Fiction

Confessions of a Government Spyder

Personal-Journal.com


Friday 18 November, 2039

It’s not a good sign that I’m writing here again. Seems I only come back when life sucks.

And right now — life sucks.

Okay, that’s not completely true. What I mean is that work sucks. But since work is such a big part of life, it’s almost the same thing.

Wow I’m rambling. This is why I hate journals. I’m going to start again.

Today I was responsible for locking up an old lady. Seventy-four and I helped put her in the slammer. She’s my thousandth incarceration since starting this position two years ago. That sucks.

I can’t believe it either. 1000 people I’ve put away. Garbage men, painters, grannies, priests, cops, teachers, shopkeepers, and so many others. None of them were dangerous. None of them were a threat. They all just wanted to know what was happening with their country. They all just wanted some answers.

They’re not dissidents and they’re certainly not the public menaces they’ve been labelled as. At most they’re just people who are having trouble adjusting to change. And who can blame them? The world is speeding forward at such a rapid pace that beliefs and institutions of a generation are all but dust before that same generation even dies. But as fast as some things move forward, other things move backwards.

So, what did this woman do? She posted to the global MeHIVE one too many comments criticizing our government’s new social structuring policies. And what did she say that was so horrible?

‘Equality used to mean everyone had an equal chance.”

That’s it. That’s what I locked her away for. She would have been safe — well, safer — posting it to a local MeHIVE but the oldies have trouble keeping up with the constant change. This kind of thing is probably the most common flag I receive for the over 60’s. But once they’re flagged, once they enter our web, it’s over for them. No one escapes the government Spyders.

We’ve got access to everything everyone has ever done. All e-mail, all text posts, all images, all audio or video from the time you were born. In fact, we even have your baby pictures. We know all your school grades, we know what you ate every day, we know what time you arrived and how you treated your teachers and classmates every hour you were there. And we know the same about you for every job you’ve ever had. If you’re self-employed, we extrapolate the information from the tone of your social posts. We can even access your private logs without consent if the publicly available ones don’t have sufficient information, although that’s rarely necessary.

We know everything about you. That includes all your crimes, no matter how big or small. And everyone has committed a crime.

I mean that. Literally. Everyone.

The web of laws is so complete now that no one can escape it. If you’re still free it’s only because the government finds you useful or hasn’t found a reason to lock you up. It stopped being about guilt or innocence several decades ago. Now, it’s about ‘keeping the peace’. It’s about creating a docile population that allows the government to do whatever they want. So if you’re useful, they keep you around. If not, as soon as you come onto their radar someone like me starts the data-mining algorithm and you’re found guilty. Yep. I don’t even look at your file. I just plug your name and personal details into the software and it compiles your life story, fitting to it whatever crimes apply. Then we charge you retroactively.

And when you’re proven guilty? All your assets are liquidated. Ten percent is put into holdings for you on the chance you get out and can somehow restart your life. The rest goes to the government. It’s ironic, in a way. It’s the 90% tax rate so many were fighting for, only it applies to everyone, not just the rich. We’re finally all equal under the law. All equally guilty.

Anyway, you’re then sent to a government internment town, one of hundreds around the country, where you’re given a dormitory and a job in your new society. You don’t pay rent, but you don’t make any money either. The number and size of these ‘towns’ are growing incredibly. Pretty soon there will be more of them than free towns. But most of us suspect that’s the government’s plan. This allows them to keep tight order while filling unpopular jobs with unpaid labour. Yep, under the guise of keeping the peace, the government has become the new slaver.

As I said, while tech speeds forward, our social structure speeds backwards. We’re now living in a high-tech feudal society. I feel like a henchman for the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Anyway, there’s nothing to be done about it now. It’s just — a thousand! It caught me by surprise. But it’s the weekend now. I’ll drink the feelings away and come in Monday ready for a new week, just like I always do. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I have a job that keeps me off the radar.

Rant ended.

Perfect time to sign off, I just heard a knock at the door.

Fiction

Out Of Sight book review

Out of Sight
Matthew S. Cox
Publication date: August 13th 2018
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

 

Most Citizens hold Outcasts in dim regard, but Sima never expected they’d throw her off the planet.

In 2411, overpopulation has spread a plaque of filthy, congested city to the corners of the Earth. Government has raised corruption to an art form, and no one hears the cries of those left to die in the dark passageways of civilization. Following the End of Nations, people cling to the only division left: social status.

