I’m going to kick this thing off by quoting part of book review I did for Altered Carbon way back in 2015:
“Altered Carbon has absolutely everything you could want out of a futuristic cyber-punk, mystery thriller. A compelling lead character not so dissimilar from Han Solo, a murder mystery that’ll leave you scratching your head until the very end, action and suspense up, and then out, the wazoo, and worldbuilding of the sort you would expect in a Brandon Sanderson novel.
Simply put, if you’re a fan of cyberpunk there are three authors you really need to read: William Gibson (Neuromancer), Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash), and Richard K. Morgan (Altered Carbon). Do it now. you won’t regret it.” – Me (circa 2015)
It’s hard to overstate just how impactful Altered Carbon was to the cyberpunk genre (and to my writing in particular). I’m sad that it took me over a decade after its initial release to finally pick up a copy of Altered Carbon, but I’m thankful I didn’t actually dive between the pages until almost a year after Time Heist was released.
Had I read Altered Carbon sooner, it’s likely Time Heist would not exist in its current form. I won’t dive into that particular can of worms here, but suffice it to say, Altered Carbon is one of my all-time favorite books within the sci-fi genre.
So when Netflix announced way-back-when that they were adapting Altered Carbon to a 10 episode television series…well, I may or may not have tinkled a little with sheer unbridled excitement.
I dove into the series today and I’ve still got a couple episodes left, but I wanted to drop in and give some of my initial thoughts on the show. Let’s judge the show against the criteria I established in that 2015 review of the book for fairness sake.
Compelling Lead Character
Takeshi Kovacs is played by two actors (Joel Kinnaman and Byron Mann). We spend the majority of our time looking over Kinnaman’s shoulder (as his is the present day storyline), and for the most part he plays the physical side of Kovacs well enough. Problem is, there’s just something about Kinnaman and his delivery that feels stale and a bit boring.
Let’s just say: Kinnaman has yet to steal any scenes.
Byron Mann, by comparison, is excellent and I’ve more-or-less enjoyed every scene with him.
For me, Takeshi Kovacs is an preeminently intriguing character, but for reasons of casting, I think he doesn’t live up to his full potential in the show.
Compelling Lead Character Score: 5/10
The murder mystery in the book is quite complex. There are many moving parts and Richard K. Morgan spends the better part of 500 pages flushing it all out.
All that is to say, there’s a lot of story to cram into 10 episodes of television.
For the most part, I think the show has actually done a fantastic job weaving this intricate story-line. At times you are left scratching your head wondering who so-and-so is, and why Kovacs is pursuing that particular lead, but I don’t really blame the show for this as there is, simply put, a lot of story to cram in.
All told I think Netflix did a bang-up job staying faithful to the detective mystery angle without watering anything down, or leaving any significant portions of story on the cutting room floor for the sake of simplicity and ease of audience viewability.
Murder Mystery Score: 8/10
Action and Suspense Out the Wazoo
Simply put, yes.
The action in this show is top notch (with the exception of one awkward zero-g knife fight). I’ve yet to feel that the action was over-the-top, or gratuitous (though that’s not to suggest it isn’t graphic). There are extended torture scenes, but these are not gory for the sake of gore, but rather to highlight the depravity of this future nihilistic world.
Action and Suspense Out the Wazoo Score: Definitely Out the Wazoo
Worldbuilding On Par With Sanderson
I’m super impressed with how Netflix has crammed so much worldbuilding into only 10 episodes. Truly.
There is a staggering amount of detail there for the discerning eye, but the viewer is never smacked across the face with it in a way that feels tedious.
Seriously, the show juggles the technocratic stratification of the Altered Carbon universe superbly. Whether we’re talking about the cultural implications of immortality, the ethical implications of consensual death for entertainment, or the spiritual ramifications of a digitized soul, there’s a lot of information to consume in this show.
Thankfully, gobbling up the oodles of world building never leaves you feel bloated, nor does it deter from the underlying story (which, at its heart is a detective murder mystery).
Worldbuilding Score: One Tier Below Sanderson Level
I’ve still got two episodes left so there is still room for the show to stumble across the finish line, but so far, I’ve got to say, I’m really impressed with what Netflix was able to put together here. Kudos to them and Richard K. Morgan from bringing to life one of my all-time favorite stories, in a way that is both faithful to the original, and a marvel in its own right.
If you’re a fan of science fiction, cyberpunk, or anything I’ve ever written, I highly recommend you check out Altered Carbon on Netflix.
Have you read the book or seen the show? Get down to the comments and let me know what you thought.
It’s a little late, but you readers are a patient bunch. Actually, some of you really aren’t. You all can thank the dozen or so people who’ve been consistently harping on me to give up the ghost and share my Top 10 Books of 2017.
