Book Review: Metropolis by Monte Schulz

Outside of having a tour or BBNYA deadline to motivate me in picking up a book, I haven’t really been able to read anything in a long time, let alone a mammoth of a tome like Metropolis. I figured, the website was fascinating already, I have barely read anything in the last couple of weeks, and 2022 was coming to a quick end. Why not end it with Metropolis? I’m so glad I got the opportunity to. Shout out to Monte for the copy and for Adrienne from Finn Partners for reaching out to me. What an amazing way to end the year!

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥! In the final review and post of the year, and my 100th book review (!!!) today’s post will be my thoughts on Metropolis by Monte Schulz!

Book Title: Metropolis
Author: Monte Schulz
Length: 668 Pages
Edition: Physical > Hardcover
Published: 23 August 2022
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction > Steampunk, Dystopia, Romance, Literary Fiction

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to the author, Monte Schulz, for providing me with a physical copy for review! All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads: >LINK<
Publisher’s Page: >LINK<
Book’s Website*: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

*I highly suggest checking out the book’s website, as it’s incredibly detailed and a cool read all in itself.

Regency College senior Julian Brehm’s uneventful student life is derailed when he falls for Nina Rinaldi, a beautiful young revolutionary engaged in political activism against the authoritarian regime that rules the country and wages a deceitful, distracting war. Julian’s love for — and moral alliance to — Nina eventually leads him into a vast undercity beneath the metropolis. Then, east by train and into the war zone itself, where mortal danger in that expanding cemetery of millions threatens Julian’s life; what he witnesses will alter how he perceives the Republic and ultimately his fate within it.

Julian’s adventure can be seen as our own, a world of vacillating morality and unceasing violence. Apathy and passion. Fear and courage of purpose. Julian’s is a hero’s journey into the dark unknown. A love story, which extends in many directions. A war novel of incredible scope and horror. A suspenseful mystery novel with a moral puzzle at its core. And a coming-of-age tale of a young man seeing the world he was born into, more dangerous and more beautiful than he could have ever imagined. Metropolis is a meditation on the meaning of virtue and goodness in the face of the most monstrous crimes. It could just as easily be the story of us.

Wow! I’m going to be talking about this one to friends and family for the next couple of weeks!
For a second, I thought that I had forgotten how to write a review because I was so lost for words. It was a beautiful journey and a rollercoaster of a ride; emotions of all kinds and tears of all sorts flowing. 

The writing of this book was the first thing that I picked up. Atmospheric and memorizing, the writing was charming to boot and was a pleasure to read. I fell in love with every sentence, and the dialogue was not forgotten and left behind. I loved the way the world was built. I loved the way things were described. I loved the characters and I loved how they spoke and interacted with one another. I’d be happy to read this over and over if for no reason other than to get lost in the sentences and wording over and over. 

The world was suffocating, although, as a dystopian, I didn’t expect anything less. The last time I read a dystopian book, it was Perdido Street Station and I could almost feel the tinge of the smog on my tongue. Here, I could almost see everything, feel everything, and it was absolutely horrifying. Between the level of death in certain parts of the book, the tens of thousands of children in danger, the “law enforcement” that patrolled the street to take you to the Mendel building where one might never be seen again, nowhere did life truly felt safe; something that Julian, a student of the college, will soon bear witness to. 

“‘We do survive, Julian. We survive the most despicable cruelties and heinous acts by our fellow human beings because we have no other choice if we choose to live in this blighted world of ours. I think the Desolation must be a mirror of who we are as a race and species, an example to the gods and universe of man in his most inventive and prolific self. We thrive and celebrate our debauchery, all the while defending what we do as both accidental and necessary. I truly believe we are insane.'”

There was a particular section of the book where Julian left the safety of his old life to deliver a specific item and brings him to where the war sits. The horrors that he both experiences and witnesses is enough to give nightmares and plenty of moments that he goes through is forever seared in my mind; the death, the bodies, and blood, the brutality, so vivid in my mind then and now still. All atrocities that many back home, including Julian had he not travelled so far, was so ignorant of. From there on, the horrors doesn’t stop. 

I adored the characters of the book and the cast was filled with such brightly colored personalities including sane but maybe most likely probably insane, Marco. There’s  our main character, Julian, and his deep love for Nina as well as his care for the energetic and lovely Delia (Nina’s sister). There’s the brilliant (when it matters) drunkard of a roommate, Freddy. The puzzle master, Peter Draxler, was the cherry on top of all this chaos. 

“‘Love is a most powerful inducement. Nothing in our world surpasses it. Without love, perhaps none of this has any meaning but storm and fire. Not enough to suffer for. Loyalty itself derives from the heart in terms of faithfulness which can only evolve from love.'”

