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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.

Por Vida by Daniel Verastiqui

Book Reviews

Quite a ride! Perion Synthetics explores the core of a company intent on producing the ultimate android. No one is who they seem to be, often not even what the[y] seem to be, human or “synthetic”. Interestingly, the dates are current but the places and political structures are sometimes the same as reality and sometimes not. It all keeps you on your toes. The rating is a four rather than a five simply because the author sporadically assumes you have read and remembered his previous books, which is a bit annoying but not nearly enough to spoil the excellent story.

DJ – Perion Synthetics

Fantastic story-telling! Interesting concept, intricate plot, great characters, fabulous dry humor, and plenty of action. The general idea is a somewhat familiar one in sci-fi, but this was a different, fresh take on the idea of artificial intelligence that I found quite thought-provoking. I really like how this book is tied in to Verastiqui’s previous writings without technically being a sequel- the books take place in the same universe, and there are a few nods to previous books, but I don’t feel it’s necessary to have read the others to understand this one. He gives just enough background detail for a first-time reader to visualize the world- there wasn’t that “recap” section in the beginning I felt like I could skip like in other serial novels. I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Without giving spoilers, one of my favorite things about this author’s writing is that the characters seem real. They are flawed, insightful, altruistic, selfish, and complicated. It’s never immediately obvious who the “good guys” are, because every character has both good and questionable morals. Because the characters are rich and realistic, their actions (or the things that happened to them) were often surprising while still fitting logically with the storyline. I thought the pacing and shifting perspectives were very nicely done in this novel. Several of the sections ended with a cliffhanger. The sections that followed tended to slow the pace a bit to give more backstory, and then quickly got back to the resolution of the previous section. I managed to avoid skimming ahead (as I usually do) to find out “what happened to so-and-so” because each character shift was so interesting. I highly recommend this book- the writing will draw you in, it’s highly entertaining, and the concept is fascinating!

Jen Doyle – Perion Synthetics

Maybe this is where VR is heading. Are you ready for VR can you survive such mind control. Do you want to control all you see? The new world order is heavy with opportunity.

Gerald A. Mills – Veneer

Thoroughly addicted Great read! This is the 3rd+ in a series that I’ve been enjoying immensely. I think this is the best book yet purely based on the storytelling and the entertaining and real personalities participating in the author’s unfolding story. The story as told is a perfect melding of broad revolutionary ideas with a collection of flawed limited and self-oriented mere individuals. The series began as an exploration of virtual reality and how the barriers between the virtual and real world might blur and what the human impact could be and has slowly and perhaps inevitably come to include the idea of artificial intelligence and cybernetic life. Great twists, lots of suspense, not easy to put down.

GregAusTex – Perion Synthetics

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!

Lee Moody – Veneer

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.

Hanna Jones – Por Vida

Recent Reviews

Fantastic story-telling! Interesting concept, intricate plot, great characters, fabulous dry humor, and plenty of action. The general idea is a somewhat familiar one in sci-fi, but this was a different, fresh take on the idea of artificial intelligence that I found quite thought-provoking. I really like how this book is tied in to Verastiqui’s previous writings without technically being a sequel- the books take place in the same universe, and there are a few nods to previous books, but I don’t feel it’s necessary to have read the others to understand this one. He gives just enough background detail for a first-time reader to visualize the world- there wasn’t that “recap” section in the beginning I felt like I could skip like in other serial novels. I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Without giving spoilers, one of my favorite things about this author’s writing is that the characters seem real. They are flawed, insightful, altruistic, selfish, and complicated. It’s never immediately obvious who the “good guys” are, because every character has both good and questionable morals. Because the characters are rich and realistic, their actions (or the things that happened to them) were often surprising while still fitting logically with the storyline. I thought the pacing and shifting perspectives were very nicely done in this novel. Several of the sections ended with a cliffhanger. The sections that followed tended to slow the pace a bit to give more backstory, and then quickly got back to the resolution of the previous section. I managed to avoid skimming ahead (as I usually do) to find out “what happened to so-and-so” because each character shift was so interesting. I highly recommend this book- the writing will draw you in, it’s highly entertaining, and the concept is fascinating!

Jen Doyle – Perion Synthetics

Veneer is Snow Crash mixed with The Matrix mixed with Degrassi High… …if the kids of Degrassi Street swore and engaged in R-rated activities. I’ve been a fan of Verastiqui since reading his first novel, Xronixle, and I’m happy to say his sophomore effort is just as exciting and suspenseful, if not more. Veneer had me from the very first sentence, which if you read the preview you’ll get an idea of Verastiqui’s sense of humor. He masterfully blends elements of science fiction, the coming of age of adolescents, and a suspenseful story line with multiple twists that will make you laugh and question your reality at the same time. I found myself letting loose a hearty guffaw on one page, while on the very next page I was murmuring a “holy cow!” whilst raising my brow, which leads to those rare “I must finish this chapter” moments. While Veneer uses typical Cyberpunk themes (gritty technology gone awry, what-is-real-what-is-not-ness, evil ethereal-like corporations hell bent on the destruction of the protagonist), Verastiqui peppers in brilliantly-written sarcastic teenage characters that have the ability to change reality with their mind and, well, I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it. An epic quest for redemption? Death? Sex? Check, check, check. The only reason I’m rating this 4 stars is because Verastiqui still has room to grow in his writing in order to be held in the same regard as upper echelon Cyberpunk authors like William Gibson and Neal Stevenson – a feat I wholeheartedly think he can achieve. Get this book.

KirbyLane7 – Veneer
© 2018 Daniel Verastiqui