2017 was a down year for me in terms of reading, I only stocked 70ish books into my brain pan this year. For the sake of comparison, in 2014, 2015, and 2016 I somehow squeezed in over 120 books each year.
That’s a lot of words. I might have a problem.
In years past, I’ve given most my time and attention over to reading genre fiction (strange, I know.) This year was slightly different. I still read quite a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I also dove real hard into personal development/business/finance books.
What can I say, I’m a sucker for personal development.
Okay, so enough beating around the bush. Let’s get to it.
Doesn’t matter if you’re an aspiring author or if you’ve already developed a calloused liver, Robert McKee probably has a thing or two he can teach you about telling a story. Story primarily talks about storytelling as it pertains to screenwriting, but a good story is a good story regardless of format, and there’s a lot of amazing information to take away from this book.
This book is a deep dive into basic human motivation. What motivates you to do the things you do? The answer might surprise you. If you’re even remotely interested in human psychology, interpersonal relationships, or getting the most out of yourself, coworkers, employees, children, (or any human really), then you should definitely grab this book.
This is the go-to book on the subject of persuasion and I find it synergizes very well when read in conjunction with Drive by Daniel Pink and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. People might glance at the title of a book like this and think there’s something seedy going on, but truly, it’s not like that. This book is not so much about how you can manipulate others, but about the basic tenants of behavioral psychology that affect us all. By being cognizant of these tenants, we can be more better guarded against unscrupulous scoundrels (or just pushy salesman).
He’s a legend for a reason. Murakami writes the sort of psychadelic infused stories that make almost zero sense. Despite their near incomprehensibility, they are beautiful and majestic and somehow wonderful. Highly recommend to anybody looking to journey into the depth of their psyche and stare in the gaping maw of their own abyss. Or at least that’s how Murakami’s stories always make me feel. Your mileage may vary.
This is the most beautifully written book I read of 2017, by far. The language (despite having been translated, I believe) is phenomenal. If you enjoy historical period pieces that weave a tapestry of mystery, intrigue, and (just a smidge) of fantasy, then you’re really going to enjoy this one.
This book hits all my favorite genre buttons. A slightly future-flung noir styled detective mystery set within the confines of a gritty, cyberpunk world. This story reminds me so much of Altered Carbon, and that is never a bad thing. Admittedly, this book will not appeal to everybody, but if you’ve enjoyed any of my books (especially Time Heist or Mind Breach) you’ll probably like this one quite a lot.
Distinguishing between what qualifies as deep versus shallow work is one of the more important skills I acquired in 2017. Productivity often equates to busyness, but when you learn to sert your focus on deep work (and drown out all the meaningless shallow tasks) you’ll find yourself channeling a sort of productivity that leads directly to increased effectiveness. Highly recommend this book to anybody looking to increase the general quality of their work. I wrote a blog post on this how you can leverage the concept of deep work to increase the effectiveness of your morning routine. Check it out here: http://www.anthonyvicino.com/win-morning-win-day-create-wi…/
The long awaited, and incredibly anticipated, third volume of Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive. The world Sanderson has created throughout this series is nothing short of astonishing. This series will go down as a modern masterpiece. Truly. The depth and breadth of characters alone (not to mention the thoroughness of the crafted world) are hard to fully articulate. I’ve listened to all three books in The Stormlight Archive on audiobook and I would highly recommend to this anybody interested in consuming this series. The performance of Kate Reading and Michael Kramer deserve an award. Don’t miss out on this series.
1) The Line of Polity – Neal Asher
This is the first book I’ve read in quite sometime that made me simply sit back and go: Wow. This book is so jam packed full of interesting concepts and technology that I was taking nearly as many notes as I was reading. Now, this is not to suggest this book is perfect. It’s not. I find the characters somewhat bland, but that is more than off-set, in my eye, by the sheer vast creativity of the whole thing. Highly recommended for anybody wanting to luxuriate in future flung techno-wizardry.
Now before you boogie on out of here, Dear Reader. Do me a favor and drop down to the comments and share a couple of your favorite reads from 2017. I’m always looking to toss a bit more kindling on the TBR pile.
First off, despite wearing quite the stylish poncho, my hands are freezing. Which simply means that what follows is likely to be a minefield of typos. For those sensitive souls out there unable to so much as look at misplaced apostrophe without losing their minds, don’t say you weren’t warned.
To the meat:
It’s been a little over two weeks since Mind Breach splattered itself across the world’s collective consciousness. Book launches are an interesting, time consuming, soul-sucking affair. Most creative’s I know did not get into their craft because they cherished the idea of someday trying to hawk said craft, and yet, if you want to make any sort of living off your work, you’ve gotta buckle down and do the dirty marketing work required.
Sell, baby, sell.
