Fireflies & Laserbeams

Max Barry does it again!

Friday July 23, 2021 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | book review | Leave Comments

The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scary start had me wondering. But I'm glad I kept going.
I have every Max Barry book. I love most of his books, but the last one, Providence, was just okay for me. I was hoping for a return to form in this one.
It opens with a difficult and harrowing scene that set the tone for a story that was going to be hard for me to listen to. (I have the audiobook version) I wasn’t sure this was going to work for me, but by the end of the next chapter he had me hooked.
Max wrote some fairly graphic murder scenes in this book, and that is not my normal genre of fiction, but the story turns out was not really centered on the titular character of Madison May, but on Felicity Staples, the reporter that falls into the plot by accident.
It follows her on an adventure to try to save Madison May, repeatedly. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice to say the story pulled me in and kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through to the ending, which came to a satisfying conclusion.
Helen Laser did a great job narrating and was the perfect Felicity and Maddie. Highly recommended!

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Max Barry is Coming to America with a New Book

Tuesday February 25, 2020 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | cover reveal | Leave Comments

Providence cover Max Barry is one of my favorite novelists. I can actually say I’ve read every book he has published. His new book, Providence is coming out on March 31st. He is coming to the United States for a book tour. Here are the details from his latest letter: A lot has happened since I was last in the US. The world became a dark dystopia ruled by corrupt oligarchies. Data-driven marketing companies sucked up our fears and turned them into products. The book publishing industry fell into crisis. Ha ha! I’m kidding. It was all like that already. If you’ve never seen me in person, boy, are you missing out. I mean, the accent alone, you can’t even imagine. So what happens at these things is first I talk about whatever’s on my mind. I’ll be traveling with my daughter this time, so, you know, brace yourself for some insights on what it’s like to take a 14-year-old Australian around the US on book tour. Then I read from the new book a little. But not for long, because, really, you can read it yourself. That’s why we printed all these copies. Then comes my favorite part, where people ask questions about whatever. Writing, NationStates, why Australian Rules Football is the greatest sport in the world: you name it. This is really the bread and butter of the bookstore event for me. Any kind of situation where people will sit and listen to my opinion on things, that really works for me. Come see me here:

  • San Diego, CA
7pm @ Wednesday April 1st, 2020 Mysterious Galaxy
  • Beaverton, OR
7pm @ Thursday April 2nd, 2020 Powell’s Books — Cedar Hill Crossing
  • Seattle, WA
7pm @ Friday April 3rd, 2020 Elliot Bay Book Company
  • San Francisco, CA
3pm @ Saturday April 4th, 2020 Borderlands Books
  • Mountain View, CA
2pm @ Sunday April 5th, 2020 Books, Inc.
  • Denver, CO
7pm @ Monday April 6th, 2020 Tattered Cover — Colfax Avenue
  • Chicago, IL
7pm @ Wednesday April 8th, 2020 The Book Cellar
  • Washington, DC
7pm @ Thursday April 9th, 2020 Politics & Prose — Union Market I also sign books. The new book, older books, you name it. I will sign anything not nailed down. Although if all you want is a signed Providence, you can contact one of the bookstores and we’ll arrange that without you having to leave home. I mean, that’s not my preference. But I want you to know that option is available.

Max Barry

  Maybe I’ll see you at one of these.  

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5 Things Friday: Favorite Authors

Friday August 9, 2019 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | 5 Things | Leave Comments

[caption id="attachment_1583" align="alignleft" width="393"]sparth-nicolas-bouvier-primitive-city-2 Sparth[/caption] Pinning down five writers is pretty difficult (so I add a few more.) These are my current top five, but they may change over time. 5. Ann Leckie – Ann has only written five novels so far, but broke out of the chute to win the Hugo on her first release, Ancillary Justice. It started a trilogy, with Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy. She followed that with Provenance, which is a standalone in the same universe. Then she broke from SF with a fantasy story, The Raven Tower. All of them are wonderful. She has a unique voice and is on my auto-buy list. 4. Hannu Rajaniemi – Huge brain on this Finnish mathematician PhD and Quantum Physics Thinktank leader. He wrote one of the best debut novels of all time with The Quantum Thief. He followed it up with Fractal Prince and Causal Angel. Probably the best posthuman stories written thus far. It is wildly imaginative and an immensely brilliant trilogy. I wrote about it here. He then broke from science fiction with a standalone novel called Summerland. I would call it weird fiction, as it deals with the newly dead and an alternate history 1938 and is set as a spy thriller. It was not my favorite, but it was brilliant in its own way. I look forward eagerly to his next release. 3. Rosina Lippi writing as Sara Donati – She holds a PhD in Linguistics from Princeton and was a tenured professor for twelve years at the University of Michigan. She writes fiction and non-fiction, but Sara Donati is her fiction pen name and she wrote a six book historical fiction series beginning with Into the Wilderness. It carries on where James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans left off, but introduces new characters then follows them through the end of the Battle of New Orleans. These are absolutely fantastic. I learned a lot. They are chock full of historical moments, adventure, and a dollop of romance. I wrote about it here. She followed this series with another that carries on with a young woman trying to make it as a doctor in the big city in the 1800s. It begins with The Gilded Hour and continues with Where the Light Enters, which comes out next month. 2. Caroline Cherry writing as C. J. Cherryh – SFWA Grand Master. She has written more than 80 books, two of which won the Hugo award, Downbelow Station and Cyteen. Otherwise she is probably best known for her prolific Foreigner series. She writes fantasy and science fiction and her Alliance-Union series is my all-time favorite. She writes smart, personal stories that really analyze human psychology and motivation. Fabulous world building and memorable characters are her hallmark. She also was instrumental in getting me on track early in my writing career with kindness and good advice. 1. William Gibson – He created the new subgenre cyberpunk with his debut, Neuromancer. It won the Hugo, Nebula and PKD awards. He was born and raised in the US but lives in Vancouver, Canada now. He has written eleven novels and co-wrote one with Bruce Sterling. He started his career by promoting futuristic cybernetic enhancement and artificial intelligence. He coined “cyberspace” for the propagation of Virtual Reality. His first two trilogies were in this theme, the Sprawl and Bridge trilogies. He followed these with the near future Blue Ant trilogy. His writing gets better with every novel. He has a knack for seeing below the surface and then creating a world and character to carry his prescient vision forward. He has been my favorite writer for more than half my life and I don’t see it changing any time soon. His next book, Agency, comes out in January. I think I may go back and reread all of them before the new one comes out.   Honorable mention: Max Barry – Australian author of Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He stuff is generally aimed at the lunacy of the corporate world. Lexicon was a departure and was an outstanding novel. I wrote about it here. He has a new book coming out in 2020 called Providence. Biting satire is his forte. I have read everything he has written and will continue to do so. Peter Watts – I came to Canadian Peter Watts late. I have only read three of his novels so far, but he blows me away every time. His is brilliantly intelligent and writes in a way that exposes that in a cool way. He doesn’t write down to the reader, but it is not so high concept that a novice can’t follow along. His stuff is hard SF. The science is impeccable and the prose match. He has written 24 novels so far, with some of these being tie-ins for other worlds. Freeze-frame Revolution is his latest, which I read. He is best known for Blindsight, which should have won the Hugo, and Echopraxia. I have read both of these as well. I have a lot of catching up to do with his novels.   Who are your favorites? I really want to hear about them.

