TOUCHED By Walter Mosley: Sci-Fi That Cuts Like A Razor

TOUCHED By Walter Mosley: Sci-Fi That Cuts Like A Razor

TOUCHED by Walter Mosley: sci-fi that cuts like a razor, in the vein of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

I do not say that lightly.

Combine Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, Jordan Peele, Ray Bradbury, and you will have an iota of an idea of what the impactful fiction Mosley has put forth is like in TOUCHED.

Not only is this gripping, thrilling science fiction, but TOUCHED also invokes strong philosophical arguments and commentaries on 21st Century America and the earth as a whole.

The tale of Martin Just – who has been abducted by aliens and thrust back into the tumultuous world – pays homage to one of the greatest novels of all time, Slaughterhouse-Five, and its unreliable narrator and fellow alien abductee, Billy Pilgrim.

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The essence of the characters, from the pilgrim to the just, explores deep psychological elements pertaining to their reaction to the most awful circumstances and their ability or inability, at times, to rationally experience the passage of time during the experiences.

Vonnegut examined the brutality and senseless violence and murder that occurred during wartime, WWII, where he was a POW during the bombing of Dresden, Germany.

What Mosley does so well in TOUCHED is to instantaneously transport the reader into the mind and body of the protagonist, Just, so that the reeling man who desperately wants to gain a grip on his newly found mission and alter ego, Temple, is sent sprawling in the bigoted, biased, and insanely unfair American society.

TOUCHED by Walter Mosley is a classic.

For Just returns from the aliens in a dream-state and wanders erect onto his bedroom balcony where the African-American is spotted by white Los Angeles police who also see a child on the sidewalk. And their immediate reaction is to arrest the sleep walker and wage war upon him.

What plays out is a painful coming to terms with what the mission means, what Just’s life means, and also what his alter-ego Temple wants to do to survive and thrive.

Temple is wired to protect that alien mission to cure the peoples of earth, and the universe, of diseases like the racist violence haunting Just and his family, and Temple will go to any lengths to save Martin and his family and comrades.

The police and the criminal justice system in LA play out in a realistic and agonizing manner that tears at the reader’s guts.

The whole while, the mission and Just’s understanding of it evolves and moves rapidly to counter a foe that creepily approaches him in a bid to end all life, to eradicate the diseases, rather than cure them.

If you like action every bit as hard-hitting as Mike Hammer and Jason Bourne, then you will fall in love with the strength of Martin Just, and his vengeful side, Temple, who kicks down all kinds of doors.

There is sexiness in the writing, there are coming-of-age motifs for the middle-aged protagonist, as well as tropes of familial love, and redemption, for even the worst of humanity that Just/Temple encounters.

The Devil In A Blue Dress and Easy Rawlins are rightly hailed, but TOUCHED and every one of Walter Mosley’s works deserve a read.

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)!


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TOUCHED by Walter Mosley: sci-fi that cuts like a razor” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

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Babel By R.F. Kuang: A Revolutionary Historical Fantasy Epic

Babel By R.F. Kuang: A Revolutionary Historical Fantasy Epic

Babel By R.F. Kuang: a revolutionary historical fantasy epic that examines the influence of cogent language and its romantic secrets, bitter deceptions, and intoxicating effects that mark the meek and the brash, the power-hungry and the marytrs.

Babel By R.F. Kuang may be the best book I read this year.

If you are a fan of language or translation or history or great characters being challenged beyond your wildest prescient thoughts, then you must read this must-read, this phenomenal tale by R.F. Kuang.

As with many great stories – especially in the SFF-speculative fiction realm – the character’s path needs to resonate deeply, and Kuang’s protagonist Robin Swift does this while being utterly captivating.

The name he chooses after being dragged from his home in Canton and near-forcibly adopted by an English professor is one stemming from a love of literature that he identifies with, Robin Swift.

The following book review of R.F. Kuang’s Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution is SPOILER-FREE.

Robin Swift’s journey is so real, it hurts.

His awe at his first foray into an English bookstore, or an Oxford library, is moving and relatable.

You swell with joy, with Robin, as he delights in the exotic tastes of desserts from bakeries for the first time, just as you will feel the shock of betrayal least looked for when it lashes out at him.

Betrayal is a theme in Babel.

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.”

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Language and story metaphorically and literally make magic in Babel.