Real quick, here’s the only sales pitch I’m going to give you today:
For a limited time, you can get the first two books of The Firstborn Saga (Time Heist and Mind Breach) for less than $5. I’m not going to make the obvious comparison to that being less than the price of a coffee, but…
</end sales pitch>
Anyhoo, so that’s where I’ve been recently, hawking my wares in the least visibly sleazy way possible.
Part of that involves interviews with various outlets. If you missed them, in the past week or so I stopped by the Leighgendarium for a chat with Preston. If you’re keen to find amazing new independently published authors worth your eyeball’s time, I highly recommend you check Preston out. A couple years back he opened the Leighgendarium because he loves, loves, loves independent authors. The dude’s been hustling for no other reason than for the pure joy it gives him to shine a spotlight on amazing creators.
Another interview I did with SciFi & Scary just went live this afternoon (link below). This interview was a lot of fun as Lilyn had some great questions. We dish on our favorite female characters in recent SF, bad movie adaptations, and that one time I almost named a book Time Snatch. Luckily I was talked off that ledge by literally everybody.
Click the picture to see my sick interviewee skills.
Easily the most stressful part of a book launch is waiting for the reviews to come sliding in. Thankfully, Mind Breach’s reception thus far has been overwhelmingly positive. A few of my core readers actually didn’t care for the story, but that’s okay and just serves a simple reminder that you can’t please everybody. I’m alright with that.
Especially when you’re left with gleaming nuggets like this:
“During my reading, I highlighted enough one-liners and loaded paragraphs to make me want to spend at least another couple of hours ransacking this book for themes. In a world where the truth in politics and the debates about social inequality are all the more important, it strikes a very deep chord and yet is never preachy or overtly political. It has its own brand of subtlety buried under a sea of relentless action that in a movie would perhaps take the focus, yet the book gives way to the heart beneath it.” – Tommy Muncie (Author of Shadow’s Talent)
Or like this:
“This is an easy book to read, as the writing and the word play are just so elegant, with such beautiful language and prose, each of the sentences weaving into the next to tell the tale of what is ultimately a war of good vs evil for the hearts and souls of those that live in Unity.” – Jason Pennock
These types of reviews have a way of lifting you up on matter what sort of crap-filled day you were having before. So to everybody who’s taken the time to read and review Mind Breach, Time Heist, or any other book that’s ever been written, let me just say on behalf of myself and authors everywhere: Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s hard to put into words just how much it means when you take the time to leave your thoughts on our stories.
Did you know that exactly three years ago today, Time Heist was launched out into the Universe?
Since November 15th, 2014, Time Heist has sold over 20,000 copies, hit #1 on Amazon’s Top-100 chart for Science Fiction, and been adapted into a critically accclaimed audiobook performed by none other than Adam Verner.
It’s been a whirlwind ride, but the adventure is just beginning.
In fact, as of today, three years later…The Firstborn Saga continues…
Mind Breach Has Landed!
A Mind Divided Cannot Stand
Tom Mandel is either a villain or a saint, depending on who you ask. He’s already died once in the fight for Unity. He’ll do it again if needed, but he’d rather it didn’t come to that. In the battle to come, however, he might not have much of a choice.
A mysterious imprint, grafted onto the mind of Division Agent Mika Frost, holds the key to stopping Tom Mandel and his terrorist cell, Castle. Survival means uncovering the secret hidden inside her own mind, before it’s too late. If she fails, Unity will fall. She won’t let that happen.
“Enter the world of Anthony Vicino once again as he takes us deeper into his world of science fiction, where man and machine become integrated, while man becomes the pawn of the machine he created and the mind is no longer a unique and private place to go, where deaths can be manipulated to re-birth a more perfect specimen or destroy the greatest threats.
MIND BREACH is a fascinating, if dark journey into a world in crisis, one that threatens to remove all individuality by any means. Good versus evil? Yes, but this time set in an action-packed world unlike anything you have ever known. Razor sharp tension and an atmosphere of conflicted loyalties make this non-stop visit into a bleak future an incredible continuation of the Firstborn Saga.”
A huge thanks to everybody whose taken the time to read and review either Time Heist or Mind Breach. I can’t tell you guys how much it means to me (and all authors, really) when you take time out of your busy, busy schedules to leave a quick review of our stories.
Whether it’s on Amazon, Goodreads, or graffiti’ed on the side of a urinal, reviews help. If you’ve enjoyed The Firstborn Saga up to this point, do me a favor, and consider leaving a quick words on a site of your choosing.
Now it’s time to go back into the word-mine and see what we can dig up for Soul State (the epic conclusion to The Firstborn Saga!)
Psyched to jump back into The Firstborn Saga? Help spread the word and hit that Share button below!
Are you ready to unleash a staggering amount of productivity?
What if I told you there’s a way to boost your productivity by as much as 31% and all it would take you is two minutes a day for twenty one days straight?
