I just finished WE LIE HERE by Rachel Howzell Hall. Admittedly, I’m new to the mystery thriller genre – but these books are just so much fun that I couldn’t help but enjoy this.
Yara Gibson is a twenty-something millennial returning home to throw her parents a big anniversary party. And I mean BIG. The whole town’s invited, and family starts coming out of the woodwork. When an estranged cousin turns up dead under mysterious circumstances, Yara goes down a rabbit hole that we readers won’t soon forget.
Another one of my short stories has been featured on THE TALE TELLER PODCAST — again, I’m blown away by the production value! The team is skilled at what they do, and the result is top-notch. Thanks to the very talented Glenda Villamar for making it happen. Be sure to follow both her and the podcast at @ModernSjoa and @taletellerpod — and please give THE SHELTER a listen!
I just finished RED NOISE by John P. Murphy. This book is a fun sci-fi homage to Kurosawa-inspired spaghetti westerns. When the main character, known simply as The Miner, shows up at a backwoods space station, she finds it overrun by criminal gangs and corrupt cops. A bit of an antihero herself, she decides to take advantage of these groups lest they take advantage of her. Offering her skills as a former-military assassin, she leaps from one gang to the next, playing them off each other.
Today I’m recommending LAND OF THE FREE, an action-packed, cyberpunk thriller by Seth Halleway.
Set in a fractured United States, with a rich cast of characters and a storyline that sweeps from one side of the continent to the other, LAND OF THE FREE is fast-paced and thrilling. In this future, Texas and California have seceded, each declaring their own independence. There’s an uneasy alliance between them and the states back east that is tenuous at best. But behind the scenes, there are some nefarious plans in the works.
At the novel’s heart is Raze, a street-smart criminal-for-hire from the bad side of Chicago. When Raze is hired to kidnap Ritika, a top computer engineer for a major weapons manufacturer, he gets dragged deep into what might be the start of a second Civil War.
My short story THE SORROW was featured on THE TALE TELLER PODCAST — the voice work and production value is top-notch so if you have a few minutes, give it a listen! Thanks to the very talented Glenda Villamar for making it happen. And be sure to follow both her and the podcast at @ModernSjoa and @taletellerpod — thanks for reading/listening!
Followers watching Followers watching Followers. Monuments to humanity’s ignorance, greed, corruption, obsession. They all stand around waiting for the next hit.
I came across FOLLOME by Grant Jahnon TikTok and loved it. If you like edgy dystopian, cyberpunk thrillers or think social media will lead to the downfall of civilization, then this book’s for you!
Broken up into three sections — the Entertainer, the Consumer, and the Savior — the book follows three main characters that become increasingly consumed by the social media platform FOLLOME. In this world, only a select few are granted the elite status of having a FOLLOWER assigned to them. One’s FOLLOWER is a mysterious, humanoid robot that films its user’s every move, streaming it on the app for the masses to consume. The lust for more and more views leads inevitably to desperation, lest you lose your FOLLOWER.
A Union flag, half-blue and half-red, was proudly stationed behind each pupil. The white lines and stars had been removed long ago. Father explained that those signs symbolized the division of the states and old powers that had fallen.
I just finished The Union by Leah Vernon — a great read and the start of a promising sci-fi dystopian series. The premise is fantastic: a few centuries from now, black elites have enslaved the white lower class…. amazing, right? And the execution of it all is also top-notch.
The main characters are Avi, an “elite” born into a powerful family and heir to the empire. And Saige, an enslaved, mixed-race girl whose life experiences have made her tough as nails. When Saige saves Avi from an assassination attempt, the two become intertwined, pulling each other deep into their respective worlds. Here, Avi experiences the horror her society exacts on the enslaved firsthand. Whereas Saige is unwittingly trained and indoctrinated as a Watchman, a paramilitary unit that enforces the nation’s cruel laws.
“Six foot three without my Sketchers. One-hundred and fifty-four pounds with my Sketchers. Long, dark hair—clean. Blue beanie. White T-shirt and drift pants. Carrying a skateboard with Cult Centrifuge wheels.”
So I took a dive down Amazon’s dystopian best-seller list and found this gem: End Man by Alex Austin. This is a slick, fast-paced cyberpunk thriller that I highly recommend!
At the heart of End Man is Raphael Lennon. Working for a mega online-data collection company, Raphael hunts down “possums” – that is, people who fake their own deaths in an attempt to disappear. When a person dies, this company gathers all their personal data — an entire lifetime’s worth — then profits from it. So when a person seems to die but doesn’t actually die — that’s a problem.
“A single black-and-white photo can damage a man’s mind if the image is powerful enough. A thousand can shred it beyond repair.”
I just finishedThe Photo Thief by J.L. Delozier, and this thriller is worth the read. Taking elements from the mystery genre, the author twists it together with a supernatural flair, crafting a story that’s fresh and inventive.
The Photo Thief features Dan Brennan, a Philadelphia detective who is still mourning his toddler’s death when he returns to work and is immediately assigned to investigate the seemingly accidental death of a wealthy socialite. But things take a wild turn when the deceased’s teenage daughter Cassie tells him her mother was murdered. Her proof: a ghost told her. A ghost that lives in a photograph.
“I don’t think people are inherently evil or selfish,” she said. “We just seem to have a hard-wired stubbornness for rationalizing our own beliefs and behaviors.”
By far, one of my favorite genres is dystopian fiction, and I’m certainly not alone. Few genres are more effective at exploring and extrapolating contemporary issues in hopes of steering society away from impending disasters. Just as political and environmental anxieties have ebbed and flowed over the last century and a half, so too has dystopian fiction’s popularity, almost as if meeting the moments that define it.
So, where am I getting at with all this?
Well, I just read Rules of Order by Jeff Vande Zande, and I was blown away. Brilliantly written, hauntingly atmospheric, and highly entertaining: this is top-notch dystopian fiction that is both reverential of the classics and also fresh and inventive.