{Review} THE PUNCH ESCROW by Tal M. Klein

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  More specifically, a solar storm during the teleportation of da Vinci's masterpiece was to blame. It happened on April 15, 2109. The painting was being teleported from Rome to New York City for an art exhibition when a huge flare erupted from the sun, sending something called a coronal mass ejection on  collision course for Earth. Think of it like a zit popping on the Sun's forehead, only the zit was about the size of Venus and the pus inside was an electromagnetic shit storm. Okay, that's a pretty gross visual, but now it's in your head and out of mine.

(pg. 3, US ARC edition)

“Imagine looking in the mirror and not knowing who you are. An empty face staring back. No one. We rarely think about how much air is around us until we can't breathe. We always imagine what it would be like to be someone else, but when we do so, it's with the guise that beneath it all, we know who we really are. Take that away, and who are we?


Sci-Fi is always an area that's touch and go for me. Oftentimes, it stretches my mind to the point where I feel dumb because I'm not good enough at math/science to understand the concepts making up the book's core. Thankfully, in Tal. M. Klein's debut novel THE PUNCH ESCROW, the science is broken down in a way that anyone can understand. And you never feel stupid about it, either. The main character, Joel Byram, assumes that his account is being read way in the future and makes little annotations at times explaining what he believes will likely be archaic technology to readers of his journey. Luckily for us, this method also explains "futuristic" technology to us, without feeling like we're being talked down to or that the world is being over-explained. The method works really well and feels very naturally included.

Taking place in 2147, humans have achieved the ability to teleport from place to place. But there's more behind the science of teleportation than what meets the eye, and when Joel inadvertently discovers the secret that International Transport is hiding, his entire livelihood is at stake. An act of terrorism results in Joel accidentally being duplicated while attempting to teleport to Costa Rica for his second honeymoon, and his wife knows way more about what's going on than he ever dreamed possible. Now it's a game of survival, and with the world's largest corporation gunning to bring him down, Joel will need to stay ahead of the game and outwit everyone.

Honestly, it's hard to give any sort of summary without spoilers. There's just so much going on, and so many secrets unfurling as you read. It's got edge-of-your-seat adventure. It explores the ramifications when humans play God and go beyond their means. It brings the future to the tips of our fingers. 

I initially picked this one up because it's repeatedly being comped to Ernest Cline's READY PLAYER ONE. So far, my favorite book of 2017 is WARCROSS by Marie Lu, which also comps to READY PLAYER ONE. So yes, of course I wanted to read this! The summary also reminded me a bit of a Hugh Jackman movie, The Prestige, which intrigued me. I was also fascinated by the fact that the book is being published by Inkshares, the first book to come from the Geek & Sundry imprint after being awarded the Inkshares Geek & Sundry Hard Science Fiction Publishing Contest. The company was created by actress Felicia Day, so this additional element to THE PUNCH ESCROW made me want to get my hands on this book ASAP! Plus, there was an intense bidding war over movie rights, which went to Lionsgate. It just has so much going for it, you know?

Even if you're not a fan of hard science fiction (Goodness knows I'm not!), the book is thankfully still accessible and easy to get lost in. I especially loved the voice of Joel. He has all of these great asides that are really engaging and really help readers root for him. I also find humor in the way he refers to his accidental duplicate as Joel2  throughout the book. At first I thought it might be distracting, but it was so quirky and I really liked it! I can see why THE PUNCH ESCROW is already getting a lot of buzz and think it definitely has the potential to be a BIG DEAL as it hits bookstores everywhere this week.

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: ( Allusions to sex, but nothing shown )
Language: ( Cursing, including f-bombs )
Violence: ( Death during escape from a kidnapping situation; nothing overly explicit )
Other: --
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I like how this cover makes sense once you begin reading the book and see what the image is supposed to be! It's really clever, and I'm glad they found a way to bring a piece of this world and its technology to the book's cover!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Tal M. Klein
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Inkshares / Geek & Sundry
Received: For Review


"An alt-futuristic hard-science thriller with twists and turns you'll never see coming. I couldn't put it down." -Felicia Day, founder of Geek & Sundry 

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 twenty-fifth century guy. He spends his days training artificial intelligence engines to act more human, jamming out to 1980's 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.