2 minutes/day x 21 days straight = 31% increase in productivity.
That formula sounds a little too good to be true, huh?
And to be clear, no, we’re not talking about hooking you up to a steady IV drip of caffeine. Though that might achieve the same end goal, I posit that taking caffeine via a hole poked in your arm is more tedious, and uncomfortable, than what I’ve got in store for you to today.
Then again, maybe not.
So what’s this magical trick capable of unearthing oodles of your untold potential upon the world?
It’s real simple:
Studies consistently show that your brain in a positive state is 31% more productive than your brain in a negative, neutral, or even stressed state.
That’s a staggering amount of potential productivity just waiting to be unleashed, and all it’ll cost you is a positive attitude.
What’s happiness anyways?
Here’s the real issue: Most of us these days are bad at being happy.
I know I am.
I’m always projecting forward, connecting my happiness with the completion of some task or obtainment of some key metric.
In school that was getting good grades. Later that was getting a good job.
But when your happiness is tied up in the future, in the attainment or accomplishment of something, then that means happiness is always lurking on the other side of success.
And when that is the case, our brain never truly arrives at happiness.
Because our brain cheats and constantly moves the goal-post. As soon as we arrive at the completion of a task (at success), our brain is already remodeling its expectations.
You got good grades? Great. Now get even better grades.
You wrote a book? Fantastic. Now write an even better book.
Linking success with happiness pushes both beyond our reach. It’s a carrot forever lingering just beyond our grasp.
But don’t worry (remember, your brain is less effective when operating from a negative mind-state), for this broken cycle is not a function of genetics, but rather, one of society.
Ever since we were children we’ve been trained in an environment where happiness and success and recognition were linked.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
When we unlock the means to express positivity and happiness in the present-moment, then our brains get supercharged. They are suddenly able to work harder, faster, and more intelligently.
There are two reasons for this, and it all traces back to chemistry.
Remember when I said the trick didn’t involve caffeine or performance enhancing substances?
Plot twist. Time to get out that IV.
Just kidding. About the IV, that is. Not the performance enhancing substances.
Our brain is one squishy factory of performance enhancing substances. To understand how to maximize our productivity, intelligence, and energy levels, it’s important to first grasp what’s happening inside our cranium on at least a very basic level.
Dopamine makes everything better
Most of you out there will have heard about this little chemical the brain emits. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with (among other things) reward-motivation behavior.
Rewards typically elicit a squirt of dopamine, which reinforces the behavior and makes you want to do that activity again in the future.
Drugs artificially boost dopamine production, which is why drugs (in a broad general sense) are so damn addictive.
It’s science, yo.
Science we can use to our advantage.
Dopamine has two functions when it comes to positivity and happiness.
First is the obvious function we’ve already discussed:
Dopamine simply makes you happier.
But happiness in and of itself doesn’t account for the staggering boost in cognitive capacities.
No, that comes from the second function of dopamine.
Dopamine activates the learning centers in your brain, allowing you to adapt and grow in new, exciting ways.
That’s right, those little dopamine shots don’t just make you happy, they make you more productive and able to learn.
Earlier we discussed how society has trained us to associate happiness with success, and how both are living beyond the cognitive horizon, forever beyond our grasp but for the fleeting moments immediately following obtainment.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Remember at the beginning of the article when I told you that by investing 2 minutes a day for 21 days in a row, you could boost your overall productivity by as much as 31%?
Well my patiently persistent reader, we’ve arrived at the how portion of today’s proceedings.
Here are the 3 steps to boosting your productivity/positivity
Every day for the next 21 days, I want you to:
Start your morning by writing down 3 things you are grateful for
Journal about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours
Write one positive email praising somebody in your support network, every single day
Substantially less cumbersome than an IV of caffeine trailing you all day.
Seriously, it’s that easy.
These steps boil down to reliving positive experiences and using those meditations to rewire the stimuli your brain chooses to prioritize.
This exercise programs your brain to recognize that behavior matters.
Eventually your brain starts changing the patterns it seeks out in its day-to-day interactions. It no longer searches first for the negative, but the positive.
We all have those people in our lives who are constantly negative. They look at the world through a pessimistic lens infecting everything with a cynicism and close-mindedness that, if you let it, will infect and overwhelm you.
Hell, we don’t even have to look beyond ourselves to find that person. Often we are that person.
But what we’re going to do over the course of the next 21 days is break that cycle. With intentionality we are going to focus on positive patterns in our behavior, thought processes, and interpersonal interactions.
If you stick with this course of action, you will notice a boost in your overall happiness, success, and life satisfaction.
So don’t wait, don’t put it off. Invest two minutes every single day towards your happiness.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed the article, do me a favor and share it with a friend. As an author your support means the world.