Ambassador by Wiliam Alexander

AlexanderAmbassadorWhy I Read It: I have loved other works by William Alexander

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For those who enjoy an alien adventure story that includes some cultural diversity.

Narrator: William Alexander

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 4 hours 37 minutes

Series: I sincerely hope this is Book 1 in a series – I want more!

Author’s Page

Modern day Minneapolis finds Gabe Fuentes babysitting his two younger siblings at the playground and surreptitiously chatting with his best friend. They aren’t suppose to be chatting. After all, their last get together involved a home made rocket and a small fire. Essentially, they have been grounded from each other for at least the summer. With a heavy heart, Gabe heads home with the twins in tow to his parents and his older sister. His parents are Mexicans that met in India and their homecooking is a fusion of the two cultures. Yum!

But I digress. You want to hear about the aliens. OK, so Gabe has an assortment of small unwanted pets he took in – a little fox, a bird, a lizard. And one night this sock puppet being pops into his room for a chat. He is Envoy and he is looking for a likely candidate from Earth to act as an Ambassador for the entire planet at the galactic assembly. Gabe is naturally intimidated by the offer but decides to give it a go anyways. Envoy proceeds to the basement where he uses odd bits and the clothes dryer to create an entagler to send the entangled Gabe to the galactic assembly. There Gabe becomes a target for at least one assassin and has a mystery to figure out. Meanwhile, back home his parents are facing deportation (since they are in the country illegally).

I loved this book. I really enjoyed William Alexander’s Goblin Secrets and Ghoulish Song but this is a new level of excellence from him. While suitable for all ages, it had a certain refined intensity that makes this my favorite Alexander book to date. I loved the multicultural aspect as so many SFF novels have Caucasians as the focus of the story. The Mexican-Indian cultural fusion of the Fuentes household, set in Minneapolis, reflects the real life I know and enjoy. Plus, I now want tasty curry tamales. Gabe’s awareness of this cultural diversity(with both the pros and cons of it) give him special insight for his new role as Earth’s Ambassador.

In the Galactic Assembly, the Ambassadors get to know each other through play. I thought this was a great point as well as allowing for fun and awkward moments. The author did a great job of capturing different approaches to communication from the various alien envoys, and also Gabe having to puzzle out the least familiar attempts at communication. Plus there is this nomadic warrior race that travels the galaxy dominating or annihilating any other alien race they come upon. They too have an Ambassador at the Galactic Assembly.

Pretty soon Gabe has lots of concerns. Someone is trying to kill him and he thinks it is another Ambassador. Plus his parents are facing deportation for being in the country illegally. I found these scenes particularly poignant as Gabe is trying to save himself, potentially the world, and now his family in particular. So much on one young man!

The ending was satisfying. It tied up the overall plot arc but left some questions open for a sequel (and I really do hope there is a sequel).

The Narration: William Alexander narrated his own story, as he has done with his other works. Once again, he was amazing. I have lived in New Mexico for over 2 decades and Alexander’s Hispanic accent for Gabe and his family was very believable; he didn’t over do it as so many non-Spanish speakers will at times. I also loved his various alien noises he had to come up with from time to time. He has clear distinct voices for both the male and female characters. In short, he is a joy to listen to.

What I Liked: Curry tamales!; Envoy looks like a sock puppet with google eyes (great imagery); Gabe loses a lot in this book but still continues on; the ending was satisfying and sets us up for a sequel.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great book!

What Others Think:

True Book Talks

Apocalypta by Robin Matchett

MatchettApocalyptaWhy I Read It: Cool tech, aliens, and a world recovered from an apocalypse – what’s not to like?

Where I Got It: Review copy via the book tour (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For fans of aliens & interesting tech.