The plot was gripping and so interesting. From the very beginning, Julian finds himself wrapped in a giant puzzle that carries him all over the place. It’s like a scavenger hunt mixed with hide-and-seek, except arrest and death was on the losing wager. With Freddy’s help, he’s able to unwind piece after piece of one of the most insane game of hide and seek ever played, clues in books locked behind another language, a lost dog, and running around the underground world… The entire part of the book revolves around this puzzle and I was constantly at the edge of my seat awaiting the next clue and answer. 

I really enjoyed this book and ending the year with this read is an amazing feeling; both because it was quite a chunky book and also because of how much I enjoyed pretty much every aspect of the book. A good book that I’d recommend if you enjoy a good puzzle, steampunk vibes, and dystopian government that revolve around some majorly harsh scenes and topics. One of those books I’d happily pick up to reread again and again. 

Monte Schulz published his first novel, Down By The River, in 1990, and spent the next two decades writing Crossing Eden, an epic novel of the Jazz Age. He has taught writing and literature in the College of Creative Studies at UCSB, where he earned his M.A. in American Studies. He lives in California and Hawaii.

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Book Review: Tomorrow’s End by G.R. Morris

Oh gods, I’m finally done. Only took me about 3 weeks…and look at the cover! I can’t stop staring at it!

Book Description

Title: Tomorrow’s End
Author: G.R. Morris
Publisher: Dark Light Publishing
Edition: Physical > Hardcover
Page: 421
Genres: Sci-fi, horror, dystopian

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, via a Goodreads Giveaway, in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and all opinions are my own.

TW/CW: Swearing (and a few in my review too), death, torture, death of children, torturous death, extremely graphic levels of gore, body horror, childhood abuse, abuse

Blurb from Goodreads

Do you have free will?
He never asked to be a hero, but the universe didn’t give him a choice.

Kevin Knight never wanted to be the one to save the galaxy. But when tragedy upends his life and demonic forces steal his soul, the fate of time and space are sealed. Until a scaly, trench-coat-clad alien appears and gives him a glimpse into the true nature of all things.

Astounded, Kevin learns the world he knows is merely an illusion created by alien beings who control humanity’s every move. With an invasion imminent, he must defeat the blackness and perfect his powers before the bloody battle begins.

Which prophecy will Kevin fulfill… the one of darkness or the one of light?

Review

Bizarre.
Gripping.
Occasionally cheesy.
Creative.
High tech.
Dystopian.
The matrix.
Insane levels of gore. Insane levels of gore.
Thought provoking. Mind blowing.
Sheer unbeatable levels of details.
Info dumping, but still enjoyable and attention grabbing dialogue.
Saturated in philosophy and religion.
SO MUCH CONFUSION.
So many book tabs.
So much enjoyment.
Thrills.
Chills.
Brill.

There’s no better way to start a review for this book than like this. This book left me feeling like I gained a bigger head. Someone check me. Does this book make my head look fat?

The edge of my copy looks like a candy store with how many tabs I put in. I stopped counting halfway through at around 40 flags. I found myself tabbing nearly every other paragraph because everything sounded like something my Phil 101 prof would spew out his mouth, laced with such thoughts that I had to pause and just think about what I just read for a solid minute and then moving on (saving that paragraph with a nice little tab of course). Over and over again.

It’s extremely thought provoking.

Theme wise, there’s a lot of talk about free will and choices (are you truly free?), light versus darkness, the concept of sin, morality and grey areas, the difference between murder and killing, sacrifices, religion (our Earthly religions mixed with fictional), the illusions of the world we know, the concept of destiny, what dictates our choices, what is ultimately right and wrong, the idea that souls choose their destiny and choices prior to their current mortal shells and everything they do builds on that, and so on… The strongest/main theme, is free will.

There are two major characters and both are part of the prophesy that foresees saving the universe. Kevin Knight is a 16 year old teen who, along with his mother, has lived a life of abuse under the hands of his stepfather. He’s the main character through most of this book, but somewhere midway, we are introduced to another MC, Daren, an orphan born under extraordinary circumstances. The book leaves on a cliffhanger so I’m assuming major things are coming in the future for the both of them. They both start infants to their potentials and are bound to grow and book one focuses on their initial histories, discoveries, and this growth. Then, there is a small cast of supporting characters, mainly Kevin’s trainer/teacher, Robert, (and said trainer’s sidekick, Jason).

Daren’s story, I find, to be the most interesting. Her growth is short, compared to Kevin (faster and less chapters), and she seems to realize her powers a little earlier than Kevin, despite not knowing how to fully control them. Kevin, on the other hand, has always been told he’s the Savior, but not being a believer in the religion, needed a wider growth arc filled with tons of training, realization, self-discovery, and acceptance. Both characters were so well-developed and you would watch them blossom from the seedlings they were to their current positions, their current place now in the prophesy. The ending was so unexpected that it gave me a bit of a whip-lash.

