The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein

The Punch Escrow

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......

Title:The Punch Escrow
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1942645589
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:319 pages

The Punch Escrow Reviews

  • Brad

    Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

    And a very special thanks to the author for writing Hard-SF in a really fun and engaging way. This is often much harder than it might seem at a casual glance.

    Fortunately, the light tone and the clear explanations of the science prevailed and served only to propel the story forward. And what kind of story is it? It's a fast-paced thriller! And no, before you ask, this isn't a clone of

    . Far from it. We're dealing with a better version of Star Trek's tra

    Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

    And a very special thanks to the author for writing Hard-SF in a really fun and engaging way. This is often much harder than it might seem at a casual glance.

    Fortunately, the light tone and the clear explanations of the science prevailed and served only to propel the story forward. And what kind of story is it? It's a fast-paced thriller! And no, before you ask, this isn't a clone of

    . Far from it. We're dealing with a better version of Star Trek's transporter problem from a quantum entanglement viewpoint, and far from getting bogged down in an introductory reading of such a story, (which has been done a lot), we jump right ahead into the social and technological implications of a society that has come to accept it and the actuarial realities of checksumming your torrented self across great distances. How boring, right? But boring gets people moving, and moving, and moving... aaaand ... I really shouldn't spoil this, but all the cool stuff happens after the poop hits the fan from after this point.

    Copy, paste, delete. We know the concept. No problem. Now skip the last step. Hello, me! :)

    The author carries two PoV's wonderfully and keeps it light even when really bad things are happening. I loved it, from the marital problems to the chase, the ambulance, the AI, the conspiracy, the nutjobs AND the nutjobs, and of course, arguing with yourself. :) I like to think that I wouldn't have any such problems with myself, but let's be realistic here. A perfect teleportation clone is going to be competing with your resources right off the bat. There's a lot of real conflicts right there.

    So, bravo! for keeping it real.

    This was a very nice surprise. I asked for this one just on a whim and I am very pleased I did. I totally recommend this for all kinds of clone-fans who love thrillers. This one happens to be a lot better than most and I can say it feels rather more original than most. PLUS! It has the benefit of sticking close to real science to the best of our current understanding!

    The same goes for all the multitudes of the great little idea-gems we visit in this future world. The carbon-sucking mosquitos are a delight. So are the self-driving cars that alert each other on emergency channels whenever some monkey is taking the wheel. :) Scary. :)

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)

    5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    Everyone, prepare to have your minds blown because The Punch Escrow will be like nothing else you’ve ever seen. It does, however, have all the makings of a runaway hit which will no doubt strike a chord with a broad range of readers, reaching even those who might not normally read sci-fi. Just think about books like The Martian, Ready Player One, Dark Matter, or any other examples of hard science fiction that has achieved

    5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    Everyone, prepare to have your minds blown because The Punch Escrow will be like nothing else you’ve ever seen. It does, however, have all the makings of a runaway hit which will no doubt strike a chord with a broad range of readers, reaching even those who might not normally read sci-fi. Just think about books like The Martian, Ready Player One, Dark Matter, or any other examples of hard science fiction that has achieved widespread popularity due to the fact they are not only clever and technological, but also a lot of fun. This is the successful formula Tal M. Klein has managed to capture and apply to his phenomenal debut.

    The story opens in the year 2147, in a world completely altered by technological advancements and their implementation. Still, there are some things that never change, like the fundamental human need to connect with others and conquer the physical distances between ourselves, leading to continuous research and development to find newer, better ways to make travel from point A to point B as fast and efficient as possible. A corporation called International Transport believes it has found the answer. While the technology that makes teleportation possible has already been around for decades, it was IT that finally turned it into the ideal mode of transportation for human beings, making it viable, affordable, and, above all else, safe. Or so they say, anyway.

    Enter Joel Byram, our protagonist. He’s a typical average guy who likes to play video games in his underwear, collect random trivia, and listen to obscure 1980s new wave music in his spare time. He’s also dealing with some problems in his marriage. Ever since Joel’s wife Sylvia got her promotion at IT, she has been preoccupied with one classified project after another, and the secretive nature of her work along with the increased hours have made the two of them drift apart. All that was supposed to change with the couple’s plans for a second honeymoon in celebration of their tenth anniversary, a romantic week where they’ll have each other all to themselves in the remote mountains of Costa Rica. Unfortunately though, while at the New York City teleportation center on his way to meet up with his wife in San Jose, Joel suffers a terrible mishap. The incident results in Joel being duplicated, raising some serious questions about the truth behind teleportation—questions that certain parties will go to great lengths to silence.

    As I said before, The Punch Escrow is like nothing else I’ve read before, which makes the story difficult to describe beyond what I’ve written above. I’m also nervous to reveal too much, because I would be loath to spoil anything for prospective readers. This is a book full of amazing surprises, and it’s really no exaggeration to say that it’s best to go in with fresh eyes, knowing as little as possible about the plot.