Publisher: James Piercemoore Books (2014)

Length: 613 pages

Author’s Page

Cephren Path, our main character, is the leader of Sunsetwind, a place that values nature and peace among nations (or city-states in some cases in this future 25th century world). The Earth suffered a pummeling by an asteroid (that was broken into smaller chunks by missiles) sometime in the 22nd or 23rd century. It was enough to nearly wipe out humanity. The people we meet in the beginning of this novel are the products (many generations later) of those who survived the initial emergency and the subsequent violent climate changes. Sunsetwind’s nearest neighbors are the Chicagos and the Mississippis, along with the roving bands of Foragers. What technology the governments have was built upon earlier scavenging of 20th and 21st century tech. This includes several curious chips, a few of which seem to have hidden or locked down information. Cephren, his friends, and at least one competitive power all believe that this hidden info points to alien contact with humans during the 20th or 21st century and may prove relevant in their modern time.

First, I really enjoyed all the very interesting names of the characters in this book: Chromolox, Cephren, Cleopatra, Jimmy Pigeon, Trinny Burnamthorpe, etc.  Also, many of these characters come from a mixed heritage, which I also liked. A humanity so torn apart and decimated would most likely have to come together to rebuild, and that means mixed cultures/heritages. So it was fun to see what the author came up with. While the characters themselves are interesting, once established most of them remain the same throughout the book. But since the plot was pretty interesting, I didn’t mind the lack of character growth.

There’s lots of cool tech for those of you who salivate over such things (I being one of those). And the author provides a quick explanation within the narrative of the story on each tech without belaboring the point. Much of the tech is useful stuff (transportation, weather control, chip reading, etc.) and not just for show.

Threading its way throughout the plot is what I will call an alien conspiracy/coverup, for lack of a better term. In the context of this science fiction plot, Area 51 and 20th century contact with aliens are treated as facts and become integral to the plotline. And that all works well. However, I got the feeling from time to time that the author had a personal message wrapped up in this story and my personal preference on personal messages is that they be so well hidden that only the author’s closest companions can tease it out. Still, many folks don’t mind an underlying message.

I do have 2 criticisms, but they are not show stoppers. One, I would have loved to have had a map of the 25th century North America where the story starts out. That could just be the nerd in me. It wasn’t necessary to enjoy the story. Second, there was some repetition and occasionally I felt that one character or another (Cephren, I’m looking at you) rambled on and on. At 613 pages, it could have used one more editing out of words to give that final polish, that neat trim. With all that said, it was a fun and entertaining story.

What I Liked: Cool tech; neat culture/heritage mix; there is still human conflict in the 25th century; interesting alien-human contact thread throughout plot.

What I Disliked: I wanted a map (but I won’t hold that against the book); could use another edit to cut out the remaining repetition and some of the ramblings.

A little more about Robin Matchett

Rob (Robin) Matchett was born in Paris, France, in 1956 of Canadian parents, and moved to Canada at four years old. Apparently on the way, he spent hours in a porthole watching the sea, pondering existence. Now his life continues through a porthole – a regret being he didn’t remain in France a few more years. Though, embracing Canada he went native, steeped in the elements from where land-locked on the crest of a giant windblown hill, he commands from the bridge of a ship, foundered on springs, fields and forests. Still unreleased from the yoke of his servitude, he dabbles in the stars, unlocking secrets from history and the future. Many transfigurations have occurred, of which he has faithfully transcribed into various literary forms, including novels, poems and film scripts, and continues to do so. Among other eclectic interests, he is known to be well-read; enjoy wholesome kitchen garden culinary pursuits; calvados; has musical inclinations, and often known to be wired into the Grateful Dead. He is of a retiring nature, addicted to movies and documentaries, considered a professional obligation rather than lesser appraisals.

MatchettApocalyptaAbout the book Apocalypta

Apocalypta is a novel about a post-apocalyptic world at the cusp of the 25th century. With the discovery of a synaptic memory chip holding the memories of individuals in the past, there is an attempt to avert a return to the terrible conflagrations of the past. This chip – ‘the eyes of god’ – holds salvation through the truth. The main character, implanted with the chip, bids the reader to follow history back to our present time in order to understand the future. Moreover, humanity has a chance to become members of a galactic confederation, which through various species have been instrumental in our emergence from earliest times. Many unusual characters color this story, which is ultimately about the struggle for humanity to rise to a higher place in its long quest for survival.

