Review: Apex (Nexus Arc Book 3) by Ramez Naam

Apex-144dpiAbout Apex

The Explosive Conclusion to Nexus and Crux

Global unrest spreads through the US, China, and beyond. Secrets and lies set off shockwaves of anger, rippling from mind to mind. Riot police battle neurally-linked protesters. Armies are mobilized. Political orders fall. Nexus-driven revolution is here.

Against this backdrop, a new breed of post-human children are growing into their powers. And a once-dead scientist, driven mad by her torture, is closing in on her plans to seize planet’s electronic systems, and re-forge everything in her image.

A new Apex species is here. The world will never be the same.


About the Author

Ramez Naam was born in Cairo, Egypt, and came to the US at the age of 3. He’s a computer scientist who spent 13 years at Microsoft, leading teams working on email, web browsing, search, and artificial intelligence. He holds almost 20 patents in those areas.

Ramez is the winner of the 2005 H.G. Wells Award for his non-fiction book More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. He’s worked as a life guard, has climbed mountains, backpacked through remote corners of China, and ridden his bicycle down hundreds of miles of the Vietnam coast. He lives in Seattle, where he writes and speaks full time.


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley.]

I was instantly captivated by Ramez Naam’s sci-fi debut, Nexus, and have loved reading how his characters and this near-future Earth have responded to the burgeoning transhuman movement. With Apex, Naam picks up the story threads left at the end of book two, Crux, and delivers a highly satisfying conclusion to his series.

Apex is a large book, in both page count and scope. The advanced brain enhancement technology of the NexusOS has been causing a political stir for quite sometime, and it all comes to a head here. There are political coups, conspiracies, terrorism, riots, the rise of AI, and the threat of nuclear warfare.

This is a dense novel, with multiple subplots revolving around the birth of the PLF, a pro-transhumanist terror group, technological heists between China and India stemming from the viral load of the once-human Su-Yong, and disputes over the US presidential election, and so many other moving pieces intersecting these various subplots that the book feels much longer than it really is.

And that, really, is my only gripe. While Amazon lists the page count of this book at 608 pages, it feels twice as long and makes for a bit of a ponderous read. There is just so much happening, and so many characters involved, that it’s hard not to feel the weight and pressure of the story. I recall the prior two books being rather briskly paced and energetic, whereas this one is more of a massive pot-boiler. While it took me some time to get through, it was certainly well worth it. There’s also the issue of information delivery, with segments of the story being told in large chunks and then abandoned for a long while to focus on other issues, before circling back to pick up the threads on something else.

All that said, I did find Apex to being a strong finish to the story with the characters meeting their natural conclusions and, in some cases, a few surprises along the way. I do wish more would have been done to make Sam less one dimensional here, as she’s been a strong character previously with a very interesting background and journey throughout. It’s a bit of a shame to have her reduced here to a simple worrywart, mother figure with little else to do. I was happy to see Ranjan Shankari with a more integral role this time around, though, and Kade’s steps toward becoming a leader was very well done.

Naam is due tremendous applause for keeping all the gears turning in this massive tome. As I said, there is an awful lot happening here, with a lot of spinning plates to keep an eye, but the author does a fabulous job of tying up the various thread and delivering an energetic and compulsively readable finale to not only Apex, but to the series as a whole.

If you’ve been following the Nexus series thus far, then grabbing a copy of Apex is a no-brainer and it brings the series to a close with a rollicking finish replete with serious tension and action. If you haven’t been, then I highly recommend you start at the beginning, where you’ll likely find yourself becoming a fan in no time.

Buy Apex At Amazon
Review: Apex (Nexus Arc Book 3) by Ramez Naam

Promo Postmortem

This post is going to look pretty heavily at the business end of my writing affairs, so if this is of no concern to you, feel free to move on (no hard feelings!).


convergence                Emergence-800 Cover reveal and Promotional

Last week, my latest novel, Emergence, released. This one is a sequel to my prior novel, Convergence, and I thought I could use the nature of this series as a solid base to build my audience. So, my promotional efforts were largely focused on Convergence, since it’s Book 1, rather than the newly published sequel – although, Emergence did get some central attention in a few areas.

