shrivers the substrate wars

Substrate Wars Omnibus: Now on iBooks, iTunes, Kobo, Nook, Scribd, 24Symbols, Page Foundry

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

The Kindle versions of Substrate Wars books are still cheap — $0.99 for Red Queen, $2.99 for Nemo’s World, and $2.99 for the latest, Shrivers.

A new option: the Substrate Wars Omnibus, all three books in a single e-book, now available at many non-Amazon book sellers and subscription services:

Apple iBooks/iTunes, $7.99
Barnes and Noble Nook, $7.95
Kobo Books, $7.95
Page Foundry, $7.95
Scribd, Unlimited subscription reading.
24Symbols: Unlimited subscription reading.
Tolino, apparently using iTunes outside the US.

American Version of “Black Mirror” – “San Junipero”

Black Mirror - San Junipero. Yorkie and Kelly. Photo: David Dettman-Netflix

Black Mirror – San Junipero. Yorkie and Kelly. Photo: David Dettman-Netflix

Last year I reviewed a few episodes of Black Mirror, the British dark series about grim futures with technology:

I fired up Netflix and watched the supposedly best episode, “The Entire History of You,” about a troubled couple using the technology of life-recording to break up in the ugliest possible way. Now I’ve counselled couples who break into each other’s phones and this was much the same, but more horrific than even that could be.

It was well-written, powerful, and depressing. Let’s focus on awful people and show how technology can enable them to be *even* *more* *awful*! …

There’s no denying these are really great — artful, like the best short stories. But minus any Human Wave sense of struggling to beat back the darkness.

Because being fully human has a *purpose*, if you are well-adjusted. It might be religious, it might be building Teilhard de Chardin’s Noosphere and reaching the Omega Point with as much knowledge as possible, it might be building the best world for your children’s children’s children. But there are positive goals to strive for, not just surviving and contending with other humans for a shrinking share of a shrinking world. Raising children is a risky exercise, and you do it when you have some faith in the future. Malthusian dread and belief in ever-darker futures kills off the will to fight and to win against those who would tear it all down.

Now that I’ve seen all of the episodes of the British seasons and the “White Christmas” special with John Hamm, I still think the overall bleakness is akin to torture porn, with horrible people doing horrible things to each other enabled by advanced technology. But there’s no denying how excellent it is, in both script and execution. It is much like sifting all the episodes of Twilight Zone for the grimmest 10%, then unleashing those as the whole.

I had heard the American third season, funded by Netflix, would be a little sunnier, with “San Junipero” the episode cited as showing this most clearly. And that turned out to be accurate — much more human, much more kind, much more optimistic.

The episode starts with the resonance of the name — “San Junipero” brings up associations with “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” the heightened-real-world simulation game set in California. Video games appear several times in the episode. And then one of the first things we see in a small town’s downtown strip is an ad for Lost Boys, the teen vampire movie set in 1980s Santa Cruz. San Junipero turns out to be a re-creation of a beach party town much like Santa Cruz, though it looks like filming was done further south in the beach towns north of San Diego. The producers licensed some great 80s music as well, so the episode ends with Belinda Carlisle singing “Heaven is Place on Earth.”

We follow a shy, bespectacled young woman, Yorkie, as she enters a disco obviously wary of the social goings-on. She meets the vivacious, attractive Kelly, who’s trying to blow off a guy who’s attached himself to her. Sparks fly.

[SPOILERS FOLLOW]

The unwary viewer doesn’t get a hint that this isn’t your usual beach town until some dialog hints that many of the people in the town are dead. It turns out San Junipero is a simulated village full of the sims of people dead or just visiting in old age to get ready for “crossing over” to join the dead in a digital afterlife and to stimulate their brains to ward off dementia. The living are limited to 5 hours a week to prevent side-effects, and their visits end abruptly when the clock strikes midnight. So for the visitors it’s always Saturday night, and the partying is constant, especially at the decadent Quagmire orgy warehouse.

