Review: Brother, Frankenstein by Michael Bunker

Brother FrankensteinAbout Brother, Frankenstein

April 29, 2015

A borderline sociopath and technological genius, Dr. Alexander has designed an advanced cybernetic life form from prototype decommissioned military drones and top-secret experimental DARPA technology.

The HADroid was supposed to be a military grade robot with the transplanted heart and brain of a human donor that would “transform” into a devastating state of the art war machine when activated by its onboard human operator. But when the mad doctor steals the dying child of a simple Amish couple and transplants the brain and cardiovascular system of their dying eleven year old autistic son into the incredibly lethal robot the dark forces of government come looking for their investment.

Dr. Alexander and the monster escape into another Amish community to hide among the plain folk while Frank, the autistic eleven year old boy trapped inside the body of the world’s most deadly robot, befriends another child who will help the prisoner inside the machine to leave the world of autism and understand what it means to be human and Amish. But tensions arise among the plain and pacifistic yet closed minded Amish as they begin to suspect just what kind of technological monstrosity is hiding among them, and before long hard men who do the government’s most dirty deeds will come looking for a killing machine only to find a boy named Frank who has the power to defend a closed society from the worst of the world.


About the Author

Michael Bunker is a USA Today Bestselling author, off-gridder, husband, and father of four children. He lives with his family in a “plain” community in Central Texas, where he reads and writes books…and occasionally tilts at windmills.

Readers who subscribe to Michael’s newsletter get free copies of his books, usually before they’re published: http://michaelbunker.com/newsletter


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an advanced reader’s copy from the author for review.]

From the moment I saw Ben Adams‘ wonderful cover art design, I knew that Brother, Frankenstein was a novel that I absolutely had to read. And that the book itself was by Michael Bunker, an indie smash success and author of the best-selling Pennsylvania, sweetened the deal. Now, mind you, I’ve not read a full-fledged Bunker book previously; the closest I’d gotten was his collaboration with Nick Cole for Apocalypse Weird, but Pennsylvania has been sitting on my Kindle for a while now and he’s got some strong authorial cred behind him. Brother, Frankenstein seemed like as good a place as any to start.

The short of it is, this is a killer read, brother. If Witness by way of Robocop (the original, not the tepid remake), with a dash of Transformers mixed in sounds like a good way to spend a few hours, then you’re in for a treat. If it doesn’t, then, man, what the heck is wrong with you? (Joking! Maybe.)

Narrated in, largely, first-person POV by a narcissistic doctor who runs a pro bono clinic for the Amish, while working on biotech research for DARPA, we’re introduced to Frank. Frank is an 11-year-old autistic boy with barely a year left to live. Dr. Alexander, meanwhile, is working on an advanced cybernetic weapon for the government – cue your shades of Robocop here. Frank is like kin to him, so he transplants the boy’s heart and brain into the machine, which looks human enough but can transform into a massive, unstoppable ten-foot tall killing machine.

Just as the operation finishes, DARPA yanks their funding and Alexander finds himself in an impossible position, refusing to kill the boy whose life he just saved. He does the only thing he can and goes on the run with Frank, hiding in an Amish community where the boy can feel safe, even while both are being hunted by merciless government agents.

While there’s plenty of strong action, and an explosive finale that would make Michael Bay proud, Bunker really nails it on the human element and the strong familial bond that grows between Frank and his doctor. Both are set on a highly emotional journey that sees them breaking out of their shells and learning more about the very different worlds they share and inhabit. It’s tremendous fun to see how both influence one another and develop in their respective, and occasionally shifting, roles.

Michael Bunker has been dubbed the father of Amish Science Fiction, a genre mash-up that seems like one big oxymoron, but it works pretty damn well. Brother, Frankenstein is clearly a passion project for Bunker, and it deserves to find a strong and loyal audience, maybe even one to rival Pennsylvania. There’s certainly no dearth of action and thrills, and the technology is cutting edge, but it’s that thin line where these things of the modern world butt up against the plain-folk community and the ensuing culture clash that’s the most interesting and suspenseful. Highly recommended.