The Interviews

In order to ramp things up a bit, a few writer friends, some of whom were also collaborators on the No Way Home anthology, were kind enough to interview me for their blogs – and, by all means, check out their work as well!

Nadine Matheson at Spectrum Books: http://www.spectrumbooks.co.uk/#!Spectrum-Books-interviews-Michael-Patrick-Hicks/cu6k/55462a000cf24874170861ad

SW Fairbrother: http://swfairbrother.com/reading/author-interview-michael-patrick-hicks/

Ted Cross: http://tedacross.blogspot.com/2015/05/interview-with-author-michael-patrick.html

The ARC and Reviews

Here’s where things got a little more difficult.

I had hoped to launch Emergence with a handful of reviews (I had hoped for between 5 and 10), but the final ebook files came in a little bit later than I had anticipated and I was really itching to make my May 4 launch date. This only gave my reviewers and newsletter subscribers, who all got a free ARC, maybe an entire week to read and write their reviews. And that was if they all dropped everything to help me out, which is a pretty unfair and unrealistic expectation.

Next time around, I’ll plan on getting ARCs out sooner and shifting the release window if necessary. Although I didn’t hit my hoped-for numbers I did get four reviews pretty early on, which were spread out between May 6 – 8, and the early response has been very positive. I know there’s also at least one more on the way soon, too.

You can check out the reviews at Amazon and the blogs of Franklin Kendrick and Books & Such. I’m truly grateful for their kind sentiments and their help in spreading the word!

As an added bonus, Emergence even got picked up as Book of the Week (May 8 – 15) by SciFI365.net, an honor granted upon Convergence back in December. Very cool!

The Promotional Nitty-Gritty

In an effort to drive more readers toward these two books, I ran a week-long free run on Convergence and priced Emergence at 99c. A short while back, I made the decision to make Amazon my exclusive retailer so I could try out KDP Select.

One of the big perks of KDP is the Kindle Countdown, as well as the option of setting a free run. I also layered a few advertisements, kicking the week off with freebooksy on Monday, and bargainbooksy on Tuesday for Emergence. In between, there were ads in Book Barbarian, Betty BookFreak, SciFi365.net, and assorted others sites via eBookBooster.

The freebooksy advertisement on Convergence paid off immediately, with “sales” climbing throughout the day and hitting a peak of 2,889 downloads. The drop-off in sales from there was pretty steady as the week wore on, but the book was still getting downloaded for free into the early hours of Saturday morning before Amazon was able to revert the title back to its normal price in all regions.

KDP-FreeRunI’m really happy with the results of the free promo, and by week’s end nearly 7,000 copies had been downloaded. The promo also helped push Convergence into some foreign territories for the very first time, with buyers popping up in Germany, France, India, Brazil, Australia, and even one in Italy and Japan! Safe to say, this is the largest reach my debut has enjoyed to date.

On the ranking end of things, these downloads pushed Convergence into the #44 slot in Amazon’s Top 100 Free store, and landed it in the #1 slot for both the Science Fiction category, as well as the Cyberpunk and Hard Science Fiction subcategories.

Emergence also performed above my expectations, which I admittedly tend to keep pretty low, particularly since I’m pretty new to the indie author game. Although the click-through rate between those who bought Convergence and also bought Emergence was very low, the sales were satisfactory enough. In fact, during this week-long release window, Emergence actually outsold the entire first year’s worth of Convergence sales.

EmergenceSaleEmergence started out strong on Monday with an even 60 sales. Tuesday, though, actually outperformed this, which I’m chalking up to the bargainbooksy ad. Unfortunately, sales had a pretty steep fall-off from there, dropping nearly by half every day following. Tuesday was the high-water mark with 69 paid sales, then 36, 20, 13, 6, and so on as the week continued.