Unlike other episodes of Black Mirror, this one centers around a romantic relationship that doesn’t go horrific or turn into a trap. Both girls / young women are adorable in different ways, with the shy, fawnlike Yorkie attracting the outgoing, fiery Kelly. The lesbian sex is hinted at tastefully, and the dynamics between them believable. When Kelly goes missing, Yorkie goes looking for her in different years, a fun look at period styles and music.

Difficulties arise, of course. It turns out Yorkie is really dying in a hospital after spending nearly all of her life as a bedridden paraplegic — her parents took her coming out at 21 badly, and she drove off and crashed, breaking her neck and severing her spinal cord. So she’s never really had a life, or sex, and her hunger for attachment scares Kelly, who just wants to have fun — or so she says.

Kelly turns out to be nearing the end of her life, too, in a care facility. She has made up her mind to die naturally and not “pass over” to San Junipero because her husband had refused, and even though she doesn’t believe her husband and daughter are really waiting in Heaven for her — they are gone forever — she wants to honor his memory and their 47 years of marriage by going with him.

If you don’t cry at the end you have a heart of stone.

But while some religious conservatives might find the lesbian relationship and simulated afterlife troubling, this is an optimistic view of technology’s effect on humanity compared to the rest of Black Mirror. There are interesting questions about the meaning of life — if you are only simulated, what is it you are living for? Can you have children in San Junipero? I touched on some of these in Shrivers, where intelligences could choose to submerge themselves in a simulated afterlife to become the Revenant, abdicating responsibilities to relive old memories and pleasurable fantasies.

But the idea that dying people could live again to enjoy some of the life they had denied themselves for family and health reasons is pretty damn attractive. Thus the waterworks. I’m tearing up writing this, as my mother slowly declines in a memory care facility and forgets who we are.

[edit: turns out filming locations were near Capetown, South Africa!]

 

New Review of “Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3”

Shrivers Kindle Cover

Shrivers Kindle Cover

Short but sweet review on Amazon:

5.0 out of 5 stars
Good series and a fun read.
May 7, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

I thoroughly enjoyed all three of these books, but then I also mostly agree with the philosophy put forward in them. Still, the author has great imagination and has given me what I suspect will be many hours of contemplation and fantasy. Thanks.

Of the thousand or so copies out, only 12 people reviewed it, all five stars; Amazon erased three of those reviews that came in on one day, claiming their algorithm made them do it. Sigh! So if you’ve read them and haven’t reviewed, please go here and do so — even one-line reviews help a lot to make books more visible.

Substrate Wars News: 1) On Best Books for Spring List 2) New Review

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

The Kindle versions of Substrate Wars books are still cheap — $0.99 for Red Queen, $2.99 for Nemo’s World, and $2.99 for the latest, Shrivers.

IndieReader picked Shrivers as one of its “19 Great Indie Books for Spring:”

Humanity’s attempt to survive first contact with a civilization that reaches back to the early days of the universe in: SHRIVERS

BY JEB KINNISON

star star star star star

Humanity has finally found peace among the stars thanks to quantum gateway technology, replicators, and powerful AIs. Before the dust can settle, the riddle of the Fermi Paradox is answered in the worst way possible.

Meanwhile, the first in the series, Red Queen, got a new Amazon review:

4.0 out of 5 stars
A nice mash up of science fiction, politics and economics
By Dave Carveron March 30, 2016

I try to avoid books that can’t be tied up in a single volume. However the blurb on this one looked like it was worth reading at least one. I’m glad I did as volumes two and three are now in my kindle queue.

It’s spring 2016 as I write this. There is craziness at Emory University and across the Ivy’s; and you can extrapolate that nonsense right into this storyline. There is terrible news from around the world as bombings are becoming more frequent; and you can extrapolate that reality right into the storyline. Now add in some interesting physics and a few “star trek” nerds and computer scientists and you get a great story that turns out to be too big for just one book. I’m glad I took a chance on it.

Somewhat reminiscent of the interstellar enigma series.

…which I haven’t read.

IndieReader All About the Book: “Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3”

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

The IndieReader people have a brief interview with me up on their site:

ALL ABOUT THE BOOK
Jeb Kinnison on “Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3″
By IR Staff

An entertaining look at a future where technology has freed humanity from poverty and war, yet faces real problems coping with its own violent nature.

