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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Dark Matter By Blake Crouch Forges Great Sci-Fi

Dark Matter By Blake Crouch Forges Great Sci-Fi

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch forges great sci-fi, as a 21st century high point of transformative art continues the tradition of science miracles having a very good and very bad fallout.

Dark Matter provides a visceral thrill ride empowered by science the way Michael Crichton’s work has for decades.

I do not throw around the name of Crichton often, because no one is quite like the late author, the scientist-teacher-turned novelist.

But Crouch in his own brilliant way reminds me of him.

The Following Book Review of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is Spoiler-Free.

dark matter, blake crouch, andy weir, sci-fi, book review, suntup, Hilary Clarcq

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious, and he wakes in another world, another reality, exactly like his own except for where he made a fundamentally different life choice that drastically altered his life and those of his loved ones.

Would the science he had given up come to change the course of time?

Or times?

These are not spoilers.

This is just how you get thrown into a story that is every bit as much an intimate lovers’ voyage, as it is a spine-rattling suspense thriller.

Genres are, like rules, made to be smashed, chopped up and baked into a wholesome and delicious culinary innovation.

And so too does the vision of Crouch cook up the best parts of sci-fi, thriller, fantasy, a sprinkling of horror, and a love story into a unique and infamous warning of what tampering with alternate timelines might be like for those equipped with dark matter in the near (or far) future.

I love this book.

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It evokes many of the best traits from what I consider to be the pinnacle of time travel fiction, Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity.

Most if not all of the time travel medium, in films, video games, comic books, and novels lift ideas and tropes from Asimov, but Dark Matter takes it all a lot further and also gets very specific with the fringe science theories and experiments with time and matter.

At the heart is a man who loves his wife, Daniela, has his reality and their life together taken from him, and must work with a future science he never invented to try and right the wrongs.

“Last night, I set out to answer a simple question: Where is Daniela . . . This is not my world. Even as those five words cross my mind, I’m not exactly certain what they mean, or how to begin to consider their full weight.” [DARK MATTER, pg. 118, B. Crouch]

Dark Matter continues to blow my mind after each read.

To give this extraordinary book the treatment it deserves, Suntup Editions strove to encompass this classic with a gorgeous signed-numbered limited edition.

The spine is goatskin and feels so soft and smooth.

Hilary Clarcq, dark matter, blake crouch, andy weir, sci-fi, book review, suntup

And since the story deals with alternate realities, what better way to show that than to have three different bradel-bound numbered versions, purple, green, and blue, and then randomly send them to the 350 owners upon release.

They are all great to hold, with a brilliant sheen to the thick cloth covers and the minimalism evokes less is more.

I wanted and was thrilled to get the purple cover.

Unique to the edition is an introduction by another favorite author and one of the most innovative voices of 21st century sci-fi Andy Weir, and he, crouch, and artist Clarcq each signed the book.

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All of these Suntup editions are so well made and fit Dark Matter’s story so well!

Suntup made a limited artist edition and a lettered edition as well, and the art that Hilary Clarcq brought makes this tale come alive in an exciting way.

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“Dark Matter by Blake Crouch Forges Great Sci-Fi” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

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This is How You Lose the Time War By Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone SOARS!

This is How You Lose the Time War By Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone SOARS!

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone SOARS!

The Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards Winner for best novella, THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR represents some of the very best in innovative speculative fiction.

I read this book in a few days and was enamored with it!

The following is a SPOILER-FREE book review of THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone.

The main characters Red and Blue are agents in a time war described best as traversing amongst myriad threats of history and tangled braids of the future.

Red and Blue are women, if not wholly humanoid, well that is for the reader to decide, and are from a distant future.

They are the best at what they do: marking threads, timelines, for destruction and/or control.

The fallout of their actions directly improves or harms entire cords of histories.

Upon becoming aware of one another’s opposition, Red and Blue begin a taunting, spiritual, revealing, and ultimately romantic correspondence through some extremely well-hidden and well-experienced letters (eating and reveling in Sumac seeds for one, savoring a scintillating pot of tea for another).