The book was so engaging and I’m invested in continuing to book two, to which I eagerly await, although with slight hesitation because this first one already threw me in a hurricane and I’m still trying to process half of what’s happened, and what’s learned.. It’s mind-blowing for sure. I repeat. This book blew my mind. It’s the type of book where, were it to be a Youtube video and if I were to do any form of drugs I’d comment, “I’m way too high for this s***.” Goes beyond shower thoughts. Beyond laying on your pillow questioning your existence and the meaning of life. The book is written in a way to provoke the reader to question reality as we see it.

There was a lot of dialogue and I really appreciated that Kevin was bloody clueless about everything as opposed to Daren who had, at least, a good handful of knowledge that had to be taught to Kevin. Why? Because I’m clueless 40% of the time while reading, and loved having Kevin act as an audience surrogate. As he learns from his trainer, we the audience learn too. There were a few moments where Kevin remarked that this was wild or his head was starting to hurt and I literally tabbed that paragraph with “You’re head hurts? B**** my head hurts!”

And so, much of the dialogue was between him and Rob (and a moment between him and himself) where everything’s pretty much taught to him. I didn’t even realize that a lot of it was essentially info dumping (it’s literally Robert teaching him everything about himself (Kevin) and the prophesy) because my mind was blown half the time and I just didn’t even notice. Don’t get me wrong in any way. I think I’m in love with the dialogue, actually.

Conclusion? No conclusion. I’m still processing half of the stuff. Have a commercial break and look at some quotes below. We will uhh -stares at cue card- resume this conversation in book two. Shoo shoo, I think I’m developing a book hangover.

“Proof is drawing a conclusion, and that conclusion isn’t always drawn from truth; they just have to believe it is. Proof is evidence when the mind is compelled to accept the evidence as true. Unbiased is not equal to objective. Even if proof was unbiased it would still not be objective.”

“How do you know that tomorrow gravity will still hold you to the ground…that the sun will still shine? How do you know I’m not still tricking your senses to believe it’s an orange, but it’s actually a pear.”

“Remember: when you decide something, you cut away all other options.”

“Fantastic. I’ve been broken out of prison by an alien…named Bob.”

“This body sheds itself and is ever growing, ever changing. Existence is malleable, your focus determines your reality.”

The Hands We’re Given [Book Review]

Book Name: The Hands We’re Given
Author: O.E. Tearmann
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle
Pages: 428
Genre: Science Fiction > Cyberpunk, LGBT, Romance > MM Romance, Dystopia, Fiction, Military Fiction

There’s graphic sex scenes in this book. (The author even provided a warning at the beginning of the book and I’m happily surprised. Kind of wish more authors did this and more books came with warnings.)

Cover from GR. Find the book’s page >HERE<

I came across the book during my search for some cyberpunk reads (right around the time Cyberpunk 2077 was released). It sounded interesting and dystopian enough and with a ragtag team trope, the “Holy shit I sorta kinda don’t know how I landed myself into a commander position” main character, the themes around LGBTQA+, and the joker/ace/cards vibe, I was ready for a good time; sort of like…the many cherries on top.

Summary

It’s 2155 and America has completely changed. Gone are the days where we had political parties; Corporate America (named the United Corporations of America) runs the show now. 

Our team is a base for a group called the Democratic State Force, whose mission is to fight back against the Corporation and the dystopic hell they’ve given birth to. Base 1407 is unlike any of the other bases. They stand out and have quite the reputation that sets them apart. Named the Wildcards, their records are peppered with disciplinary write-ups. But it’s not just this behavior and attitude of theirs that leads to them having as insane of a reputation as they do. They had, in the past two years, 198 successful mission whereas the average per base was around 75 successful missions in that same given period. They were effective. They were good at their job. VERY good.

But after Commander Taylor passes away, they haven’t been on their game and have already run out two seasoned commanders off their base. It’s Aidan’s job to get them back on the mission. With their increase in disciplinary write-ups lately, the sector is threatening to disband them if Aidan fails to get them back into shape. One last commander, one last chance for the Wildcards. 

According to rumor, the Wildcards had been unstoppable. The stories about missions they’d pulled off, executives they’d disgraced by outing information to the Net, and things they’d invented were legendary. The base had been insane in their success record until the commander who had led them had developed bone cancer. No one had been able to supply the base with the right treatments. In the six months before the man’s death, everything in the unit’s record had gone to shit.

Tearmann, O. E.. The Hands We’re Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild Book 1) (pp. 15-16). Amphibian Press. Kindle Edition. 