Words reside at the center of civilization but also at the panopticon, whether for use in aiding humanity, or in enslaving it.

Seeing the black, white, and gray areas in Babel proves difficult for those involved in the tower, the school of translation at Oxford, of Babel, for the spell of comfort, happiness, fulfillment, and friendship casts a certain amount of myopia that runs deeper than the magical silver bars the translators create and maintain.

The history in Babel is, itself, a mythology by which Kuang makes the reader climb and dive off a cliff and deeply submerge into the early 19th Century as the riotous age of colonialism is at a zenith, and at the same time depict Oxford University – and the college life that Robin embarks on – which is outwardly fun, but filled with racism, misogyny, and final exams that can cause the students to bleed out.

Make no mistake, Babel will tear at your heart, gouge deeply, and continue to stay with you, long after you finish reading.

Babel is a masterpiece of fantasy literature that reaches depths similar in scope and artistry to the most deeply moving and impactful symphonies, works of literature, epic poems, and fine art.

Babel is a masterpiece of fantasy literature.

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)!


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Babel By R.F. Kuang: A Revolutionary Historical Fantasy Epic” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

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DR. FUTURITY By Philip K. Dick Is An Oft Overlooked Gem

DR. FUTURITY By Philip K. Dick Is An Oft Overlooked Gem

DR. FUTURITY by Philip K. Dick is an oft overlooked gem that delves deep into the history, psyche, religion, and realities tied to humanity.

This is one of PKD’s earliest novels and publications, and while many relegate this to atypical 1950s science-fiction, albeit with more style, Dick’s DR. FUTURITY not only unleashes a compelling narrative full of page-turning urgency, but there is vast profundity here.

Make no mistake, there are powerful metaphors – thinly veiled or blatantly announced on the page – that deeply questions the history and methodology of society.

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For a sub-250-page sci-fi thriller, I was astounded by DR. FUTURITY.

As the title implies, time travel is the method for which this story moves.

Philip K. Dick wields time travel like a scalpel, it cuts efficiently and effectively.

The science is plausible and neither detracts from the plot, nor adds any superfluousness.

But what quickly becomes apparent is the startling depth to which Dr. Jim Parsons witnesses, questions, and philosophizes about the future of humankind.

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The follow book review of DR. FUTURITY by Philip K. Dick contains SPOILERS**

Time travel in this context is a fun means to explore the many faults of patriarchal society that has so damaged and imprinted humanity that civilization is warped and struggling to atone for and recover from the wrongful subjugation of people for centuries upon centuries.

The hundreds of years of racism, colonialism, and enslavement that occurs to target women and anyone that is not white creates ripples throughout time that prove extremely difficult to undo.

To counter the periods of racist, patriarchal years, Parsons finds himself in a future matriarchal system that so values the future inhabitants of the world that there is a systemic ban on free will to procreate, or even to age.

They revere death, not unlike the Ancient Egyptians, and each of the young’s demise may lead to their seeds growing better future generations, literally.

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As Parsons realizes the extent of the societal sickness, Dick writes: “And, underneath it all, the ethos of death. A system devoted to the extinction of the individual, for the sake of the future.”

Here is a brilliant critique of the patriarchal religions of Abraham and their emphasis on sacrificing individuality and even one’s own life to revel in the promise of a bright future for the next generation.

As Parsons tries and fails to save the people’s cryogenically frozen leader, it occurs to him that the leader’s own zealotry is his downfall.

“How close the idealist, with his fanatical passion, was to the mentally disturbed,” Parsons thinks, as Dick sends home the message.

The ravings of the zealots that wish to subjugate others, whether in active slavery, or in passive societal constraints on the individual, lead to dangerously warped futures, even ones where incest is a possible downfall.

In a clear and coherent time travel tale, Dick offers up a world-building of future realities that have the grit under the fingernails, the acrid smells that jar the characters on their journey.

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And right at the top matching all of the critiques, is a blatant call to arms for all people to allow women the right to choose what they do with their bodies – and men as well, as they are sterilized without choice in this far future – and Dick praises the doctors and medical professionals that Dr. Jim Parsons represents.

So much so, that Parsons inspires his own children, born unbeknown to him in the future, to form an effective illegal group hellbent on giving the right to choose to everyone and it will prevail in future elections.