Where to Find Robin Matchett

Webpage:           http://robinmatchett.com/
Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rob-Matchett/308245449351237
Twitter:                @RobMatchettAuth

The Giveaway!
1st Prize:  $50 Amazon.com gift certificate and autographed copy of Apocalypta
2nd Prize:  $25 Amazon.com gift certificate and autographed copy of Apocalypta
3rd Prize:  Autographed copy of Apocalypta

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Kyrathaba Rising by William Bryan Miller

MillerKyrathabaRisingWhy I Read It: Post-apocalyptic world, aliens, and virtual reality – what’s not to like?

Where I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For post apocalyptic fans who like a few twists.

Narrator: Christine Padovan

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 29 minutes

Series: Book 1 Kyrathaba Chronicles

Author’s Page

Kyrathaba is the name of a virtual reality world. Set in the future by nearly 200 years, humans exist in only subterranean remnants. The Earth suffered a devastating attack from aliens and what few humans are slowly dying out due to radiation poisoning. Sethra, a member of compound A-3, has found a way to enter Kyrathaba, and perhaps stay there indefinitely. Things look grim and Sethra, along with a few close friends, seriously contemplate the possibility that humanity as we know it may not be able to continue in their current form.

The story starts off with Sethra and Byron sharing a morning beverage of U Tea. Since they live in these completely enclosed underground capsules, everything, including their urine, is recycled. I am sure you can figure out what goes into the U Tea. Of course, I was enjoying my own morning cup of tea when I listened to this part of the book. And yes, I stared at my tea suspiciously.

So you can see that I was sucked into the straight-faced humor of the book right away. I enjoyed learning about the characters first, letting their current world unfold around me as Sethra and his friends went through their daily routine. Radiation poisoning is killing them off bit by bit. Even though they continue to reproduce as quickly as they can, attrition may well win out; humans are facing the very real possibility of becoming extinct. Compound A-3 has a regular security force who have a regular schedule. Their food is bland. The medical staff and care is the best they can maintain under such circumstances. And there are robots, which is the cool part in all this gloom.

While Sethra looks deeper into the possibility of long-term virtual reality habitation, Earth has a bigger issue. There’s an alien ship in orbit and it’s sole purpose is to monitor the remaining humans. I don’t think humanity could stand up to a second alien invasion. Meanwhile, the geoscientists explore drilling further into the Earth to escape the radiation and expand their living quarters. They discover an underground cavern with a clean water source. In exploring the depth and width of the water source, they make a very surprising discovery. I think this was the secondary plot line I enjoyed the most and want to learn more about. So many questions!

Kyrathaba itself is a Dungeons and Dragons kind of world; there’s magic, Orcs, plenty of sharp weapons, and paragon points to be earned. This magical world complimented, rather than contradicting, the science fiction tone of the larger story. I don’t always enjoy scifi and fantasy melding, but in this case it was done very well.  The story had a good mix of characters, both male and female characters having crucial roles to the plot. Plus we had a range of ethnicity and ages. Definite plus!

My one criticism lies in the use of radiation poisoning to be the initial driver of the plot. I did radiological work for several years, dressing in yellow Tyvek, full-face respirator, nasal swabs, etc. To make it very simple, you either have a radiation source emitting radiation or you have radioactive particles that you have ingested or inhaled. For the first, you put shielding between you and it and you should be good. Shielding can be lead, several meters of earth, etc. And compound A-3 had all that in place between it and the surface of the contaminated Earth. The story didn’t really mention the possibility of the population all repeatedly inhaling, imbibing, or ingesting radioactive particles. Basic HEPA filters would take care of this problem and would be the first solution for signs of radiation poisoning. Also, with enough radiation to be causing prolonged radiation sickness over generations, then we would see the electronics failing left, right, and center. Electronics do not hold up well in the glow of radiation. At the best, they get buggy and stay that way. In this tale, we have a lot of cool tech and all of it was working just fine, showing no signs of electronic wear due to prolonged exposure to radiation.

But if I wasn’t such a know it all, the radiation threat would probably work just fine. Over all, I enjoyed the tale and the multiple plot lines. I really want to know what is in that big cavern pool of water! I want to know what happens to Sethra and his friends in the virtual world of Kyrathaba. There are enemies every where it seems, human, alien, and potentially something else. Indeed, there is plenty of worth in this book to propel the reader into the next installment.

