaching, but a battle is about to go down while something more sinister, bigger, bubbles beneath. Tension between the Global Security & Pacification Forces (SecPac) and humans is palpable; the humans’ hatred, disgust and raw fury with the zhree is tangible, yet they plan to celebrate a century of coexistence.  Coexistence applies to the fifteen percent of mankind approved to exist among the zhree.  The remaining eighty-five percent faded into shadows of themselves or morphed into fierce, determined resistance fighters.

Having survived the Hardening process that transforms a zhree-approved human child into an exo, the only son of the Prime Liaison appears as a firmly committed SecPac soldier.  Donovan is confident and unquestioning in his fight against human rebels; until a raid goes wrong.  Held hostage where humans are the apex species, his perspective shifts.  It becomes impossible to see the individuals around him as the cohesive, carbon-copy-collection he has been fighting against.  What he fought for blurs out of focus.  Who he really is becomes crystal clear: not human enough for mankind, “nothing but human” to the zhree. Although it feels as if everything is different now, one thing is very much the same: the entire planet is in danger and Donovan is helpless as a hostage.

Exo is a brilliant example of Science-Fiction feeling oh-so-real.  Ms. Lee packs powerful punches in action scenes, soothes with sympathy in some situations, but bites with wit and humor in others.  Entertaining, empathy evoking, surprisingly relatable and utterly thought provoking, this is a book for everyone; not just Science-Fiction fans.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2017.

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R.I.P Eliza Hart
Alyssa Sheinmel
Scholastic Press, December 2017
ISBN 978-0-338-08762-8
Hardcover

The appeal of the convenient, all-access “…narrow streets on the narrow island of Manhattan” is almost irrelevant for someone uncomfortable (at best) in enclosed spaces. Hopeful that her home state would help her open doors that claustrophobia kept firmly closed, Ellie accepts a scholarship to attend a tiny boarding school buffered by redwoods, opening wide above the Pacific Ocean.

Alone, Ellie explores the other dorms. A parental accompaniment would have been cool, but her issues have taken up too much of their time anyway. She will make friends here, none of these students know of her problems. Actually, she even sees a name she knows and suddenly, Ellie has something to look forward to: reconnecting with Eliza Hart.

Awkwardness should be the worse-case-scenario. Eliza may not have fond memories of her former childhood friend, she may not even remember Ellie at all. Appearing angry and almost personally offended that Ellie dare approach her, Eliza obviously loathes Ellie. In fact, she’s already told everyone on campus that Ellie is a vicious, pathological liar and students should simply steer clear.

Stunned, shattered, struggling with her sanity, Ellie has to know why. Even as Eliza’s body is recovered from the cliffside and speculations swirl around campus, Ellie cannot stop searching for answers. As she uncovers Eliza’s best kept secret, Ellie’s own repression is revealed, changing her perspective on absolutely everything.

R.I.P. Eliza Hart is an outstanding YA novel because, as narrators of their own stories, Eliza and Ellie explain actualities of mental illness in a way that everyone can understand and empathize with. Misconceptions, such as medicine plus therapy equal a cure, are corrected…without sounding like a somber after-school-special. And the awesome element of something decidedly different, redwood burl poachers.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2017.

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The Forgetting
Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-94521-9
Hardcover

Imagine awaking with no knowledge of who you are. You don’t know your name, or age.  None of your surroundings are familiar. The distraught children barricaded inside with you are strangers, but the look of terror covering each little face reflects how you feel. They, too, have Forgotten.

In the white-walled world of Canaan, you carry your life story with you in the most literal way: hand-written in a journal kept close (if not tethered) at all times.  Every moment lived will be written down accurately and truthfully.  When one journal is filled, it is maintained in the Archives. Histories—both individual and collective—are compiled and preserved here; a necessity based on an inexplicable, yet infallible, occurrence that robs the residents of their memories every twelve years.

Every rule has an exception and here, it is Nadia.  Having been a child during her first Forgetting, she still realized how different she was.  She did not Forget.  Admirably altruistic, cunning and courageous, this character could carry the story.  A grudging acceptance to partner with Gray, the Glassblower’s Son, subtly shows her softer side and adds a bit more urgency and suspense to an already captivating caper.

The real scoop is revealed like ripples in a pond. The grab-your-attention-splash of the impending Forgetting expands into a more complex mystery.  Perhaps it is the limited memory, or maybe life without modern conveniences keeps people too busy to ponder, but; no one seems to question the wall around the city.  Again, except for Nadia.  She’s been over the wall and noted differences.  In her city, stone is jagged—as if freshly broken or cut.  The other side of wall has stone that has been worn smooth.  She wonders, “…does the wall protect us, or keep us in?”

Already intrigued by the idea of a periodic, mass-memory-erase, I became completely captivated considering circumstances that could have resulted in the walled city.  My wildest imagination is not even comparable to Ms. Cameron’s creative genius; I was astounded.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2017.

Book Review: End of an Era by Robert J. Sawyer

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