    I can, however, extol the awesomeness of safer subjects, like the world-building. Brace yourself for some really cool stuff. Klein has created a futuristic society here that is extraordinary in its originality and carefully considered approach, which is probably why the setting also seems so believable despite some of its more bizarre features. Humanity’s salvation has come in the form of the mosquito, for example, after genetic tinkering has effectively turned these hateful little bloodsuckers into tiny steam reformers, feasting on carbon fumes while excreting water. Didn’t I tell you this book was fun? I mean, how could I not laugh out loud at the author’s descriptions of the gorgeous twenty-second century NYC sunsets, made possible only by the ubiquitous misty clouds of skeeter piss? Massive changes have also occurred to political systems worldwide, with transnational mega-corporations governing at the helm and capitalism reigning supreme. While poverty has effectively been eliminated, money still talks, and with enough chits at your disposal, you can do things like pay other self-driving cars to prioritize your arrival if you need to get some place fast, or even buy anti-aging treatments to extend your life for as many years as you can afford.

    But if you’re worried that the hard sci-fi elements will become too heavy or overwhelming, fear not! While there’s a lot of techno-jargon in this story, as well as—I won’t lie—a significant amount of quantum theory involved, much of it is presented in an engaging, entertaining and often humorous way. I even devoured the very technical footnotes, which is huge for me because 1) I hate footnotes, and 2) the ones here are theoretically optional. So trust me, if a total quantum physics noob like me can read this book and enjoy the heck out of it, then anyone can.

    Bottom line though, if all my gushing so far has felt as random to you as it has for me, here’s what it all boils down to: The Punch Escrow is one of those wholly unique, mind-bogglingly innovative novels that only come once in a blue moon. The story (which I’m just dying to say more about but can’t) is extremely fun, fast-paced, and thrilling, yet there’s also a deeper, tender side to our protagonist’s existential journey and moments where he experiences meaningful philosophical reverie. There are also ideas in this book that are so incredible that every few pages I simply had to stop and marvel over a sentence or passage, speechless at the sheer imagination. Seriously, short of begging, I really don’t know what more I need to say in order to convince you to read this book.

    Oh, what the hell. Please, please, please, just go and check it out now, please!

  • Judy Lesley

    I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley and Inkshares Geek & Sundry. Thank you.

    This was a wonderful reading experience and the mix of humor with science - with an added twist of adventure - made me want to put everything else aside to see what Joel was into now.

    This story takes place in 2147. Freight teleportation began first (not slowed down at all by the loss of one of the art world's practically sacred icons), but by 2126 human teleportation had become commercialized by one o

    I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley and Inkshares Geek & Sundry. Thank you.

    This was a wonderful reading experience and the mix of humor with science - with an added twist of adventure - made me want to put everything else aside to see what Joel was into now.

    This story takes place in 2147. Freight teleportation began first (not slowed down at all by the loss of one of the art world's practically sacred icons), but by 2126 human teleportation had become commercialized by one of the largest corporations in the world, International Transport. (See, we can blame it all on IT!) Joel Byram's wife Sylvia works for IT and has been so consumed by a new project that it has caused some serious stress on their marriage. The plan is for the two of them to teleport to Costa Rica for a second honeymoon. Sylvia leaves first (because only one person can go at a time) and a few seconds later Joel's teleportation process begins. So why does Joel regain consciousness after being given a huge electric shock to find himself not in Costa Rica but in a room with three people he doesn't know and without the ability to use his comms? The story is told by Joel as a way for him to explain to people in the future how he found out there was a dirty little secret about teleportation and a huge global corporation would do whatever it took to keep that secret hidden. This is Big Technology against Religious Fanatics and, yes, the capital letters are necessary.

    The book is very much science fiction with the insertion of humor making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The author has done this one right because everything from the monetary system to the medical science to global governing has moved far ahead of our present world. Joel is definitely not going to impress as a standard hero of a novel except that you understand that he is basically a very good guy, he just lets his attitude and sarcasm get him into all kinds of trouble. Tal M. Klein did such a good job with the science of explaining what the Punch Escrow is that even I understand where he was going with it. There is good hard science involved in telling the story and making it plausible but it is also filled with lighter moments of humor and plot twists that keep readers wondering what - or where - in the world the book will go next.

    Grab this one if you like something really different to read. Grab this one if you like science fiction. Grab this one if you want to feel like you've been on a big, impossible adventure. In short, just grab this one because it's such a darn good book!

  • Suzanne

    I've been a faithless reader (or reviewer, technically), Goodreads, and The Punch Escrow is the first book I'm reviewing in what feels like a lifetime and a half. Many thanks to the ever generous Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy for review purposes.

    It's difficult to know where to begin with The Punch Escrow. Although I might venture outside of "my genres," I'm always secretly craving solid sci-fi above all else. Everything else is my milk chocolate: in a pinch it'll do the job, b

    I've been a faithless reader (or reviewer, technically), Goodreads, and The Punch Escrow is the first book I'm reviewing in what feels like a lifetime and a half. Many thanks to the ever generous Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy for review purposes.

