Friday, August 30, 2013

The Water Sign Review Tour

The teachers taught us how to kill and made us dream for death. It is the only place the Struggle leads. And even it was a lie.

I am too old to be a child. Still too young to be a soldier. But I am trapped as both.

My name is Ayax, though some call me the Water Sign – and this is the story of how I died so that the world might live.

In a future torn apart by catastrophic climate change, biological warfare, and geopolitical upheaval, corporations have taken over the role of nation states. Protected by the re-purposed United Nations and their dreaded Peacekeepers, these corporations and their mercenary armies wage endless wars across all that remains of civilization. And hidden in this chaos, someone or something is stealing children and programming them to fight. The warriors that emerge at age fourteen are vicious and unlike any the world has ever seen.

Exploited by his teachers, and pursued by others who would use him for their own ends, Ayax must navigate our dystopian future filled with treachery, unlikely allies and forbidden AI technology. Is he the Water Sign as the Kafkari believe he is, or merely another experimental weapon?

He gestured that we should approach the shutters, and when we did, I saw them. They were a dirty bunch. Though they obviously couldn’t understand each other, they played in mixed groups, herded by a handful of harried-looking clergy. All were far younger than Father Gregory, probably close to the JDF’s mandatory enlistment age, and they scolded, calmed, and instructed through the many languages with a familiarity that suggested language imprints like ours. Somehow the chaos never quite boiled over into an outright riot and I thought once or twice I even heard the words of mathematics and poetry being recited to the scraggly bunch.

Balls, scraps of rope, flimsy little kites, and tiny plastic men and creatures were passed around in long chains of haphazard bartering, cherished for a moment before given up for some greater precious thing.

It was a very poor school. It had none of the rigor of the Garden.

“This is what happens,” the monk said, suddenly by my side and observing through the shutters, “when our young men and women are killed by these unending conquests. Their children are left behind. And the State has little time for the poor.”

“These are all ...” I started, unable to hide my shock.

“Veterans’ children. We are just one of the thousands of orphanages in this city, young man. And I assure you, this is just a fraction of those others still living on the streets, begging. Most don’t willingly come to places like these.”

He watched his children with sudden fondness. But the melancholy never disappeared from the rasp of his voice.

“The more clever ones will end up in a kibbutz perhaps. Most do not. They stay here, underfed and under-taught until they reach enlistment age. A rare few stay behind—like the ones teaching out there, submitting their lives to God and their forgotten brothers and sisters.” The note of pride was unmistakable but quickly replaced. “Most go back out on the streets though. To be thieves usually, or prostitutes.”

“That is vile,” I told him.

“Indeed,” he said, gnarled fingers curling around the curving black iron of the shutters. The shadows patterned his face in a frightening way, and I saw the girls tense up.

“This is Jerusalem. Not the old city. Not the Knesset. Not the Temple or the New Basilica. This. Generation after generation. It never changes. It will never change.”

My Review:
I'm at a loss of how to rate this book. I've been sitting on it for a few days, and I'm still not sure. This is probably one of the most thought-provoking and difficult books I've ever read.

On one hand, I did enjoy reading this as a dystopian future, making the connections between our world and this one. At times chilling, it wasn't over the top, "repent or this can happen!", in-your-face social commentary, but elements were there all the same. I also liked the author's writing. I must say, for a debut novel, this is extremely impressive. A lot of debut authors either aren't very good writers yet, or they try and tone down the story to make it more palatable and popular. C.S. doesn't try and water his story down, and his prose is amazing, which just makes this an even better read.

However, at times, I had to take a break from reading, and I did cry while reading this. This is not an easy read, and I don't think anyone would be able to read straight through without having to take a break. I had to skip bits of the story that just got too violent or uncomfortable for me. The story also got really confusing at times, and I had to keep going back and re-reading things to understand. 

