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.

Review: The Sadist’s Bible by Nicole Cushing, at Tangent Online

The Sadist's Bible, by Nicole Cushing -- Amazon

The Sadist’s Bible, by Nicole Cushing — Amazon

Tangent Online has published my review of The Sadist’s Bible by Nicole Cushing. In summary:

Trigger warning: extreme lesbian sexual imagery, torture, blasphemy. Unlike traditional horror, her writing relies on explicit imagery; where a traditional horror writer would leave the disgusting details to the reader’s imagination, Cushing dwells on them, in the splatterpunk subgenre’s tradition…

If you like this sort of thing — sexual torture and mutilation, dwelling on the disgusting and profane — Cushing’s writing is powerful. But stories with no heart should come with warning labels.

Full review here.

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

 

“Shrivers” Reviewed by Jimbo’s Awesome SFF Reviews

Shrivers Kindle Cover

Shrivers Kindle Cover

This review turned up this morning. This guy gets it!:

…Have you ever missed your stop and had to do extra walking on tired feet because you couldn’t wait to see what was next? Your latest book, Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3 had me hanging on every word. It’s hard to watch out of a window to see how close I am to my stop when my nose is stuck in an e-reader.

*SIGH*

Seriously folks, this is a good one. Fans of the site (both of you) will remember that I have reviewed both of the first two books in the series, The Red Queen and Nemo’s World and enjoyed them both but this is easily the best of the three. Once again we see the fight against Big Government and a crackdown on the dirty little guy, this time on an existential level. It’s not even about a human government anymore. This one is all about the fight of humanity to survive against a force that is regulating the substrate. If you don’t know what the substrate is, it’s because you haven’t read the first two books and that is a mistake you need to fix quickly….

As a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy, one of my favorite things is an epic plot and an existential threat. Kinnison got both of those into this book in spades. The Red Queen was about a renegade group of students rebelling against oppression. That’s good stuff. Nemo’s World was about setting up a government and what to do with dangerous criminals. It was a lot of fun as well. This one is not just bigger than either, it’s bigger than both put together. The impressive part about the whole thing is really about how well Kinnison humanizes it though.

The previous cast of characters is all still here and they’re all doing their thing. Some are perhaps a bit older, wiser and more mature but things tend to work that way in real life so that’s hardly surprising. What is incredibly surprising is the inclusion of a young girl on whom the fate of the entire human race depends. Whether she is up to the challenge or not… well… read the book. I don’t do spoilers. I will say that she gets put into her position because she is a unique young lady and that the decision is not made by a human being. Humans have friends among those who would try to kill them. And that’s one of the things that I really, really enjoyed about this book.

Look, I’m okay with a cardboard villain if it fits the story. Battle: Los Angeles was a good movie that pretty much went “The bad guys are here to steal water and they’re going to kill us all to get it,” and left things at that. This book is not that way. Kinnison’s villains are every bit as much motivated as they are dangerous and they have very clear motivations that MAKE SENSE. I get the fact that alien reasoning may not always be obvious to a human mind, especially given the fact the motivations of a person from another human culture can be opaque at times. Still, the enemy, known as the First because they were the first culture to discover the substrate, is looking to perpetuate their own existence against anyone they see as a threat. New species are, to them, a threat to take up the space they need to live.  The Shrivers that Kinnison named his book after are their method of doing so.  Nuclear annihilation awaits those that aren’t unique and impressive enough.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about the ability of anyone to wipe out an enemy that has access to the substrate when I first read about it. That lasted until I had read a little further. It turns out that there is a fairly simple way to mess with a computer program (a virus) and that a society who has had access to the substrate for billions of years is better at using it than we would be. Go figure. It works here though because it’s so familiar. I had missed the possibility but the reasoning was sound and it made the story easy to follow.

This tome cooks from beginning to end. It just doesn’t let up. Problems come up and are solved just in time to set up the next round of problems… The politics of the story drift a bit in the work as well. At first it was a plucky bunch of kids rebelling against an overreaching government. Then it was those kids a few years later finding a way to turn things into a government in which everyone has a say. Those were impressive. But now things are shifting a bit. Control of the substrate is control over the future of humanity and its use is restricted to just a few people who are planning to pass that control on to their children. This has potential to lead to a government even more repressive than the one they overthrew. So far they haven’t gone down that road but the possibility to do so is certainly there. If Kinnison will steer his series away from that eventuality. If he does so it will be interesting to see how he pulls it off. So I’m waiting (im)patiently for the sequel to see what comes next.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Micro Black Holes

The first book of the series (Red Queen) is on sale for $0.99 here. The second book, Nemo’s World, is here, and Shrivers (the one Jimbo is reviewing) is here.

Or you can buy all three as a Kindle bundle for $6.97 here.

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.