What I’m Writing in Spring 2017

It may not feel like it, but spring is here! What are your plans?

Here’s what I’m up to.  I’m writing a comedy screenplay about a spokesman for a dystopian government. I call it Utopia PR. I’ve got the plot outlined and have written about 35 pages. That means I’m about a third of the way through (think of each screenplay page like a minute of a movie). I’m hoping to finish the script over the next couple months and enter it into a contest or two. It’s been a lot of fun to let loose and have a laugh, especially given the current state of the world.

As for my third novel, The Wanderer and the New West, I’m afraid there’s not a lot new to say. The search for a literary agent continues. I’ve received definite interest but I’m waiting to hear more. I really can’t wait to get the book into your hands! I’m hoping to decide in the next few months whether to take matters into my own hands and self-publish, as I did with my previous novels.

Speaking of which, happy to report that sales have been up on We, The Watched and Divided We Fall, especially since the presidential election! Seems that ads about dystopian governments are getting clicks these days. You may have seen that sales of George Orwell’s 1984 are way up, too, so maybe my books are getting some kind of Orwellian bump. Thanks, George!

George Orwell, presumably giving We, The Watch free advertising.
George Orwell, presumably giving We, The Watched free advertising. Photo Credit: BBC

Adam Bender reviews… Comics!

Reading comics is one hobby that’s stayed with me since childhood. A new crop of writers and artists are keeping the genre fresh and telling smart stories that even mature readers can love.

Here’s some of my recent Goodreads reviews, reprinted for your bloggy enjoyment. Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions on what I should read next!

Batman, Volume 1: I Am GothamBatman, Volume 1: I Am Gotham by Tom King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After the great Snyder / Capullo run, I was skeptical of a fresh creative crew coming on board, but the new team of King and Finch really works! It’s a bit of a slow start with the initial “Rebirth” comic (which happens to be co-written by Snyder), but I raced through Batman #1-6, enjoying every minute.

King packs in the action without losing the intelligence of a good Batman comic. And whereas I felt Snyder sometimes gets a little excessive with trying to be epic, King’s narrative approach feels a little leaner and more streamlined. Finch’s art is also exceptional — it just has a real classic feel with action that’s easy to follow.

I also loved King’s superb work on The Vision, so I’m excited to find out where he takes Batman next!

Speaking of King’s Marvel Comics series…


The Vision, Volume 2: Little Better than a BeastThe Vision, Volume 2: Little Better than a Beast by Tom King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, Tom King knocks it out of the park again in the second half of his Vision story. This book’s got everything — a clever premise, memorable characters, beautiful art, robots with feelings… If you like sci-fi, even if you don’t necessarily consider yourself a comics fan — you owe it to yourself to read this book. King is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers in comics today.

No need to have any background on The Vision, though you’ll definitely want to start with The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man. Maybe watch the second Avengers movie if you want a quick take on his origin, but not necessary.


Superman: American AlienSuperman: American Alien by Max Landis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fresh spin on Superman, this mini-series captures what it’s like to grow up feeling like an alien. It gives the Kryptonian a humanness that often gets left out of stories about the Man of Steel. The artwork varies in style with the tone of the story, showcasing some of the best artists in comics today.

The hardcover edition is beautifully presented with vivid colors and interesting extras showing original sketches and layouts. One complaint with that edition, however, is that occasionally part of the image and even text gets caught in the fold due to the way the pages are bound together.


Descender, Volume Three: SingularitiesDescender, Volume Three: Singularities by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Volume 3 loses some of the momentum of previous books, with each issue focusing on flashbacks to flesh out the backgrounds of various characters. These characters needed more fleshing out, so it’s good to get to know more about them. Also, the issues about the robots characters are particularly clever. But like season two of Lost — when it took many episodes to resolve a single, short event — this book doesn’t do much to resolve the cliffhangers from Volume 2.

Of course, it’s hard to nitpick a book that looks this good. Nguyen’s watercolors shine once more, transporting the reader to a fully envisioned sci-fi universe. And Lemire continues to do a great job mixing action, humor and the bittersweet.

Just don’t come into this one expecting much progression of the main plot.


Well that’s all for today! Follow me on Goodreads to keep tabs on what I’m reading!

Books about war, writing and rapture — reviewed

What, you think writers are just writing all the time? No, we read, too! And, you know … have a life outside of books … but that’s not the point I was getting at.

If you like my novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall, you’ll really dig my first two selections — The Leftovers and Homage to Catalonia. The latter is actually a journalistic account by the great George Orwell about his true experiences during the Spanish Civil War. My third pick, City of Thieves, is another war story — this one about the siege of Leningrad during World War II — but what makes it clever is that it’s also a coming of age story. Finally, for the writers out there, I’ve reviewed Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, a huge influence and inspiration for me.

And now, without further adieu….

Adam’s Book Reviews

The LeftoversThe Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love stories that start with a fantastical or sci-fi premise and then take a realistic look at what would happen in the real world. That’s exactly what happens in The Leftovers. There is a rapture, but a seemingly random one with nothing to do with religion, and we see what the people in a suburban community do next.