All in all though, this was a good book. Will I ever read this book again? Maybe in a few years or so. Would I recommend it? I would, but I would also caution readers. This is not a book for everyone, and if you can't handle violence with kids, then don't read. I'm not giving this a rating right now, because I still don't know what to rate it. Part of me never wants to read this again, and part of me thinks this deserves to be a bestseller. But one thing I've learned is that sometimes, books that make you think and leave you conflicted are some of the best books out there.

C.S. will be awarding an ebook (international) of science fiction novel REVISION 7 by Booktrope author Terry Persun at each stop to a randomly drawn commenter, and a grand prize of a $10 Amazon or B&N gift card will be awarded to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. So the more you comment, the better your chances of winning!

August 27: Long and Short Reviews
August 28: It's Raining Books
August 30: Sharing Links and Wisdom

Author Bio and Links:
Casey S. Samulski, born May 31, 1985, is an American author - The Water Sign (2013) is his debut novel.

Casey studied literature as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College before moving to New York City. There he worked as a freelance journalist covering the arts, local and national news, and public policy while continuing to work on his fiction. In 2009, Casey moved to Los Angeles where he currently resides. He has also studied applied Jungian psychology, the superflat movement in the arts, and quantum physics.

Casey began writing fiction at age seven and claims to have failed to complete more than one hundred novels before finishing his first, which he sold one month later to Booktrope Publishing.

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  1. That's such a thoughtful review. You have certainly made me very curious.


    1. I'm glad. Since it makes you curious, you should definitely give it a try then.

  2. Great review, thank you. Sounds like a compelling read.


  3. What a fantastic review. Very thought provoking and interesting. Very honest. I like that.

  4. Thanks for this great review!

  5. Thanks for an enjoyable tour

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  6. Thanks for the honest review, Emily.

    I'll be checking in on these comments throughout the day if the commenters have any Qs to throw my way.

    1. No problem, I'm glad I got the chance to read this.

    2. By the way, I sent you an email as well. I hope you're still checking your hotmail address listed on your bio here.

  7. Its nice you held off on the rating since you had to "skip bits of the story that just got too violent or uncomfortable". Not a great way to approach things that you are reviewing but I appreciate the honesty. Im still very interested in getting to read this and look forward to finding out more about the story.

    Since the author is checking in I thought he might elaborate on some of the violent scenes in the book that were mentioned. Are there any reference points you can give for how you envisioned instances of violence or action sequences in general? I guess in a broader sense are there any other works you sought to employ elements of in your novel?

    Thanks for being cool and chatting with the people btw!

  8. Stuart, as far as the depiction of violence goes I guess I had a few ways of envisioning it in the book: I had no interest in it being gratuitous so when I felt something didn't serve the story, I left it out. I also wanted to be unflinching and as realistic as I could in my depiction of the violence you do see and take the reader away from a kind of Hollywood comfort I think we've developed as a culture. So I watched a lot of combat footage shot by infantry and a lot of documentaries. When it comes down to it, real child soldiers are simply not a pretty thing and neither is real war. It's disfiguring, disgusting, and dehumanizing.

    I think what this means is that my "action sequences" aren't much like the cleverly choreographed set pieces that would belong in an "action movie" but more like real conflict: brief, shocking, highly intense, then over and back to the much larger question—how to cope with exposure to this kind of violence?

    A lot of inspiration came in the form of All Quiet on the Western Front which really got me and I think showed me a way of depicting war that was as extreme as its nature without being melodramatic or sadistic. Less specifically, I'd say I borrowed elements from Neuromancer, Dune, Ender's Game, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, The Stars My Destination. Obviously specific ideas are shared between each of these and my work, but they probably shaped a lot of the way I thought about the future and writing about it.

    And you're welcome! If you think of more questions after today, you can always ask them through my formspring account.

  9. I thought it interesting about your comment on All is Quiet on the Western Front. With all of the video games etc., Western society had been so de-sensitized or detached to the reality of violence and war etc.

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