Still, I can’t complain. Emergence made it into the Hot New Release charts for Cyberpunk titles and was even sitting at #1 there for a while (at the time of this writing, it’s #8), and has been pretty tenacious in holding on to its ranking in the Top 100 for the Cyberpunk subcategory. At one point it even broke into the Top 10 for its subgenre, and appeared on the subcategory of Genetic Engineering.

Another benefit of being enrolled in KDP is that it gives Kindle owners access to the Lending Library, and also makes it eligible for borrowing through Kindle Unlimited.

KDPBorrowsWhile these are not record-breaking numbers by any means, it does look like the promotion caught the attention of borrowers, particularly in the days following the sale’s end. This past week and early Monday morning (the time of this writing) has seen a handful of borrows for Emergence, and even a couple more sales for both titles.

As an added bonus, my perpetually under-performing short horror story, Consumption, even got a little bit of attention as a result of the promo and got a few borrows (five, to be precise). It’s been difficult to find an audience organically with that particular story, and I don’t do much in the way of advertising for it, so to see a little bit of activity surrounding it was a nice surprise. I’ve taken the liberty of raising the price point for this one and will be running a countdown deal on it next month (likely unadvertised, since much of my promo money went to scheduling ads for Convergence).

Furthermore, not only is Emergence still hanging on to its ranking in the Cyberpunk subcategory, but Convergence has even reappeared there in the wake of its return to the paid store. The borrows and post-sale purchases has put it (again, at the time of this writing) into the Top 50 Cyberpunk books in Amazon, and even caught an additional five-star review.

Top50Final Thoughts

When I decided to enroll in KDP in March, it was in anticipation of the release of Emergence and my plans for promoting the DRMR novels. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the pay-off and am eager to see how the rest of the month goes. This was a solid release week, and the fairly steady growth in borrows gives me hope that there is an emerging audience (forgive the pun) that is finding and enjoying my work.

Now, back to writing my next novel, this one for the Apocalypse Weird line of books.

Promo Postmortem

Emergent Thoughts, Or What I Learned About Writing While Writing EMERGENCE

Emergence finally released this week, and it’s looking like my hard work has paid off! The book is currently ranking near the top of the charts in Amazon’s Sci-Fi > Cyberpunk category, as well as that category’s Hot New Releases chart. To say I’m thrilled is a bit of an understatement!

But, man, getting to this release week? It’s been a bit of a slog. A good slog, but a slog nonetheless.

Now that I’ve come out on the other side of another finished product, here’s some random thoughts on the book, in no particular order.

writing1. Writing a sequel is fun!

Your mileage may vary. For me, writing was Emergence was, mostly, a lot of joy. This is a story I had in mind for quite a while, and one that, in order to get to, I had to write Convergence first. That book lays the basic groundwork for a lot of the things that happen in Emergence and sets up the characters. In Emergence, I’m able to take those characters and knock them around, manipulate them, leave them bruised and bloodied in a way that I couldn’t necessarily do in Book 1. Book 2 is where I get to go apeshit on everybody.

Emergence is also a lot more action-oriented, and the stakes are larger and more personal. I also wrote this one as more of a chase thriller, so it’s got a little bit of a different feel than the prior entry. It’s sort of like the Alien/Aliens dynamic to the sequel framework, and I wanted to push these characters into harsher directions with big, hard-hitting impacts.

2. Control Your Authorial Voice.

Every writer puts a bit of themselves into their characters, or puts pieces of themselves on the page (hopefully not literally). So while writing this book was fun, I also couldn’t get too comfortable, and I had to rein in a lot of my own influences that got laid down on the pages and in the character because those words weren’t necessarily true to the characters themselves. Sometimes my own personality worked its way into the story or thoughts of the leads, and it was a bit of corrupting influence.

When Emergence went through developmental edits, my editor, Laura, pointed out something to me that took me by a bit of a surprise. There’s a scene in the book where Mesa is going through a seedier part of Nevada, populated by gamblers and hookers, and she remarked that she could practically hear the crotch crickets. Laura noted, rightly, that isn’t really something that Mesa would say or think. It’s the kind of off-hand remark I might make, though. But not Mesa.

