Elena and Meg fled Russia, crossing the planet entirely on their own to be together. Featured on NPR and BBC, this is their awe-inspiring account of escape, survival and freedom.
Previously published as Convergence by Meg Stone
Zero Point Energy
on Sep. 27, 2013
I found Zero Point Energy refreshingly unique and surprisingly compelling. It's bold disregard for the tired science fiction formula, at first somewhat confusing, became a relief as I read on. As promised in the book description, Hashkes has very effectively woven well researched and clearly presented ideas concepts, and theories throughout the story. I never felt as though I was being lectured to or spoken down to, but on the contrary, that I was a part of story. Energy, true to its form, is hard science fiction; it cuts no corners with implausible and unexplained magic or cheap devolution into fantasy.
Why only three stars? Energy, compared to the indie fare on offer, would be worth every star one could give it, and then some. But it seems to me that Hashkes is thinking beyond that level, has a grasp of the professional marketplace and is aiming higher. At least I hope so. Energy will be an excellent novel when it is finished. Currently, it suffers from poor editing and proofreading. Simple language errors are distracting. The writing style is inconsistent; at times brilliant and flowing, at others difficult, blocky and forced.
Energy has some important points to make and says them without coming across high-handed. I would have liked characters to be more fully developed and illustrated. However, Hashkes provided enough to leave me thinking of them after I closed the book and turned off the light.
The Krone Experiment
on March 24, 2014
Gave up before finishing, so not rating this work.
From the blurb, The Krone Experiment sounded great. I noticed it has a sequel that's a little expensive, but I love getting into a good book or even a series if it's plausible fiction and well written so that didn't stop me from giving this a try.
Unfortunately, it didn't grab me. E-reader says I got 10% in and this is a long book, so I think I've given it the good ole college try. It wasn't making sense to me until I realized it had been published in 1986. I was trying to figure out what was going on in the context of a contemporary work until mention of the Soviets clued me in. It has a great opening. Full of suspense and atmosphere then it slows down too much for my taste.
The author bio wowed me, big-time. The story idea is great. Personally, I think The Krone Experiment could sizzle if it shed some weight, got some updating and spent some time with a good and ruthless editor.
The Kurchatov Penetration
on April 05, 2014
The Kurchatov Penetration is a non-stop adrenaline rush from page one right through to the finish. The main teenage hacker characters are wonderfully developed and brought to life so convincingly I feel like I know them. I definitely feel for the main character and this is no mean feat. What a treat this book was for me! Being free and being on Smashwords I was leery, but found myself soon trusting the writer to take me on a wild ride without second guessing him. Writer, Timothy Jacobson, knows his stuff and knows how to write. I look forward to more from Mr. Jacobson and thank him for this work and the several hours of delicious distraction he provided me.
The Orlando File (Book One)
on April 10, 2014
This is not a free book!
This is only half a book. To read the other half I'd have to pay, (and I won't) therefore I don't feel qualified to provide a rating. My review of the free half of this book follows:
I got suckered - should have taken that "Book One" on the cover as a clue, but all of Irvine's stuff on Smashwords is free so I figured the next one would be too or that this was a complete book... it ain't. It's half a book and the second half isn't free and isn't on smashwords.
The blurb sounded intriguing (and I didn't know the book was bait) so I read it. Thinking it was a free amateur work I considered it had some merit. The writing isn't bad. It moves along at a good clip but editing is lacking. Cliches keep showing up. Once is clever, but over and over is too much. Irvine's depiction of women is boorish at best, his secondary characters are cardboard and undeveloped. Not the kind of things I would tolerate in a professional or commercial product.
on April 20, 2014
Wow! I loved this book. The characters are brought to life brilliantly through dialogue and action. It kept me turning pages right to the end. The plots with their twists and turns are frighteningly believable right from the explosive opening scene up to the chilling ending. If you like characters so real you think you might be one of them, solid plausible fiction that makes you wonder how fictional it really is, and a story that won't let you go, then you have to read Accelerating Returns.
Rally! A President's Obsession: Chronicling the secret government takeover of equity markets: to win elections and disguise economic decline
on April 28, 2014
Agree with "Anonymous" or not, if you are trading stocks, or even if you are the buy and hold type, you should read this book!
Don't let the fact it comes across as a rant, turn you off at first. Keep reading and look at the charts presented then make up your own mind.
The book suffers from some editing and formatting issues which I overlook because it's free and because "anonymous" obviously felt it should be "out there" rather than pretty.