The prose from both authors is deeply poetic and philosophical, and is layered in quips, in new tech from the future, in new interpretations of past figures and events.

Red and Blue are deeply insightful people, and they challenge each other to grow even as they get to know one another via the letters.

To create this book, Max Gladstone wrote all of Red and Amal El-Mohtar wrote all of Blue’s chapters.

And so a brilliant use of unique personality naturally illuminates each character.

At first Red and Blue seem like they might snare one another.

Later, Red and Blue seem to have betrayed the time war itself.

The result is that each layer of the book unfolds and is more suspenseful, more delicate, more painful, and more invigorating than the last section.

El-Mohtar and Gladstone’s THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR is one of those pivotal works of sci-fi-fantasy, a classic that needs to be reread again and again to be fully realized.

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“This is How You Lose the Time War By Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone SOARS!” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

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Upgrade By Blake Crouch: A Thrilling Sci-Fi Masterpiece

Upgrade By Blake Crouch: A Thrilling Sci-Fi Masterpiece

Upgrade by Blake Crouch: a thrilling sci-fi masterpiece details a near future where examining what it is to be human is vital for survival.

In Upgrade, the writing flows smoothly and efficiently as the story hits the reader impactfully.

The world building, character creation, and science are all too real.

The pace is tremendous – Upgrade does not let up!

And the ending is both moving and realistic, painful in its beauty.

The Following Review of Upgrade by Blake Crouch Spoiler Warning.

Imagine sharing a last name with your mother who was solely responsible for killing millions, unleashing an unrelenting pandemic of genetic mutation in the world, and who also made so many geneticists and biologists very training an illegal act deemed so by the Gene Protection Agency.

Logan Ramsay is an extremely intelligent man, but one who grew up dreaming of being his mother’s equal of off-the-charts genius.

And then he stands trial for her crimes against humanity and goes to jail.

The jealousy is gone.

Once freed he starts a family, and Logan enjoys nothing more than playing chess with his daughter and being a family man, when he is not paying a personal penance for the blood his mother spilt.

Out of jail, Logan is working for the GPA to bust illegal gene labs and dealers of illicit genetic material.

This is a world where lower Manhattan is under water, and a Las Vegas confidential informant has his own lab where he makes new species for the wealthiest of collectors, including a new dragon, and he is allowed to, by the GPA, because he hands over those illegal scientists that come to him with more nefarious intent for material and supplies.

When a lab bust becomes a trap and an explosion of an ice bomb sends shards of genetic altering virus irrevocably into Logan’s system, he receives one of the first human DNA upgrades.

Logan learns how to dial down the emotional parts of his brain in order to think more rationally, or work less distracted.

He can read heart rates, blood pressure, and faces so well that he can discern the truth and lies and anticipate many actions before someone does it.

He is stronger than he has ever been.

He can remember every detail of everything he has ever read or seen in his entire life.

His sister is upgraded as well. The two of them learn that from beyond the grave their mother infected them with a Scythe program to alter hundreds of parts of their DNA and improve their overall state so that they will act to save the dying world.

It is Miriam Ramsey’s dying wish. Before humanity dies as a species in a hundred years, she has gifted it with the means to save it from itself.

But will humans remain humans when they are all upgraded, or will they be something else?

And what could go wrong trying to infect and convert billions of people?

Logan sees the need for the world to change but not at such a cost as homo sapiens becoming something else at his mother’s whim, and then his sister tries to kill him.

She takes their mother’s research and flees.

The only two upgraded humans on the planet nearly kill each other over their ideals, a point that is not lost on Logan as he does not see the upgrade as a final solution to the doomsday clock.

End of Spoiler Warning.

Crouch’s research into genetic markers, DNA, and myriad aspects of the human brain and its actions is truly remarkable, and he writes with ease, inserting the research in a way that is accessible to those who are not scientists and also in a way that is natural as it is shared by the characters in the story.

And the messages are not lost in the science or the riveting plot.