Buy Brother, Frankenstein At Amazon
Review: Brother, Frankenstein by Michael Bunker

The Tough Decisions of Independent Publishing

Yesterday, I wrote about making 2015 B I G! Alongside that, I am also hoping to make it different.

I’ve been an author-publisher for little more than a year now, and 2014 was a big learning experience for me with quite a few highs. That first sale! Hitting 100 sales! Having both Convergence and Consumption selected by Kobo for their Next Read listings! Newsletter subscribers! All these were huge achievements in my early, learning-as-I-go, baby-steps into the publishing arena.

2015, on the other hand, feels like it needs to be a bit of a fresh start, in some ways, as I look at what has worked for me and what hasn’t. I need to be bolder, I need to be more proactive, I need to try new things. 2014 was all about being an author, and while that part will certainly continue, I need to pay more attention to the publishing side of this business. In short, I need to keep learning and experimenting.

May will see the release of my first solo novel for this year, and, as a publisher, I want to change things up a bit.

So, I’m enrolling in KDP Select.

hicks-kdpThat means, for the foreseeable future, my titles will be available exclusively on Amazon.

I am hopeful that this move will help me build a larger audience, particularly as the release of Emergence draws nearer, as well as the release of our second anthology this fall. Amazon is the world’s leader in book sales, and KDP Select offers me some unique options as a publisher, like offering a 5-day free run on my titles, or countdown promotions. You’ll also be able to, effective immediately, find both Convergence and Consumption in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited. So if you haven’t checked out my work yet, here’s a free and easy way to see what I’ve been up to. Go give these stories a borrow!

This exclusivity agreement with Amazon operates in 90-days intervals. If I’m not convinced of Select’s validity to me as both an author and publisher, I can always end my KDP Select agreement and re-release my titles on all platforms. But for at least the foreseeable future, my works are gone from the Nook, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and Smashword platforms.

The why of all this is simply to experiment and to dip my toes into new and interesting waters. I’ve not used KDP Select previously, so this shift is an attempt to expand my base of readers on one of the single largest eBook platforms available, and to see how it stacks up against the way I had been operating. I want to see what works best. Quite frankly, there’s just not enough of a demand on all those non-Amazon platforms at the moment to make the diversification worthwhile, and getting multiple sites to synch and coordinate properly during those rare promotional periods can be a time-consuming headache with so very little reward. The vast majority of my sales have been to Kindle customers, and I’m hoping to tap into the very large pool of readers that the Kindle platform possesses.

But, again, we’ll see what happens. This isn’t a decision that I’ve made lightly, and I’ve been weighing the chicken-or-the-egg-like options for the last three months. I think now is a good time to act and to shake things up a smidge. This is a trial run and I’ll be looking at the numbers closely, particularly once Emergence launches. The bottom line is that, from a business perspective, I need to be doing more and I think that KDP Select may be the solution, even if only a temporary one in this ever-shifting landscape of publishing as a whole. Again, we’ll see. In the end, it’s all about reaching more readers, any way I can and figuring out the best way to maximize attention for my releases while building an audience of readers. Time will tell if this is a smart move, or not, but right now it feels like the right moment to experiment and compare and contrast my efforts at diversification versus exclusivity, and figuring out where the readers are at.

The Tough Decisions of Independent Publishing

Making 2015 BIG!

One of my big life goal’s was to become a published author before I hit 35. In Feb. 2014 (at the age of 34 – that self-imposed deadline was looming large!), I released Convergence as a creator-owned production after it hit the quarter-finals in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest in 2013 and won acclaim from none other than Publisher’s Weekly. This was easily one of the seminal moments in my life, and I knew better than to rest on my laurels. I put out a short horror story in October called Consumption, which advanced readers responded kindly to, but which hasn’t exactly set the world on fire or found the readership I had hoped for.

Somewhere in between, I’d begun e-mailing back and forth with Lucas Bale, also a new name to the indie sci-fi scene, and we and a few others formed a sort-of writer’s club (dare I call it an Author’s Guild?) where, in addition to being a bit of a support network, we talked of releasing an anthology, which became the No Way Home collection of short stories.

