Print Review: Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Tomorrow and Tomorrow
By Thomas Sweterlitsch
Putnam Adult
Hardcover, July 10, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0399167492

John Dominic Blaxton is a survivor of the terrorist’s blast that leveled Pittsburgh, by virtue of the fact that he was out-of-town at the time. These days, he spends his time visiting a VR version of the city, researching survivors’ claims for an insurance company; as well as to visit his previous life which included a wife. Things get complicated when one of his cases reveals that the victim may have been actually murdered before the blast and; on another assignment, he discovers the extent to which some will go to bury the past. This takes place in the near-future with lots of recognizable landmarks both geographically and culturally and; the technology isn’t too “far out” to be incredible either, so the story’s settings are native and accessible. The world-building is very good even if the writing is a bit more workman-like than fluid or poetic. Recommended for those who like mystery-thrillers; as well as those who like technology, but not necessarily science fiction.

07/01/2014 – I wrote the review above; but I admit that it’s pretty flat. I’ve read others’ reviews for inspiration; but from them, I’m seeing a lot of confusion between the various realities and; a different summary of the book. I wonder if I got a later draft than others did because I had no issue tracking what was happening and; there were two distinct plot lines that only later converged. Anyway, the book has some great themes about letting go, the past and the present, identity, technological saturation, and the double-edged sword that is the right of privacy (Right to Be Remembered vs Right to Be Forgotten.) Despite my less-than inspiring review, I urge people to read it now before Hollywood gets its hands on it!

OTHER: I received an Uncorrected Proof of Tomorrow and Tomorrow (by Thomas Sweterlitsch) through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

On 07/16/2014, Thomas Sweterlitsch participated in a reddit/r/books/AMA (Ask Me Anything): 

“I am scifi / cyberpunk author Thomas Sweterlitsch of TOMORROW AND TOMORROW, AMA!”

* I loved Tomorrow and Tomorrow (print) and have been recommending it to my friends who are readers of SF (natch,) of mystery, of thrillers, of lit-fic (for the struggling hero,) and for people who say they don’t like SF… Did you have any say as to how your novel would be categorized? Did you have any idea when you wrote the book what “kind” of book you were writing?

* There seemed to be at least three kinds of reality in the book: The hero’s present reality in WDC; the virtual reality in Pittsburgh; and his drug-induced reality. For all the heroin he seemed to be consuming, it didn’t seem to color his world to the extent that a reader might expect. So my question is, why choose “brown sugar” as opposed to speed/meth or acid?

* When the audiobook was cast, did you have someone in mind from the LOC [Library of Congress] audiobook crowd [Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped] originally? Did you have author approval over the narrator?

LetterSwitch/Author Tom Sweterlitsch:
Thank you–and thank you very much for spreading the word. i deeply appreciate that.

I did have author approval somewhat–or at least I was consulted. Here’s how it worked: the Penguin audio department did auditions, and one morning I opened my email and found three audio clips of actors reading a few minutes of text. I was so impressed by the reader Adam Paul and wrote not one but two emails strongly recommending he get the job…and, he did! Other people definitely had their opinions in the mix, though. If you’re an audio book fan, I highly recommend checking out his reading.

As for “brown sugar”–a friend of mine just asked about the origin of “brown sugar” and I was telling him that I wanted a drug that would have specific effects, etc., and he said he was hoping it was actual “brown sugar,” not unlike Burgess’s use of Milk in A Clockwork Orange. So–I’m stealing his answer. it’s totally just brown sugar. Brown Sugar Double Plus.

The different layers of reality was important to me–I do a similar thing in the book I’m writing now, though not w/drug use. I’m interested in Freud’s thinking about the “Uncanny” and try to play with that in my fiction quite a lot.

As for how to categorize the novel–you’re right, it can go several ways. I did not have any say over how the book would be categorized. My publisher is pitching it as broadly as possible…but I’m definitely happy it’s landing in the SF section at several stores.

I’m laughing at myself right now “Brown sugar” is just brown sugar! That certainly explains a lot! 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to do an AMA here on reddit and answering my questions!



Album Review: Ah, Via Musicom

Ah Via Musicom

Ah Via Musicom

Capitol Records, 1990 ‎(CDP 7 90517 2)

In the Fall of 1991, I was able to see Eric Johnson play at the sold-out show at the Lisner Auditorium (Washington, DC) – paying $20 for a ticket from a guy whose friend was a no-show. “The Cliffs of Dover” was the signature piece of the Ah Via Musicom tour. Listening to the music then was like listening to waves of sound cascade over you like ocean tides. There are haters who say he has no soul, no rhythm, no real skill set beyond playing scales; but being awash in that sound was amazing.