 

Sima Nuvari ran away from a dysfunctional home at twelve and has been living as an Outcast on the streets of the globe-spanning city. It’s a dirty, dangerous place where everyone is trying to either use you or kill you and friends are hard to come by. Now, at the ripe old age of sixteen, her best years of begging are behind her — those darned kids are getting all the top ‘glint’ — and she’s faced with the decision of moving forward as either a prostitute, a drug runner, or a member of the strange new government ‘progenitor program’. As it turns out, fate makes the decision for her as she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is captured by the government security forces.

Out of Sight is an interesting book. It has an intriguing premise, it’s well-written, and has a fully developed world. However, it attempts to sell itself on something it is not. It’s clearly not a Dystopian story, although it’s set in a corrupt, futuristic world. It’s not a story about social status, although that does feature in the story. It’s not really even a story about surviving in the wilderness of a new world, although the characters do undergo that challenge. Rather, it’s a story about finding a family when you had none and learning to take responsibility for others, even though no one has ever taken responsibility for you.

There are many interesting characters in Out of Sight, and the world they live in (both of them) appear to be rich and detailed. The writing was also enjoyable to read. Where I had the most problem with this story was in the pacing. Despite a lot of action, the plot seemed to plod along and I kept waiting for something to happen that would move us from just following the character’s life, to involvement in the plot. I truly believe this book could have worked just as well and been many chapters shorter. Alternatively, the author could have built in a more driving plot throughout the ‘day in a life’ sequences (which were most of the book). I especially would have liked to see more development of the mystery of Mirage. Although I suspect the author will do that in future books in the series, it would have been nice if that was more of a plot line in this book. Having said that, the ending of Out of Sight was satisfying and fit the story well.

Overall, Out of Sight by Matthew S. Cox is a good read filled with interesting characters and well-developed settings. If you enjoy character-driven SF that is light on plot but heavier on relationships, you might want to look at this book.

* * * I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review * * *

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Author Bio:

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it. He is also fond of cats. Awards: Prophet of the Badlands (excerpt) – Honorable Mention – Writers of the Future

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Fiction

Your chance to win Out Of Sight by Matthew…

Out of Sight
Matthew S. Cox
Publication date: August 13th 2018
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult

Most Citizens hold Outcasts in dim regard, but Sima never expected they’d throw her off the planet.

In 2411, overpopulation has spread a plaque of filthy, congested city to the corners of the Earth. Government has raised corruption to an art form, and no one hears the cries of those left to die in the dark passageways of civilization. Following the End of Nations, people cling to the only division left: social status.

Since running away from home four years ago, she’s managed to stay a step ahead of death―or worse. At sixteen, she’s getting too old to survive from begging, despite her best effort to pretend she’s younger. Worse, the sidewalks teem with little kids edging in on her turf, monopolizing Citizens’ charity with their wide, pleading eyes and genuine innocence.

A chance meeting with suspiciously nice cops leaves her more confused than ever. Between deadly gangs, unforgiving security forces, and a terrifying madam eager to exploit a girl her age, merely getting older is the biggest threat to her life. With no good choice to make, she risks the least of three evils.

Sima thought her life on Earth had been dangerous…

She hasn’t seen anything yet.

Goodreads / Amazon

 

Author Bio:

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:
Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it. He is also fond of cats. Awards: Prophet of the Badlands (excerpt) – Honorable Mention – Writers of the Future

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Fiction

First Look! Cover for Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow

Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic FreakShow
Jennifer Lee Rossman
Publication date: December 4th 2018
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction

Jack Jetstark travels the universe to seek out the descendants of superpowered freaks created long ago by VesCorp scientists. The vibrations encoded in a particular song transform the members of Jack’s crew into a firebreather and an angel, a wildman and telepathic conjoined triplets, so they hide the truth of who they really are with the theatrics of a carnival.

The song plays every night through the receptor Jack carries with them, but when one night it has a different ending and their temporary powers become permanent, Jack believes the change is a signal from the woman who sent him on this quest in the first place. He and his freaks must navigate a universe at war to protect the love of his life.

But does the ruler of VesCorp really need protecting?

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Author Bio:

Jennifer Lee Rossman is a science fiction geek from Oneonta, New York, where she cross stitches, watches Doctor Who, and threatens to run over people with her wheelchair. Her work has been featured in several anthologies and her time travel novella Anachronism will be available in June 2018. Her debut novel, Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow, will be published by World Weaver Press in 2019.

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Fiction

Book Giveaway! Missing Signal by Seb Doubinsky

Just released! Seb Doubinsky’s new Science Fiction novel Missing Signal. Read on to learn more about this book that has been called “a tiny, jeweled puzzle-box of a book” by Tad Williams, and for your chance to win a copy.



