Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes LastAbout The Heart Goes Last

Margaret Atwood puts the human heart to the ultimate test in an utterly brilliant new novel that is as visionary as The Handmaid’s Tale and as richly imagined as The Blind Assassin.

Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around—and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in . . . for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their “civilian” homes.

At first, this doesn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one’s head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan’s life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.


About the Author

MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and her most recent, MaddAddam.She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.


My Thoughts

Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last is a strange beast, but not one that I can recommend.

Conceptually, the book is terrific – Atwood presents us with an economically wreaked near-future America and the married couple of Charmaine and Stan. They live in their car, after deserting the home they could no longer afford, while she works at a bar making enough money to keep their vehicle in gas. When the opportunity arrives to apply to the Positron Project, she leaps at it, and soon enough she and Stan are enrolled. Those admitted into the program alternate months between the town of Consilience and the Poistron project, living as inmates. While they’re in prison, an alternate couple lives in their home, the two flip-flopping in and out of the residence in accordance with the project’s guidelines.

There’s an edgy darkness to the story that I liked, particularly as the couple grow more deeply aware of the corporate surveillance state they find themselves living in. After Charmaine is caught having an affair with another Consilience citizen, both she and her husband are wrapped up in a spider’s web of secrets that soon boils over into conspiracy and manipulation.

However, I never really bought into the very abrupt affair between Charmaine and her alternate Max, which begins with nary a prompt. After Stan discovers a note left for Max, sticking out from under the refrigerator, signed by “Jasmine” and sealed with a kiss, he begins to unravel, intent on winning Jasmine’s love, thinking that Jasmine is Max’s wife. He goes into full-blown psycho-stalker mode, which leads me to my next problem.

Neither of the leads are the least bit sympathetic, and they are only marginally interesting in their contradictions. It’s not long before you realize just how broken and artificial their marriage is. Much like the Poistron Project itself, both have a certain superficial veneer, but each is rotten to the core. Stan is a sex obsessed creep with anger management issues and a number of rapey impulses who wants to bang anything with a pulse, including the chickens he oversees during his time in prison, and the sexbots introduced in the book’s last third, programmed to give the appearance of a pulse.

Most of the novel’s first-half feels a bit soggy from the rinse-and-repeat narrative in which Stan lusts for sex with Charmaine, Charmaine has sex with Max, Stan lusts for sex with Jasmine and plots ways to track her down before they alternate their lives between the city and prison. This first half, though, feels long and plodding and I spent most of the book wishing I could move onto some other title rather than continuing to engage in a progressively growing number of pointlessly mundane exercises that make up these chapters. It’s not until the last half of the book, or perhaps even later, when things finally pick up and take on the bent of a paranoid conspiracy thriller. Unfortunately, this devolves into sheer absurdity with a finale involving a handful of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe impersonators.

Ultimately, I feel largely ambivalent about The Heart Goes Last, falling somewhere between “didn’t like it” and “meh.” I’d recommend skipping this one.

[This review is based on an advanced copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.]

Buy The Heart Goes Last At Amazon
Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

99c Sale – All My Titles On Sale This Week Only

Featured Image -- 3583                           Emergence-800 Cover reveal and Promotional

I will be running a Kindle Countdown promotion on both Convergence and Emergence this week.

Beginning today, Mon., Aug. 31, and running until Friday, Sept. 4, you can get both of my science fiction cyberpunk titles, collectively known as the DRMR series, for only 99c each. This offer is good in both the US and UK stores.

If you haven’t already, you can also pick up both of my short stories, Consumption and Revolver, as well. These are normally 99c anyway, but why not get the entire MPH library to date for a whopping grand total of $3.96 in one go-round?

Revolver eBook                          Consumption-eBook

99c Sale – All My Titles On Sale This Week Only

Reblog: A review and discussion of ‘Revolver’ by Michael Patrick Hicks

Many thanks to Tommy Muncie for this insightful and gracious review of REVOLVER! Some choice snippets follow, but please give it a read in full over at the link below.

What makes it so brilliant is that it stirs emotions in the reader that mirror the way emotions are stirred by the media within the story itself: a strong reaction and a response are what’s desired.

‘Revolver’ is a brave, powerful piece of writing that says ‘let’s not dress things up or put thin veils on the idea, let’s just shout about it and make it read like it’s a gun pointed in the reader’s face.’ It’s unapologetic, visceral, and the kind of story that would probably have sent the Clean Reader app into cyber meltdown. Give it a read if you like your stories to take you to the edge of your seat.

Source: A review and discussion of ‘Revolver’ by Michael Patrick Hicks.

REVOLVER is available now for purchase on the Amazon Kindle, or free to read to members of Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owners Lending Library. You can check it out by clicking here.

Reblog: A review and discussion of ‘Revolver’ by Michael Patrick Hicks

REVOLVER is Now Available! And CONSUMPTION Gets A New Look!

Revolver eBookAbout Revolver

The “stunning and harrowing” short story, originally published in the anthology No Way Home, is now available as a standalone release and features an all-new foreword written by award-winning science fiction author, Lucas Bale.