OTHER: I originally owned Ah Via Musicom in cassette form (which I most likely purchased from Tower Records in Washington, DC); but that is long gone. Today I was able to get a CD copy from CD or not CD :-). I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Dark & Stormy Summer Reading Challenge: Update #2


The thing is, with any entree or cocktail with three ingredients, all three ingredients have to be the best available. If you cheap out, the whole dish or glass is sub par at best, ruined and nasty at worst. A D&S only has three ingredients so it’s critical that all three ingredients work well together: the rum, the lime and the ginger beer. When it comes to the rum, that’s a no brainer: It’s got to be Gosling’s Black Seal Rum. As for the lime, if I can get organic, I get organic (It’s a matter of principle.) The wild card in the recipe is the ginger beer. Ideally, I would love to be able to get Gosling’s ginger beer; but unfortunately, I haven’t found any in the are where I live (though I always check.) So far, I’ve tried three different brands: The Ginger People, Bundaberg and, Fentiman’s. The Ginger People ginger Beer was okay, the Bundaberg was a bit too spicy (added to the spiciness of the rum, it was a bit too much); but the Fentiman’s seems to be the best one of the lot so far: Not too spicy and not too mild either. 🙂

As I’ve been sipping the hot summer hours away, I’ve also been reading, though not nearly as much as I had thought I would. I’ve only read one of the titles in my TBR stacks and, this is only the second update in 30 days! I will really need to pick up the pace a bit if I hope to complete my challenge!

07. The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart Mysteries, Book #1; by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser) – Sally Lockhart is a sixteen-year old orphan who is out to discover what “The Seven Blessings” are. She’s sharp enough to know that she’s in danger, brave/desperate enough to pursue her quest; and lucky so far to survive the vicissitudes of Victorian Era England. This is a thoroughly British story narrated brilliantly by Anton Lesser. The narrator’s character voices are remarkable, but not less than the straight narrative. The story is engaging and surprising, and the narrator delivers character voices expertly (One of those situations where you might not believe there’s only one narrator performing the entirety of the book!) Fast, funny and clever. YA for all ages. This is also the first book in ages that I’ve added to my Personal Pantheon of All-Time great Audiobooks  🙂

08. Love Potion #9 (by Claire Delacroix) – In 1420, a gypsy woman watches her lover hung in accordance with medieval law. At the gallows, he swears that he will return to her. In anticipation, she contrives to take an immortality potion and wait for him. Fast forward 600+ years to modern day Canada where the gypsy woman is telling fortunes in Toronto: Her new neighbor Mitch bears an uncanny resemblance to “her” Sebastian. I think this is supposed to be a romance novel but it’s really kind of a mess: Poor copy-editing, editing, writing… it’s all over the place.

09. Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (by Kate DiCamillo) – A squirrel survives a vacuuming and assumes “Superhero” qualities. Named “Ulysses” after the vacuum cleaner brand and, adopted by a little girl named Flora, the two see the world anew. The story is charming and quirky, with some cartoon panels added intermittently as short chapters. For Children Ages 8-12.

10. The Spinning Heart: A Novel (by Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell) – Set in Ireland, this is the story of a building contractor who wipes out the pension and benefits (stamps and so on) of his workers to finance a big project that went bust. Each of the 21 sections of the book are told from a different and sometimes unexpected point of view. Wayne Farrell narrated the whole of the book, nuancing each section to differentiate each character. Using one narrator for all the voices is something of an old-school approach to audiobook production; but the narrator is an amazing storyteller: The story took center stage to the effect that you forgot that it was just one narrator. The book itself was Man Booker long list title. I loved both the story and the narration. Lit-Fic.

11. Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy (by Elizabeth Kiem) – The daughter of a famous ballet dancer, Marina is an promising ballet student in her own right in 1980s USSR. One day, however, her mother, Sveta disappears; and teen-aged Marina and her father escape to the West, specifically to that part of Brooklyn that came to be known as Little Odessa. Things get complicated as the secrets of Svetla threaten Marina and her father’s lives 8,000 miles away… The story is intriguing and the plot surprising. Not bad at all… YA Spy Thriller.

12. The Snow Child (by Eowyn Ivey) – A older couple move to the Alaskan Frontier to homestead around 1918. Childless and filed with yearning, they build a snowman in the form of a little girl. The next day, the avatar seems to have become real, much like the Classic fairytale. This is a beautifully written book that captures the love and anxiety of the would-be parents as well as the wonder of the natural landscape. Lit-Fic.

13. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter series, Book #3; by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale) – Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban, the stronghold designed to imprison the worst offenders in the realms of magic; and it looks like Sirius is headed for Hogwarts where Harry is embarking on his third year! More of the story around Harry’s parents’ deaths is revealed. So far the stories are just okay. I wonder how well they hold up against The Chronicles of Narnia (and vice versa?)