Thanks, Anonymous, you've done your research and you've put your findings "out there." Obviously, you'll have some enemies over this one.
I for one, am glad this writer has taken the risk and published this book.
The Media Candidate – politics and power in 2048
on Oct. 01, 2016
I was incredibly lucky to come across, The Media Candidate, by Paul Dueweke, on Smashwords. This is a tight, well crafted work of near-future fiction that rivals anything commercially distributed. That Dueweke offers it for free, is generous and self confident. Here’s a writer that knows his craft, knows his subject, and within the first few pages has promised the reader an effortless, funny, frightening, and thought provoking tale.
It’s been said that the difference between fiction and non-fiction is that fiction has to be plausible. The Media Candidate is frighteningly plausible. In fact, given the current US presidential election run-up, The Media Candidate’s premise is saying some things everyone should be aware of, but then again – and without giving anything away – maybe they just don’t want to know.
The Media Candidate’s genre is science fiction. I would call it “hard science fiction” and considering there is really no fictional science (no dragons, replicators, warp drives, or cheap and lazy tricks to get around physics or reality), I’d say it’s just darn good, prophetic fiction. Maybe a wake-up call? I urge anyone with even a niggling doubt about what gets served up as politics and leadership today, to read this book.
on Nov. 04, 2016
It's a good story, but really difficult (arduous) to read. Although very well copy-edited, it feels like a very detailed and lengthy legal summation. I found myself skimming at times to find plot points and action. As a result (or perhaps due to a lack of description) I was unable to differentiate characters from each other. Dialogue consists of quotes spanning several paragraphs from one character before another contributes, often in kind. It felt, to me, like a train-of-thought email conversation between characters.
However, Hylton Smith, by offering his work for free (and thus allowing uncensored review) shows admirable confidence, maturity and generosity, for which he should be commended.
Sophia - Age of Intelligence
on Nov. 16, 2016
SOPHIA - Age of Intelligence, by Mike Donoghue is a hard sci-fi/thriller. As an action packed adventure it delivers twists and turns that satisfy. The science is plausible and thought provoking: tantalizingly sidling up to the question, "what is intelligence, sentience?" As a self published work, it's right up there with anything commercially distributed. That may be a good thing, but means a higher yard stick to measure up to. First: although the proofreading and copy editing are top-notch, the layout (in epub format) is flawed. Hard line returns are added where there shouldn't be any, so paragraphs are broken up. It's disruptive and annoying. The story should sizzle, but it's obfuscated with the occasional, almost obsessionally detailed minutes of meetings, or -- and this makes me kind of cringe -- a purpleness of prose that can only come from one too many stiff martinis while listening to The Three Tenors, though headphones, at a recklessly dangerous volume. Regardless, Sophia... is worth the read. A lot of fun and some truly thought provoking ideas. Thanks, Mike Donoghue for putting this work online.
on Nov. 22, 2016
Eric Bickernicks, "Artifice" literally had me falling off the treadmill. So hilarious, it was! Let me tell you, Bickernicks can really tell a story! Reminiscent of Neal Stephenson's, "Zodiac," but wittier and more intriguing, in my opinion -- and I'm a diehard Neal Stephenson fan. Also worth noting is, had this been a Neal Stephenson novel it would have been 20 bucks – and Artifice is out there for free – thanks Eric! It's gritty, irreverent, fast-paced action and suspense. It's also a pretty interesting (disturbing) look at the psyche of an independent artist – (writer, perhaps?) I think it holds a mirror up to any of us who have tried to impress the world with our own creative endeavors, or even just get noticed, remembered, acknowledged. Artifice effectively ignites the question, "what's it all for?" To me, there's a couple of drawbacks (which aren't quite serious enough to yank one of the stars from this book's rating); the fictional author interview is acrimonious (passive-aggressive) and defeatist: totally out of character for the mains in Artifice. And then, there are proofreading and copy editing errors: mostly, the wrong words (correctly spelled) or copy-and-paste errors. However, for a self published book (offered for free, which takes guts and generosity) this is really a tiny, little, nitpicking point that should not stop you from reading, and falling in love with, Artifice, by Eric Bickernicks.
One-Sided Love Online
on Nov. 22, 2016
This is not really literature, actually, it's not even literate. The grammatical errors make it difficult to follow. That said, it's a juvenile essay/fantasy that would likely merit a C- in a high school English class... maybe. However, putting it online for free, meaning one doesn't have to buy it to leave a review, is bold, and worth at least one star.
