nemo’s-world-the-substrate-wars

IndieReader Best of 2015: “Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2”

Nemo's World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2

Of the indie books they reviewed (thousands?), IndieReader selected Nemo’s World as one of the 56 best of the year 2015:

A group of idealistic scientists use gateway technology to save the United States in NEMO’S WORLD By Jeb Kinnison
The second installment in Jeb Kinnison’s The Substrate Wars series takes place in the near future where the US has become a one-party oligarchy opposed by a group of rebel scientists and humanity is poised to destroy itself in the name of “security.”

Here’s their review:

5 STARS
IR Verdict: Good science fiction is usually about humanity rather than deep space or death rays. NEMO’S WORLD is well-written science fiction that harkens back to the golden age of Heinlein and Asimov.

If you haven’t read the first in the series, it’s free until Friday: Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1.

“Shrivers” First Reviews

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

So far the reviews are mostly from people who read the less-polished advance reader copy I sent out. Here they are as of today — all five-star, which is a little offputting. The sample is skewed because these are readers who really liked the first two, so I expect new readers will be less kind!

Engrossing addition to the Substrate Wars saga
By Bookgirl on November 30, 2015

Shrivers are coming.

Complex plotting, political intrigue, and a galaxy-spanning saga–Shrivers builds relentlessly to a climax filled with surprises. Kinnison weaves multiple plot lines, characters, and different planetary settings together adroitly, crafting a tale that will captivate and delight hard science fiction fans.

Captivating read
By M. Cunningham on November 30, 2015

I was provided an advanced reader’s copy for review and found it to be a captivating and entertaining read. Mr. Kinnison has channeled his inner Heinlein to create a fitting wrap-up to the Substrate Wars trilogy. I was especially impressed by the creative use of Kat’s training in the virtual reality world of the substrate to create stories of how other aliens lived and reached the substrate. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the golden age of science fiction.

Be careful what you wish for
By Rich on November 29, 2015

The third book catches up with what we’ve been wondering from the start– where is everybody else? The riddle of the Fermi Paradox is resolved, but the answer makes them wish they’d never asked the question. The limits of the seemingly unlimited new technology are revealed, with multiple major plots lines racing to meet where not only is humanity’s future at stake, but the soul of the universe. Kinnison handles the tasks with a tight focus and new characters, a thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to the series. (Note this review is for an advanced reader’s copy provided by the author.)

Just Survive Somehow
By Stan on November 28, 2015

(The review title is an Easter egg for TWD fans.)

The Substrate Wars continue with the third book in the series, and now the stakes are raised even higher: the potential destruction of all earth-based life! While looking for other civilizations, our heroes find nothing but devastation, utter and complete destruction. Planets nuked so thoroughly that the survival of anything but low-level deepsea-dwelling organisms is rendered impossible. Formerly advanced civilizations: gone, utterly wasted, from millions of years earlier to only a few hundred. This is a mystery to them until they unwittingly make themselves known to the Shrivers, a force reminiscent of Saberhagen’s Berserkers. Even though earthmen are now distributed in colonies dispersed about the galaxy, nevertheless they are all at risk, not only from the Shrivers, but from an unexpected early personal enemy. To find out if and how they survive this latest menace, read Shrivers! The action which some felt lagged a bit in the second book is back with a vengeance in the third book and now we have to await a fourth (and more?) book to find out what happens next.

An Excellent Ending to an Great Series!
By Joseph F. on November 27, 2015

When Jeb offered me the chance to take a look at the third book in his trilogy before it was released, I was thrilled to take him up on it.

I loved the first book, had a few minor quibbles with the second one but was absolutely astounded by the third book. I know, I reread it two times trying to knock holes in it knowing that if I found anything, Jeb would immediately address the issues, making it that much better.

Even after going back and rereading the whole series, I was not able to find anything at all that did not ring right. I looked hard and didn’t find a darn thing that I could jump on.

By far, this is the best book of the series–not that the other books aren’t excellent and I am one of those many readers who can really hardly wait to see what Jeb has in store for us in the future.

Hard science, and good action
By Donald W. on November 27, 2015

This review is based on a pre-release beta, some things may change in the final edition, I’ll let you know after Tuesday Dec 1, when the book is delivered 🙂 As Volume 3, most of you interested have read the first two, but if you are new to Jeb’s writing, I think you can jump in with this one cold. With the 10 year ‘hiatus’, since the first two, the plot will flow, but you will miss all the incredible speculative hard science of the first 2 books.

