Conditioned Response (Phoenician #2)

Adult
Rated 4.64/5 based on 11 reviews
In the far future on an alien world, humanity suffers under a color-coded caste system with corrupt politicians who use genetic heritage and memory Adjustments to control the masses. Can a Proctor named Raif and a Phoenician named Shayla save the human genome from sabotage without having to surrender themselves in the process? More

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About Marjorie F. Baldwin

Marjorie F. Baldwin (aka "Friday") is a pen name used to write Science Fiction technothrillers, SF action/adventure series, some time travel short stories or novellas and old School SciFi. Friday's style will appeal to fans of Romantic SF (or SFR) since like Heinlein's character after whom she is named, she feels sex is part of the human condition. Of course, that assumes we're all human ^)^

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Reviews

Review by: Carol on May 28, 2013 :
It took a while to grasp the plot lines and characters but once that happened, things took off. Intrigue, action, a little romance with good world-building.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Dar Mil on April 18, 2013 :
This felt Heinleinish! I love this kind of speculative science. Other worldly, alien beings=Earthlings, not the indigenous. The problems of two brains in one head. And Ms. Baldwin is brave enough to show love comes in many ways. There is intrigue which made this a bad book for bedtime as I couldn't put it down. I must admit it was slow starting but the set-up was needed. As opposed to other second books, this one could be a read alone, or out of order, as everything is explained without being bogged down in details.

I took my time with this book mostly due to my health. But had I been feeling great I think it would have been a book that would take a couple days.

The characters were well developed, except when they weren't. ;) When adult people can be reproduced they take a while to come into their own skin. The plot kept me wondering, how will they do this? Why is he/she acting like this? Can we really trust this guy? Or why doesn't she trust him? It just keeps you guessing. I loved it!

This was a free for review from the author. But had I bought it I would have said all I said above. It is my kind of book! Oh, and I love the afterwords, all of them. Thanks for sharing that much about the making of/writing of Friday and her works and playlist!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Sadie S. Forsythe on Oct. 30, 2012 :
Awesome, just Awesome. I stayed up way too late on multiple night to read it and still would have been happy for more. I just loved the characters' personalities and their interactions. They all had their own little bit of wit that was distinctly different from one another. I did wonder how it was that the bad guys continued to get away with their depravities, since everyone seemed to know about them. But not enough to get huffy about it.

What I loved the most about the story is that Baldwin was willing to let people be unhappy. Don't get me wrong I love a happy ending, but it always feels disingenuous when plots spin like pinwheels to bring one about for everyone involved. Let's face it. Life is hard. People don't always get what they want. They die or are left dissatisfied for a million other reasons. I really appreciate that Baldwin was willing to allow her characters this slice of reality in their fictional world. I'm not saying no-one leaves the last page of Conditioned Response happy, just that I liked the balance.

Baldwin is, quite frankly, the kind of writer that leaves other feeling inadequate. She is definitely playing with the big boys. I would happily compare her to Asimov, Huxley or Heinlein. Not only was it clear and easy to understand, it never felt forced and always managed to find the right tone for the scene. I am in awe...and I'm not really one to fawn over people. I just can't wait to read the rest.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Bonnie Hobcroft on July 17, 2012 :
I have never considered myself a fan of SciFi but if Conditioned Response is an example, then I'm a believer. Each of the characters was carefully developed so that a level of emotional bond was formed. Some of the characters made immediate connections while others developed much more slowly throughout the book.

I understood why Shayla behaved the way she did. Raif, as Shayla's protector, dominated the story from the moment you met him. He is a very complex man and this reader couldn't help but love him. Personally, I would have enjoyed a more detailed description of Kindi's treatment near the end. I didn't trust Charlie when he was first introduced but really care what happens to him now.

There was enough mystery, romance, and action to cause me to procrastinate on other obligations in order to continue reading non-stop. I did not want this book to end but am encouraged to know that there will be a prequel AND a sequel (or more?)in the future. I look forward to learning more about the back story that makes Joshua Andrew Caine who he is, reading more about the "Plan", the future of Brennan & Julia, if the evil ones are resurrected, and especially the development of Charlie's character.