Indie Reader Approved

Indie Reader Approved

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3, published Nov. 24th, 2015

What’s the book’s first line?

NASA astronaut Maddy Rahama picked up her flight bag and stood near the bulky boxed spacesuits she was bringing with her as the clock ticked down.

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

The student rebels from the first two books in the series have been governing humanity for a decade since they invented quantum gateways, and in trying to free everyone discovered their ideals are not up to the task. Humanity may not be ready for the freedom they have engineered. And then they discover blasted worlds and that a terrifying fleet of robotic destroyers are coming towards Earth. The uploaded older civilizations have sent the Shrivers out to eliminate competing life while washing their hands of direct responsibility. The young daughter of the rebel leaders must plead humanity’s case for survival while the alien fleet attacks Earth.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

I was thinking about the discussions of loss of agency in recent science fiction for young people, with the current popularity of dystopias that make the future seem hopeless. I decided to write something more hopeful that recalls Heinlein, where young people using science and courage can change the world.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

It’s an entertaining look at a future where technology has freed humanity from poverty and war, yet humanity faces real problems coping with its own violent nature.

Shrivers: the Substrate Wars 3, on Amazon.

Substrate Wars: Instapundit Plug

Over at Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds plugged Substrate Wars today — thanks to whoever suggested it, it wasn’t my idea!

READER BOOK PLUG: Reader Jeb Kinnison’s Substrate Wars series. Three books on Kindle; the first book is only 99 cents. It offers a great escape from today’s reality: “A science fiction thriller set in the US of a not-too-distant future, when the Bill of Rights is ignored and the US is run by the Unity Party, combining the worst of Democrats and Republicans.” Enjoy this unrealistic, but interesting, setting, and be glad that couldn’t happen in real life! . . .

I’ve had several readers make the same comment — how is that any different from the situation today? It’s not, really. But in an entertainment we want all readers, even those not paying enough attention to realize the US is already increasingly corporatist, where both parties are part of the Party of Government. Most partisans are absolutely sure their guys are the only people stopping the hordes from the other party who want to make the government over to control everyone’s lives. The joke, of course, is on the partisans, since both parties have gradually cooperated in controlling more and more of everyone’s lives while putting on a big show of opposing each other.

So it’s set in a near future after a terrorist event that enables even more emphasis on security over freedom, and even more control over business and personal lives invested in bureaucracies and security agencies. Those who don’t realize this is just a slight elaboration on what we see today will accept the story as fiction. “Good thing this isn’t really going to happen!” — Well, it already did, but your local sphere is still free enough so that you haven’t taken notice.

The Kindle versions of Substrate Wars books are cheap — $0.99 for Red Queen, $2.99 for Nemo’s World, and $2.99 for the latest, Shrivers. And all a FREE to read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription, which you can try out here: Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial

Kirkus Reviews “Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3”

Shrivers Kindle Cover

Shrivers Kindle Cover

It takes a long time to get one of the legacy review companies to review a book, so finally Kirkus has posted their review.

KIRKUS REVIEW

A third adventure in a sci-fi series follows idealistic rebels who can manipulate reality using quantum portals.

Ten years ago, college students Justin Smith, Steve Duong, and Samantha West led a revolution that invented quantum teleportation and used it to eliminate the Earth’s nuclear arsenal. Now, that same technology, which involves tapping “into the computational substrate that runs the Universe and determines how matter and energy appear to interact,” allows them to live on New Earth. This planet is just one of over 100 worlds humanity has settled throughout the galaxy. Thanks to less condensed populations, the watchful, artificially intelligent Guardians, and replicator programs that provide food, shelter, and clothing, “crime and hunger are almost unknown.” Trouble arises, however, when decimated alien civilizations begin appearing in galactic surveys. Because Justin, Steve, and their programmers can’t find any thriving alien races, they suspect that another intelligence is manipulating the substrate. When Eddie, an artificial intelligence, makes itself known to Kat, Justin and Samantha’s 10-year-old daughter, dire truths trickle in. A race called The First, which lives immortally within the substrate, decides which civilizations get to upload and join it. Determined to test humanity, The First now sends its Shrivers—an AI death squad—toward every planet that the revolutionaries helped settle. Kinnison (Nemo’s World, 2015, etc.) bursts wide the scope of his continuously rewarding series in this latest entry. As in the previous novels, he challenges his characters to evolve morally as well as technologically; when Justin and Steve appear secretive about the discoveries on an alien ship, NASA astronaut Maddy Rahama reminds them why they fought the United States when she says, “I thought you guys were going to be the most transparent government ever.” Keen sociological insights are crucial to the plot, as when Justin says, “Just because no one goes hungry, doesn’t mean people stop envying and hating.” The narrative, despite approaching war, proves riveting in the classic mold of Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein’s works, in which action never eclipses heart and intellect.