With that said, there is a lot of incredible speculative hard science in this one, not predicated on the originals, but supplement and extending it. Oh, and the plot just sings along, an interwoven tapestry of people, places and events that come together for the exciting conclusion (until Vol 4, which you should, along with me demand Jeb write soonest).
Without spoilers, the Shrivers kill civilizations, but the ancient civilizations do indeed exist. A fascinating speculation into the Fermi Paradox, it is entertaining as well an interesting take to an old problem we have been kicking around for a hundred years.

The galactic saga continues….annihilation or redemption
By Michael Z on November 27, 2015

I have read the previous two books in this series and really enjoyed reading them. This is the third, and it is a real page turner as well. These are my favorite type of scifi stories, non-stop action, twisting plot, space travel, technology and grand social implications. Every time one crisis is resolved another bigger one takes its place.

Jeb has grown the story to be galactic in scope. Finally, aliens have started to get involved. And they are taking sides. The stakes have gotten really big, total annihilation or redemption.

FREE until Friday: “Red Queen.” Holiday sale on Substrate Wars

Shrivers Kindle Cover

Shrivers Kindle Cover

The Kindle versions of Substrate Wars books are on sale until Friday — FREE for Red Queen, $0.99 for Nemo’s World, and $2.99 for the just-released Shrivers. Similar bargains are available in some non-US Amazon sites.

Too bad I can’t offer a similar discount on the trade paperbacks, but the bundle of three makes a good gift for your STEM graduate friends or relatives who like thrillers with heroic scientists — c. 1000 pages of fun reading.

30% off today: “Shrivers” Trade Paperback

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

I’m avoiding holiday shopping craziness by mostly buying from Amazon. Note the Black Friday special there — 30% off any printed book: “To use this promotion, you must enter HOLIDAY30 at checkout under the ‘Gift cards & promotional codes’ section to receive 30% off any ONE (1) book, with a maximum discount of $10.”

Gift idea: my latest, Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3, just came out.

First review: “…a real page turner… These are my favorite type of scifi stories, non stop action, twisting plot, space travel, technology and grand social implications. Every time one crisis is resolved another bigger one takes its place.”

The discount only applies to the trade paperback link. The Kindle version is here.

Tangent Online on: “Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2”

Nemo's World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2

New review in Tangent Online.

Running through all of the machinations and maneuverings, personal stories of love and loss, sacrifice and heroism—and of course treachery—is the ages-old story of a band of rebels fighting for freedom against almost insurmountable odds. Kinnison handles all of this with aplomb and a sure hand, making for an engaging, page-turning read.

Nemo’s World is the second book in the Substrate Wars series, which starts with Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1.

“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland

[Edited to add material after watching it again to catch more dialogue]

Having read mixed reviews, I waited until Tomorrowland came out on cheaper streaming services. Directed and mostly written by Brad Bird, auteur of brilliant work like Iron Giant and The Incredibles, the previews looked promising — a story about the shiny visions of the technological future we had as kids in the 1960s, and a world where they actually happened.

The first two-thirds of the movie are great — the young heroine gets into trouble for trying to save a NASA launchpad from demolition. The failure of dreams and a rising tide of pessimism have left the world obsessed by dark visions of dystopic futures. Then she finds a pin which, when touched, transports her to Tomorrowland, which riffs on Walt Disney’s vision enshrined in the eponymous part of Disneyland. There are several Disney in-jokes, like one robot’s insistence that she’s “audio-animatronic,” Disney’s term for lifelike automatons.

Tomorrowland is congruent with Earth but in another dimension, and was founded by Tesla, Edison, Jules Verne, Gustave Eiffel, and similar geniuses as a place for the best and brightest scientists and artists to work on dreams of the future unlimited by politics and hidebound Earth thinking.

The heroine meets Frank (George Clooney) as an older scientific genius who was brought to Tomorrowland as a child, but then was exiled for inventing a machine to predict the future, which foretold of disaster to come. They are chased by killer robots to Tomorrowland itself, which is decaying and abandoned. The apparent dictator of Tomorrowland, played well by Hugh Laurie, is the only Tomorrowland resident we meet who isn’t a robot, and he no longer believes humanity deserves to be saved. The explanation for the decline of Tomorrowland is never given, but a thriving high-tech colony in 1964 becomes a dystopia in 2015 with a dictator who ruthlessly kills anyone who gets in his way. The movie shows its deep schizophrenia here — having satirized today’s obsession with dystopias and pessimism, it doesn’t even bother to explain why a settlement founded on idealism should turn so sour. The one hint comes when dictator Nix tells Frank it was his fault for not believing. And later it’s suggested that the heroine’s refusal to give up can magically effect the probability of doomsday. So the woo factor a la “The Secret” appears, with the trite metaphor of the two wolves: “You have two wolves, one representing darkness and despair, the other light and hope. Which one lives? The one you feed.” So it’s all about attitude!