A little too much of me bled through. Yeah, I made Mesa, but she’s become very much her own person, separate from me, in my own mind. And while she can be foul-mouthed at times, I’m not so sure that she’s so blatantly vulgar.

So, there were a few instances where I needed to reign in my own peculiarities as an individual who was writing, and let the characters talk for themselves.

3. Writing Is Learning

Seems a bit like a given, but let me elaborate a little.

There’s certain rules to writing – things like tense shift and maintaining point of view. Convergence was a first-person work, and in that first draft I shit all over things like keeping it directed in first-person. Thus, there was a good amount of heavy lifting when it came time to edit. The editing experience with that book also gave me a huge list of no-no’s and things to avoid – phrases like “it was” or a list of crutch words, such as “like” or “just,” two massive crutch-words in my first drafts.

The editing process in Book 1, taken as a whole, paid off a lot when I was ready to get to work on draft two of Book 2. I could let the first draft be bad, because the writing was the most important part; just getting the work done was my primary focus. When it came time to edit, though, I felt a step ahead of the game, having gotten schooled on the ins and outs of content edits the prior time around. I was able to rewrite more effectively before the manuscript was sent off to my editors, which made their feedback all the more critical and necessary. I wasn’t hampering them with petty stuff, and they were able to focus on and scrutinize the more important things, like structure and content, and it helped make the line edits stronger.

4. Stick The Landing

Endings are important. Some books just kind of fizzle out, or come to an abrupt ending. In the first draft of Emergence, I really rushed the ending, which was stupid. It needed to have a proper come-down and a fitting resolution to what had come before.

Laura smartly suggested that I take the dual concepts that had formed the original ending and elaborate on them, giving them each their own chapter. And she was dead-on correct. The new finale is so much stronger, and such a better fit to the book itself. I’m really proud of how well this revision worked, and it prompted me to introduce a new character that could potentially have an impact once the dust settles a bit more and I start working on book 3.

5. Diversify!

While Emergence is book 2 in a series, one of the most crucial things I’ve done over the last year is getting involved with other projects. Writing, and the entire process that goes along with it on that path to publication, is time-consuming. Saying no to things – even beneficial things – can be awfully tempting. Let me tell you, though, that saying “yes” can be even far more rewarding.

The DRMR series is likely going to be the backbone of my early career, but I also want to have a number of other, smaller, strong works out there. The key to that is to dabble in other projects and dip your toes into unfamiliar waters.

When Lucas Bale approached me to take part in the No Way Home anthology that he was curating, saying yes was a no-brainer. I was enjoying Bale’s solo work and when I got word of what he was intending with the collection, I knew I had to take part. My story was a bit risky and has been largely well-received, if not a touch controversial given the current political winds in America. Taking part in Bale’s second curation, due out later this year, was an obvious and easy choice.

Last month I was invited to take part in another anthology, this time revolving around urban fantasy. I had a great idea for it, but unfortunately I absolutely did have to say no due to saying yes for another project – writing a book for the Apocalypse Weird series (you can read my announcement on that here).

The key, I think, is to make your name visible across a few different platforms and try to hook in various readers through a number of quality projects.

This is also important because it helps keep me from getting burnt out on writing the same characters in the same series time and time again. I need to do some non-series work in order to dive back into the DRMR books fully refreshed and recharged. And hopefully you, and plenty of others, will join me in these other adventures!


EMERGENCE eBook Launch Special: 
  1. Buy CONVERGENCE (A DRMR Novel, Book 1) FOR FREE. amzn.to/1E2ZphG
  2. Buy EMERGENCE (A DRMR Novel, Book 2) for 99c: amzn.to/1GDsFx8
Offer valid Mon., May 4 thru Fri., May 8. Normal price for each title is $3.99
Emergent Thoughts, Or What I Learned About Writing While Writing EMERGENCE

EMERGENCE Now Available + A FREE Book

now available

Emergence-800 Cover reveal and PromotionalToday is the big day, folks!