The Narration: Padovan did a decent job of narrating. Her characters were each distinct. In fact, she did most of the book with a geek accent which was well suited to many of the characters as they were half raised by their computer implants. Her male voices could use a bit more masculinity, but that is my only negative comment.

What I Liked: Good mix of scifi and fantasy;great character development; multiple plot lines to give the reader much to think on; the ending answered enough questions to be satisfying and left the door open for a sequel.

What I Disliked: The use of radiation poisoning was superficial and doesn’t match up with the science we have on the subject.

What Others Think:

Rob’s Book Blog

Scifi & Fantasy Reviews

Readers’ Favorite

A Pack of Wolves II: Skyfall by Eric S. Brown

BrownPackOfWolvesSkyfallWhy I Read It: Werewolves versus aliens, why not?

Where I Got It: Review copy via Audiobook Monthly (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy heavily armed sexy alien half breeds, check this series out.

Narrator: David Dietz

Publisher: Grand Mal Press (2013)

Length: 1 hour 58 minutes

Series: Book 2 A Pack Of Wolves

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 2 and I have not listened to Book 1 as I thought it would stand alone. It almost does. The plot is easy to grab on to, but the characters are introduced so quickly and little background is given that I lost track of who was who. So I recommend giving Book 1 a read/listen before venturing into this book.

OK, so we got aliens in mech suits stomping around our fair cities, rounding up humans for unknown uses. Then we have the werewolf pack lead by Zed Farr. His family and their friends are the only ones who can save humanity. There was at least 1 vampire in the mix and a sorcerer (though he might have also been a werewolf who just happens to be trained in the wizardly arts). Plenty of action and weapons make up the plot of this book. Oh, and death. Yes, there is death. In fact, I am not sure there will be a Book 3 in this series.

If I recall correctly, we started with Brian, who seems to have gone off on his own, lone wolfing it. He is gathered back into the family fold to battle the aliens. Zed, who takes on a southern USA hick accent (even though he is far older and can probably mimic any number of world-wide hicks), is the family’s leader. Then we had other players like Jennifer, Brooke, Nathan. But honestly, they were introduced so quickly with little to no background that I didn’t really get a sense of them. Also there is some rivalry between the Blood (trueborn werewolves) and the Turned (or was it Changed? – those that were bit and turned werewolf). One of the short stories gives a little more info on this, but largely it was pretty sketchy.

The action is fun, though the plot is very, very basic – kill the aliens before they kill you and eat you. While an alien or two have 2-4 lines late in the story, we never get any background on them and why they have invaded Earth and what their endgame is. Still, it was a fun lunch break listen. Honestly, it made me think of one of my PC games where I can just run around as a good(ish) guy and smash evil guys.

At the end of this novella, there were 2 short stories. I think they might have been better at the front to give the listener some background to a few of the characters. They were a nice addition to the audio version.

The Narration: David Dietz did a good job with maintaining distinct furry characters, blood suckers turning into mist, aliens in mech suits, and feminine voices. He made this book fun with his action voices – panicked, angry, sad, vengeful, etc.

What I Liked: Reminded me of a PC game; lots of simple action; werewolves, aliens, & a vampire – a fun mix.

What I Disliked: The characters were introduced very fast with little to no background, making it nearly required that the listener/reader give Book 1 a read first.

What Others Think:

Doubleshot Book Reviews

 

Richmond Smokes a Joint by Larry Weiner

WeinerRichmondSmokesAJointWhy I Read It: I wanted a campy space opera and this did not disappoint.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thank you!)

Who I Recommend This To: For those stuck in a long commute with adults you don’t know well – this will certainly break the ice.

Narrators: Patricia Tallman, Kris Holden-Ried, Jerry Robbins, with Michael Burkett, D. J. Vogel, Bob Hunt, Tom Dheere, Bob Arsena, Kevin Crawley, Jon Duclos, Angelo Panetta,

Publisher: Radio Repertory Co. of America (2014)

Length: 42 minutes

Jean Richmond and Sid Knee team up to find the nearly mythical, long-lost Plate of Marange. Richmond’s current boyfriend, Herm, tags along, financing the endeavor. Starting off in a strip joint, space shipping through the galaxy, and ending on an alien world, these adventurers, along with a cast of questionable participants, start turning on one another pretty quickly. Can Richmond remain true to any of her promises or does every man need to watch his back?