Cara Stone is a broken woman: penniless, homeless, and hopeless. When given the chance to appear on television, she jumps at the opportunity to win a minimum of $5,000 for her family.

The state-run, crowdfunded series, Revolver, has been established by the nation’s moneyed elite to combat the increasing plight of class warfare.

There’s never been a Revolver contestant quite like Cara before. The corporate states of America are hungry for blood, and she promises to deliver.


Earlier this year, I was a part of the No Way Home anthology curated by award-winning science fiction author, Lucas Bale. My contribution was this short story, Revolver. It’s gained a small bit of notoriety for being somewhat controversial, and it’s rattled a few cages here and there.

Now, for the first time, it’s available as a stand alone release.

Some reviewers have loved the heck out of this story, setting it as my personal best at the time of its publication, with another calling it “stunning and harrowing.” Author David Wailing called it “A classic example of social science fiction” that “takes the ‘shocking’ gold medal.” One reviewer wrote that it was “the most overtly political and also one of the most enjoyable” in the No Way Home anthology.

Revolver has also been called, by some readers, “Horrid leftwing drivel.” Another “found “Revolver” so nauseatingly Politically Correct that had this book been physical instead of electronic, I would have physically flung it across the room.”

This is a fairly political story, and it draws on a lot of issues affecting (some might even say infecting) current American politics. A number of readers on the right-side of the political spectrum have found little to enjoy here, so fair warning.

This story is not meant to comfort, nor is it meant to be an easy read. It is also not the least bit subtle, as more than a few readers have mentioned. Revolver was written mostly in a fit of anger. It’s not subtle and it is not meant to be subtle. It’s meant to be disruptive and challenging to the status quo. As such, depending on your political predilections or how well tempered you are toward heavy-handed narratives, it might not necessarily be the type of dystopian science fiction you are looking for.

But, in general, based of feedback I have received, this story may not be for you if you are the type of reader that believes Fox News is the best example of exemplary American journalism, or that Donald Trump is the ideal statesman and deserving of the presidency, or that the War on Women is non-existent. In which case, I encourage you to save your 99c, and maybe we’ll meet up later in a different work at a different time. No harm, no foul.

However, if you’re willing to brave what one reviewer called the “emotional rollercoaster” that follows, then welcome and happy reading to you.

You can find Revolver right now on Amazon.

For those that are interested, the cover was designed by Adam Hall, who runs Around The Pages. Go check out his work and those wonderful authors he’s been representing!

Adam also put a fresh coat of paint on the cover for my horror story Consumption. Check it out!

Consumption-eBook

REVOLVER is Now Available! And CONSUMPTION Gets A New Look!

Review: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

zero_HR_2About Zer0es

An exhilarating thrill-ride through the underbelly of cyber espionage in the vein of David Ignatius’s The Director and the television series Leverage, CSI: Cyber, and Person of Interest, which follows five iconoclastic hackers who are coerced into serving the U.S. government.

An Anonymous-style rabble rouser, an Arab spring hactivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll are each offered a choice: go to prison or help protect the United States, putting their brains and skills to work for the government for one year.

But being a white-hat doesn’t always mean you work for the good guys. The would-be cyberspies discover that behind the scenes lurks a sinister NSA program, an artificial intelligence code-named Typhon, that has origins and an evolution both dangerous and disturbing. And if it’s not brought down, will soon be uncontrollable.

Can the hackers escape their federal watchers and confront Typhon and its mysterious creator? And what does the government really want them to do? If they decide to turn the tables, will their own secrets be exposed—and their lives erased like lines of bad code?

Combining the scientific-based, propulsive narrative style of Michael Crichton with the eerie atmosphere and conspiracy themes of The X-Files and the imaginative, speculative edge of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson, Zer0es explores our deep-seated fears about government surveillance and hacking in an inventive fast-paced novel sure to earn Chuck Wendig the widespread acclaim he deserves.


About the Author

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter and game designer. He’s the author of many published novels, including but not limited to: Blackbirds, The Blue Blazes, and the YA Heartland series. He is co-writer of the short film Pandemic and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. Wendig has contributed over two million words to the game industry. He is also well known for his profane-yet-practical advice to writers, which he dispenses at his blog, terribleminds.com, and through several popular e-books, including The Kick-Ass Writer, published by Writers Digest. He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, tiny human, and red dog.


My Thoughts

In short, I don’t give a damn what NY Daily News says, Zer0es is a sheer f-ing blast and might very well be my favorite novel of the year. Although, I do reserve the right to change this opinion after I finish reading Chuck Wendig’s next novel, Star Wars: Aftermath, due out in about two weeks, in which Mr. Wendig gets to play around in the SW universe. And that, my friends, could very well be the book of the decade century. But, for now, let us discuss Zer0es.

In case you can’t tell, I’m a huge fan of Mr. Wendig, and whenever his new titles release I make it a point to read/devour them immediately. I love his Miriam Black books, and The Harvest Trilogy, and am looking forward to meeting up with Mookie Pearl again one of these days, preferably with a plate of charcuterie between us. All of this is to say that I might be a bit biased, but I do honestly feel that Zer0es earns each of the five stars I’m giving it.