This is one of those things that great science fiction authors, like Isaac Asimov or Michael Crichton often achieve in their works.

You invest deeply in Logan’s character and those around him, while the story whips into a frenzy and all the while science is at the center of what is happening.

With Upgrade, Crouch has written a brilliant tale that goes deep into what it means to be human and whether or not being human at a genetic level can or should save the species.

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“Upgrade By Blake Crouch: A Thrilling Sci-Fi Masterpiece!” was written by R.J. Huneke.

 

Dune & Frank Herbert Immortalized By Centipede Press

Dune & Frank Herbert Immortalized By Centipede Press

Dune & Frank Herbert immortalized by Centipede Press in a limited edition that creates a uniquely bold, intricate, imaginative, and sharp book, a true work of art – illustrated by Mark Molnar – befitting a masterpiece that is one of the greatest science-fiction novels of all time.

There are few works as grandiose, moving, tragic and exhilarating as Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Dune, Frank Herbert, Centipede Press, limited edition, signed limited, signed, book review, mark molnar

The following book review of Dune by Frank Herbert is SPOILER-FREE* and will touch on the story and then focus on the signed-limited fine press edition published by Centipede Press in 2021-2022.

Dune can be summed up as masterful sci-fi, and every facet of the Centipede Press tome does it justice.

Dune is one of my favorite books, and so as to not give a 30-page thesis of a review on the story for the ages, I am tabling that (at least for today) in favor of focusing on what I consider the epitome of a physical book encompassing the revolutionary work of Frank Herbert.

For the uninitiated, Dune is another name for the desert planet Arrakis – which aside from tiny polar ice caps – is entirely covered in desert.

Arrakis is itself one of the most dominant characters in the book.

Dune, Frank Herbert, Centipede Press, limited edition, signed limited, signed, book review, mark molnar

The extremely harsh environment makes water the most valued commodity for any living or traveling on the planet, and it molds one of the toughest peoples that live in the deep desert, the Fremen.

Arrakis is also the only place in the galaxy where spice mélange is found. This is found in sand patches and has to be mined quickly before gargantuan sand worms arrive; they dwarf even Guild spaceships and come to devour spice, or anything on the surface making unnatural noise.

The spice is a drug-like property found in many things like flavoring for cooking, or as part of recreational drug use, and it also has hallucinogenic prescient properties making it the sole way the Guild navigators can successfully fold space and time, achieving interstellar travel.

Dune and the spice are necessities to that space flight monopoly.

The characters, Paul Atriedies, and his mother the Lady Jessica, Stilgar, truly make the story what it is, as they grow amidst the innovative world building, where the setting, revenge, intricate politics, and innovative technology intermingle within the galactic regime.

Dune, Frank Herbert, Centipede Press, limited edition, signed limited, signed, book review, mark molnar, the baron, baron harkonnen

But beware this work is a tragedy, similar in some ways to Homer’s Oedipus (but not the Oedipean complex), and so there are joys and pains and losses and victories, but the book is fully fleshed and nothing is one-sided, not even joy.


WARNING! I have tweaked the Goodreads summary of the book here to be near to Spoiler-Free*:

Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for…

“When House Atreides is betrayed . . . [Paul] evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, [but] will [he] bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream? [And at what cost will the attempt bring to Paul and to all?]”

End of Spoiler Warning*


Centipede Press accomplished something truly extraordinary with their S/L of Dune: their offering is a vast work of art that truly bears the essence of the journey of Paul Atreides from Caladan to Arrakis.

Dune, Frank Herbert, Centipede Press, limited edition, signed limited, signed, book review, mark molnar

And speaking of art . . .

Mark Molnar’s incredible illustrations and paintings for Dune have become definitive views of the characters and world.

Dune, Frank Herbert, Centipede Press, limited edition, signed limited, signed, book review, mark molnar

The overall book design is sleek, sexy, and works to capture Mark’s art in every aspect, from the capped slipcase’s spine window onto a worm illustration to the similar circular cutout in the cover boards.