If you’re expecting a grand sci-fi plot with an explanation for what happened, this book’s not for you. It’s more about the people and how they deal with losing people they loved. While that might sound sad, there’s actually a lot of humor that comes from the absurdity of the situation and the way people have responded.

Perrotta’s clear, humorous writing style adds to the fun. It’s effortless to read and hard to put down.

 

Homage to CataloniaHomage to Catalonia by George Orwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did you know George Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War? Like a lot of people, I only really knew Orwell for 1984 and Animal Farm. Reading this account of the author’s experience fighting Franco and fascism offers great context for other works while also illuminating all the confusion and propaganda from this 20th Century war. Orwell writes in an accessible way, effectively conveying his own outrage at the events of the war but also his fondness for the Spaniards. Worth a read for all Orwell fans and war history buffs.

 

City of ThievesCity of Thieves by David Benioff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A coming of age set during the siege of Leningrad, City of Thieves deftly mixes humor, teen angst and the horrors of World War II. The prose moves along briskly, making for a quick read that never drags. It’s also a true story, making the tale all the more poignant.

I also really liked the characters and felt emotionally involved with their highs and lows. The descriptions of the dead and the desperate are tragic, and the brutal actions of the Nazis are truly horrifying.

Looking forward to reading more by this exciting new author.

 

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on CreativityZen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This excellent collection of essays about writing by the great Ray Bradbury should be essential reading for any writer. This book is not about grammar or stylistic techniques. It is about finding focus and setting the right conditions to allow the writer inside to come out and show what he or she is made of!

The final essay, for which the book is named, is worth the price of admission alone. Bradbury makes the case for writers to stop thinking about commercial or critical success. Instead, he argues that writers should relax and write honestly.

There are also a few essays that give insights to Bradbury’s most famous novels, including Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. These I had read before, as they were included as forewords in those novels. Even so, it’s nice to have them in a single collection.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I should get back to my writing!

View all my latest book reviews on Goodreads!

Noir, cowboys and asteroids: What I’m reading

Not sure if you knew this, but I regularly review books on Goodreads. I have an author profile there as well, so please follow! Anyway, thought I’d share a few of my latest reviews.

Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

I love the premise of this series. An asteroid is about to crash into Earth, destroying everyone… but Detective Henry Palace wants to keep on solving ordinary murders and missing person cases.

In the end, you get a compelling mystery that would work as a novel in its own right, surrounded by an equally gripping per-apocalyptic atmosphere, all injected with a healthy dose of conspiracy theory!

Countdown City reminded me what I loved about The Last Policeman (the first entry in the series), and I think Winters’ writing is even stronger in this second book. Looking forward to the next one!

Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard

I loved how compact and straightforward this Western was. It’s got everything you want for the genre–a character seeking justice, a power-mad cowboy, gunfights and chases through the desert.

My only complaint is that the love story is a bit thin and not so compelling.

Overall, this is a blast and a good choice if you’re just getting into the genre.

Scene of the Crime by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark and Sean Phillips

A gritty crime/noir from one of the best crime writers in comics. Ed Brubaker writes an interesting mystery and the memorable characters here really bring it to life. The people in this story feel human thanks to their flaws, baggage and, yes, senses of humor.

Also loved the art by Michael Lark — that guy knows how to draw a vintage car, man.

The deluxe hardback is a real treat. The printing really makes the artwork pop and I appreciated the behind-the-scenes look on how this story came together.

Greenwald takes NSA to task in surveillance book

No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald

It’s easy to feel a bit of information overload when you first learn about an information leak revealing that the NSA has spied on regular American citizens and that major Internet companies like Microsoft and Facebook have helped them do it.

Glenn Greenwald is the reporter who read through countless documents provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and wrote the first news articles bringing that information to the public’s attention.

Now, with his excellent book No Place to Hide, Greenwald offers an insightful and comprehensive discussion of the controversial documents. Greenwald clearly lays out the most significant revelations and why they matter to everyday people.

The first part reads like a spy novel, grabbing the reader from the first page with an exciting account of how Snowden first contacted Greenwald, their secret meeting in Hong Kong, and the ensuing behind-the-scenes drama to get the information into the newspapers. While some have criticized the Snowden leak as threatening national security, the book highlights the care and scrutiny with which Greenwald and his collaborator Laura Poitras handled the classified documents, seeking to shine light without putting anyone’s lives in danger.

The next two sections contain less narrative, spending more time explaining the most significant revelations and why surveillance is harmful to society. While they don’t read quite as fast as the thrilling opening, these parts are great for anyone who had trouble keeping up with the Snowden leaks and what they meant.

Greenwald closes with a critical and thought-provoking discussion of the American media and what he perceives as journalists’ growing sympathy to the government. In Greenwald’s view, journalism has lost its investigative edge, giving too much power to the government to decide what information is published — and perhaps more critically — what information is not.

As a journalist, I found this section fascinating. While it paints a dismal picture of corporate media, the book’s existence provides optimism for the rise of independent journalists to maintain the mantle of the Fourth Estate.

Adam Bender is a tech journalist and the author of two dystopian novels about government surveillance. You can find his books WE, THE WATCHED and DIVIDED WE FALL at most major online bookstores.