The story was really fast paced, as one would expect from a short piece. The humor was laced throughout this space treasure hunt, though it sometimes relied on puns (which aren’t my thing, but might be your thing). There’s plenty of grown up humor with the innuendos and occasional sex scene. There pretty much is just one female character, Jean Richmond, and, of course, I would have liked to have seen more ladies in the mix. Jean used her feminine wiles to trick the boys, and out right strip teased to get her way in some cases. I kept fluctuating back and forth on whether to root for her or offer to toss her in a cell myself; and that was one of the things I liked about this story.

The quest itself, the hunt for the Marange Plate, was nebulous, and a little silly. The story really focused more on the characters double crossing each other (which was pretty entertaining). See, it’s not just Richmond who has secrets and a hidden agenda. So there were plenty of characters who I thought might be ricking up the body count. Over all, this was a fun story for as short as it was and I think it would be great to share with other adults on long commute. This is a spinoff of the Anne Manx series and works fine by itself (and my curiosity is now peaked to check out Anne Manx).

The Narration: As you can see by the list of narrators above, this was a full cast! It was complete with accents and plenty of immersive sounds. Don’t worry, the sound effects and occasional music background did not over ride the narrators; their performance was clear, being enhanced by the effects. 

What I Liked: The cover; the goofy quest; someone was always double crossing someone else; definitely for adults; silly character names like Goin’ North; the ending.

What I Disliked: Occasionally, the humor became a little too punny for me.

A Little Short for an Alien by Frances Pauli

PauliALittleShortForAnAlienWhy I Read It: I have enjoyed Pauli’s other work, Unlikely, and looked forward to checking out her short stories.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Scifi goodness, in bite-size pieces. Enjoy!

Narrator: Eric Vincent

Publisher: Self-published (2013)

Length: 3 hours 17 minutes

Author’s Page

This collection of short stories consists of 5 pretty short pieces and 1 longer story. If I misspell any character or place names in this review, please forgive me as I was listening and not reading. Over all, it is a great collection and humorous, and sometimes serious, science fiction.

Braided

Lietenant Commander Roe has braids. It’s part of his thing, his personal identity. Unfortunately, you can’t climb the ladder in the space navy with long hair. You can, however, get your braids caught in the automated doors (which leads to having amused friends). This was a very amusing, short story that brought together braids, job insecurity, space jelly fish, and hopeful romance. And it did it well.

Escape From Damas Prime

Rook & Tool are brothers. Tool and his wife recently were approved to breed. Rook chats privately with his brother about the Progressive Thinkers, who Tool thinks are all radicals. There is a secret mission to leave their place, explore the rest of the galaxy/universe, and find out if their race is still hated. Deet (a Progressive Thinker) is slated to go on this mission, but Rook will be sucked into help more than he initially signed on to do.

This story left me with lots of questions: Are these guys more machine than animal? Are they virtual beings trapped in a computer program? What will happen to their mission? It was well written but I hope there will be (or is) more to the story.

Sector 7 

A bored paperpusher, Dylan, is stuck at work on the boring night shift. Nothing ever happens. He will be lucky to have just one worker pop on by for their regular drug screening. And then a huge ursine alien walks in, grunts a lot, and falls to the floor, her belly moving. Things just got a whole lot more interesting.

This was a very short story, and a classic tale, but it was still fun to watch Dylan go from whining about his boring job to trying to convince Medic to send some personnel to his office right away. It got more than 1 chuckle out of me.

A Brief Interruption

Captain Jules as an ongoing argument with her spaceship’s AI as she struggles to win victorious over the attacking space squids. As we quickly learn, this is her avatar blinking in and out of the game.

Again, this was a really short story, and I also enjoyed it quite a bit. Enjoying my PC games, and also having spotty internet connections whenever it rains, snows, or is windy, I could relate to this. I was amused.