After much clanking plot with explosions, fights, chases, and other worn-out devices, the bad machine that is creating negative consciousness on Earth is destroyed, and the future looks more hopeful. Nix admits he was intentionally beaming negative thoughts at Earth, expecting they would motivate people to fix the problems leading to Doomsday, but they just reveled in despair and refused to sacrifice convenience. Ahem?

The vision is inspiring. But the end is chilling — bad machine destroyed and dictator killed, a new corps of fresh-faced young robots will recruit the artists and scientists of the future to persuade others to apply creativity to fix problems. This bit looks like an Apple commercial, with its gauzily sentimental multicultural recruitees.

The laundry list of problems shown as destroying the Earth includes global warming (the melting glaciers and flooding coastal regions are shown), nuclear war, and political unrest. Putting the clues together, the solution is found by persuading people to sacrifice comfort to do what is necessary as instructed by the best and brightest. So a kind of techno-fascism will save the planet! This has little of the optimism we associate with Disney, and a lot of today’s politicized environmentalism.

The script loses faith in the audience and resorts to the same old villains, fights, and chases to keep their interest, when the material is fascinating enough without demonizing anyone. As a result, instead of exploring the issues in depth, most screen time is action. It might as well be a Transformers movie for most of its running time.

There’s a parallel with the book I’m working on now, Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3. Near the end, a “Galactic Tribunal” similar to the one in Heinlein’s Have Space Suit–Will Travel is deciding whether to destroy humanity, or allow it to join the community of intelligences living in the computational substrate of the universe. The young woman pleading our case ends her testimony with this:

“I just have one more thing to say.” Kat didn’t know where this was coming from, but she had to speak. Aurora looked alarmed.

“You sit in judgment of us. If you applied the same standards to the oldest among you, how many would pass? How many are still making an important contribution to knowledge? I’ve experienced each of your lives — you were driven, reaching for the stars, and working to advance your people. But how many of the First are lost in some virtual dreamland, using cell space for nothing but fantasies? And you judge other civilizations and have them murdered in their infancy so that you might never be inconvenienced or have to give one moment’s thought to the outer universe. You don’t want to think of the cost — you kill the new life you don’t want to know about and can’t be bothered to assist, while more and more of you do nothing.”

Quog’s eyebrows had gone up. “Do go on.”

“If I am ever uploaded,” Kat said, “I’m going to work. I’m going to find a way to bring every civilization forward. It can’t be that there’s just not enough space for everyone. There must be a way to expand it.”

“Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3”: First Look

PrintCover6x9v1_975x698

Based on feedback from workshopping it at Taos, I’ve rewritten the opening of Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3. The book won’t be done for months, but if you want a preview, here it is in PDF format: Shrivers First Look. Now if I could only find an agent or publisher!

Review: “Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2”

Nemo's World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2

I missed this review of Nemo’s World when it came out on Goodreads, which I don’t pay a lot of attention to:

Kjirstin’s review Apr 08, 15
5 of 5 stars

After having escaped the immediate dangers of the last novel, the intrepid explorers and students turn their minds to how to use their new discovery — instantaneous travel to anywhere in the universe — to benefit the rest of mankind. But in order to make this possible, they need to defang the governments and ruling classes of the nations of Earth. So most of this story is about how they manage to maneuver politicians into realizing that their time is over. It was actually quite enjoyable having the recalcitrant US government being one of the last holdouts, absolutely SURE that they could somehow avoid the consequences and do things that would bring back the status quo ante.

I loved the idea of setting up colony planets and the gates to allow people to head there. (I have a soft spot for colonization and pioneering in my sci-fi in general.) It was such a hopeful vision — a way to move past the stagnant and ossified way of doing things and into something new with all sorts of potential. (As well as some musing over how to avoid the mistakes of the past, which we see as the first group of explorers have to set up a government for themselves.)

Great fun and a good addition to the series. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next one when it comes out!

If you haven’t read the first in the series, Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1, it’s best to start there.

New Reviews: “Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1”

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

the first review is from Canada, the second from the US Amazon site.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Science Fiction in Heinlein’s Tradition, March 19 2015
By Eric A Weder – See all my reviews
Verified Purchase
Good to see a modern writer taking on the SJW types. Reading the author’s end notes confirms that he has the same sci-fi upbringing that I had. Really couldn’t ask for much more. I’ll be buying more from Kinnison.

4.0 out of 5 stars
A good work of science fiction and I enjoyed the read
By Kimball O’Hara April 28, 2015
Verified Purchase

Unfortunately, the political system described in Red Queen rings far too true and far too close for comfort…but apart from the dystopian future that is really a part of the dystopian present in a few years, the novel is a good work of science fiction and I enjoyed the read. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1.