I totally enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: K.K. McAvoy on June 28, 2012 :
Conditioned Response is a wonderful story. Baldwin develops a unique world with new and interesting characters. This book as an introduction to this new world leaves me satisfied with the story outcome, but hungry to learn more. As Baldwin unfolds this storyline, I am looking forward to understand how human came to this planet and why there is tension between the indigenous population and the colonists. I also want to see how the story conflicts resolve, such as does Shayla and Charlie develop a "real" interpersonal relationship, will Brennan accept the role as Joshua's Designated Heir, and what is The Seven Chiel's Plan?.

This is an outstanding start to what appears to be a very interesting series of stories. I highly recommend this book to those who like world building or classic sci-fi literature.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Steven Kaye on June 15, 2012 :
Middle books of series frequently drag. Marjorie F. Baldwin has overcome that problem the way the way George Lucas did in my Star Wars: start in the middle and work out in all directions. But Baldwin is doing it more effectively than Lucas did.

Conditioned Response, the second book of the Phoenician series (Book 1 is forthcoming), throws us into the world of Shayla, a non-human woman living among the human colonists of the planet Altair . . . or is she non-human? One of the main features of this novel is that the reader is left to figure out what’s going on by putting together clues that are scattered throughout. To take two examples, the humans can’t leave the planet and go back to Earth, though why they can’t isn’t yet explained, and the Phoenicians are so thoroughly human in most ways that it seems likely that they’re an offshoot from homo sapiens -- but when the separation occurred, if it did occur, is something Baldwin isn’t telling us yet.

Shayla has been living among the humans for thirteen years, an unwilling mole sent among them as a teenager by the rulers of the Phoenicians, the Seven Chiefs. The Chiefs have a Plan for dealing with the humans, but they haven’t told Shayla what the Plan is. Shayla has her own Plans: to overthrow the World Council, the human ruling group she’s become a part of, and to leave human society with ‘Charlie’, and artificial life form she’s been secretly and illegally creating. But Shayla also has to deal with the machinations of Councillors Dramond and Kindi, a pair of thoroughly evil men she’s had many unpleasant encounters with. They have Plans of their own. She also has ongoing personal relationships with Raif, a “Proctor” (bodyguard) who’s in love with her; Brennan, his illegally cloned heir; Kyree, her Phoenician Mate that she seldom sees; and Julia, her human friend, fellow Councillor, and revolutionary co-conspirator. Lurking in the background is Joshua Andrew Caine, secretive Administrator for the Council, and a mysterious group known as “the Community,” who have their own secret plans and hidden resources.

Over the course of about two weeks, events play out. Baldwin constantly surprises us as her characters interact, and as layers of are peeled away to show us some of what’s really going on. The characters are well-drawn and believable, and the plot hangs together. The pace is relentless, the events believable.

By the end of the novel, some parts of Shayla’s story have been resolved, but plenty remains for book #3, and much of Shayla’s backstory is set to be revealed in book #1.