There is a stunning and vast two-sided dustjacket featuring an enormous painting of Paul Muad’Dib with spear amongst the vast stony and sandy Arrakean backdrop as a worm’s surfaced beneath the planet’s two moons that look golden on the horizon.

Dune, Frank Herbert, Centipede Press, limited edition, signed limited, signed, book review, mark molnar

There is a large foldout map – from the original publication – showing the areas of the planet that are discussed in the book.

Centipede Press’ Dune exudes quality craftsmanship.

Dune, Frank Herbert, Centipede Press, limited edition, signed limited, signed, book review, mark molnar

The book is printed on Mohawk Superfine paper, and there are over a dozen interior full color illustrations by Mark Molnar and the back of each one has a gritty sand-like feel to it that is a lot of fun in the hand.

But the feel of the numbered edition is like nothing I have ever experienced, as the black Nabuka Prestige cloth is a suede-like other-worldly smoothness.

There are 500 signed editions and 250 unsigned, and the latter have a fine Japanese cloth binding.

Though Frank Herbert is not with us writing in the physical realm any longer, his family and his son, Brian (who helped his father in the writing of the last couple of books in the series), approved a facsimile signature.

And what is more, the book has an introduction by Michael Swanwick and he and Brian Herbert and Mark Molnar have signed the 500 copies.

Dune, Frank Herbert, Centipede Press, limited edition, signed limited, signed, book review, mark molnar

The epic tale is encapsulated in a mammoth book sized at 7¼ × 11 inches.

And the other five books in the Dune series are forthcoming with 500 signed copies and matching numbers to the owners of Dune.

If you get an opportunity to acquire a signed or unsigned C.P. edition of this great tale, do not pass it up!


The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“Dune & Frank Herbert immortalized by Centipede Press” was written by R.J. Huneke.

 

 

 

Bird Box By Josh Malerman Shatters Minds With SST Brilliance

Bird Box By Josh Malerman Shatters Minds With SST Brilliance

Bird Box by Josh Malerman shatters minds with SST brilliance, as the author’s 2014 debut novel rattles all senses with the riveting tale like no other, so too, does SST Publications craft a signed limited numbered edition that is reminiscent of the book’s world, sharp and wonderfully haunting.

Civilization falls to chaos, as those who see something, some creature, go insanely violent on themselves and/or others: welcome to Bird Box.

There are few tales so poignant that you root for the characters so strongly you feel their utter incessant terror so strongly.

Bird Box, josh malerman, sst publications, limited edition, sl, signed limited, ben baldwin, thriller, horror

The following book review of Bird Box by Josh Malerman will contain *SPOILERS up until the fine press edition of the S/L book from SST is reviewed in detail.

Is Malorie insane?

Clearly the world she resides in has gone insane.

The mother of two debates taking a dangerous winter trip on a river toward a possible sanctuary.

They will be in a rowboat for twenty miles.

The boy and the girl are four, and they will have to risk going outside and traversing the river up to a section of rapids blindfolded the entire way.

The mother’s words are rough with the two children, stern, and candid: they must not take off their ‘folds’ no matter what happens.

Outside, unknown creatures cause madness upon sight of them.

Bird Box, josh malerman, sst publications, limited edition, sl, signed limited, ben baldwin, thriller, horror

You see it and you lose it and go mortally violent; unless, of course, you are already mad yourself, and then you will welcome the embrace of the savior or cleanser or xenocidal force that has been unleashed on earth.

I had a feeling early into the novel that I had no idea what the creatures were and I might end the book without knowing what they were.

That idea is a tricky writer to reader relationship, to say the least (more on this later).

Aspects of the creatures accumulate: they could be small or enormous, they could be frequently stalking all humans, or sporadically invading city streets, row by row, they could be trying to touch, or scare blindfolded people into looking at them.

Bird Box, josh malerman, sst publications, limited edition, sl, signed limited, ben baldwin, thriller, horror

The unnerving loss of sight and the unknown haunting menace gives far more weight to the thrilling Bird Box than many of the great suspense novels out there.

