Travel By Bullet by John Scalzi, Narrated by Zachary Quinto

Travel By Bullet returns fans to John Scalzi’s The Dispatcher series following a pandemic that isn’t altogether too dissimilar to the one we’ve experienced in the real world. Unlike the real world, Tony Valdez and other dispatchers like him have had more work than they can handle, as grieving families insist on postponing the inevitable for loved ones hooked up to machines. Unfortunately, resetting only goes so far, and it won’t repair the damage done by the sickness itself. It’s a bleak and depressing scenario we find ourselves experiencing through Tony’s perspective.
When a friend is rushed to the hospital, begging Tony to let him die, it triggers a series of events that brings Tony to the attention of wealthy and powerful figures with secrets they’ll do anything to keep under wraps.
This installment continues Scalzi’s trend of combining the alternate reality science fiction of The Dispatcher series with an old-fashioned dose of noir that blends perfectly. The overarching mystery is satisfying and sufficiently convoluted, especially impressive considering the relatively short length of the story.
I particularly liked the concept behind the title of this installment of the series. The premise of utilizing the reset in that way seems both obvious and strangely horrific.
As with the previous two volumes, Zachary Quinto’s narration is superb, lending Tony a uniquely nuanced personality and bringing the other characters (many familiar faces from previous glimpses into the world of The Dispatcher) to life. I hope that Scalzi continues writing these tales and that Quinto continues narrating them because, like Scalzi’s seamless combination of genres, it’s a perfect blend.

Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due, Narrated by Tananarive Due, Robin Miles, and Janina Edwards

The fifteen stories collected in Ghost Summer are some of the most engaging short stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading. That pleasure was in no small part because these stories often provide a vastly different perspective from much of the horror and speculative fiction on the market, informed by the author’s experiences as a black woman, both socially conscious and attuned to history. It’s a perspective and worldview that readers should actively seek out because Tananarive Due successfully displays both the ways we are all the same and the stark differences that haunt many people to this day.
There’s nothing not to love in this collection, but it’s the Gracetown stories kicking everything off that stuck with me the most. This strange, haunted place in northern Florida arrests the reader just as it seems to capture residents and visitors, sometimes in horrifying ways. Gracetown is a place of transformation and possession. It’s a town where the ghosts of a torturous, hateful past reveal uncomfortable truths.
Due provides us with glimpses of the past, of places where myth and legend overlap with the real world, where cultures collide with sometimes beautiful but often horrific results. We experience sadness and loss, sickness, and terror as the author paints all-too-real portraits of people, from those struggling to escape their circumstances to those hoping to find the peaceful embrace of death.
It isn’t all about the past or present, as she also takes us to the end of the world, displaying a keen understanding of human nature that proved almost prescient when compared to the pandemic conditions that ushered us into the current decade.
Narration provided by Tananarive Due herself, as well as Robin Miles and Janina Edwards makes for a different experience from story to story, each individual breathing life into the narratives in slightly different ways, but never in an unsatisfactory manner.

A Predisposition for Madness by Aurelio Rico Lopez III

Aurelio Rico Lopez III has provided readers with a robust assortment of free-verse narrative poems. There are literally dozens of stories and set pieces conveyed through poetry in this collection, and it’s well worth the time spent properly digesting each and every one.
A Predisposition for Madness has certainly put this writer on my radar in a good way. In these pages, you’ll discover monsters both human and far from it, you’ll witness new pandemics and sickness ravaging households and the world, you’ll see warfare and apocalyptic scenarios played out, and you’ll encounter things far more challenging to describe. There’s most certainly something in here that will suit the tastes of any reader, assuming that reader enjoys poetry. Even if you don’t typically enjoy it, I’d recommend giving this collection a chance.
The title is an apt one, the cadence of the poems coming across almost as if the stream of consciousness ravings of a madman in a padded cell, alternating between mumbles and screams.

This title was released as part of the 31 Days of Godless event at http://www.godless.com for October of 2021. You can read it for yourself by going to the website or by downloading the Godless app on your preferred mobile device. The link is below:

Nosophobia by Gerhard Jason Geick

What do you do when your life is falling apart around you because your kinks and perversions are too shameful for loved ones to accept? What if you also have neither the motivation nor the courage to sort things out? In the case of our protagonist, you pack your bags and head for China to teach English as a second language, evading your problems while hoping to return someday with unearned closure in tow.
While unsympathetic, our protagonist is relatable in more ways than is probably comfortable to admit. Geick dips into the well of our shared experiences of insecurity, loneliness, shame, and isolation to craft a character that reflects some of our least appealing traits.
A night of drugs and exotic dining, characterized by increasing haziness and disorientation, leads us to a conclusion that the reader sees coming just a short while before the revelation hits home.
Nosophobia should rank among the best works of short fiction to arise from the pandemic conditions of 2020/2021.

You can obtain your own copy of this fantastic short story through http://www.godless.com at the link below:

The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay: Narrated by Steven Strait

The Last Conversation is the third of the six short stories in the Forward Collection assembled by Blake Crouch I’ve listened to. It is also the first time I’ve experienced Paul Tremblay as a science fiction author, and the experience was an interesting one.
I’m sure he’s written other stories or books that have crossed into the science fiction territory, or at least I’d be surprised if he hasn’t, but I’ve only been familiar with him as a horror author and occasionally as a dark fantasy author. This brief tale showcases his talent for wearing a variety of hats with efficacy.
It’s a solid second-person narrative detailing the awakening of the protagonist in isolation to protect him from a global pandemic, while the only other person–seemingly still alive–coaxes them through restoring memories and physical capabilities. The story was ultimately predictable, but no less satisfying for the very predictability of it. It wasn’t about telling us a new tale so much as providing a platform for the discussion of morality, humanity, the devastating combination of solitude and grief, and the ethics involved in cloning. In that sense, Tremblay packs a big punch into a small number of words. He utilizes and capitalizes on the elements of science fiction that have always been used by authors, the capacity to frame thought experiments in a fictional narrative that makes the philosophical subject matter more palatable and digestible for the readers (and sometimes the author).
The narration, performed by Steven Strait, is superb. Strait captures the stubborn resistance of the protagonist to being held captive–even if it is for his own good–as well as the sadness and pity that mingles with that oppositional nature as the truth of everything is revealed in the end.

COVID-19 Vaccine Dose One

My timing couldn’t have been better, transitioning from my role with GE Appliances to my new position as a Technical Media Producer for Gray Broadcasting (KOTA/KEVN).

It was just last week that 1E classifications became eligible for COVID vaccinations. I immediately jumped on that and scheduled my first dose for my next day off, which happened to be today.

Now I simply have to wait another four weeks until I can receive dose two of the Moderna vaccine.