“The group distributed inflammatory propaganda, demanding the end of euthanors and a resumption of natural birth – and at the very least, the freedom of women to conceive and give birth, or to turn their zygote over . . . if they preferred. The element of choice.” [Philip K. Dick, DR. FUTURITY]

There is a flawed protagonist, in Parsons, in DR. FUTURITY, and there is a love story here involving him, as he was eons away from his wife.

And though the plot is not wholly unexpected in this book, the depth with which the main characters sheers modern society’s actions – in the past and in the future – is truly fresh, surprising, and impactful.

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A note on the Centipede Press numbered edition of DR. FUTURITY:

As I previously reviewed The Cosmic Puppets by Philip K. Dick and its signed limited edition, it was one of the three books included in the CP boxed set, the second being DR. FUTURITY.

This book has a brilliant introduction by Michael Swanwick who candidly goes through Dick’s early life that led up to the writing of this book.

There are fantastic photos of the author himself, as well as the plethora of great book cover art that backed the title throughout the years.

The binding is full cloth with a foil stamped PKD signature on the front board, and the paper as well as the print quality is of the highest order.

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)!


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“DR. FUTURITY By Philip K. Dick Is An Oft Overlooked Gem” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

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David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall 5-Star Book Review

David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall 5-Star Book Review

David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall 5-Star Book Review gives a Spoiler-Free account of the new prequel in the Star Trek: Picard Series, and TFF is also simultaneously publishing an Author Interview here for the first time, as David Mack was kind enough to take the time to speak with R.J. Huneke about this brilliant novel.

At the heart of this gripping science-fiction story is identity.

What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to face rejection and prejudice because of one’s appearance?

How do we come to grips with the evolution of our personality, our self-understanding, and our self-reflection as the years roll on into adulthood?

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Not only is Star Trek: PicardFirewall a great Star Trek story, but it is a phenomenal work of fiction, in general – this is a classic.

Anyone can enjoy the venture into the thrilling world of Seven of Nine…even if you have never watched or read Star Trek.

I love the accessibility of David Mack’s Firewall, and though I am admittedly a big Star Trek fan, it is quickly apparent when reading this that anyone can enjoy the venture into the thrilling world of Seven of Nine at this tumultuous time in the character’s life, even if you have never watched or read any Star Trek.

Star Trek: Picard – Firewall is a powerful and moving queernormative coming-of-age story about Seven of Nine in the years leading up to her role in Picard (the mini-series).

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For Seven of Nine is not just searching to find her way as an independent adult, and a human, when she had her formative years taken away – along with many of her memories – by the alien cybernetic organisms known as the Borg, but she is also struggling to learn her identity as a bi-sexual woman and as a person who is prejudiced against for her appearance, in her visible remains of the Borg implants.

If you are not familiar with the TV series Star Trek: Voyager or Star Trek: Picard, Firewall brings the reader into the life of a character who was commandeered by a cyborg alien force as a child and who lost many of those years and even into early adulthood, because her mind was a part of a hive mind Collective.

Seven of Nine has had nearly all of her robotic elements – her implants – removed, but some on her face remain.

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And so many people dehumanize her, so much so that her application to join Starfleet is rejected.

Up to that point, her human identity was that of a Starfleet officer.

When this is denied, she seeks to escape earth and find a way to feel like an included member of human society, and a new way of life that suits the personality that is still forming within her.

The writing in this book is enthralling, from the world-building to the character development, and the memorable prose.

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To be human means to struggle to find a path in life, and so meanings found in Firewall’s coming-of-age storyline are very visceral and accessible.

You feel for these characters, especially Seven of Nine.

Firewall is a deeply personal and impactful book full of piercing themes.

Seven of Nine deals with PTSD, brutal anxiety and depression, and even feelings of neurodivergence.

There are keen metaphors in Firewall for the struggles of LGBTQ+ folks, especially for trans youth and trans people youth seeking identity.

Seven of Nine is an extraordinary person who deals with love and hate and creature comforts in equal measure, while striving to retain that sense of being a good person in familiar ways that we can all recognize within ourselves.