A Libertarian Objects to “Nemo’s World”

Nemo's World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2

Nemo’s World at Amazon.

I just read an interesting (if somewhat negative) review of Nemo at Amazon:

3 Stars out of 5

Wow, this book was dissonant. Jeb Kinnison hands his protagonists the ring of power on a silver platter (Steve Duong’s de facto omnipotence through “root access” to the world), and, unfortunately, these originally Libertarian minded protagonists end up becoming almost as totalitarian as their opponents.

Nevermind what these people talk about amongst themselves philosophically, nevermind their misgivings about how they end up using this unanswerable power: Look at what they do with it! Rather than spreading this knowledge and power to others, they hoard and restrict it. Rather than letting seven billion minds figure out what to do with this power, they set themselves up as Olympian gods, and play political power games with the current nations of Earth. They hold back the truth about their abilities in an attempt to control how people can use their technology, not trusting anyone but themselves with control. They even try to manipulate the uses people will put their nerfed ‘replicators’ to by playing games with what they will allow it to produce. Eventually they begin making vast sweeping decisions in the name of all of ‘civilization’, like exiling people to other planets where presumably they will be prevented from ever trying to reproduce the technology that put them there. (Not killing someone in self defense, not keeping someone away from them personally, but deciding for every human extant to imprison these personal enemies of theirs – cutting them off from everyone’s association in a stunning violation of the will of others). In the end, these protagonists control a surveillance and force apparatus infinitely more detailed and invasive than anything the authoritarian Earth governments could produce.

Maybe part of this was authorial intent. If so, this book can be read as a chilling cautionary tale. If not, it is an awe inspiring exercise in “it’s okay if our guys do it!” On one level, there are the words the characters say, the libertarian philosophy they ostensibly believe, and on the other level, there are the things they do in exercising omnipotent control over the people of Earth.

It is normally a bad idea to respond to reviews, but it’s notable that the two less-than-stellar reviews are from people disappointed because they feel the books aren’t ideologically pure enough, especially another review from an Ayn Rand admirer who trashed Red Queen for dissenting from orthodoxy. So here’s a response.

“…while the Constitution protects against invasions of individual rights, it is not a suicide pact.” This is from a court ruling discussing the conflict of basic rights and pragmatic needs under unusual circumstances like war which threaten survival. The review above very perceptively notes that our rebels act in what amounts to wartime to limit information and technology for reasons of survival and to prevent what they see as likely catastrophe if they release their technology too quickly or without restrictions.

As a thought experiment, suppose I develop a multi-kilotonne, nuclear-equivalent bomb which can be easily built out of items purchased at a hardware store and fit into a coffee can. Am I violating others’ rights by keeping that technology to myself? The consequences of release are obviously deadly for millions and perhaps the entire species. Similarly, the rebels reasonably foresee economic disaster and dislocation starving millions if instant transport and replication are uncautiously introduced into the world as it is. As the reviewer says, the rebels talk a good libertarian game but aren’t foolish enough to endanger themselves or innocents by acting according to simplistic principles when the consequences are so dire.

The point of their many discussions is how to reach what they envision as the desirable end state of freedom and universal prosperity from their current world of shortages and political controls. They are dealing with the world and the population and governments it has, not those they might wish it had, and trying to steer a dangerous course between acting for their own survival only and acting to better all of humankind, in the long run. Because they have powerful and immoral enemies, they must keep control of their technology themselves, until such time as the power of their enemies ebbs away; because they want to share the benefits with everyone, they release less dangerous and more beneficial limited versions as circumstances allow. And they try their best to limit harms to others while they remove threats to themselves.

Our reviewer is noticing the conflict that motivates the next few books in the series — the power they have rationally reserved to the only people they can currently trust, themselves, corrupts. Some choose to keep it for themselves when the reason for such controls has passed. Those who enjoy a privileged position are tempted to rationalize as needed to justify holding onto it. This question is reflected in our current world of surveillance and the soon-to-be one of nanobots, drones, and global data collection: what does it mean to freedom when every public event is observed and recorded? Is it possible to limit access to “necessary” uses? What if it isn’t, and we realize the only way to limit the power of large organizations like governments to do harm is to open access to everyone so that governments and private organizations can themselves be watched?

The series could be viewed as a thought experiment: what would happen if you gave freedom-oriented, libertarian-ish people the ability to change the world? The specific instance of the American occupation of Iraq is mentioned as a cautionary tale: in toppling existing repressive power structures, the occupiers freed all the repressed tribal groups to use violence and terror to contend for power and graft. The global version of that would be horrific. The US founders knew their proposed system was only workable with an enlightened and independent population, and only fools would try to overthrow an existing repressive system without providing enforcement tools to assure that bullies and warlords would not immediately take over.