Book Review: Reset by Sarina Dahlan

Reset by Sarina Dahlan

Can you love someone you don't remember?

This book came to me courtesy NetGalley and is one of the most thought-provoking stories I’ve read in years. For the first time in forever, I was forced to slow down my usual break-neck pace through the pages. There were sentences that were so impactful, so profound, I had to savor them. Think about their implications. Consider the ramifications. It took me three days of profound enjoyment to reach the end.

The book was amazing.

And its ending left me in a glow that hasn’t left me in the past week.

In general, I love authors who play with human perception of time and connection with others. This book combined that with lyricism and philosophical passages that had old Beatles tunes haunting my brain and made me ponder how different individuals might conceive of and implement a utopia. And what they would force the populations of these idyllic locations to give up.

As someone who treasures my dreaming capacity, a passage like this one gave me shivers of horror:

By some reason that Metis doubts was Bodie’s will, he underwent the Dreamcatcher treatment. All Dreamers know the consequence of dream erasure. Once erased, the memories attached to those dreams are gone. They will no longer resurface.

from “Reset” by Sarina Dahlan

And the creeping gap of missing memories–even when driven by so noble a goal as peace in a post-apocalyptic world–makes the humans operating within them not much more than empty puppets:

“I don’t deny that Tabula Rasa was created out of a desire for peace. But anything that takes away choice eats away at our soul. Without our memories, we are but empty vessels waiting to be filled and drained at each cycle. Love, the most vital of human needs, cannot exist fully outside the garden of memories.”

from “Reset” by Sarina Dahlan

The story was an elegant and unique love story on many levels, crossed with a philosophical treatise on what it takes to live harmoniously, combined with a classic sci-fi exploration of the ethics of using advanced technology. The world-building allowed for a full exploration of each of these components within a richly imagined environment–down to the vaguely salty after-taste of water reclaimed through desalination for use in a manufactured desert oasis.

I’ve already started passing out the title and Amazon links to my friends and colleagues, because this book deserves discussion and sharing, whether or not your normal tastes run to sci-fi or even romance. I’d never heard of this author prior to reading this book, and from her Goodreads profile, it appears this might be her first novel, but based on the excellence of its execution, her next book will be an automatic purchase for me.

That’s It?

Never regret a day in your life: Good days give happiness, bad days give experience, worst days give lessons, and best days give memories.

The release of Team TaoRuti marked the completion of my 12th book, as well as my 13th release. It’s the second book in an SFR series, my first new (story) release in nearly two years, and reflected a decent amount of the collective trauma we’ve lived through in Our Year of COVID. It was hard to finish. And, as with most of my other releases, landed with minimal fanfare and a small number of sales.

Completing a story always comes as a bit of a let-down; it’s a big enough milestone to invite a pause and an evaluation of what I’m getting out of putting myself through all this stress and effort.

For me, it always comes back to: I love stories and the creative process. Being open to the world around me. And I’m enough of a Gen Xer to want to do my own thing for my own reasons, so this mode of self-expression suits my spiritual/emotional needs. But there’s an echo to the burnout reported in The Passion Paradox. Obviously writing as an independent author gives me extreme autonomy. And I can see the improvement in my writing skills book over book. But for as many positive reviews as my books have gotten, I’ve never gotten fanmail from a stranger or any sense that there is a community of readers out there who would be upset if I just stopped publishing. It feels, at the end of the publishing process, profoundly exhausting to have invested huge amounts of time and effort for so little return.

According to the IRS, my writing remains a very expensive hobby.

Interestingly, research points to specific activities that help people recover from burn-out – primarily centered on self-care. And spending time with hubs, my very best friend, who understands implicitly the cycle of ups and down that come with creative production. (Interestingly, there were points made in that first article that are repeated in a second about signs of a happy marriage. Considering that earlier this year we celebrated our 23rd anniversary, I can’t argue the correlation. 🙂 )

So I’ve gone back to my primary self-care mode and read. I’m ahead of my Goodreads goal for the year for now again, and the two most recent books have reignited my story in me. The first I got as an eARC from Netgalley, so you’ll be seeing a review about it in the next week – a profound mix of philosophy and scifi that deserves every accolade it will undoubtedly accrue. The second was randomly listed as a freebie on one of the many book-promoting email listservs I subscribe to. It’s a mash-up of historical fiction, urban fantasy, cozy mystery tinged slightly darker than that genre generally expects, and just enough of a slow-burn romance to seriously pique my interest. And it’s the first of a 10-book series. Totally my jam.