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Pimping a book: Lexicon by Max Barry

Tuesday July 2, 2013 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Novel Review | Leave Comments

lexiconI just finished the audiobook version of Lexicon by Max Barry. It made my drive to Pennsylvania for the next residency in my MFA program a riveting adventure instead of drudgery. I’ve been a Max Barry fan since he was Maxx Barry. I loved Jennifer Government, and I’ve made it a point to read every book he’s written. Max’s infectious, dark humor has always been a hallmark of his work, but the tone of Lexicon surprised me. It feels like an older, more mature brother of his other works. It’s a blisteringly brilliant book. I was a fan before this novel came out but this new book puts Max into a different tier. Be careful…reading Lexicon will compromise you, turning you into one of his proselytes for this heart-stopping thriller. It’s a profoundly intelligent tale that covers a global conspiracy to use words as keys to unlock the human mind. (more…)

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Arguing with the Reviewer (Bad Idea)

Saturday September 10, 2011 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

     A friend of mine stopped me the other day to tell me that he had posted his very first book review and to their surprise the author wrote them back almost immediately.  His review was a 2 star review and although he was polite he pointed out some things he didn't like about the book.  It was in a genre he is very well read in and felt like the book didn't live up to expectations.  He did write a few nice things too.        The author made persuasive arguments as to why he did certain things, persuasive enough that my friend changed his review to make it 3 stars and took out a few negative comments.  But the fact that the writer went through this trouble kinda shocked me.  Not to the core or anything but I was surprised.  My friend was surprised too, but also intrigued and I think he liked the interaction actually.      Right after I made up my mind to write about this Joe Konrath beat me to the punch of course with this post about ignoring the praise and criticism of people you don't know.  Obviously this author ignored that advise.      He received a lot of negative feedback because of the title he gave the post.  Not Caring.  I think a lot of his readers missed the entire point but that doesn't surprise me really, but that is a post for another day perhaps.      I know Ann Rice just got a lot of negative publicity for arguing with her detractors on Amazon, but they say any publicity sells books.  Book Slut covers that story here.  It's hard to believe that was 7 years ago.      Abraham Lincoln once said, "He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help."  Contrarywise, if you don't really want to help, you should shut the hell up.      As I get closer to finishing the novel revisions I am thinking more about what happens next.  Getting constructive criticism from someone you ask is a lot different than any kind of criticism from someone you don't know who may or may not "get" what you were trying to do.  But going out there and arguing with reviewers doesn't appeal to me.      Max Barry just posted this bit about Schlepping the Book and how it feels to get good and bad reviews.  I love Max Barry!  He is funny, articulate and has a great imagination.  Three things I would love to be able to claim.       Putting my book out there on its own will be a surreal experience for me.  That is the point of publishing, you know, getting it out there.  I'm not sure how I will take the criticism, both good and bad.  Hopefully I can take it in stride and not let it effect me.  The point that Konrath's detractors were trying to make was that you should care what people say, in order to fix what's wrong.  But wrong by whose standard?  That's a fickle master I wouldn't want to have to answer to.  You will never please everyone.  Is it arrogance to say the book is exactly the way you meant it to be?  We can all keep revising our books endlessly, and with eBooks we actually can keep revising them after they are published even.  That's another can of worms.        I think I like what Heinlein said in his business rules, that Dean Wesley Smith recently posted, "Refrain from rewriting except to editorial order."  Meaning his editor's comments.  The rest of his rules are just as good. Finish what you start and get it out there!      Time will definitely tell.  I have the goal of not letting it effect me.  That's not saying I don't care. Clear Ether!

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