Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Review: Centricity


Book Overview

The world already ended once. Now it's up to an outgunned negotiator, a disavowed spy, and an immersion-addicted hacker to stop it from happening again.

Centuries after the Fold, civilization is fragile. In the megacity of Naion, people live stacked in arcologies, most never going outside because the air is another enemy. Instead, freedom comes from technology: bodytechs modify the human form while synthetic intelligences whisper through brainware.

Now a new bridge between man and machine has emerged, one that could destroy humanity’s second shot at survival—or save it, depending on who gets to it first....

Adasha Denali is one of the government’s best dispute resolution specialists, but when a scandal threatens to destabilize the city and end her career, she’ll need more than words to escape the fallout. Venturing out of her office and into a fight for the future, she’ll team up with a disavowed spy, learning the hard way that betrayal wears many faces, and one of them may be her own.

Neon Nik is an immersion-addicted IT freelancer struggling to pay off debts to circling loan sharks. Threats of dismemberment become the least of his problems when a surprise inheritance throws him into a vortex of corporate kill squads willing to burn the city down to find him.

Engineered spies, high-tech mercenaries, and immersion hackers collide in this first gripping instalment of the Centricity Cycle.


CENTRICITY by Nathaniel Henderson: supercharged spy-fi that delivers a real tango in your temple!

CENTRICITY is an immersive and atmospheric novel that blends sci-fi, espionage and thriller elements. Henderson’s world-building is particularly impressive, providing vivid descriptions of a society coping with unchecked exponential technological growth and rampant global environmental deterioration. His masterful wordcraft adds an authenticity to how life would feel in a future world where augmented reality technology is omnipotent.

The action is based in the city-sphere of ’Naion’, a self-sustaining arcology protected from an environmentally damaged Earth. Humans possess immersive technology, ‘synts’, a brain-machine interface linked to the ‘Nebula’ file system, heightening their capacity to investigate, interrogate or flee.

Characters are thrust into a complex narrative that make for a challenging read. The dialogue, often amusing and witty, offsets the evocative technical discourse on Naion’s vanguard technology. There's action too, in the fight and flee scenes, described in exquisite detail and incorporating a heady mix of the senses - taste, touch, sight, sound and synt. This is a necessarily long novel as the main characters, Nik, Adasha, Voros and Rown methodically untangle the facts and sift through multi-layered leads. 

In short, CENTRICITY has something for everyone. 

It's by no means an easy read as the author develops multiple plot lines and multiple POVs in a world of spies and their unwitting targets. For me, this made for a rewarding experience, although a more comprehensive index of characters and organisations than the one offered would have assisted.

I strongly recommend this engrossing dystopian tale of the future. Readers of cyberpunk novels such as Gibson’s Neuromancer should thoroughly enjoy CENTRICITY. 5 Stars


NIK SMILED AND the building smiled back, its fa├žade all black teeth angles and white gum signage held together with cables and fat tendrils of epoxy. Poetry curled along the bulging geometry, hand-painted in dead Persian. He’d never bothered to have his software translate it. In an age of information bloat, ignorance was a proactive sport. 

Above the entryway a single word blazed: HALE.

Two store fronts down, a woman rested against the shell of a mutilated cleaning bot. The glow of her cig warmed her blank expression. Another silhouetted figure pissed into a gap between buildings. 

Hands in his pockets, Nik rolled his too small shoulders in his too big jacket. Soft with age, the leather made no sound. Canopy environmental systems kept temperatures chilly or warm but never quite comfortable. He coughed and thought about clearing his throat onto the sidewalk, decided not to—didn’t want to waste the residue of his last Cinnamon Fire—and crossed the street to Hale. Underfoot, a trampled stew of discard formed the menu of some future archaeological buffet.

The air inside hinted at decomposing animals in heating ducts. Ironic, considering this was the Canopy’s premier breather bar, where patrons sucked down spiked air cocktails.

About the Author

Nathaniel Henderson was born in 1983 in Albuquerque, NM, USA. At a young age he moved to Tulsa, OK, where he spent the next fifteen or so years surviving adolescence. After graduating from high school, he packed it up and headed out west to the picturesque Santa Cruz, CA to attend UCSC.  After a year of wrestling with computer science, he transferred to San Francisco to study computer animation and special effects. The career didn’t stick, and he set off to teach English in South Korea, Thailand, and finally Tokyo, Japan, where he currently resides. 

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Nathaniel Henderson will be awarding a $40 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC  to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Monday, October 5, 2020

Review: Neurogarden


Book Overview

Where can you run when there is no place to hide?

Brenna Patrick is a brilliant technologist specializing in neural-cognitive functions and AI. She has cracked the code to solve one of the most troublesome problems in the field, and turned that into the multi-billion dollar NeuralTech Corporation.