The Skyline of a Ship
on Nov. 22, 2016
The Skyline of a Ship, by Anna Stroud, is a wonderfully dark, and truly disturbing, short story. I would love to read more (and hopefully longer) explorations into the human psyche by this author. Although The Skyline of a Ship -- I think she meant "The Silhouette of a Ship" -- is filed under Gay and Lesbian fiction on smashwords.com, it is really a story of a very dark and disturbing need to find a weird sort of immortality. In other words, it is NOT restricted to the LGBT genre, by any means. Unfortunately the translation - which I am assuming was from French to English - doesn't do the story justice. Regardless, read this work, you'll be glad you did, and like me, you'll find yourself thinking about it long after you've read the last, truly unsettling scene.
on Dec. 01, 2016
Tuesdays, by Eliza S. Morgan, is an endearingly sweet reminiscence (or hopeful fantasy) of first love. I found myself smiling through this short story, charmed by its innocence and colloquial, stream of consciousness. Ah, if only same-sex love could be that easy. It's a short read, about 10 minutes, and for that reason I would have expected a far more polished text. I found it refreshing that Morgan didn't stress that a same-sex relationship was unique, dangerous or special, and that it just 'was.' Unfortunately, the ending of this story felt rushed, as though the writer had tired of it.
on Dec. 08, 2016
"Truly You" by Lindsey Schussman is a story that takes a what-if premise and runs with it. Schussman explores a number of hot issues (gender, orientation, societal expectations, fidelity, class...) with raw confidence and wit that I find very refreshing. It's not often that I cheer out loud when reading a book. It's a story (and concept) strong enough to make up for an awkward writing style (I am guessing ESL), poor grammar and incomplete copy-editing. I really hate to bring this up, because it's such a good story, but the reality is: with very little editing and a couple more drafts I'm pretty sure Schussman would have an excellent work here.
Lamb of God: a novel of the love and sacrifice of two brothers
on Dec. 14, 2016
"Lamb of God: a novel of the love and sacrifice of two brothers" by Paul Dueweke is an incredibly well written, fictional (at least, I'm assuming it is) "memoir." Dueweke effectively takes the reader into the psyche of child coping with a terribly dysfunctional family. Although this story could (and should) be depressingly dark, it's surprisingly upbeat and absorbing. Seeing things through the eyes of the main character as a child, especially when dealing with his siblings and grandfather is heartwarming. It provides a huge contrast to the brutal events he lives through, and finds a way to survive. I found the book hard to put down, although sub-plots surrounding the 1929 stock crash were a little too detailed for my taste. Overall, this is an amazing work that will leave you thinking about it long after you've finished it.
on Dec. 28, 2016
Archaea by Dain White is a fast paced, sci-fi adventure, presented in a rather unique way. At first, I had a hard time getting my head around the first person narratives, delivered by a diverse cast, but eventually it grew on me. The story, a deep space "road trip" is delivered playfully with wit and an honest respect for reality: gravity (or the lack thereof, for instance), although something called pseudo mass comes into play with FTL travel, but White actually makes it almost believable. Overall, Archaea is a fun read that will leave you wanting more.
The Nature Of Time
on Dec. 30, 2016
An interesting "speculation." Thanks for posting this thought provoking piece. It would, however, benefit from a list of references and some rudimentary, mathematical modeling (perhaps as an addendum, so as not to bore the casual reader). As this work is presented in English, the translation definitely needs work. It would be great to see these oversights rectified in a new edition of this article. As I said, the "idea" presented here, is most intriguing.
on Jan. 26, 2017
Kill Process by William Hertling - what a treat! I've read Hertling's 4 "Singularity Series" novels and seen this writer develop. Although, Avogadro Corp (the first of the singularity series) was astonishingly fresh(smart, original, disturbing) and well written - for an new indie writer, Kill Process is well worth waiting for. Yeah, I'm gushing... I loved this novel! I'm also kind of blown away with how skillfully Hertling wrote in first-person, from a woman's point of view. The accuracy of the psychological ramifications of domestic abuse-violence are downright chilling. It's a risky subject to take on, especially in a novel, but Hurtling managed to use it to the story's advantage, and to shed some much needed light on it - thanks for that! Descriptions of computer hacking are deliciously geeky, yet accessible: no talking-down to the reader. Hertling shows us, hackers are people too. All-in-all, Kill Process is a top-notch novel, rivaling anything I've seen lately from the publishing houses.