Conditioned Response gripped me hard from the beginning, provided a thoroughly satisfying read, and left me eager for the rest of the series. Considering this is Baldwin’s first novel, I’m quite impressed. Check it out.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Paul Dube on May 24, 2012 :
Ellie Hall, I absolutely respect your obvious experience and knowledge of writing and reviewing. I agree 100% with a lot of your evaluation, especially these statements:
"A fast-paced, Classic SciFi that reads more like a mystery with a Romantic SF thread woven in. Set in the far-future on an alien world, humanity's last remnants are trying to save the species from extinction. Huxley-ian eugenics in a Classic Dystopian caste system are artfully blended with an Asimov-ian "machine-turned-man" story by first-time Author Marjorie F. Baldwin."
Those who enjoy a detailed social Sci-Fi in the old tradition, where complex societies are presented and peopled by solid, complicated personalities, have found one of the best examples written recently. Conditioned Response is multi-layered, weaving together a number of intriguing social, personal, and political mysteries into a fast paced thriller.
The representation of this future human colony and its imperialistic disdain for the powerful indigenous people rings as true as any page of history. Caste discrimination, human trafficking, genetic regulation, sexual intimidation and violence, power-at-all-cost-manipulation of men and minds – all these things seem to rise from an inevitability we recognize in the societies we share today. And on that base the story, or more rightly stories, are masterfully built."
However, I disagree with the statements you make about the pace being slow to develop and the disassaciation of the characters. I found that I felt very close indeed to Raif and Shayla. I felt Raif's distress at being misclassified (as a Proctor), his heartbreak caused by denying his affections for Shayla, his anguish induced by Kindi's manipulations, and his frustration in his efforts to determine his origins - especially painfull after discovering he had known in the past but the memory was taken from him.
I felt Shayla's pain, despite the attempt to "choose not to recall" the pain. I felt her lonliness - belonging to neither the World Council or, due to what living amoung the Outsiders, her own people anymore. I really felt her disassociation and desire to create something that she could live in and "belong".
Perhaps you were kept at bay by the strength of Shayla's ability to push aside her pain - maybe she was too good at it for you to feel her pain anyway. Or, perhaps, you feel so strongly about the horrors of rape, especially of children - as I do - to allow anyone to treat it with less strength and anger than you would. I can put aside my own outrage and desire to avenge the child to understand that it is simmering just below the surface and (avoiding a spoiler here) ...
I admit the romantic thread in the book took time to develop but it was very strong. Remember, this is not your typical romance novel. I think Friday has done an incredible job crossing lines and fusing the different genres.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Ellie Hall on May 18, 2012 :
REVIEW: Conditioned Response (Phoenician #2)
by Marjorie F. Baldwin

"...Shayla didn't ask to be a Councillor. As a Phoenician, she shouldn't have to live among the humans, let alone take part in their world. But the Seven Chiefs ordered her to go with Raif, a Proctor from the world Outside. They said they had a Plan. Well, the Seven Chiefs always had a Plan, and Shayla had plans of her own after suffering 13 years as a member of the humans' World Council.

Raif had never intended for things to go this far. A few months, maybe a year, and he could send the little Phoenician girl home again, back where she belonged. She's not a little girl anymore and now he finds himself in competition with his own progenitor for control over his Heir--and future. It's not a Councillor's job to protect a Proctor but that's just what Raif needs right now. Can Shayla save him before he loses his mind completely?

A fast-paced, Classic SciFi that reads more like a mystery with a Romantic SF thread woven in. Set in the far-future on an alien world, humanity's last remnants are trying to save the species from extinction. Huxley-ian eugenics in a Classic Dystopian caste system are artfully blended with an Asimov-ian "machine-turned-man" story by first-time Author Marjorie F. Baldwin."


Conditioned Response was not an easy book to review. As is my practice, once I had my own thoughts and feelings outlined I went back through the reviews others had provided. What I found pinpointed exactly the problem I needed to define in order to explain the difficulty I was having.

Many of the reviewers had loved this book and for good reason. Those who enjoy a detailed social Sci-Fi in the old tradition, where complex societies are presented and peopled by solid, complicated personalities, have found one of the best examples written recently. Conditioned Response is multi-layered, weaving together a number of intriguing social, personal, and political mysteries into a fast paced thriller.

The representation of this future human colony and its imperialistic disdain for the powerful indigenous people rings as true as any page of history. Caste discrimination, human trafficking, genetic regulation, sexual intimidation and violence, power-at-all-cost-manipulation of men and minds – all these things seem to rise from an inevitability we recognize in the societies we share today. And on that base the story, or more rightly stories, are masterfully built.

So, you wonder, if it was all so very good, what caused the difficulty in trying to find a fitting rating for the book.
Like those who rated the story much lower, aspects I value very highly in a book were not strong, or were missing entirely.

To begin with, I found the story slow to start. That is necessary to some degree in any very complex world where many characters have to be introduced and understood in context, but I found that I was a third of the way in before things really started to move. We had not travelled further than Shayla’s office or lab, and all that time was spent in dense slabs of repetitive dialogue. That tendency for the characters to launch into paragraph after paragraph of oration was tightened as the book progressed, but I found it tough going for some time. Nothing happened to break the weight of the initial narrative dump.