A novel about a galactic threat that offers an addictive barrage of lofty ideas infused with soul.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9961833-2-1
Page count: 360pp
Review Posted Online: Feb. 24th, 2016

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

 

IndieReader Reviews “Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3”

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

First “professional” review in — rather short.

Humanity’s attempt to survive first contact with a civilization that reaches back to the early days of the universe in: SHRIVERS

By Jeb Kinnison

 star star star star star 

IR Verdict: Somehow both contemplative and exploding with action, SHRIVERS is an engrossing story that shines a light on humanity’s best and worst aspects as a fleet races to wipe them out.

“Instead of relying on outlandish technology or eccentric alien species, Kinnison has crafted a futuristic world that touches on philosophical, moral, and ethical ramifications of survival.”

Humanity has finally found peace among the stars thanks to quantum gateway technology, replicators, and powerful AIs. Before the dust can settle, the riddle of the Fermi Paradox is answered in the worst way possible. All advanced civilizations are uploaded to a virtual realm, or completely eradicated. And humanity is on the chopping block.

SHRIVERS is the third book in the Substrate Wars series. 10 years after Justin Smith and Steve Duong invented quantum gateway technology, humanity spread to other planets in an era of peace without want or violence. After exploring destroyed world after destroyed world, a race known as the Shrivers target humanity for extinction. With a deadline on the clock, Justin and Steve race to prepare for the Shrivers’ arrival. Meanwhile, an emissary from the civilization hidden in the virtual realm (known as the “Substrate”) contacts Justin’s daughter and prepares her to speak on humanity’s behalf to the tribunal that decides all advanced race’s fate.

In a refreshing entry in a science fiction series, SHRIVERS excels at examining humanity’s growth into the wilds of space. Instead of relying on outlandish technology or eccentric alien species, Kinnison has crafted a futuristic world that touches on philosophical, moral, and ethical ramifications of survival. Of course, the tech and aliens are nothing to sneeze at. The use of AIs known as Guardians to curb violent acts, instruct and educate, provide all necessities, and function as humanity’s allies is engaging and intriguing. SHRIVERS is a captivating entry in the series and a stellar piece of sci-fi.

Somehow both contemplative and exploding with action, SHRIVERS is an engrossing story that shines a light on humanity’s best and worst aspects as a fleet races to wipe them out.

~ IndieReader.

Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3

 

Amazon Responds re Review Erasures

The Library

The Library

My last post was an open letter to Amazon head Jeff Bezos. Today I got a call from an “Executive Customer Relations Specialist,” a nice young man who explained what he could find out about the incident. We talked about their review problems for some time, and I continued thinking about it long after (as usual.) So of course I couldn’t resist writing them a memo:

[This message is intended for Bnnnn Bnnnn, ECR, but I have no direct email for him.]

Bnnn —

Thanks for taking time out to talk today. Our conversation has triggered a lot more thought, and since I now know you may actually be able to convey some of what we’re thinking out here back to the people who decide these things, I am writing in the interest of improving Amazon and self-publishers’ cooperation.

Why You Should Listen To Me – Qualifications

[Various accomplishments and credentials omitted] I was one of your earliest customers, perhaps back around 1995, and I have been a big supporter, doing an increasing amount of business with you over the years. I managed the investments of [tech guy], founder of [bubble-era company name], during and after the dotcom bubble era, and came away with [large sum of money], so my book earnings in retirement are not critical to me — unlike some of my fellow authors, who depend on Amazon sales for much of their income, and are too afraid to speak up to you in public. In my role as portfolio manager, I became quite familiar with e-commerce and marketing.