Also worth noting is that I have very little real-world knowledge of computers, programming, or hacking. Or really how much of anything technologically works beyond the knowledge required to start, shut off, or play video games or watch movies. I care little for the inner workings of these things, and most computer talk bores the hell out of me. I’m probably the last person you want to call for IT help, in other words.

So, is Zer0es technically sound and accurate? I don’t have a flipping clue. And I don’t care if it is or not. Because what it is is a rock-solid bit of entertainment filled with techno-thriller whizz-bang shenanigans, a terrific amount of wit, and a healthy dose of science-fiction. As far as Wendig’s skill in plumbing the dark shadow world of hackers goes, it’s good enough for me to escape into and provides enough plausible scary horrors to sink my teeth into. The more fantastical realms that these characters find themselves in as things progress are fun and makes for an action-packed, rapid-fire read — and frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is a great big cinematic summer blockbuster set to prose, and it freaking rocks, man.

To his credit, Wendig casts as our lead, Chance, a guy who is basically a phony. His hacking skills are nill, and he’s caught up in a scheme far larger than his limited abilities can cope with. A real underdog, this guy, and it gives me, as a reader, the chance to enjoy the experience alongside him. He’s not some uber computer god who can algo his way out of any awful situation. In fact, he gets his ass handed to him more often than not. The real hackers he’s surrounded by are the real deal – there’s the troll Reagan who gets off on internet shaming her victims and possess snark to spare, DeAndre the credit card scammer, Earthman, who’s basically an old-school BBS-version of Edward Snowden, and Aleena, a hacker intent on bringing true democracy to Syria. Each of them are recruited by an FBI agent named Hollis Copper, Mr. Government himself, to become white hat (good guy) hackers in exchange for not spending at least a decade-plus in prison for their various crimes.

Each of these characters have their own quirks, personalities, politics, and culture to bring to the table. Some are fighting for social justice, others for government accountability, and some just for laughs. There’s elements of the hacking group Anonymous, coupled with the Arab Spring, fighting back against rape culture and the grotesqueness of the Stubenville events. (Even a bit of obsession with Greek mythology when it comes to the central antagonist, which is just darn cool.) In short, this is a cast of well-defined characters with different skill sets, abilities, and goals. Together, they’re a total band of misfits with little in common and even less of a reason to become friends. They spend a lot of time sniping at each other and arguing, yet they somehow mesh well together as each are put through their paces and become a unified team, made stronger by their differences and disparities.

Ultimately, I have very, very few quibbles about Zer0es. I found it to be a complete thrill-ride from start to finish, with little in the way of lag. And kudos to Wendig for taking a topic as dry as coding and hacking and transforming into something that’s as equally exhilarating as the violence and mayhem surrounding these characters and their antagonists (which is pretty damn exhilarating, by the way). Now, bring on the 0nes!

Buy Zer0es At Amazon
Review: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

In Which Author Anthony Vicino Interviews Me.

I promised the other day to be a little more timely in my self-promotion and stumbled across the posting of this interview conducted by author Anthony Vicino. I’ve gotten to know Anthony a bit thanks to Facebook and Twitter, and he was gracious enough to read and review Convergence, alongside Ted Cross’s cyberpunk title, Immortality Games. (Ahem: Ted’s book just so happens to be on sale for 99c right now!) So, when he approached me about doing an interview for his site I said yes, and we spent a couple days going back and forth over e-mail. Our conversation is now online and ready for consumption.

Anthony is the author of Time Heist, which has a terrific premise and is in my TBR pile (if you ever saw my TBR pile you’d understand, and perhaps even commiserate as to, why I have not yet read this one. Readers are digging it though, and I encourage you to pick up a copy ASAP!). Coming out soon is book 2, Mind Breach, the cover for which was recently unveiled and looks FREAKING AWESOME.

But rather than rest solely on his authorial laurels, Anthony has also become a writer for the Hugo Award winning website SF Signal. Definitely check out his first article for them, Where Are All The People of Color in Sci-Fi/Fantasy?, and if you’re brave enough to endure the comments you’ll find a mixture of rational discussion as well as posts that will make you weep for humanity.

So, onto our interview then. Just follow the link below!

Michael Patrick Hicks Interview.

In Which Author Anthony Vicino Interviews Me.

Author Stories Appearance

hicks-coverI’m dreadfully late in blogging about this, but I was lucky enough to appear on Hank Garner’s Author Stories Podcast a few weeks ago. Just skip past that Andy Weir guy on episode 50 and you’ll find me a few slots below, so go give it a listen.

Or, if you’d rather bypass the archives for now and go directly to me, that’s fine too. Follow this link here.

I’ve done a couple other (written) interviews in the meantime, and those should be going live relatively soonish. I will try to be more timely in sharing those links whenever they appear. I’m also hoping to unveil some snazzy cover art for a few upcoming releases, staggered of course, since the release dates are bit over the map. But, please do keep an eye out!

Author Stories Appearance