Title: The Punch Escrow
Author: Tal M. Klein
Publisher: Geek & Sundry
Publication date: July 25, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller
It’s the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport—a secretive firm headquartered in New York City. Their slogan: Departure, Arrival… Delight!
Joel Byram is an average twenty-second century guy. He spends his days training artificial-intelligence engines to act more human, jamming out to 1980’s new wave music and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. He’s pretty much an everyday guy with everyday problems—until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting. Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.
What I liked:
- I flew through The Punch Escrow! It was so fast paced, and there was constantly something going on, so I couldn’t put it down and read it in a day and a half.
- I love books set in the future, and I was fascinated by the details we got about how things were different: from printing and replicating food, to teleporting famous artwork, to peeing mosquitos (really!), to comms implanted in everyone’s heads, I was fascinated by it all!
- The book is from Joe’s POV, and he talks to the reader as if we don’t have any clue about his future world (we don’t, haha!) and he goes into detail explaining how things are in his future, and how they came to be. It’s something that’s usually lacking in future sci-fi books, and that’s always what I’m most interested in.
- Because so many people are trying to kill Joel and he doesn’t know who he can trust, or often, what is even going on, it really kept me engaged and at the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was happening right along with Joel.
- I loved the interactions Joel and the other characters had with various artificial intelligence. It was interesting to see how the AIs learned from their varied contact with the humans interacting with them.
- Joel’s day job as a “salter” was both interesting and entertaining. Basically, he gets paid to teach AIs new tricks, jokes, etc. It came in handy a lot throughout the book when he was in trouble and had to talk his way out of tricky situations with several AIs.
- In this future world, corporations have all the power rather than governments, and a lot of the conflict arises from various religions fighting over power and advancing technologies. This was both terrifying and felt very realistic, especially with the current political climate right now. I would have liked to know even more about how everything is run from a corporate standpoint now, so I’m hoping we get to learn more from the future books in the series.
- Cliffhanger ending!!!! These can be hit or miss for me, but I thought this one really worked, especially since there was some added content after the end of the book and I didn’t realize it was over until I turned the last page and was faced straight away with the author acknowledgements. I wanted more!! I’m really excited to see what happens next in this world.
What I didn’t like:
- A lot of the detailed science talk and explanations went over my head. The language wasn’t explained in a way that was easy to understand for those of us without science backgrounds, so I found myself saying “huh??” a lot and shrugging past huge paragraphs that I didn’t gain any new information from. I often felt like I was reading a textbook in the earlier parts of the book when the world was being explained. I’m sure quantum physics is all but impossible to explain in plain English though, so I don’t really fault the author for this.
- Along the same lines, there were many lengthy footnotes during the first 1/3 of the book, and I thought most were unnecessary. Maybe someone more science-inclined would have found them interesting, but most they weren’t essential to the story. Once I figured that out, I skimmed a lot of them.
- I wish we’d gotten more backstory for all the many characters. It took me awhile to remember who everyone was at first, and I felt disconnected from most of them because we didn’t get to know them very well.
I recommend The Punch Escrow for fans of:
About the Author
Tal M. Klein was born in Israel, grew up in New York, and currently lives in Detroit with his wife and two daughters. When his daughter Iris was five years old, she wrote a book called I’m a Bunch of Dinosaurs that went on to become one of the most successful children’s book projects on Kickstarter —something that Tal explained to Iris by telling her, “your book made lots of kids happy.” Iris then asked Tal, “Daddy, why don’t you write book that makes lots of grownups happy?” Tal mulled this over for a few years, and eventually wrote his first book, The Punch Escrow. It won the Inkshares Geek & Sundry Hard Science Fiction Publishing contest, and will be the first book published on Inkshares’ Geek & Sundry imprint.
—Ben Brock Johnson, host of Codebreaker podcast and NPR Marketplace Tech“An alt-futuristic hard-science thriller with twists and turns you’ll never see coming. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Felicia Day, author of You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)”A compelling, approachable human narrative wrapped around a classic hard sci-fi nugget, The Punch Escrow dives into deep philosophical territory—the ethical limits of technology, and what it means to be human. Cinematically paced yet filled with smart asides, Klein’s Punch pulls off the slick trick of giving readers plenty to think about in a suspenseful, entertaining package.”
—Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica“If I lived in the world of The Punch Escrow, I’d teleport around the world shoving copies of Tal M. Klein’s thrilling, hilarious and whip-smart debut into everyone’s hands. Save me the trip—and buy this novel now.”
—Duane Swierczynski, author of Revolver and the bestselling Level 26 series“A fast-paced near-future sci-fi adventure peppered with exotic technology and cultural references ranging from Karma Chameleonto the Ship of Theseus, The Punch Escrow will have you rooting for its plucky, sarcastic hero as he bounces between religious fanatics, secret agents, corporate hacks and megalomaniacs in a quest to get his life back. If you’ve ever wanted to get Scotty drunk and ask him some tough questions about how those transporters work exactly, The Punch Escrow is the book for you.”
—Robert Kroese, author of The Big Sheep and its sequel, The Last Iota
“This book angered me to my core, because it’s based on an idea that should have occurred to me. The fact that Tal executed it so well, and made such a page-turner out of it, just adds insult to injury.”
—Scott Meyer, author of the Magic 2.0 series
“A headlong ride through a future where ‘huge international corporate conspiracy’ is a box you check on a form and teleportation takes you anywhere—it just blows you to bits first.”
—Quentin Hardy, Head of Editorial, Google Cloud (formerly Deputy Tech Editor for The New York Times)
“Some writers take us to the future so we can question the effects that technology can have on humanity on a global and personal scale along with the impact upon the social fabric. Others do it to take us on a wild ride made all the more fantastic by pushing the boundaries of what we can expect from the world of tomorrow. Tal Klein masterfully balances both and sets it all to the beat of an 80s soundtrack. An excellent piece of contemporary science fiction.”
—J-F. Dubeau, author of A God in the Shed and The Life Engineered
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.