Narrator: Matthew Mercer
Published by Audible Studios on 25 July 2017
Length: 8 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Science Fiction, Science Thriller
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It's the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We've genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport - a secretive firm headquartered in New York City. Their slogan: Departure...Arrival...Delight!
Joel Byram, our smartass protagonist, is an everyday 22nd century guy. He spends his days training artificial-intelligence engines to act more human, jamming out to 1980s new wave - an extremely obscure genre - and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. Joel is pretty much an everyday guy with everyday problems - until he's accidentally duplicated while teleporting. Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.
©2017 Tal M. Klein (P)2017 Audible, Inc.
"Narrator Matthew Mercer is perfectly cast as smart-ass Joel Byram. One can almost see Joel's facial expressions as he navigates a world in which he's been duplicated in a teleportation accident. This futuristic story is made Monty Python-like by Mercer's outstanding voicings. His version of the synthesized voice of the 171-year-old founder of a religious cult is beautifully mechanical. His rendering of the two Levantine spies' accents is marvelous. And his depiction of the transformation of a hardworking science guy into full-fledged mad scientist is spot-on. Many characters, many voices - one terrific performance." (AudioFile)
Yeah, that sums up my experience with this book. I really enjoyed it. There’s tons of science-y bits, and you know how I like my science. There’s the mosquitoes that eat carbon fumes (and then pee rainwater), the personal assistant AIs, self-driving vehicles, and teleportation. Yep! The 22nd century is looking mighty fine indeed. Then in steps Joel Byram.
Joel is such a smart ass and I had a lot of fun with this character. He’s a Salter, someone who is paid to provide conundrums to AIs. Legally, benignly, salting teaches the AI. However, Joel could use his salting skills to backdoor hack an AI, which is totally illegal and our hero would never do that. Or would he? The author did a great job of showing us this job, which is totally fascinating to me, but is rather humdrum boring to Joel. There are tons of Salters and Joel makes it sound as boring as customer service.
Then there’s Joel’s fascination with 1980s music. Oh my! I had so many of those songs stuck in my head while listening to this book, especially Karma Chameleon by Culture Club. At least some, if not all, of the chapters were named after 1980s songs. I’m sure I missed some of the references. Which makes this a perfect book for a reread.
It did take me a little bit to figure out the title of the book. At one point, Joel goes over the philosophy of this 17th century British dude, John Punch along with Ockham’s Razor. It wasn’t until halfway through that I finally understood the ‘escrow’ part of the title: holding in trust. As Joel learns the true mechanism behind International Transport’s teleportation, the title becomes clear and it is a very chilling and horrifying truth indeed! Tal Klein, hats off to you. You made my blood run cold with that reveal.
OK, so I loved all the science though if you’re not into science, some of the info dumps might bore you a little. Fear not! This tale is full of action and danger and snark. Oh yes, we get plenty of snark (yay!). Joel goes to great lengths to ensure his wife Sylvia is OK. She works for International Transport on top secret classified stuff and after the Big Event, all sorts of people are either trying to kill or capture Joel and Sylvia. Joel resorts to various types of trickery, torturing people with 1980s songs, hijacking an emergency vehicle, and teaming up with questionable people. It is a wonderful roller coaster ride.
In short, this was a unique and completely engaging story. The mix of science and snark captured my brain and my heart. Klein is a talented author and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
I received a free copy of this book.
Narration: Matthew Mercer – you rocked this book! Literally, you rocked it 1980s style. Thank you for pulling out all the stops and making Punch Escrow a total delight to listen to. You were the perfect smart ass Joel and I loved the bits of song. As Joel went through his myriad of emotions, you were right there portraying them to the listeners. All together, it was a great performance.
This review first appeared on DabOfDarkness.com