Tricopier 6000XT

We are back with Dylan from the story Sector 7. Again, it is another boring night shift. He rustles through the shifts mail only to find that Medical’s mail has been delivered to him accidentally. Before he can work up the motivation to walk it up to them, something many-toothed and alien escapes from one of the packages and proceeds to climb up his leg. Of course, he rings Medical for immediate assistance and this leads to all sorts of embarrassment for Dylan and high amusement for me. This was probably my second favorite story in the book.

 

Alien Embrace 

This was the prime jewel in this collection and my favorite. It is also the longest, so we got to spend the most time with the characters (and that is probably one of the reasons I enjoyed it a bit more than the others). Jo Lorey, a musician, has been brought out to this alien planet by the mining company. The mining management need to do their best to verify that the planet is not inhabited by any intelligent, self-aware, society-building species. Jo’s friend, Hillary has caught one of the Warblers (as the somewhat reptile/bird-like aliens are called) for observation. She has tried every way she knows how to attempt communication with it and has failed. However, they have noticed that the Warblers create a type of music. Jo is there to attempt communication through the music of her flute.

This was a beautifully written story that had a very poignant ending. Ah! I hope the best for Jo and the Warblers but fear the worse! Excellent story.

The Narration: Eric Vincent did a good job with the narration, having distinct voices for both the male and female characters. He also made some very interesting sounds for some of the aliens. I loved the distressed human noises he made at the appropriate times.

What I Liked: Alien Embrace was my favorite; plenty of humor mixed with seriousness; Dylan and his ‘quiet’ night shift; hoping there are follow up stories to some of these stories.

What I Disliked: No complaints here.

Guest Post: Catching the Muse by Barbara Venkataraman

VenkataramanDeathByDidgeridooFolks, please welcome Barbara Venkataraman to the blog today. I have enjoyed her Jamie Quinn mysteries quite a bit. Check out my reviews of Death by Didgeridoo and The Case of the Killer Divorce. Today, Barbara is going to share a little about herself and then has a fun guest post, Catching the Muse, for us all. But then she has gone beyond that and given us Bittersweet, a short fiction piece, for us to enjoy.

Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law and debt collection.

She is the author of The Fight for Magicallus, a children’s fantasy; a humorous short story entitled, If You’d Just Listened to Me in the First Place; and two books of humorous essays: I’m Not Talking about You, Of Course and A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities, which are part of the “Quirky Essays for Quirky People” series. Both books of humorous essays won the prestigious “Indie Book of the Day” award.

Her latest works are Death by Didgeridoo, first in the Jamie Quinn series, The Case of the Killer Divorce, the second Jamie Quinn mystery, and, just out, Peril in the Park, the latest in the popular Jamie Quinn series. Coming soon, Engaged in Danger–the next Jamie Quinn mystery!

 

VenkataramanCaseOfKillerDivorceCatching the Muse

I wish I could tell you how to capture that vixen, the muse, the mythical creature who bestows inspiration–but it’s simply not possible.  She (mine is a she) is a shape-shifter who delights in dancing just out of reach, teasing me with fantastic tales sung in perfect pitch and enviable prose. When she does appear (and I never know when that will be), I must pretend that I can’t see her for fear she’ll leave me.

After countless attempts to conjure her, I’ve discovered that she finds water soothing and will whisper ideas in my ear when I’m swimming, or soaking in a fragrant bath. More importantly, I’ve learned what her favorite drink is. Sometimes, after a strong brew of energizing (and sleep-depriving) coffee, she will magically appear. Then, with a wink and a laugh, she will sit next to me, an ephemeral creature, her gossamer robes tickling my arm, and pluck ideas from my mind as if plucking a lute. Although the music isn’t always beautiful, or even original, it is mine and it flows like the water my muse loves so much.

 

VenkataramPerilInTheParkBittersweet

Who would have thought this could happen to us?  An economic superpower in our day and we never saw it coming.  Okay, that last part isn’t true. They did try to warn us:  the botanists and economists, the climatologists and even those pretentious foodies, damn them! But we refused to believe it.  So spoiled and gluttonous were we that we couldn’t imagine such a vacuum in our lives, couldn’t imagine that one of our greatest pleasures, second only to, well you know, could disappear so suddenly, leaving us in a glassy-eyed stupor.