Market Trends

Amazon is a key actor in the restructuring of publishing and general retailing, disintermediating and lowering the cost while increasing selection of goods. Books are especially suitable for this, since they are not commodities — each book and its reader/buyer have a different relationship, and there’s no simple linear scale like star ratings which can predict how satisfactory the book will be for that reader. Formerly publishers treated books like produce — with a big marketing buildup, often with paid or negotiated display space in bookstores, and a short shelf-life, with the unpredictable return rate adding to risks and costs. This led to fads and copying of trends, flooding the market with books similar to previous bestsellers and shutting out some quality books that were less commercially promising.

We understand why legacy publishers want ebook prices to be very high, often higher than print — they control the print model, which can be very profitable still, and want to slow the disintermediation restructuring, which leads to a world where they have a lesser role. This is damaging the quality of books produced by their system, and their low-paid lower level employees keep out a lot of fresh new perspectives, especially if they’re not in agreement with their politics.

The future is with online groups of readers who cross-recommend books to each other. Online communities are not likely to promote crap books like those that make up 95% of Amazon’s new books catalog. All of us online have our own reputations to guard, and we don’t push stuff on our readers that they are unlikely to like. Amazon needs to encourage this kind of community.

The Problem of Crap — Book Discovery in an Age of Excess

We all know you have too much bad material on Amazon — quite reasonably, how could you judge quality with an automated process?

When I started relying on Amazon for books, you emphasized your algorithm for recommending suitable books based on the ratings of the reader for other books they had read. This has disappeared, and you recommendations are useless now. I relied on the list of new science fiction books you made available, and bought from it based on author’s reputation, “institutional” reviews, and lastly customer reviews. This is not working at all now, as there are far too many new books, some of the best writers are self-published, and the Big 5 push less quality stuff; most small and self-pubbed writers can’t afford the delay and expense of Kirkus reviews, and the other big reviewers refuse to review us. The gatekeepers have narrowed the gate so much that many quality writers can’t get through. Meanwhile, voracious readers of genres like Mil-SF can’t find enough to read, and often end up buying low-priced books that are barely literate to keep their habits going. Genres like Romance and Mil-sf are a big part of your ebook sales, and are very poorly served by the Big 5 — not enough books in some niches are legacy-published to satisfy reader demand. This situation will only get worse as your review policies make it harder for us to meet that demand by making it harder for us to get new books off the ground with enough reviews to round out the customer’s knowledge of whether that book is likely to satisfy.

Misuse of Customer Data – Violating the Customer’s Trust

I respect Amazon as one of the most ethical companies, working hard to make the customer’s lives better. This image was gained by being exceptionally careful to fight for customers when short-term profits might have been easier by agreeing to supplier’s demands. You risk that image, though, when you use private customer data in the interest of anyone but that specific customer — it simply does not fly that you can trace customer’s relationships and injure them as a result of your desire to protect the review system’s integrity. Using customer data to inform that customer about products they might interested in is fine; using it to erase the reviews they spent time and effort to share on your system is damaging to customer trust and results in strange advice like “don’t send de minimis gift books via Amazon to your literary group, it will forever bar them from reviewing your work.” It’s quite creepy and damages your image, the kind of damage that eventually leads to government regulation or antitrust issues.

Better Ideas – Some Problems and Solutions

Problem — fake reviews, generally paid-for. If anyone can review a product at Amazon without proof of purchase, then there really is no way to stop this entirely. The two ends of the problem can be addressed: 1) any account that has generated unusual numbers of extreme positive or negative reviews can be warned, then barred from reviewing if it doesn’t stop, and 2) reviews from verified purchases can be given display and rating priority, which I understand you’re rolling out now.