Missing Signal
Seb Doubinsky
Publication date: August 28th 2018
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction

“Beneath the entertaining wrapper of science fiction, Missing Signal is a masterfully written work, both provocative and rewarding.” ―Foreword Reviews

“A tiny, jeweled puzzle-box of a book, strangely but entertainingly crossing Kafka with Philip K. Dick to make something quite new.”―Tad Williams, bestselling author of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, and the Otherland series

From Seb Doubinsky, author of The Song of Synth, The Babylonian Trilogy, White City, Absinth, Omega Gray and Suan Ming, comes his highly anticipated next installment in the City-States Cycle.

Missing Signal―a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a government conspiracy? Agent Terrence Kovacs has worked for the New Petersburg Counter-Intel Department propagating fake UFO stories for so long that even he has a hard time separating fact from fiction. Especially when he’s approached by a beautiful woman named Vita, who claims she’s been sent from another planet to liberate Earth.

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EXCERPT:

“A man claiming to be an ex-member of the ultra-secret Alien Containment Force, known as ACF or Force 136, has agreed to meet us in a secret place and tell us what is really going on behind the official UFO scene. Here is what he told us and it is terrifying.”

Terrence’s eyes moved away from the PC screen as he reached out for a cigarette. The man talking had a bad ’70s haircut and a drooping mustache. The other man sitting in front of him, half-hidden in the shadow, wore a pair of jeans and a loose red polo shirt. He had no watch. There were two cameras, alternating on the faces—one pimply, nervous and awed, the other dark, invisible and mysterious.

They even had the voice modified, for security reasons, but Terrence knew what it sounded like. He also knew that “the man claiming to be” wore a wig, colored contact lenses and a set of false teeth masking the real ones. The missing watch was an important detail: it made identification more difficult. A watch is a signature object. Like shoes. The man had also bought a type of shoes he usually never wore.

Terrence smiled, listening to the mysterious man speak, and looked down at some papers spread before him. He chewed on the tip of a pencil that served as a poor substitute for a cigarette and nodded to himself. All the necessary information—or rather disinformation—had been passed. Another worldwide alien conspiracy theory confirmed. The New Petersburg Counter-Intel Department had done an amazing piece of work.

Terrence patted himself on the back. Good job, officer. It had been a tough mission: he had really sweated like a pig underneath that horrible wig, and the new shoes had maimed his toes.

Author Bio:

Seb Doubinsky is a bilingual writer born in Paris in 1963. His novels, all set in a dystopian universe revolving around competing cities-states, have been published in the UK and in the USA. He currently lives with his family in Aarhus, Denmark, where he teaches at the university.

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Storm of The Gods book review

Newly released Storm of the Gods by Canadian author A.R.Braun! I’m happy to have been given an advanced review copy from Xpresso Book Tours and here is my opinion on this new urban fantasy set in a California filled with newly awakened Greek gods, human scions, and mythological creatures.


Storm of the Gods
Amy Braun
(An Areios Brothers Novel)
Publication date: August 27th 2018
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

Welcome to modern day California! Only, this isn’t the California you know. Thirty years ago the Greek Gods reawakened from their two thousand year hibernation after battling the Titans… and they didn’t like that the humans had all but forgotten them, turning them into stories for children. So they each seized control a region of California, their own districts to govern as they saw fit.

Derek Aerios and his blood-bonded brother Liam are scions of Ares, the God of War. They have never known a world where the gods didn’t exist. Their magic, the ability to generate and control fire, is a small fraction of that of their patron god, but it has made them formidable War Scions. Their job is to do Ares bidding and, although they don’t like the violent, immoral god, they serve him well…until they’re attacked by the scions of four other gods while on a routine mission; scions who are looking for something called The Heart of the Devourer. Suddenly Derek and Liam’s lives are turned inside out as they’re pulled into a struggle for the fate of all humanity. They must stop the rebirth of the Titans, even if it means challenging the gods themselves.

Storm of the Gods is an entertaining story of what it might be like to have gods living among us. Not the friendly gods of our childhood stories, mind you, but the actual Greek Gods with all their immoral power games and lack of concern for human existence. The story has magical humans, violent action, romance, overpowered Gods, and a mystery that could spell the end of humanity.

Seeing such a world fleshed out was incredibly entertaining, as we are treated to the districts of Athena, Apollo, and Aphrodite. Strangely, we saw little of Ares district, except from the inside of what seemed like the central headquarters of a police state that would make the Nazi Gestapo blush. The gods themselves, the few we meet, act in very believable manners as overpowered avatars of the natural aspect or trait(s) they represent. And, of course, they have little patience for the interests of humans.

