Five Books. One Universe. No Sequels.
Daniel Verastiqui presents The Vinestead Anthology, a series of novels that take place in the same universe and occasionally with the same characters.
Beginning with the first book, Xronixle, the alternate Vinestead universe is initially established in Austin, Texas in a 1999 with far better technology, including a worldwide, fully immersive virtual reality known as The Net. Book two, Veneer, takes place years later and examines the final form of augmented reality once it has replaced normal sight.
In book three, Perion Synthetics, robotic humans are introduced, as are the problems inherent in creating artificial intelligence and copying human minds. Por Vida, the fourth book in the Vinestead Anthology, looks at the world decades after Perion Synthetics when human to synthetic transference is commonplace, and unsurprisingly, abused.
Upcoming entries in the Anthology include Hybrid Mechanics, which follows a synthetic soldier during the last battle in the inevitable war between humans and synthetics. Also forthcoming, the tentatively titled Brigham Plaza, takes places a few years after Perion Synthetics, and draws together storylines from several books to create one unending rampage of techno-destruction centered around celebrity hacker-for-hire Danny “Guns” Montreal.
Honest, well-conceived science fiction. First, I’d like to say that I was worried about Veneer because it’s a self-published title. Perhaps I’m being a bit crass, but I find that most self-published books I’ve attempted to read are poorly written, or have awful (non-existent?) plots, or thin plastic characters. Quite often it’s all of these. Veneer, however, is quite a good book. It could have used a bit of an editor’s red ink but otherwise I found it to be highly entertaining and unpredictable. There were times when I got through a portion of a chapter and thought “Why the heck did that happen? Is the author just filling pages?” but then was surprised to find a real reason, one that relates to the plot or character development. My low expectations were often confounded this way. If I were forced to give an idea of the flavor of this book, I’d say there’s a little of both The Giver and Brave New World, with a tiny splash of The Matrix. The ending was a bit confusing, though that did not diminish my level of post-climax satisfaction (yikes, did I just write that?) If you’re on the fence about this book, give the author a chance. Being self-published is not easy. If you find that you don’t like the book after reading this review, feel free to berate me.
Cyberpunk and Virtual Reality Meets Snapchat My favorite thing about Xronixle was definitely the concept of the immersive virtual world and it’s ramifications on society. It was interesting to see Verastiqui’s early views of such a world and the toll it would take on those most involved with it. I can see a great number of parallels between the inhabitants of the virtual reality and the world of today’s smartphone-addicted citizens. While the plot and story were interesting albeit amateurish (definitely to be expected with a very early work like this); I definitely enjoyed the way the characters and the world were brought to life. I could see the imagery playing out as if it were a “birth of the internet” era cyber-thriller blockbuster a la “The Matrix” or “Johnny Mnumonic”. It brought back fond memory of the younger me’s interest in cyber-punk novels and my time playing Netrunner. I’m looking forward to starting the next one.
Loved this book. Really interesting read – and the ‘veneer’ is fantastic. Author explains the concepts well and I found I was interested and compelled to read to the last page. Waiting for the next one!
Don’t Trust a Veneer. I’m not actually sure if I like this book or not… it’s not all happy endings and good triumphs. Actually, it’s…. rather violent and painful and downright crappy at times. That being said, it was incredibly *readable*. I finished it in one sitting. If you’re looking for a sweet, empowering tale, move on. But, if you’re looking for gritty and under the surface, this is the book for you.
Things not as they appear… Veneer depicts a future where kids learn at a young age to manipulate their surroundings. Nothing is quite as it seems. If someone doesn’t like the way their face looks, they veneer it. Old buildings are veneered to look new again. And on and on. Everything looks great, but obviously there are cracks beneath the surface. What happens when someone loses their ability to see the veneer at at all? I’m not even that big on sci-fi normally, but I really enjoyed this book. Veneer has a very creative concept that is a reflection of our society today. With the constant Photoshopping of everything these days, this setting hits uncomfortably close to home, in a good way. The characters, several groups of high school students, gradually put together the pieces of what’s going on, and I was right there with them wanting to know what happened next. The kids have typical problems of students: long-standing rivalry with a violent bully, whether to manipulate an unrequited love into being with you, how to free yourself from just being someone’s sidekick. The author provides the story from different perspectives so no character is just a cipher or cliche. Their individual struggles fit in well with the larger plot of figuring out the things that are amiss with the veneer and in life as they know it. Veneer is futuristic fun with a good amount of sex and action, but it’s also got deeper messages about society which in my opinion is good sci-fi. I recommend it!
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. The writing was not remarkable, but the story was fast-paced and the characters were believable. I found myself being sucked in despite the fact that Verastiqui’s writing style wasn’t my favorite, and that takes a certain type of talent. If you are a sci-fi fan, you will love this book. I myself thought it was okay.