Problem — Helping new authors get real reviews, because they absolutely have to have a way to distinguish their good product from the flood of crap. You are actively damaging us now, but you could implement a system allowing a book’s author to send out codes redeemable for review copies, then let the reviewer use that code when entering their review to give it the flag “This item was reviewed in return for a certified review copy.” This neatly solves two problems: our difficulty getting DRM’d review copies to reviewers, and your fear that we will only select favorable reviewers. The reviewers can be watched and rated using your account system, so that those who are good get higher weights, and those who regularly trash everything or five-star everything get low ratings. Currently NetGalley has this market sewed up, but at high prices most authors can’t afford — $150 or more per book. You should displace them and give more support to the small and self-publishers that are your future suppliers.

Problem — review “skew.” Where an author’s successive works get higher and higher ratings, because as a known quantity, those buying his/her books are more likely to be previous readers and fans who already like that writer’s work. I’m noticing that now, where the list of people who agreed to read the ARC of the third volume of my series tend to like my work already, and gave it a higher rating than a more randomly-selected previous groups which included more science-phobic readers. But this is actually not a problem; it is the expected result of consumer preference and a writer’s reputation. That writer clearly has readers who love that style, and if the rating attracts a new reader who hasn’t read the reviews and noted how science-heavy those books are, then that reader may be disappointed. But you’ve protected them as well as you reasonably can.

So, recommendations:

— As you are already doing, weight product ratings according to likely reliability of reviewers,
— Additionally rate reviewers themselves, to weed out the bad ones and give the best more weight in ratings.
Stop erasing reviews because of de minimis connections, which abuses your access to customer data. At most put a disclaimer tag on suspect reviews and underweight them in overall rating.
Implement a “review copy” code system, which authors can use to send out review copies. These reviews can be quality-controlled statistically and help good authors gain enough sales to eventually have a larger number of organic customer reviews.

These recommendations are based on the special nature of the ebook market, but some of them can also work for physical product reviews, like keeping ratings of reviewers as a weighting factor.

Open Letter to Jeff Bezos re Review Erasures

Another data point for the self-pubbed dealing with Amazon’s paranoid reviews policy. I uploaded the latest Nov. 25th, and by Dec. 1st had eight 5-star reviews from the 20 or so people I had emailed ARCs to. Amazon deleted the last three reviews, all posted on the same day, claiming they had found “associations” between the accounts. I suspect it is a dumb algorithm that assumes too many 5-star reviews too quickly must mean they are paid, and that Amazon is lying about it.

Here’s their boilerplate language:

We removed the Customer Reviews for your book because our data shows elements of your Amazon account match elements of the reviewers’ Amazon accounts. In these cases, we remove the reviews to maintain trust in our customer reviews and avoid any perception of bias.

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. Because our goal is to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or biased will not be posted.

Here’s my response:

I have read your guidelines thoroughly and note “family and *close* friends” is the standard you cite to disallow reviews. I share your desire that reviews be unbiased and fair across products. I question your commitment to achieving this goal when you will not remove obviously fake one-star reviews which have been posted by competitors or people who dislike the book’s author for political reasons.

First let me comment that I bring Amazon significant yearly revenue on my books, audiobooks, etc. My family also directly spends about $10K per year with you. You have set up an algorithm which uses poor guilt-by-association correlation data to intentionally wipe out the hard work of Amazon customers who take the time to review my works, which damages my perception of Amazon, and as we the authors make our stories known, will damage your other customers’ views of your company.

Self-pubbed authors must make more efforts to keep in touch with their fans to have any chance of succeeding in a marketplace dominated by legacy publishers who are allowed to promote their products by direct payments to Amazon. Your efforts to give small press and self-pubbed authors a way to advertise are complete failures. Amazon has allowed legacy publishers to overprice their ebooks, pay you for what appear to be endorsements, and game the reviews system with large numbers of paid reviews for their products.

Frankly I think you are lying. You have implemented a review-cancelling algorithm which in my case appears to have been triggered by “too many” 5-star reviews in a short time, since you cancelled the last three out of eight, and those three are fans of my writing, not family or *close* friends as you specify in your guidelines. I think it is just accidental that all eight of my first reviews were 5-star, though it’s possible it’s just that good a book.

You have damaged our relationship. I request a re-review and restoration of those three erased reviews.

The erased reviews, (all 5-star), and not a hyped or misleading one in the group:

1) Stephen Marino reviewed Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3
I very much like the story – December 3, 2015

First let me start with the disclaimers.

