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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
nathan harrell
It has enough imagination and plot suspense to balance out its flaws. The characters are undeveloped and the momentum is stalled too many places with rambling explanations of technology, larded with commentary intended to be clever. While the action is continuous, I found myself getting impatient for it to "get somewhere." The resolution of one of the major conflicts is a predictable cop-out. I wouldn't put this on top of the stack on your night table, but it's readable.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
shanamadele
This book began really fantastically and I really enjoyed the immersion in the world. About halfway through that sort of tapered off and then the chase scenes began. While that can be interesting and exciting it's also repetitive and not really of Interest to the pursuer of science fiction. So I got kind of bored but I finished it off and it ended sort of as you'd expect. It was an enjoyable book overall but I will say it I think that this author can do better and will.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ayson
Worth a quick read but don't expect very deep sociological, political, or philosophical discussion. The characters are all very juvenile, intentionally so. This adds to the "fun, not deep" feel.

While it stands alone, it appears to be leading to a sequel.
Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs) :: The Journal of James Halldon - Diary of the Displaced :: Little Girl Gone (A Logan Harper Thriller Book 1) :: When All the Girls Have Gone :: Renegade: (The Spiral Wars Book 1)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marcus conge
After reading the premise to this book, I knew I would be love or hate.

I just could not put this book down.

The pacing is perfect, the amount of science is just right (and often hilarious), and the story delivers from beginning to end.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
patricia hargraves
Couple times I got distracted reading it, the notes were different - some i enjoyed, others I skipped. Fueled lots of interesting conversations about cloning and the future. I kept coming back to it hoping I would fall in love with it. The beginning got me hooked, but as the book goes on I was reading it mostly to find out what happened. I am looking forward toTal Kleins next book, thou this wasn't my favorite I still enjoyed his story.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
dick
This was a pretty good and entertaining Sci-Fi novel. My main problem with the book is that I didn't really care about the characters. About two thirds of the way through I realized that I didn't care if the main character made it through or not.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
kacy
I wanted to love this book but the author spends too much time in footnotes telling me how technology works in the future. There's also an unbelieveable amount of references to 20th century TV and media, which the main character justifies overly by saying he's obsessed with the retro. I don't need to be pandered to as a reader, I don't need you to write me a three page footnote about how heads up displays work. I am a sci-fi reader, I know how HUDs function. Get to the story. Show me the story, don't explain how all the tech works. Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Stop telling, start showing. I quit reading pretty soon in, author lost me by losing my suspension of disbelief. I wanted to like this one. Couldn't get past the over-telling about how all the tech worked.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
brandi hutton
I very anxiously awaited this novel, based off of early reviews that raved about how this was the next Ready Player One. I preordered the book and jumped straight in once it arrived. It didn't take me long to realize I was not going to enjoy this particular journey.

The premise is genius. There's a lot of promise here, the book just doesn't fully live up to it. The story meanders a bit, and takes unexpected detours. Normally, it's a good thing when a book surprises you, but not here. The surprises this book delivers are less "Oh wow, that was unexpected!" and more "What? Why would he do that? That doesn't make any sense..." I'll get more into that below, under the "SPOILERS" section of the review.

The story is also bogged down...a lot...by unnecessary scientific explanations. The author is clearly a huge fan of quantum theory and wanted to fully explore different possibilities with this novel. I'm sure he wanted to try and base his future science on sound principles and then show how this future science wasn't that far-fetched. If you're a theoretical scientist, then I'm sure this book is amazing to you. If you're an average reader who just enjoys science fiction, it can be a bit tedious at times. I don't need to know how Luc Skywalker's lightsaber works. I don't care about the quantum mechanics behind the teleporters in Star Trek. They work, I'm entertained, move on.

All in all, I was entertained by the book, hence the 3 star review instead of 1 star. Towards the end, it became more of struggle to get it finished, and I found myself often finding excuses not to read it. I finally had to just force myself to get through the last few chapters, just to finish it and give it a fair shake. I'm hoping this gets made into a movie. If so, I'll be first in line for tickets. The Hollywood screenwriter will erase all of the boring bits, possibly change some major story points that I have issue with so that character choices seem more plausible, and the film will probably live up to the promise of the premise. I'll also keep an eye open for future novels from this author. This is his first novel, and has several "first novel issues". I think he'll be one to look out for.

****SPOILERS BELOW****

*****

****

****

Ok, these aren't huge spoilers, but I don't want to inadvertently give something away to someone who would rather wait until they've read it. So here goes.

The idea behind this story that made me so excited to read it is: Teleportation is murder. Everyone is happily living out their lives, teleporting several times a day, even if it's just to the grocery store and back. Then one man finds out the hard way that teleportation doesn't really exist. Instead, the major corporation that controls teleportation has a dirty secret. Every time you teleport, you're actually scanned and 3D printed at your location, complete with memories, then your original self is destroyed. Everyone is going about their lives committing suicide several times a day, and most people on earth are just clones of clones of clones... When this intrepid hero discovers the truth, the huge evil corporation will stop at nothing to keep him from revealing it. That's a story I want to read! That's a movie I want to see!