The Bookshop.org description of Star Trek: Picard – Firewall:

A thrilling prequel adventure based on the acclaimed TV series Star Trek: Picard! Two years after the USS Voyager’s return from the Delta Quadrant, Seven of Nine finds herself rejected for a position in Starfleet…and instead finds a new home with the interstellar rogue law enforcement corps known as the Fenris Rangers. The Rangers seem like an ideal fit for Seven–but to embrace this new destiny, she must leave behind all she’s ever known, and risk losing the most important thing in her life: her friendship with Admiral Kathryn Janeway. [bookshop.org]

Firewall debuted on February 27, 2024, so get your copies, Fictioneers!

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!) I gave it 5/5 Stars!


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“David Mack’s Star Trek: Picard – Firewall 5-Star Book Review” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

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THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace

THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace

THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace is all aces in TFF’s book, and this preview review aims to uncover some of what makes this engaging mystery so damn good, without lifting the veil too much.

This story is one of the more perplexing murder mysteries you may come across, combining new, thrilling elements with style!

Agatha Christie would love Schillace’s THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE.

Not only are the brilliant and extremely engaging facets to this case enveloping, but solving a murder by antique pistol, as well as the mysterious disappearance of a rare Ardemore family portrait that may be connected, prove to be difficult entanglements that unwind in wholly unexpected ways and leaves the reader feverishly turning pages to follow the threads.

The following Preview Book Review of THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace is SPOILER-FREE.

Schillace’s characters, from the outsider-protagonist Jo Jones, to the Detective Inspector MacAdams with his inferiority complex due to his divorce, to Gwilym the young antique and hobby collector, and to the brazen Irish innkeeper and fellow outsider, Tula, they all stand up with great intrigue and pack a punch.

To ramble a little, characters are the lifeblood of fiction, with few memorable exceptions.

The one I come back to frequently is the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, because it simultaneously thwarts the rules by creating a compelling and innovative pillar of science-fiction without (I argue, though some disagree) characters being central to the story told over the course of centuries.

I appreciate Foundation for that, but my favorite work of Asimov is and will always be THE END OF ETERNITY.

Aside from being used for near every time travel tale post-H.G. Wells, THE END OF ETERNITY has memorable and incredibly realistic characters that you root for.

They make you love the story.

Just as each character in THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE stands out in their own ways and brings you on a wholly uncharted journey to a murder / painting mystery, this too is a story to love.

The young American woman, Jo, inherits an old estate with a decrepit English manor house that holds her in uncomfortable territory.

She finds hidden in a locked room what appears to be an Ardemore family portrait of an unknown relative that was taken from the library for some reason.

Shortly thereafter, it is stolen.

And then a body turns up.

The neurodivergent Jo felt like an outsider before she becomes a suspect in the murder, and that feeling only grows as she attempts to solve the crimes and find out who was the Ardemore mystery woman.

The witty, charming, and intelligent character of Jo is thirsty for answers.

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And despite her difficulty overcoming a not-too-distant divorce with a husband that continually reminded her of her autism and her behavioral faux pas – some of which she deems may be fair and some of which are certainly not – she collects herself time and again and proves to be insightful, well-read, and courageous as she presses on.

The insight into the way this character thinks is exciting, and makes me feel like I am privy to a behind the scenes look into the methods of Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes that is essential to their effectiveness in solving a crime.

Schillace’s Jo Jones is flawed and extremely realistic.

The ways in which Jo reflects on how she thinks – especially using memories of her experiences to guide her – makes for a refreshing new perspective into someone who is on the spectrum and not just surviving society, but thriving despite it.

In a touching moment, the Irish innkeeper speaks of leaving her home and landing in England as an outsider, like Jo, and then the younger woman reveals a fun and difficult attribute:

“Words have just always been my people…and I don’t forget them after I read them.

“Ever? Like a photographic memory?” Tula asked. Jo scrunched up her nose. She’d never liked the term.

“It doesn’t work like that. I can recite from most of the books I’ve read–but it has to be triggered…sometimes the connections I see aren’t really there…but sometimes it means I see connections other people can’t see.”

The marked self-reflection makes the reader empathize with Jo in a deeply impactful way.

Despite the social difficulties of inter-personal relationships and reactions to situations, social norms, and speech that are often a struggle for Jo Jones, she proves to be an exceptional force in the book and a very relatable person of interest.

 

THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace is out tomorrow – February 13, 2024 – so get your copy post-haste!

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace” Book Review Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

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