1, I helped workshop part of this story at Taos Toolbox.
2. I was a beta reader of the completed work.
3. I very much like the story.

Because I am giving this story all five stars, let me state why you should not read it.
Do you like to think for yourself or do you want every little detail of what is happening spelled out for you? If you only like to read fluff, this is not your book. I am not saying, it is a hard read, just that it is many layered. Pay attention to the sub subtexts.

Do you only like to read books from authors who have no understanding of technology and the effects it can have on society? If so, there are lots of writers who don’t know what they are talking about.

Have you read the previous books in the series? If not, You will probably enjoy the book more, if you start with Red Queen and move on to Nemo’s World. The story stands alone nicely, but a bit of background can be a good thing. (You can’t unread book three before going back to read 1 and 2.)

What are the books about? Spoiler free, this universe is a big honking computer simulation and in about 20 years, a few university students begin learning to program it. The world is beginning to go in a very dystopian direction and war breaks out between the students and the world’s governments.

I know this has been said by everyone who has read this series, If you enjoyed Robert a. Heinlein, You will greatly enjoy this author.

2) Bookgirl reviewed Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3
Engrossing addition to the Substrate Wars saga – November 30, 2015

Shrivers are coming.

Complex plotting, political intrigue, and a galaxy­spanning 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.

3) M. Cunningham reviewed Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3
Captivating read – 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 wrap­up 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.

1) Properly discloses the relationship with the author. But it is a competitive relationship, and he is not my friend, much less my close friend.

2) No idea who “book girl” is, probably one of the 8-10 book bloggers I sent an ARC to for review. Arm’s-length.

3) Fan who has reviewed previous books and so was willing to read the ARC. Gave the previous books 4-stars, so not a pushover.

So stop lying about supposed “elements matching” — no such elements exist, though in the case of #3 I sent him a paper copy so that might appear in your search. The others have NO CONNECTION WHATEVER in account records.

Stop lying. Restore the reviews. Or authors and readers will turn on you. Why should customers make an effort to review books when you may arbitrarily erase their work?

A comment on Facebook:

I’m guessing they don’t want to admit that one of their computer guys has run a correlation study and suggested a simple “too-many-five-stars-too-quickly” screen. That might cut fake reviews down, but also cuts legitimate ones. And it’s embarrassing to admit they can’t come up with something more sophisticated. People are worried about them tracing Facebook and email list connections, but I’m pretty sure they have no access to that data… and apparently authors signed up with Amazon press labels are immune (hi, Robert Bidinotto!)

copied from createspace groups:

10. Aug 5, 2015 11:32 PM in response to: lipmag
Re: Amazon reviews – petition

The issue I have with Amazon’s review policy is that it does not accurately apply across the board. Yes I understand the need to ensure authors are not padding reviews otherwise the reviews will hold no value to the potential customers however, with my latest release Amazon Amazon randomly decided to remove 2 reviews generated through ARC releases. The only response given when queried as to why was that the reviews violated policy because they believed the reviewers knew the author. They knew of the author, obviously, but these were not friends and family. Additionally, upon review of the posted Reviewer Policies the only sections that could apply (though they do not) are

• Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)
• Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product. This includes reviews that are a part of a paid publicity package

The reviewers were not compensated nor do they have a financial interest. This brings me to my original point. They do not apply the guidelines across the board. I have never heard complaint from a large publisher that an ARC review was subsequently removed. In fact, many large publisher purchase reviews as part of their marketing plan (a direct violation of the above guidelines) and those reviews are rarely, if ever, pulled.

The entire process seems to a) not follow the published restrictions and b) be enforced in a discriminatory fashion. In my experience questioning Amazons decision or pointing out that the guidelines were not broken has no effect. In the end the do as they please.

— R. C. Butler – Bulldog Press

Other stories on the topic:

Amazon Review Policy Under Fire: Indie Authors Call For Change In ‘Big Brother’ Policing

Amazon’s Review Policy is Creepy and Bad for Authors

Amazon… A virtual marketplace, or Big Brother?

Petition on Change.org – Change the “You Know This Author” Policy