The Bridge Road to Dawn
on Feb. 07, 2017
When I read the first chapter on his website (no free sample on Smashwords), I had high hopes for, The Bridge Road to Dawn, by Brenton Stringer. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel falls flat. There's a few interesting ideas, but nothing gets developed. The story goes nowhere. The main premise is left unexplained, or explored. The novel feels as though it was written by two people with distinct writing styles. There are sections (including the sample, first chapter on Stringer's website) that are adequately written - thus, readable - and others that are amateurish, clunky and annoying. For example: the endlessly repetitive use of the word "as", action as action, blah said "as" blah did. Obviously, some of this novel was edited, therefore, it might be possible to make it readable. Unfortunately, the story itself, is either incomplete, or not strong enough, in my opinion, to be a good read.
Fortress Farm - The Pullback
on Feb. 22, 2017
The Pullback, by G.R. Carter is a survivalist, post-electrical-grid-collapse novel, along the lines of "One Second After," by William R. Forstchen. One difference from Forstchen's novel was the greater scope of "The Pullback." While Forstchen concentrated on the plight of one small town, Carter defines four different, emergent societies built on various power structures: organized crime, military, religious, and new-age cultist. The sociological thought experiment this novel explores, is both fascinating and dismal: tribalism at its best/worst. Although The Pullback is the foundation for a series, I would like to have seen more focus on specific characters rather than a glimpse into the personal stories of many. I guess I was looking for a "hero" a protagonist I could get into to "feel" the emotional ramifications of the pullback. Other than that, The Pullback, is a good read: disturbing, raw, and unapologetically redneck (realistic). Warning: If you believe in nothing but the milk and honey of human kindness, while looking after yourself with force (guns and things that go boom) offends you, this is probably not the book for you. But, on the other hand, if you don't feel guilty for having a survival instinct, you're going to find The Pullback, well worth the read.
on Jan. 24, 2019
The end of the world doesn't come with a bang, or a whimper, but a whine. And it doesn't come in a rain of fire on Washington, Moscow or London, but as an invasion of hovering lights and rotting doggie delights on Cape Cod.
When the tourists flee across the canal, Bigfoot, UFO's, Men in Black in Hawaiian shirts, dead aliens, tabloid journalists, conspiracy theorists, locals, a sex maniac and his cult following, not to mention the dog, take over the place.
Two groups of virtuoso faker-outters of high strangeness, completely unbeknownst to each other, collide head on, while making crop circles. What happens when even the fakers are freaked out by geometry and religious symbol spewing UFOs, left me turning pages, laughing out loud in the middle of the night, and then, wondering what that smell might be, and looking under the bed for something horrible, the dog dragged in.
This fast paced, hilarious, adventure romp is told in the first person by 4 people. Well... not exactly people. Two of them are human, one of them is alien - I'm guessing from the icon above its chapter headings - who speaks in binary (I didn't decode it, but there's a fun puzzle for a lonely Saturday night with a sack of kettle corn), and one of the narrators is the dog. Yes, the dog, who develops a Buddha-like Zen intellect, an interest in basketball, an obsession for revoltingly smelly bones, and a sense of timing that had me howling with laughter.
on Oct. 24, 2019
Kill Switch, by William Hertling, is billed as a sequel to Kill Process, but can certainly stand on its own. That doesn't mean you shouldn't read Kill Process, (one of Hertling's best works), it just means it shouldn't be an impediment. Both of these books, in the Kill series, shine a spotlight on thorny social issues, but Kill Switch doesn't pull any punches. Personally, I admire that. This book had me so close to calling it violent porn that, had I not read (and loved) Hertling's previous books, I would've given up. I am glad that I didn't. In my case, there was definitely payback for enduring passages that really pushed my boundaries. The payback? Learning that my boundaries are social conditioning, prejudiced misconceptions and programming. I look back at his characters, that when I started reading made my skin crawl, but now, I would be honored to call my friends. I might not love how they love, but I certainly wouldn't want to miss out on knowing someone because of that. So I went from thinking, Hertling had gone ruby off the rails to, he has taken a huge risk with this novel, and finally to wanting to thank him for breaking down some of my personal barriers/prejudices.
That said, Kill Switch is packed with what I love about Hertling's stories. Nonstop action and loads of geeky tech stuff. The terrifying abuse of it by corporations, not hackers, and a wake-up call that this isn't so much fictional as it's actually happening. You might give your social media accounts a second thought, late at night when you should be sleeping, and you finish Kill Switch, and turn out the light.