I knew that 2015 was going to be a big year for me. There are certain road-markers that I had envisioned for this year, but even I’m surprised at just how big 2015 is looking, both professionally and personally.

The real big news, and a true surprise for my wife and I, is that we are expecting our first child in September! Talk about burying the lede, huh? We’ve been trying for a few years, and after two miscarriages and no luck with IVF…well, this pregnancy kind of took us off guard. The first trimester is now past us, and we’ve got a ton of work ahead of us to make our home ready for baby Hicks. Lots of planning to do, lots of money to save, and lots of decisions to make. But jeez, can I just tell you how freaking excited I am? I recently got to see our little jellybean in action at a recent ultrasound, where it was jumping around and sucking its thumb. (By the way, I say “it” not to be a detached, callous sounding asshole, but because we’re not really sure what other pronoun to use as we won’t know the gender until maybe the May time-frame.) Easily a seminal moment in my life, even more-so than publishing Convergence!

On the professional side of things, I knew that 2015 would bring about not only the release of No Way Home, but also my upcoming solo release of Emergence, the follow-up to my debut. (Pro-tip: sign up for my newsletter and get early access to Emergence for free before it goes on sale!) So, there’s two titles for the year. I had two titles out in 2014, so how is 2015 bigger and better?

How about the addition of a second anthology? Since Lucas spilled the beans on this a short while ago, I feel safe in discussing it here. This collection will be bound by the theme of crime and punishment, and we’ll be dragging a new author in with us by the name of Ceinwen Langley. We’re aiming for an August 2015 release, and I’ll be giving my contribution some polishing work after I wrap up proof-reads for Emergence. For those of you that may have been turned off by the highly unsubtle political nature of Revolver in No Way Home, you’ll be happy to hear that I’m off that kick for now. Instead of leftist dystopian and gender-rights issues, you can instead expect aliens, gore, and a dash of near-future, old-fashioned, weird Wild West. It’s a bit of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, western horror mash-up that I really enjoyed writing, and I hope that readers of Convergence and Consumption will find lots to enjoy.

If No Way Home is any indication, our next anthology will be an even bigger hit. I was truly caught off guard at the success of our first anthology, and have been delighted by the responses from readers. There’s a lot of love for this book, and we all did our damnedest to make sure it was a solid and compelling read. It’s been sitting at the top of the charts in Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Sci-Fi Anthologies, peaking at the #1 spot and is currently #3. We’ve also spent all of March in the Top 20 for Sci-Fi anthologies (currently #15). We are very eager to get the second anthology out soon, so expect to hear lots of news on this one in the coming months.

There’s the current plans for 2015 then. Embracing fatherhood, and potentially going overboard with the spoiling of our little one (by the way, I totally want to build this sandbox. Poke around this really cool site run by Ana White while you’re there. So many awesome ideas!) One solo novel and short stories appearing in two anthologies. And then there’s that third anthology I need to get prepared for, which is all about….oh, you’ll have to wait and see. But I’ll tell you this right now, 2016 is looking pretty darn good, too!

Making 2015 BIG!

No Way Home Paperback Cover and Launch Party!

We’re only a few days out from launching the science fiction anthology, No Way Home. You should see it go live on Amazon this Monday! In the meantime, here’s a look at the cover art for the paperback edition, designed by Jason Gurley. Give it a click for the full-size version to best soak it all in.

No Way Home CS IMGTo celebrate the release, we’ll be hosting a Facebook Launch Party throughout the day on Monday where we’ll be giving away signed copies of our novels and talking about the No Way Home anthology and all-things sci-fi.

And, be sure to keep an eye on the No Way Home Goodreads page for our giveaway contest. The contest should go live tomorrow and will run until March 12. Five lucky winners will get a free paperback copy! Feel free to click Want to Read in the meantime, though.

No Way Home Paperback Cover and Launch Party!