At first, there seemed to be no cause for alarm.  Sure, a few high-end distributors declared bankruptcy and most of the artisanal boutiques quietly closed down, but that didn’t affect the rest of us. Even as the price started creeping up, we took it in stride, still happily gorging ourselves on a regular basis.  Every holiday was an excuse to buy new varieties created in whimsical shapes or mixed with exotic flavors like hot chili peppers, spicy ginger, aromatic curry powders or edible flowers.

People even ate it on insects!  Now, why would I make that up?  Others drank it in liquid form; some preferred it melted or frozen. Touted for centuries as an energy-booster, an antioxidant, and an aphrodisiac, it was all that and much more.  In fact, some of the wealthiest ladies went to luxury spas so they could bathe in it! Isn’t that decadent? The flavors were so rich and complex that no scientist ever managed to synthesize it in the lab. Believe me, they tried. If I told you its name meant “food of the gods,” maybe you could start to understand the depth of our loss…

In our defense, we had a lot of other problems to worry about. There were no world population councils back then so people could have as many children as they wanted. My own grandparents had twelve kids! The population climbed to 9 billion before we did anything about it. On top of that, the climate was changing and real estate which had been “underwater” due to the housing bubble was now literally underwater. Coastal areas were disappearing, Louisiana was sinking and the popular area known as South Beach was cut off from the mainland forever. At the same time, countries were locked in a massive power struggle over the dwindling supply of fossil fuels.

Is it any wonder we paid no attention to those whining foodies? I mean, they were always complaining about something.  If it wasn’t the shortage of truffle pigs, then it was the ban on pâté de foie gras or the counterfeit caviar flooding the market. Their concerns were so alien to the rest of us plebeians that we tuned them out when we really should have listened to them. Only the Doomsday freaks took them seriously and, naturally, they started hoarding the “food of the gods” because, well, hoarding was what they did best.  Always preparing for the world to end, they saw no sense in going hungry while they waited. It was the hoarding that jacked the price up enough for the world to finally notice.

Outside of our purview, the fragile crops that supplied the delicious elixir were dying from insect infestation, disease, and climate change, and demand was quickly overtaking supply.  Speculators entered the mix and real panic set in.  It became the hottest commodity in the world, even overtaking gold.  Financial markets were so volatile that in West African countries, where the crop was cultivated, ripe pods became the new currency, just like in ancient times.  Black markets sprang up everywhere and nobody could talk about anything else.  Elected officials were besieged by rabid voters demanding immediate action. Riots broke out and the processing factories were looted for raw materials. Even natural disasters couldn’t distract people for very long…

I’m sorry, where was I? You’ll have to forgive me but ever since I reached my 115th sun cycle, my mind has started to wander. Oh, yes, the governments became involved but, of course, they only made things worse. Truthfully, I don’t know if there was anything they could have done anyway. Our best agri-scientists worked around the clock but, in the end, all they could do was bank seeds in all of the master seed banks and watch it play out. In only ten years, all of the crops were utterly decimated, never to return. Even the hoarders and black marketeers eventually reached their last precious morsels. And, because they had no choice, the people of the world adjusted, but there was a sadness that permeated everything, a yearning that would never pass, a taste that could not be forgotten…

I know you’re wondering why I told you this long story, especially today, when we should be celebrating your 21st sun-cycle and eating a feast of the best synth food in town, but you’re my only great-great-granddaughter and I wanted to give you something really special. Yesterday, I went to my Cryo-storage unit to get your gift so that it would thaw out in time.  Here, please take this and remember to savor every bite:  it’s like nothing you’ve ever eaten before and nothing you will ever eat again. Yes, it is a curious shape, it’s meant to resemble an animal that’s now extinct; it was called a rabbit.  I hope you don’t mind if I watch you take a bite, it would give me great pleasure. Oh no, please don’t cry! Like life, chocolate isn’t meant to last. Only the joy of experiencing it lingers on.

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