The sequel to last year’s Convergence is out today. Emergence has officially hit the virtual shelves in ebook and paperback formats. Here’s the synopsis:

Still recovering from the events that befell her in Los Angeles, Mesa Everitt is learning how to rebuild her life.

The murder of a memorialist enclave changes all of that and sets into motion a series of violence that forces her into hiding.

Hunted by a squad of corporate mercenaries, with the lives of her friends and family in danger, Mesa has no one to turn to, but she holds a dark secret inside her skull. She has no knowledge of that secret, but it is worth killing for.

The ghosts of her haunted, forgotten past are about to emerge.

Like it’s predecessor, Emergence is science fiction, largely of the cyberpunk variety. But, as with Convergence, I think it could have a lot broader appeal, as well. If you’re one of those readers who are a little bit timid of approaching sci-fi and worried that you’ll get stuck reading about space aliens with goofy names and overly-stuffy British captains at the helm pretending they’re French, then no worries! Let me put your fears at ease here.

While my books are categorically sci-fi, they also bleed pretty heavily into genres like mystery/thriller/suspense, action, noir, and technothrillers. Imagine if 24 was maybe a hundred years ahead of us and the gang at CTU had cybernetic implants in their head instead of running around with cellphones. I have a fondness for Earth-based, human-centric science fiction, the kind of stuff that’s on the cusp of what could actually happen a few decades down the road. If you’re looking for a crackling action/suspense thriller, then I think my books could do you well. I really think there’s a lot here for any reader to enjoy.

And if you’re looking for an intergalactic war with aliens and spaceships…well, I’m sorry to disappoint. But, I hope you’ll give my brand of sci-fi a shot, too. There’s plenty of terrorism, back-stabbing, kidnapping, violence, and mayhem to foot the bill.

Now, to kick off the launch of Emergence, I’m running a limited time promotion good for this week only.

Here’s the deal – if you haven’t read Convergence yet, you can buy the ebook for free!

To sweeten the deal, Emergence is only 99c.

You can buy both books for less than a buck. Bundle and save! And if you’re of a mind to, gift a copy to your friends and family. I like to think of this deal as low risk, high reward.

                          convergence      Emergence-300x200

But, this offer is only good for a few days, from May 4 to May 8, so get your copies early!

I’d also appreciate your thoughts on both these titles. Please spare a moment or two and leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. You only need to say about twenty words, so it doesn’t have to be a groundbreaking essay – just let me and other readers know if you liked the books or not, and a brief statement about what was good and/or bad. Again, it can be as few as twenty words or so, but those words can have an enormous impact. Keep it simple and honest, and remember that a book without reviews is likely a book without readers. So if you got some entertainment for your time and money, let others know.

Personally, I hope you enjoy these works. Happy reading!

EMERGENCE Now Available + A FREE Book

EMERGENCE Cover Reveal!

In a few more weeks, Emergence will be making its way onto reader’s Kindles (or hands, if they prefer print). I’ll also be sending copies off to advanced reviewers and my newsletter subscribers (hint: you can sign-up for that here) prior to the official release on May 4.

A little bit of time has passed between Convergence and this sequel, in both the real world and in my little DRMR bookverse, but Emergence is very much a continuation of the story begun in the prior novel. This is definitely a Read In Order kind of series. But, Emergence is also a little bit different than its predecessor – there’s lots more action, a good deal of technological horrors run amok, and a bit of a shake-up to the cast. Jonah Everitt was the main protag in Convergence, but his daughter, Mesa, is the central lead this time around.

In my own opinion, I think Emergence is a stronger work. I had so much fun writing this book, and I think (and hope!) that shines through. Mesa is a great character to write, and unfortunately we didn’t get to see too much of her last time around. Now, she’s right where she belongs and plays a much more integral role to the crazy shenanigans. This is her book, her story, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you haven’t checked out Convergence yet, you’ve got a couple weeks to get caught up. You can buy it here, or check it out for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member or have a free borrow available for this month via the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.

Onward with the show then. Directly below is the skinny of Emergence, and then the cover art! Scroll on down!