2014 Writing In Review

2014 was a fairly productive period for my first year as an author. In late February, I released Convergence, and it’s since been featured as a Kobo Next Read Selection in their Science Fiction & Fantasy category, and was just recently a Book of the Week over at SciFi365.net. I’m pretty proud of this work, and reviewers have been responding favorably. I’ve heard from several readers who have greatly enjoyed it, and that alone has made this indie venture worthwhile. The title itself has raked up 10 reviews at Amazon, with a 4.8 out of 5 star average. On Goodreads, it’s accumulated an average of 4.42 out of 5 stars. It’s also made the Top 100 in Amazon’s Cyberpunk category multiple times since its release in both the US and the UK, which was very, very exciting to see.

My productivity hit its peak over the spring and summer, when I finished the first draft of Emergence and then dove into a short horror story, Consumption. Between those two works, I broke more than 110K in word-count over roughly three months.

Consumption released in October, and is currently standing at a 4.4 out of 5 star average among nine reviewers at Amazon, 4.15 on Goodreads. Again, I’ve been really happy with the reader reactions to this one. I was a bit nervous releasing it, as it’s so very different from Convergence, and is a bit off the wall. Horror is a genre I love, and I plan on dabbling in that end of the writing pool again in the (near?) future. I’ve got a few ideas I’m toying around with, but for the time being I’m heavily involved in my next novel.

And that next novel is, as I mentioned above, Emergence. This sequel to Convergence has been undergoing some serious editing and rewriting throughout the back-half of 2014. I recently received some beta reader feedback, which I think has helped tremendously, and it was great to get yet another set of eyeballs on this work. My content developer had terrific notes and suggestions, as well, and between those two readers I really do think Emergence is going to be one heck of a strong book. I’m hoping a few more betas will chime in soon. The next step is line edits, and I know my editor is going to have some more mighty fine suggestions, and that, in some ways, the work is only really just getting started.

Once those line edits are done, it’ll be onto the proofreading stage, and then art design and formatting. I’m eying a late first quarter or early second quarter release for 2015.

That’s not all, though! With Consumption out, and Emergence close to wrapping up, I was invited to take part in an anthology. There’s been a few kinks to work out on the scheduling for that one, but I have a 10,000 word short story, Revolver, that will be in the mix. Current plans are to have that one out for the spring, and I got an early look at the cover art and some of the story ideas from my fellow contributors. This should be a really great anthology, and I’m looking forward to sharing more details as we get closer to release.

I’m also in the very early stages of sorting out ideas for book three in the DRMR series, which will follow-up on some of the plot developments that occur in Emergence. I’m still a little bit away from hammering out all of the story details, but have settled on some interesting ideas that help expand on some of the conflicts seen in Convergence. I’m about five thousand words in and things are just starting to gel, so lots and lots of work ahead of me on this one.

On the blog side of things, I published 258 posts. These drew in more than 11 thousand views, across close to eight thousand visitors. Not a bad first year for this site (note: posts prior to 2014 were imported from a previous blog). I’m going to hedge my bets and say, conservatively, that between this blog and all the story writing, I probably produced close to 300 thousand words this year.

So, 2014 was busy, and I’m expecting 2015 to be equally productive. Keep an eye out for more news, more reviews, and new releases in the coming New Year.

Now, back to writing…

2014 Writing In Review

CONVERGENCE is SciFi365’s Book of the Week

Breaking news: CONVERGENCE was chosen as SciFi365’s Book of the Week. I’m absolutely thrilled by this. They write:

Our new book of the week, ‘Convergence’ by Michael Patrick Hicks, is one of those where it’s summary just doesn’t do justice to how good it is. It is truly an excellent Sci Fi novel and a worthy ‘Book of the Week’.

A cyberpunk thrillride…. The conflict between the humanity of the main character, Jonah, and the things he has had to do to survive in this harsh new world makes ‘Convergence’ an absolute pleasure to read.

Again, just sheer delight from me, and many thanks to the SciFi365 team for their support and their kind words.

CONVERGENCE is still on sale, for a limited time, for only 99 cents, so go feed your eReader!

| Kindle | Nook | Kobo |

Also, be sure to check out SciFi365 and sign up for their mailing list. I’ve found lots of great suggestions from their e-mails, and plenty of good deals. You can subscribe right here.

CONVERGENCE is SciFi365’s Book of the Week