And the thing which I missed most was a deep emotional connection to any of the characters. These people had suffered and went on to suffer great traumas and violence, and yet, the reader is held at a distance. There is no feeling of experiencing the horror from within, no sharing of the pain with the main characters. No immediacy.

As an example, [difficult to find without some sort of spoiler attached] early in the story we learn that as a very young woman, an alien child alone in a strange human society, Shayla was brutally raped by her fellow Councillor. When the event is first mentioned, Shayla herself dismisses the memory as if it was bad, but not something she chose to dwell on. Shortly after, Raif describes the terrible injuries Shayla had suffered when he first met her. These injuries were the result of the rape, and included a broken pelvis.

Now this is horrendous. This is the rape of a defenseless child, alone and attacked by someone who should have been her protector. And yet the events are narrated as if they are simply part of a distant history; we hear nothing of the anguish. None of the terror or the pain, none of the trauma this woman had survived – which any empathic reader can imagine – is brought forward with force by the author. This kind of distance left me with a coolness toward all of the main characters that I would like to have had heated.

What I deduce from this is that enjoyment depends on the expectation of the reader when they pick up a copy of Conditioned Response to read. Those who want Sci-Fi that does not depend on Michael-Bay-bangs and special-effect diversions will love the dense plotting and careful world-building. Those who want to feel deep connection with the characters themselves, and prefer the romantic/erotic threads of a fantastic storyline are more likely to be disappointed.

All up, I am happy to give FOUR STARS, because while allowing for where Marjorie F Baldwin was not strong, what she does do well, she does very well indeed.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Julie B. Gonzalez on May 03, 2012 :
Fantastic!

This is my first time reading a sci-fi book and I cannot wait to read book #1! I was hesitant to read the book because I'm not a sci-fi kinda girl but, I loved leaving mother earth and envisioning life on a alien planet. It was suspenseful, romantic, funny, and sad all at the same time! I couldn't get the characters out of my dreams! I Stayed up late and couldn't wait to get home to finish the book.

Well done Friday!

If you are a sci-fi lover you'd be crazy NOT to read this book!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Paul Dube on April 20, 2012 :
There is only one other author who has left me wanting more when I finished a book. Tom Clancy.
I did not want to stop reading this story. I can hardly wait for the prequel & sequel.
Quite often, a novel has too little, or too much action. The pace of CR is perfect... enough to keep you in its grip without overwhelming the reader.
In addition, Friday's sex scene writing is another fine balancing act of titilation without being vulgar.

I have never re-read any other author. period. Not in >50 years of reading. This book begs for it to be re-read and makes it easy. I've read it 5 time so far.

Masterful work.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Cassie on April 20, 2012 :
I have had the immense pleasure of working with Friday on this lovely novel. She swears it is cursed, but I say great things come to those who… toil… endure… a lot… I know she has been looking forward to the release of Conditioned Response for a very, very long time, and I am happy to be a part of the process.

I’m not much for reading the same book more than once. I do it occasionally for some of my favorites, and I obviously have to read what I edit or proofread more than once, but Conditioned Response is something that can definitely be read again and again.

This is a long novel, which is common for a lot of sci-fi or epic fantasies and the like, but you never really feel like it is taking a long time. You get so absorbed in the story, in the lives of these characters, that you can’t do anything but hang on every word and eagerly turn every page wanting even more. At the end, 230,000 words in, I was STILL sad it was over.

Every character is fleshed out so well, even the more minor characters. There is so much depth to each one of them and they each have their own story, sometimes only briefly touched, but you get to know every one of them in some way. This is very hard for an author to do, and Friday does an amazing job.

This is one of the most intriguing, action-packed, and emotionally charged novels I have read in a long time. I was sympathetic. I was angry. I laughed, a lot. I cried, quite a bit. I dreamt about the story. I thought about the characters even when I was not reading. I was hooked. What more can you ask out of a book—a piece of literary art?? Anything that can make you feel—anything—is a success. And Friday has a huge success on her hands. I wish her the very best with this and all of her writing endeavors.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

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