    It's difficult to know where to begin with The Punch Escrow. Although I might venture outside of "my genres," I'm always secretly craving solid sci-fi above all else. Everything else is my milk chocolate: in a pinch it'll do the job, but it's never going to provide that incomparable dark chocolate bliss.

    In most ways, The Punch Escrow packs the punches and delivers just that. Joel Byram has a big problem. Several powerful parties want him dead. They have unlimited resources at their disposal to attain their goal, and he's just a man disconnected from his comms/the world. After being involved in a teleporting incident en route to a second honeymoon with his beloved, matters are somewhat murky and he's a man on the run for his life and everything that he loves. But (of course) it's far more complicated than it first appears.

    There are places the story feels a little overwrought, when the author takes the reader to lengthy footnote detours explaining the specifics of the science of teleportation et. al in the book. I have a love/hate relationship with footnotes in science fiction - sometimes they're necessarily informative and clever, other times they just seem like a pointless dead end that takes away from the flow of the story, and the return can be unpleasantly jolting.

    What I liked most about this was that it's so much damn fun. Klein knows how to keep his readers engaged at every turn. This could have easily been Dark Matter 2.0, but it's so much more than that. The Punch Escrow is different because of its attention to detail: there's an atmosphere of division eroding the future world, religious sects vying for power, corporations in charge, AIs who feel all too human. The world-building here is original and impressive, even if I personally would've liked to see more time dedicated to Joel's relationship with his wife.

    Pick this up for an original summer read if you like Blake Crouch, David Wong, Terry Pratchett, or if you're just searching for a good entertaining read that flies by. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 because of my undying love for Culture Club.

  • Gary

    Fiction can do quite a lot of things, but most often it aims to entertain or to express ambitious ideas. Great authors do both of those things brilliantly and produce great works, but great authors are few and far between. Good authors tend to excel at one of those aims to the detriment of the other, or excel adequately enough at both to find artistic and/or commercial success. I can forgive an entertaining novel for lacking ambition. I can forgive an ambitious novel for falling a little short o

    Fiction can do quite a lot of things, but most often it aims to entertain or to express ambitious ideas. Great authors do both of those things brilliantly and produce great works, but great authors are few and far between. Good authors tend to excel at one of those aims to the detriment of the other, or excel adequately enough at both to find artistic and/or commercial success. I can forgive an entertaining novel for lacking ambition. I can forgive an ambitious novel for falling a little short of its goals. But I have no patience for a novel that fails spectacularly and aggressively at both. Those are just bad books.

    Wherever you see a “high average” book on Amazon or Goodreads (such as this one – a 4.13/5 on GR at the time of my writing this) and you scroll through the reviews, there is always a least one prick among the 4 and 5 star gushers who has to poop in the punch bowl. Truly I tell you, I am almost never that guy. I can count the number of 1 star reviews I’ve written on one hand, with room to spare. 2 stars are a little more common, but not by much. More often than not, if I’m not as high on a book that everyone else loves, there are at least enough redeeming qualities to warrant a third star. So I promise you, if you see a lone star at the top of one of my reviews, there is some really intense dissatisfaction in play. In fact, my dislike for this novel is so intense that I am actually considering adding a second star to at least one of my other 1 star reviews out of fairness. I’m probably not going to do it, but I am thinking about it.

    Teleportation – a longtime staple of the science fiction genre that is nonetheless ripe for further exploration – is the subject of The Punch Escrow. Set in the year 2147, Joel Byram is the husband of one of the leading scientists in teleportation technology. While teleporting to Costa Rica to meet his wife for a second honeymoon, a terrorist attack on the facility leaves him in limbo, causing his wife to panic and create a duplicate of him, not knowing that the “original” Joel rematerialized at the embarkation point. It’s not a bad setup for the story, but what follows doesn’t do it any justice. The plot is so thin that if you removed all the asides and digressions and info dumping and pointlessly elongated dialogue exchanges you would barely be left with a short story.

    But plot development is the least of this novel’s problems. Fiction lives and dies by its characters, and The Punch Escrow has none to speak of. Don’t get me wrong, there are human-like entities present, all of whom have jobs and backstories and use language to communicate with each other, but the novel mistakes these basic descriptive requirements and behavioral traits for actual character development. Their sole reason for existing seems to be to dispense either snark or plot information. Joel is the protagonist, I guess, because he does both. Character choices and responses are obvious and predictable. I find it unfortunate that a novel positing that technology can reduce human beings to nothing more than exchangeable bits of information fails to depict a single recognizably human character as a counterpoint.

    The setting feels just as inorganic and contrived as the characters, as if the author plugged some data into a random science fiction future generator and this was the result. In terms of theme, the novel seems to mistake presenting the implications of its premise for actually exploring those implications. I can’t fault the novel for failing to live up to its ambitions when it clearly doesn’t even know what it means to try. Mr. Klein’s prose has that really distracting, hyperactive attention deficit style that is becoming more and more popular among new writers (and readers) of genre fiction, a trend that portends no less than the death of the art form.

    In short, beyond a handful of clever quips and an interesting scientific nugget here and there, I can’t find much of anything to redeem this novel.

    You’re going to love it!

    Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this ARC.

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