The human scions, heirs and embodiments of the gods they serve, are also interesting. Although several weren’t fleshed out well, the ones we met the most were well-developed characters. Most notable among these were the main characters Derek and Liam Aerios and Selena, scion of Athena, who comes with her own mystery of who she is and what happened to her memory (I suspect you should be able to guess the truth by the end, although you’ll have to wait for future books to find out for sure). I would have liked to have seen Cory, scion of Hermes (possesser of superspeed!) developed a bit more, as well as Gage, the scion of Hades. It might have been nice to have seen some of the story from his viewpoint, to add more sympathy to a tragic character and develop the mystery a bit more.

As for the story itself, the mystery of the hidden items and who was planning to do what with them was the most interesting part for me, but it often took a distant back seat to the action and romance…

My feeling was that the romance was underdeveloped for this story, although it was ongoing. In my opinion, this comes from the current trend of not wanting the female lead to seem weak if she falls too easily for the male protagonist. Unfortunately, the effect is an unsatisfying story arc that feels almost unnecessary and burdensome, as it doesn’t lead anywhere. What I’d like to see the author do in future books to overcome this would be to give strong story arcs and viewpoint scenes to both the male and female leads and then interweave them into the overall plot (instead of the single viewpoint we have in Storm of the Gods). This would allow readers to observe both characters as strong heroes in their own rights, and allow for a much more fulfilling romantic plotline with romance among true equals.

My other issue with Storm of the Gods was the combat sequences. While I didn’t find anything inherently wrong in the details, they often seemed to go on forever. It got to the point where I was skimming the sequence just to get to the end of it so I could continue on with the plot. This book has to have some of the longest combat sequences I’ve ever read, with the final climax being worthy of a martial arts anime series.

Overall, Storm of the Gods by A.R.Braun is an entertaining story in a well-developed world. I do, however, believe that it with a small change in approach, the author could make this series truly amazing.

Fiction

Book Giveaway! Storm of The Gods by A.R.Braun

I’m happy to introduce another book by a Canadian Author. Storm of the Gods by A.R.Braun, just released today! Read on for your chance to win a copy and watch for my review tomorrow.


Storm of the Gods
Amy Braun
(An Areios Brothers Novel)
Publication date: August 27th 2018
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

The first in a brand new urban fantasy series where gods roam and mortals fight, STORM OF THE GODS follows two brothers who are caught in a conspiracy revolving around ancient artifacts, and find themselves siding with their supposed enemies rather than the Olympian who demands their loyalty…

Thirty years ago, the gods of Greek legend returned to the world. Their return restored their powers, which had been spent in a cataclysmic battle with the Titans. With the ancient deities imprisoned in Tartarus, the Olympians now reside in Néo Vasíleio, formerly known as California.

Twenty-four-year-old Derek Aerios is a war scion, a descendent of Ares, the God of War. He and his brother, eighteen-year-old Liam, capture mythological creatures and rogue scions as part of Ares’s elite military force. As he struggles to cope with his violent powers and the scars of a traumatic childhood, Derek tries to keep the two vows he has made: protect his brother, and never kill a human again.

But when Ares forces him to hunt and kill four rogue scions under Athena’s control—by threatening Liam’s life—Derek chooses to go after the scions in order to save his brother and keep his promise to himself.

Yet the closer Derek gets to the scions, the more he realizes that his orders are part of a deeper conspiracy that put him at odds with his mission and his conscience. Athena may not be the enemy, a traitor could be in their midst, and the Titans could be closer to freedom than ever before.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

 

Author Bio:

Amy is a Canadian urban fantasy and horror author. Her work revolves around monsters, magic, mythology, and mayhem. She started writing in her early teens, and never stopped. She loves building unique worlds filled with fun characters and intense action.

When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, watching movies, taking photos, gaming, struggling with chocoholism and ice cream addiction, and diving headfirst into danger in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns.

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Fiction

The Devil’s Standoff book review

Part three of three for The Devil’s Revolver special this week, my book review for the second story in the series, The Devil’s Standoff.



The Devil’s Standoff
V. S. McGrath
(The Devil’s Revolver #2)
Publication date: April 2nd 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Welcome to the birthplace of the Devil’s Revolver, where untold danger lurks for Hettie Alabama and her companions…

The Devil’s Standoff picks up shortly after the end of The Devil’s Revolver, where we see Hettie Alabama, her sister, and companions ‘Uncle Jeremiah, and Walker Woodroffe making their cautious way to the Mexican border, desperate to avoid any attention from either the Pinkerton Agency or the American Division of Sorcery. Events conspire against them, however, and they force their way through a heavily magicked border wall before racing for the home of Javier Punta, where many surprises await them as Hettie holds hope that Javier, the creator of the demon gun, can unmake his creation.