Album Review: Eat to the Beat

Eat to the Beat
Eat To The Beat

Chrysalis, 1979 (CHE-1225, CHE 1225)

When I first heard about Blondie, we spoke of her in whispers that were usually reserved for talking about cancer… Blondie played in seedy dives in NYC, bleached her hair, screamed into the mic and sacrificed babies or something forbidden… I didn’t really know, but I knew she was somehow beyond the pale and that she was doing things that I would never do (The obvious hubris and eventual irony of this is not lost upon me!) Within five years of Blondie’s appearance on my musical radar however, she was pretty mainstream and she was playing large venues, making a number of TV appearances and showing up as an actress in films. But there’s still a little of the old CBGB Blondie on the Eat to the Beat album, notably in songs like “Victor.”


Dark & Stormy Summer Reading Challenge: Update

Cruddy photo taken of a beautiful sight: The Empire State building at Dusk


There are only three ingredients to a Dark & Stormy: dark rum, ginger beer and a slice of lime. It’s that simple and yet, apparently that hard. Last week, I was in a bar in NYC and I ordered a D&S. The bartender got the ginger beer and lime part right; but proceeded to pour in a jigger of white rum. It was sad. I was sad; but only for a little bit: I was busy falling love all over again with the people in the audiobook industry; The view was fantastic; and I switched to gin-and-tonics for the remainder of the evening 🙂

Sooo, last Tuesday I was on a plane and thereby missed posting what would have been the first of my weekly posts in this personal quest of mine to read fifty books this summer. I’m about ten days into my Dark & Stormy Summer Reading Challenge and two things to note: 1) So far I haven’t read any of the books from the list I posted at the beginning and 2) This is actually a weak start to the challenge –  for the most part shorts and light reading. Hopefully, I’ll have something review-worthy next week 🙂

  1. “The Yellow Wallpaper” (by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; narrated by Dawn Harvey) – A nineteenth-century short story about a woman sequestered in an attic room and who becomes increasingly obsessed with the wallpaper; An exposition in top-grade horror writing;
  2. A Wallflower Christmas (Wallflower series, Book #5; by Lisa Kleypas) – A disappointing follow-up to the Wallflower series. Fans of the series catch a glimpse into the lives of the protags of the original quartet and; bear witness to the weakly developed romance of an honorary Wallflower; Skip it and you won’t have missed anything;
  3. Painted Horses (by Malcolm Brooks) – Beautifully written novel about a young archaeologist sent out to Montana to check out an area slated for dam development; To be released August 5;
  4. Flying Saucer to the Center of Your Mind: Selected Writings of John A. Keel (by John A. Keel; narrated by Michael Hacker) – Admittedly, I’ve only listened to a little bit of this; but enough to get the ideas or the “philosophy” of Keel. I’m very much an X-Files/Twilight Zone fan which, in this context means that I’m very much open to unconventional ideas; but Keel is too much of a crackpot for my tastes; Still I may end up listening to an essay or two here and there as the summer progresses;
  5. Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds (Cam Jansen series, Book #1 by David A. Adler; narrated by Alyson Silverman) – Cam Jensen has a photographic memory which becomes useful as she witnesses a jewelry store robbery; Children’s mystery ably narrated, but nothing overall to write home about;
  6. “A Study in Emerald” (written and narrated by Neil Gaiman) – A short story set in Victorian England. This is a rather strange little mystery involving the investigation of the death of a German noble in London. I listened to this three years ago and was more than a little bemused by it then and, I can’t say that I’m anymore enlightened now. Maybe if I read some H.P. Lovecraft before I try it again?

Single Review: Free Bird b/w Searching

A couple of weeks ago, I dug out the remnants of my 45s collection and discovered I had Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” b/w “Searching.” When I originally bought it in 1976, I was disappointed because I hadn’t realized that it was a recording of a live performance (Fabulous Fox Theater, Atlanta, GA) and I really wanted the slick studio version (Give me a break, I was eleven years old!) Anyway, DH has a 45 spindle for the turntable and I put “Free Bird” on last night and… Wow. Just Wow. I’m pretty sure that I bought “Free Bird” because of some idea that the lyrics meant something to me; but now it’s all about the emotional impact that the guitar work delivered. Amazing. I played it several times and each time I was more impressed (Of course, that could also have been the rum talking, but still…)

I found the video below of Lynyrnd Skynyrd playing and debated whether or not to post it. Southern rock unabashedly included Jack Daniels, weed and waving the Confederate flag; and the latter in particular makes me uncomfortable; but I decided to post it anyway, because of it’s archival significance and, *the music.*

(FREEBIRD THE MOVIE– LYNYRD SKYNYRD –  “Free Bird” starts at the 1:22:13 mark)