The funny thing about reading really good books – for me, anyway – is that last night I figured out how to start book 3 of my Planet Seekers trilogy. The subtext of the series is a reflection on things I’ve experienced in my career… held at the arm’s length of a post-apocalyptic scifi story. There’s definitely more water in that well, so we’ll kick off book three with the fun of a jargon-filled, pointless meeting.

So. That’s not it, after all. I’ll keep writing and publishing. And if you have any interest in reading my books for the purpose of reviewing them, contact me for a free eARC.

Release Day: Planet Seekers – Team TaoRuti

Planet Seekers: Team TaoRuti by Tonya Cannariato

After a mad dash to complete edits in time for this book to participate in another Totally Talented Review Roundup event, the buy links are starting to trickle in. So far Planet Seekers – Team TaoRuti is available at Amazon, B&N, Apple, Scribd, and Kobo. I’m keeping the book’s page on this blog up to date as new links roll in.

For the duration of the RR event, (until April 2) both books in the series will be almost half price, so enjoy the continuing saga of Dr. Marina Spitzer while you can still save a few bucks.

Going home is never easy, especially when you have uncontrolled new powers and an impossible mission assigned by a snarky planet.

A week ago, they were catapulting through space. Five days ago, they discovered the beauty of TaoRuti Three, answering the prayers of a beleaguered Earth. Three days ago, TR3 shoved them through an interplanetary wormhole to insure no further planetary rapists were deployed.

To say that Drs. Marina Spitzer and Leonardo Federici are under the gun might be an understatement.

Adding to the mess, they need to discover why Phoenix, Inc. has erased all record of their team’s triumphant departure a mere few years ago, and how a mysterious shadow cabal has gained overwhelming political power back on Earth. And there’s the uncomfortable, unstated deadline from the sentient planet TaoRuti Three hanging over their heads.

They both saw how deadly she was when she didn’t like what she was seeing, so the clock is ticking. Assistance from any corner would be helpful. Or would it?

Watch this space for upcoming announcements regarding print and audiobook versions of this story.

Anniversary and Completion

Yes, there really are Perfect Matches.
Quote from Zen 2 Zany on top of a sepia-toned picture of a romantically dressed couple holding a great horned owl.

This week hubs and I celebrate 23 years of marriage, so it is fitting that I should run across an article describing six distinct types of love. And I finally finished writing book two of my Planet Seekers series. Now that I’ve finished reading it to hubs, and have guidance on a final few missing scenes, it’ll go to my trusty editor, Liana, which means I’m starting to consider a marketing plan for it.

My first idea is to proceed with creating audiobook versions for both of the Planet Seekers books. Apart from that, we’re looking into setting up interviews with long-form talk radio hosts hubs has become friendly with. It will be interesting to see whether these new approaches will garner any new readers.

Of course, we’re also still laboring under the constrictions of COVID-driven lock-down. It occurred to me yesterday, that likely part of the reason I’ve embraced these restrictions so whole-heartedly was because of my university experience studying monasticism, which culminated with a week-long stay behind the walls of Abbaye Sainte-Marie de Maumont. Living within those strictures was one of the happiest times of my life. With all the assurance of a 20-year-old, as enticing as becoming a contemplative was, I decided then that that would be the “easy path” for me. It seems I was not wrong.

But more and more outlets are writing of the toll lock-down is taking on people’s mental health. Managers are being given tips on how to support their teams in beating WFH burnout. I even read about the seven types of rest people require, and about the simple Dutch cure for stress.

I, on the other hand, have embraced my inner night owl. I’m happy with the distinct phases of my day: work, eating, canine care, creativity, sleep. There is order for me, and much less stress, even as my responsibilities on the work front continue to tick up. The real challenge for me will be to face a return to full-time work at the office.