About Emergence

Still recovering from the events that befell her in Los Angeles, Mesa Everitt is learning how to rebuild her life.

The murder of a memorialist enclave changes all of that and sets into motion a series of violence that forces her into hiding.

Hunted by a squad of corporate mercenaries, with the lives of her friends and family in danger, Mesa has no one to turn to, but she holds a dark secret inside her skull. She has no knowledge of that secret, but it is worth killing for.

The ghosts of her haunted, forgotten past are about to emerge.

Emergence-800 Cover reveal and Promotional

Any accolades for the cover are due entirely to Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics for the wonderful design.

The first order of business was to keep the cover in line with what had come before, and to help define a sort of branding look for this still-young DRMR series, but to also give it a different spin and a certain freshness. Mission accomplished, I think, and I absolutely love the look and feel of the art here.

What say you, keen readers? Feel free to share your thoughts below!

EMERGENCE Cover Reveal!

Review: Hugh Howey Lives by Daniel Arthur Smith

hughhoweylivesAbout Hugh Howey Lives

In 2174 authors are obsolete. With the exception of a few human ‘Author’ titles printed in the small basement and back room Libraries, all stories are created by the Artificial Intelligence of the Archive. Most believe the ‘Authors’ are only brands to lure people into spending their credits on print. One woman believes that one of them, author Hugh Howey, is real, and still alive. Her Librarian feeds her belief that Hugh Howey is still sailing around the world, uploading his work to the Archive. Convinced she has found clues in his stories as to where he now resides, she and her girlfriend sail to an island, where she believes Hugh Howey lives.


About the Author

Daniel Arthur Smith is the author of the international bestsellers THE CATHARI TREASURE, THE SOMALI DECEPTION, and a few other novels and short stories.

He was raised in Michigan and graduated from Western Michigan University where he studied philosophy, with focus on cognitive science, meta-physics, and comparative religion. He began his career as a bartender, barista, poetry house proprietor, teacher, and then became a technologist and futurist for the Fortune 100 across the Americas and Europe.

Daniel has traveled to over 300 cities in 22 countries, residing in Los Angeles, Kalamazoo, Prague, Crete, and now writes in Manhattan where he lives with his wife and young sons.

For more information, visit danielarthursmith.com

Readers who subscribe to Daniel’s newsletter receive a FREE SHORT STORY and free copies of his books, usually before they are published: danielarthursmith.com/newsletter


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an ARC of this title from the author for review.]

Hugh Howey Lives is the first title I’ve read by Daniel Arthur Smith, and I was greatly impressed with the sci-fi concepts at play here. Readers will get treated to human synthetics, bioinformatics, and a good dose of light philosophy, but the real draw here, and what kept me engaged the most, was the tremendous breadth of heart that went into the work.

Yes, the book is an ode to indie publishing’s biggest success and the author of the wildly popular Wool series. For indie authors, Howey’s name has a certain cache to it, and the man has proven himself to be a tremendous writer in his own right, in addition to helping popularize ebooks and the author-publisher landscape into forces to be reckoned with. But Hugh Howey Lives is also a heck of a lot more than a simple homage to a single particular author, and really Smith could have picked any novelist to grace his book’s pages and come up with a story equally solid and compelling.

While Howey’s name is checked numerous times throughout, the real meat of the story is about authors and writing in general, and the true ode here goes to the wordsmiths and literary artists who create the books we love so very much. There’s plenty of wonderfully developed themes to munch on here – from the process of creation and the God-like abilities authors possess in their world-building, to the books and authors that shape and inspire other writer’s, and the balance between creating art and sacrificing ourselves for that necessary good, right down to immortality itself.

Hugh Howey Lives is a short book, a bit over a hundred pages or so, but Smith packs an awful lot of depth into it and kept me riveted throughout. There’s a few surprises in store for readers here, which I refuse to spoil, but I will warn you: you may want to keep the Kleenex handy for the finale, just in case.

Buy Hugh Howey Lives At Amazon
Review: Hugh Howey Lives by Daniel Arthur Smith