The last two commanders to replace Taylor had been complete assholes who nearly worked the team to death. When Aidan first joins, the Wildcards are not pleased. Some are already planning on how to get this one to high tail out of their base; pranks and snippy greetings included. They don’t trust him in the slightest and Aidan? He doesn’t want to be there. They have enough of a reputation to scare him even before his first day at work and it truly is his FIRST day at work. He’s straight out of commander training and he would rather be anywhere but at the head of a terrifying base that two other “seasoned” commanders couldn’t even handle.

Review

The characters are very interesting and each have their unique personalities and roles to the team. Every team member is a tailor fit to what the base needs and losing any of the Wildcards would be a devastating blow to the base. Aidan is our commander who is struggling with his transition from female to male (physically: his lack of resources to acquire the surgeries he needs and mentally: his previous confidant had let his secret slip and it ended up horribly). He’s got horrible anxiety and occasionally questions himself on his role and competence as a leader. But honestly, this makes sense. He’s fresh out of training and has never commanded any other bases before. The Wildcard is a wild place to start your commanding and leadership career so naturally Aidan has his fear.

Worldbuilding is done nicely here too. You get small glimpses of a future run by corporations that fall together to form the portrait of the “What Could Be” of America being run by megacorps rather than political parties. In this future, genetic manipulation is the norm. You either come perfect and on the Corps’ side, or you’re not, and good as dead or worse, be an enemy of the Corps. 

The bases are located just outside the Corp zones; close enough for them to act on their missions and for supply stock ups but far away enough to stay hidden from the watchful eyes of the Corporation. Life on the outside is tough but when it comes to fighting, there isn’t much of it.

I love the characters. I love Aidan because I could relate to his work anxieties. I loved Kevin for collections of things considered antiques in this future (including old films, movies, music and even outdated WORDS.) In this time and period, certain words are so outdated, they’re considered antiques and people might give you a weird or confused look for using them like. Quixotic? Sovereignty? What the heck are those?? I think one of my favorite things about this book were all the words that people didn’t know because they were “antiquated words.” I wish I took better notes on this book for every word Kevin used that he got blank faces in return for. It really shows the passage of time when certain words we might use today falls out of use by 2155.

And then you have the other smaller things that sets that world apart from ours. Corrective eye surgery is normal. You don’t even have to be a rich Corp to fix your vision problems. Even as a Duster, you get weird looks for having glasses. Why risk being a liability when glasses get blown off your face, while running and hiding, when you can permanently fix vision issues? Aidan has a holograph of his sister on a tablet that he consults for his anxiety or for personal advice. Sure it feels a bit more like the colder and more soulless version of your deceased friends and family…but they’re programmed to be as close to their original personalities as possible (I would like one please). This world is rich with new things and the differences between what you can access on and off the grid is very notifiable. What you might be able to easily get on grid could potentially cost you your life out in the Dust.

This book did not disappoint me. The characters are complex and the relationships are complicated. Characters can be flawed. People get angry and they might stop talking to each other (to a given extent; cold shouldering isn’t exactly a safe way to go about when teamwork and cooperation is a 110% necessity for survival sake). They make up and sit through problems together. They grow with each other. New friendships are made as characters, who hated each other in the beginning, learn to understand the other. This book taught me that not every military fiction needs to run on guns and combat. Sometimes, stealth and running away is how you win a fight. It’s not about engaging with the enemy, it’s about living another day for the sake of your base! Actions, even if done in the interest of others, can result in an entire base’s collapse.. You have to think for yourself and your base for every action you decide upon.

Tearmann paints a rich world, even if it’s no longer so bright. I just kind of wish there was a glossary for all the new terms in this book. They insult each other with the word Gamma! Like… “You gamma dipshit”, “You gamma bastard”, “That gamma piece of garbage” 110% amusing. Love it.

I savored the little pieces scattered everywhere through the book. There were so many small moments that really made this an enjoyable read (such as the “old” words or “pre-dissolution aged music”). I loved the depth of the characters and their growths. I loved the descriptions of the Corporate world and the Dusters. O.E. Tearmann did a great job with this book and a fantastic job tackling many different topics. This is only a glimpse of the major antagonist. Book 1 sets the premise and introduces the reader to what’s to come. An exciting start to the Aces High, Jokers Wild series.

“NatBank buys us and ZonCom sells. 
ArgusCo tells us where we dwell. 
TechCo owns what we read and play. 
AgCo decides what we eat today. 
EagleCorp tells us to obey. 
Cavanaugh drugs us to make us well. 
But one day we’ll ring the Liberty Bell. 
And then all the Corps will go to Hell.”

Tearmann, O. E.. The Hands We’re Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild Book 1) (p. 79). Amphibian Press. Kindle Edition.