Given current conditions, that is still at a minimum, months away. But as a neighbor and friend gets ready to sell their house and take retirement, I look down the barrel of twenty more years of a day job career and wonder how that will play out. Which puts an interesting spin on the experiment Amsterdam is conducting with its economy in the wake of COVID restrictions. And then, in a different call-back to the study a few years back documenting the importance of luck in gaining “success” in a system, there was a fascinating case made for the mathematical reason not to blame people for their misfortunes.

The notion of time also got scrambled scientifically in the past few years by Carlo Rovelli, who points out the quantum implications of the relationship between time and gravity–and hints that our human insistence on a linear description of experience might be more wrong-headed than we’d imagined. Similarly, Einstein’s theory about general relativity was recently strengthened by observations of the collision of two neutron stars in 2017.

Which all boils down to say the universe is stranger than we’d imagined, and our place in it more fluid. Comforting thoughts as I come up on the quarter-century anniversary of meeting hubs and the half-century marker since my birth later this year. “Chance” has had quite a bit of say in my life, and I’ve learned enough not to say “never” again, so I’m excited about the opportunity I’ve been granted to continue to spin fictional tales. It still remains to be seen which one I pursue next, but for now I’m in the more mechanical phase of error correction and fleshing out before I start with an exploration of producing audio content. Stay well, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Book Review: Big Bad Wolf by Suleikha Snyder

Big Bad Wolf by Suleikha Snyder

For my first review for 2021, I have the honor of introducing you to Suleikha Snyder’s version of a genre mash-up with her latest book, Big Bad Wolf. It’s scheduled for release on January 26, so you have fewer than three weeks to build your appetite for the start to a bold, new series. I gained early access to it via my NetGalley account and am happy to say it has earned my gushing review.

The action kicks off in police procedural style with lawyers visiting an inmate who has admitted his guilt in the killing of six people. Members of a Russian drug ring, as it turns out, which is one reason why these lawyers have agreed to take the case–after all these were bad guys who deserved to die, even if vigilantism is frowned upon. The other reason is that the male protagonist has altered DNA. The female protagonist is the junior associate of the three, and one of the POV characters. And you get a clear sense of her perspective and insight right at the end of the first paragraph:

Joe Peluso was the monster in the closet, the creature you were warned about in fairy tales…and still, somehow, not the scariest white man Neha had encountered while doing her job. What passed for humanity these days terrified her far more than the things that went bump in the night.

“Big Bad Wolf,” by Suleikha Snyder

With all that information packed in just the first paragraph, Snyder sets the scene efficiently and lets you know you, as the reader, are in for a non-stop ride. I loved every minute of it and stayed up deep into the night to finish it in one sitting.

The police procedural vibe develops into a shoot-em-up situation, so the two protagonists end up on the run together. Naturally, there’s an “only one bed” situation in their safe house, so the illicit romance that has been building over the early chapters deepens.

As the reader is introduced to more of the behind-the-scenes team working to fight the Russian mobsters and capitalize on the supernatural DNA they’ve either been born with or given, the scope of the story takes on overtones of a psychological thriller and secret superhero story.

Snyder’s writing packs a punch, and her commentary on a closely parallel world that has shifters seeking some kind of acceptance in a deeply polarized society easily reads as allegorical.

In fact, it wasn’t until I got to the end of the book that I realized this is the first book in a planned series–which only increased my excitement. I loved how only minor tweaks (authority-controlled drones police the streets) added a semi-futuristic/scifi sensibility to the story (I mean… there’s sophisticated gene editing happening in secret military installations to create these shifters, and they can be “chipped and snipped” at the end of their tour of duty so they neither shift nor procreate, so as far as I know, this really is scifi…), but the everyday person’s experience in the books would be easily recognizable to members of today’s society. And the incorporation of small cultural details–about Desi aunties who have a better network of connections than the CIA, and about the distinctions between Sikh and Hindu practices–both honor the author’s lived experiences, and educate the non-Desi reader … while enriching the overall story.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good shifter romance, but is tired of the same white girl perspective. Or just really wants to expand their understanding of what a kick-ass heroine (who doesn’t know what to do with a gun other than point it when she’s given one) can look like. This book is smart in all the best ways and I’m very much looking forward to the follow-on installments that are already in the works.

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