A worthy successor to the first book, The Devil’s Standoff ups the ante at every stage of our heroes’ journey while introducing new, wondrous and terrible magic, and a deeper lore for both the land and the history of El Diablo. I found this book every bit as engrossing as the first. I loved how the magic of the land was fleshed out and how the author developed and interwove separate plotlines for some of the major characters.

If I had any complaints about this story they were that (1) it still played on the trope of characters not telling each other important information to move the plot along, and (2) the love interest between Hettie and Walker seemed forced. This latter bothered me a bit because while I did feel a natural romantic interest developing between them, I didn’t think the author needed to force it more than it would occur through the natural flow of the story. I can only suggest that someone mentioned to the author that female-led YA stories have to have multiple love interests, so she forced a few in. Fortunately, they didn’t detract significantly from an otherwise excellent story.

In conclusion, I’m very happy to have read both books in this series and they’ve been among the best books I’ve read recently. I can’t stress enough that if you like the idea of a wild west filled with magic, a strong female protagonist, and believable characters, this is the series for you.

Fiction

The Devil’s Standoff book giveaway!

As promised, here is more information on Book 2 in the Devil’s Revolver series, The Devil’s Standoff. For a chance to win a copy, enter the giveaway at the bottom!



The Devil’s Standoff
V. S. McGrath
(The Devil’s Revolver #2)
Publication date: April 2nd 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Welcome to the birthplace of the Devil’s Revolver, where untold danger lurks for Hettie Alabama and her companions…

The second book in the epic, magic-clad Devil’s Revolver series follows Hettie and her sister south of the Wall into Mexico, where they must unmake Hettie’s infernal mage gun while confronting a magic- and land-hungry army and a monster from hell drawn to the powers of the weapon. Hettie wants nothing more than to break her bond to the cursed Devil’s Revolver and find a way to keep her sister safe — but Abby’s indigo powers are growing stronger, and in the gated, walled village where they take refuge, nothing is exactly as it seems. Pursued by the Pinkertons, left without allies or guardians, Hettie has to rely on her own grit and determination to do the right thing, no matter the cost.

This second installment of V. S. McGrath’s sweeping and high-stakes saga draws its truly unforgettable gunslinger heroine to her limits and ends with a satisfying bang.

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Author Bio:

Vicki So, writing as V. S. McGrath, is a published romance author (as Vicki Essex) and has six books with Harlequin Superromance: Her Son’s Hero (July 2011); Back to the Good Fortune Diner (January 2013), which was picked for the Smart Bitches Trashy Books Sizzling Book Club; In Her Corner (March 2014); A Recipe for Reunion (March 2015); Red Carpet Arrangement (January 2016); and Matinees with Miriam (November 2016). She lives in Toronto, Canada.

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The Devil’s Revolver book review

I have a special three-parter this week featuring the Devil’s Revolver series by Canadian author V.S. McGrath. To begin, here’s my review of book one. Keep your eyes open for a review and giveaway for book 2!

The Devil’s Revolver
V. S. McGrath
(The Devil’s Revolver #1)
Publication date: Sept. 5th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

She is Hettie Alabama — unlikely, scarred, single-minded, and blood bound to a revolver forged by a demon.

Hettie Alabama (a great name for a Wild Western hero) has grown up on a homestead in the wild west. Taught to shoot at a young age by her father and her uncle, she’s as no-nonsense and tough as anyone who’s been raised in the harsh environment of the wild west. Especially a wild west filled with all kinds of magic. But when her younger sister is kidnapped, her family and home destroyed, and she’s left for dead by bandits, the world she thought she knew begins to unravel. The only thing that drives on is a single thought — she must rescue her sister.

The Devil’s Revolver is a wonderful, well-written story of strong characters with depth living in a harsh, magical land. Seriously, this is not a Disney kingdom. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say this is a do-what-you-must-to-survive kind of land where everything, especially magic, has a price.

The Devil’s Revolver is set in a rich, deeply developed land that has some truly interesting uses of magic (the zoom tunnels are among my favourite, as well as the Devil’s Revolver itself). Yet it’s still a land that gives the impression it could genuinely be an alternative version of the American wild west.

I was engrossed in the book from start to end, finding hardly a dull moment as the stakes just kept climbing with each chapter. If I have any criticism, it would be that the story suffered a bit from the trope of characters ignoring important information or actions from others they considered of lesser knowledge in order to forward the plot. However, overall the book was so well-written that I could forgive the author those moments.

If you love genuinely tough female protagonists that don’t require weak male sidekicks to prop them up, and you love the idea of a realistically magical wild west, why not give The Devil’s Revolver a read?

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