The story flashes back and forth, from when Malorie first finds out she was pregnant and the subsequent unraveling of society and back to the dangerous river voyage.

As the world collapses, she escapes to a house that is a sanctuary, of sorts.

It has a well, electricity from a hydroelectric dam and a lot of stores for the half a dozen or so trying to live out the horror in a home with all the windows covered; for safety, no one sees the sky anymore.

The dynamics of the semi-democratic household full of realistic characters with great personalities and their own unnerving anxieties – that decide when or when not to take in someone like Malorie, a showing pregnant woman that will be two mouths to feed before long – are enthralling.

Malorie’s love for another grows, as the housemates struggle to adapt and get along and progress.

Can the landline, not powered by electricity but by a weak electrical signal in a phone cord, let them reach others who have survived with their sanity intact.

For a long time, I thought the birds would be the monsters in the book.

But it is the finding of a cardboard box full of birds at an abandoned home that brings a real-time alarm, a chirping warning system, for when the creatures get close that is essential to surviving.

Only Malorie and her children survive the house, and the birds, and together they march on to a place that someone on the phone says is a real sanctuary for any who can make it up the river to them.

The place is protected and full of good people.

And so Malorie waits until she deems the kids can understand enough to take the trip in the rowboat and she risks it all.

Getting to her destination by route of that damn river is so nerve shredding!

Sure, there are creatures, but there are also animals living in the wooded region that you forget about in the apocalyptic times, like wolves that attack and badly injure Malorie.

She even passes out and wakes to find her kids have learned to each row a paddle, in tandem.

Nothing was more creepy or intense than actually getting to the sanctuary and seeing through Malorie’s eyes as she risks it and takes off the fold and assesses whether or not the place is a trap or a real safe zone for her and the kids.

Bird Box, josh malerman, sst publications, limited edition, sl, signed limited, ben baldwin, thriller, horror

Your stomach will tighten and spasm with fear, as the worst seems inevitable.

But that is Malorie’s view, of fear, and not the reality, and when she realizes they are all safe it is one of the most beautiful moments in literature – I got choked up.

She had never named the boy or girl, her kids, and the entire novel they are called ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ so that Malorie upon getting them to safety names them, finally, for the girl’s mother who died in the house giving birth at the same time Malorie birthed her son, and she names him after her love that she met in the house.

And after all of the non-stop page turning full of realism, blood, tension, terror, and time that goes by in the grim world, the reader does not get to find out what the creature is.

And it works brilliantly.

*SPOILERS END here.

The SST Publications limited edition of Bird Box by Josh Malerman is marvelous and the fine press production is reviewed here.

The book is signed by the author, Malerman, and artist Ben Baldwin and has a limitation of 400 copies.

And this book is stunning to behold.

The SST Bird Box cover art and dust jacket is one of the wildest designs I have ever seen!

Bird Box, josh malerman, sst publications, limited edition, sl, signed limited, ben baldwin, thriller, horror

The child is wearing the blindfold and hearing the world shown: their trip on the river, the flying birds, the forest and the rickety speaker setup – the lone semblance of society – and of course blue tone for the cold and the water, and lots of darkness wherein the mysterious creature could be anywhere.

And that is just the dust jacket art. The design wraps around and even goes all the way to the folded in parts at the boards – it looks amazing and would make a great poster.

The six illustrations by Baldwin are remarkable and visceral, and my favorite, by far, is of the screams as the poor home owner goes mad, tied to his chair; it gives me the shivers.

Bird Box, josh malerman, sst publications, limited edition, sl, signed limited, ben baldwin, thriller, horror

SST’s Bird Box edition is a perfect emanation of Josh Malerman’s story within.

The clothbound book is sturdy and a gorgeous light blue with blue foil stamping.

This is one for the ages.

As my first voyage into SST Publications, I could not be more impressed with the UK fine press publisher.


The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“Bird Box by Josh Malerman shatters minds with SST brilliance” was written by R.J. Huneke.