The Hardest Word by Paul Samael

This story of a kidnapping would make a great one-act play. The action is concise, the dialog compelling, as three men, frustrated with how the white-collar bankers who caused the recent financial collapse have gotten away free and clear, decide to teach one of them a lesson. Soon it’s not clear who is teaching who, or what the lessons really are, or even if anyone can truly teach anyone else anything, so tenaciously we all cling to our opinions and belief systems. The story manages to capture all these aspects in a fast-moving, tense and compelling drama.


In the Future, This will not be Necessary by Paul Samael

Complete with a sweet trailer, “In the Future This Will Not Be Necessary” by Paul Samael is a very good free sci-fi novel available on Smashwords and Feedbooks. The main story tells of a freelance writer who becomes involved with a sort of techno-guru internet cult due to his previous involvement with the leader’s ex-wife. Thus there is a personal element and a general/social element woven together in the narrative. Personally, I’m more interested in the latter than the former – the interior self-worth struggles of any narrator interests me less and less the older I get.

The techno-guru is a computer enthusiast who extrapolates the rate of growth of computing power into a concept of the Singularity involving a leap in human evolution – this is not the same Singularity I’m more familiar with, the idea that at some point machines will design themselves better than we can design them, hence rendering humanity superfluous. In fact, it is an opposite Singularity! Nevertheless, in this new-age age you hear a lot of nonsense about leaps forward in human evolution, so the guru’s ideas slide easily into all that.

The book rings true to me and reminds me of the time I worked at Printers Inc cafe and bookstore in Palo Alto in the early 1990′s. This was at the very beginning of the world wide web, and nearby Stanford University was as important then as it has been since to the development of the internet. In the cafe, there was one dreadlocked young man who held court offering techno-predictions to a coterie of fellow travelers. This man has since published much and become quite well known, but I remember at the time thinking that this could well turn into a cult much like the one in this novel. That it did not is more a testimony to the uber-rationality of most computer geeks. They are often enthusiastic and cult-like (witness the Apple phenomenon) but usually don’t end up wearing identical Nikes and storing exact change for the spaceship lurking behind an approaching comet. They want to be here to see it all go down.

The personal story becomes more dominant by the end, emphasizing the “novel” in “science fiction novel”, which also brought to mind the recent, interesting movie ‘Sound of my Voice’, in which the central character is also an outsider who becomes strangely entangled, emotionally, with a cult figure. Another similarity with that film is the idea it gave me that you don’t have to “like” a character very much in order to appreciate a story told from their point of view.

I liked a lot of things about this book, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a thoughtful, intriguing, and worthwhile book.