Working quietly with the U.S. Department of Defense, NeuralTech is poised to leapfrog the competition with a revolutionary system for tracking people, starting with the world’s most wanted terrorists. But there are only so many terrorists in the world, so who’s next?

When a pair of Columbia graduate students, Jenny and Leo, stumble on the dark secret of NeuralTech’s success, it kicks off a tense game of cat and mouse. As they fight to defeat the powerful forces arrayed against them, nothing less than the fate of humanity hangs in the balance…

NEUROGARDEN is a roller-coaster ride of a thriller, one that will have readers pondering the nature of memory, and of reality, long after they've read the last page.

Author  Bio and Links:

Ever since reading Douglas Adams back in my formative years, I have had an interesting relationship with humor, science fiction, and technology. My first computer was a TI-99/4A, so yeah, I’m old, but only until scientists have cracked the code on transplanting our brains into shiny new vessels.

My body may be showing signs of wear, but I’m keeping my brain tight.

When I am not dreaming of far off worlds and writing, I am living a semi-normal life working in New York City, and watching movies with my wife and her spastic cat, Moss.

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In Conversation with Bryon Vaughn

What are you passionate about these days?

Aside from my current obsession with writing, I am working on finishing up my masters degree at Columbia in strategic communication and that has become my new passion. I have an unnatural affinity for data analytics, finding patterns and telling stories with information. When I find a hidden nugget of insight in a 20MB dataset that nobody else has noticed it is intoxicating. Like I said above, nerd.

If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have gone straight to self-publishing early on. As a data researcher, I looked at all the numbers and despite the strong case for taking the indie route, I held on to the traditional publishing model as the best approach. In my early years, it was difficult to break through using traditional methods, and honestly pushed me away from doing what I loved. Now that I am in a place where I have gotten my groove back, I’m confident that my work will find its audience, and if not then that’s on me.

Ebook or print? And why?

I love a printed book. I have many bookshelves in my apartment, and despite the fact that all of my books fill over 30 boxes every time we move to another apartment, there is no way I’m leaving them behind. That said, I will release my books in whatever format people want to buy. The feel of a book in my hand is satisfying in a fetishistic way, but the words are what matters, so to each their own. But give me something I can stick on a shelf and show off to my friends any day.

What is your favorite scene in this book?

I don’t want to give away too much, but my favorite scene is one between the heroine, Jenny, and the antagonist, Brenna. It takes place in the mind of Brenna, and folds in on itself with an earlier event that makes it an interesting look into reality and memory, and the blurry line between awareness and the sub-conscious. We get to know these two characters in a way that is nearly impossible in the context of our own traditional perception. All that, and it’s hot.


Neurogarden, Bryon Vaughn’s imaginative debut novel, delves into the possible future of AI technology. The theme is a familiar one: corporate impulse to exploit profit and power no matter how questionable the technology versus those who see the moral disadvantage. It reminds me a little of Neuromancer, but with less tech and more of the thriller element. 

The CEO of NeuralTech Corporation, Brenna Patrick, has developed the world’s most powerful and accurate facial recognition system. Unsurprisingly, it has attracted the collaborative funding of the Department of Defense, but there are illegal company secrets being withheld from the public.

The antagonist, Brenna Patrick possesses a ruthless ambition and superior intelligence that drives her to succeed no matter the cost, both to herself or those who dare to cross her path. A perfectionist at heart in all things, Brenna possesses a narcissistic streak that ultimately leads to her downfall.

The protagonist, Jenny Marcado, loyally supported by her grad student friend, Leo Marino, inadvertently fall into Brenna’s dark web whilst innocently pitching their business acumen to NeuralTech. Jenny’s presentation fearlessly speaks the truth to power impressing Brenna and sparking an interest between them that extends beyond professional competence. A fatal attraction develops.

Jenny and Leo are drawn ever deeper into Brenna’s shadowy corporate web, leading to a thrilling cat and mouse game between those who wish to expose NeuralTech’s secrets and those who want to protect them.

I enjoy the new wave of tech science fiction, exploring the impact of new technology on society. Vaughn’s take on ‘The Garden’ was an interesting and imaginative journey. It took some time to reach the action as it introduced character back stories, at times unnecessarily slowing the pace. That said, the second half of the book quickly gathers momentum. Vaughn’s atmospheric prose soars when it reaches the beating heart of NeuralTech’s technology, ‘The Garden’. The imaginative dreamlike experience is effectively counterbalanced with thriller elements, making for an entertaining and thought-provoking story.

Fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and Philip K Dick’s Minority Report should enjoy Neurogarden. 4 Stars