The only issue is, none of it plays out like it should. When the mishap happens that accidentally creates a second version of our hero in another country, the huge evil corporation brings our hero in to ask him to willingly kill himself to make everything right. They are the ones who tell him what's going on. He had no idea anything was wrong. It's hinted at that they would kill him if he made the wrong choice, but if that's the case, why give him the choice in the first place? Then, after our hero discovers the truth, what's the first thing he does? Teleports to Costa Rica to find his wife! Ummmm....what? If you tell me that teleportation is actually 3D printing and suicide, I'm never stepping into a teleportation chamber again. The main hero does it not once, but twice in the course of the book. His wife is a scientist who works for the teleportation company, and does it all the time, knowing that she's killing herself. The surprise is also somewhat dulled by the fact that large groups of people, mostly religious zealots, are already aware of this huge secret and have been preaching it to people that just ignore them. So it's less of a "Oh my god, I never would've guess that" surprise, and more of a "Oh, those guys were right" surprise. The zealots are the true villains of the book for the first portion of it, until the evil corporation busts in and saves the day, then leaves our hero alive and well while absconding with his wife. The real villain is then revealed to be his wife's superior at the evil corporation, but the corporation itself isn't really all that bad. It's really all over the place, plot wise.

When it ends, the hero and his wife take hush money and the evil corporation goes on about it's business, with the rest of the world none-the-wiser to the whole "Teleportation is murder" thing. That's what I like to see in a hero. The willingness to sell out to maintain the status quo.

In my opinion, the book would've been far more believable if they'd removed the religious zealots and the Levant completely, and focused on our hero vs. the evil corporation. And then if the hero had brought down the evil corporation so that people had to start traveling the old fashioned way again. Maybe a scene where old cruise ships are recommissioned and hundreds of people are puking over the sides, because they've never experienced this form of travel before. Lines of people cramming into cramped airplanes with looks of shear disdain on their faces. But no, everyone keeps committing suicide, day after day, while our hero and his wife enjoy their hush money on an Italian vacation.

As I mentioned above, I have high hopes for the film version of this story, and I look forward to new items from this author. He has some great ideas. I hope he continues to learn and improve his skills.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
pamster
Rather than incorporate the background of the world into the story, many footnotes are used early in the book that distract from the main story line. After the technology is revealed, the story is reduced to a generic hunt and chase plot. The best part of the book is the underlying concepts related to the proposed technology.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
katie hoener
This book was alright. It's written well and flows throughout. I did get bored reading it though, and towards the end I just kept reading to finish it. The plot starts out strong, but about 3/4 of the way through you can pretty much predict the ending.

If you're into physics and theories about particle physics, you'll probably love this book. Just didn't reel me in personally.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
sarah gillett
I bought this because I'm always on the lookout for interesting future technology. The author presents the human teleportation tech in an accessible way, using nanobot scanning and particle entanglement (which is a real thing). Oddly, he chose to use footnote references (in very small font) to elaborate on the presumed science. I found it interesting, and satisfyingly deep like a Daniel Suarez novel, but it drastically slows down any reading flow you may have had going.

I'm not a big fan of coincidences, so one of teleportation's brightest scientific minds, and the first person in history to have a big problem during a teleport, being wife and husband, well...

The grammar is fine, but otherwise the writing is just terrible. Do you have an acquaintance who is constantly trying to be funny, but isn't? Well, that's the main character, who is also the narrator. So you get cringe-worthy passages in both dialogue and narration. It wears thin very quickly.

The drama gets sabotaged in several ways. With dire things just about to happen, we might get a flashback of several paragraphs. Or we get the hero's drawn-out thought process. And even in those situations, he tries to be cute!

Maybe worst of all, when he is in the company of other people, he will alternate between speaking to a person and thinking to himself. In the case of the latter, italics are used. And in almost every case, the thoughts contain at least one four-letter word. I'm not the least bit offended, but it just becomes boorish after a while. Once I ran across a thought that was only two words long, and another three words long, and they STILL had a four-letter word, I just started skipping them. And maybe crazier, I don't recall a four-letter word in the normal text (I could be wrong).

I recommend this novel only to avid comic book fans.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rindy girl
The Punch Escrow (Paperback) by Tal M. Klein

Well written and wonderfully paced. This novel is a quick read, but mainly because you just have to keep turning the pages. Our heroes have quite the dilemma, and also quite the identity crisis along the way. The characters are mostly straight forward, but that actually helps the story along.
Sylvia is way over her depth, but seems to be altruistic in her goals. Her boss, however, really does become a Mad Scientist type. And Joel, her husband is somewhat beside himself (both literally and figuratively) in trying to sort out this mess. Toss in a few cryptic (are they really) good guys, and blend well. Enjoy!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jean marc
There are some interesting concepts here and a lot of detail/trivia that was enjoyable, but I did not find the motivation/ outrage experienced by the protagonist was believable. And the protagonist was absurdly juvenile and I’m likable.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
julien gorbach
Wow, this book might have been a good read had the main character not been a lazy, unmotivated, video game playing looser. Even his taste in music was disappointing, Culture Club? Really? I found myself hoping Joel Byram would get himself killed. I couldn't find anything I liked about him. His wife was talented, worked long hours, made good money and wanted to start a family. Joel played video games. The science fiction could have made for an awesome plot, but seemed like Tal struggled to find a way to use it.

Tal, I know you're hoping for some of my advice, so here it is, the main character of any story can not be a total wuss. Trust me.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
yiota
Not a bad book, just not a great book. if you looking for a fun easy read that is not too complicated it will serve you well. If you are looking for a top notch science fiction novel look elsewhere.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
shelley leveridge
If someone gave a lazy teenager with mediocre writing talent a great a great idea for a book and said “you have 2 weeks to write this”.... this is exactly what you would get.
If they do, in fact, make this a movie- it will need a LOT more to succeed, and it will also- I suspect- give the author exactly what he was going for: easy money for the least energy.
I’m a little blown away that this is over 4 stars. I’m blown away that this is over 2 stars if I’m being totally honest. Then again- there are crappy romance novels that rank in at 4.5... so.. I guess it makes a kind of sense.

The Punch Escrow recipe:
Don’t challenge the reader, make them feel smart because they can finish the book in a day or two (if not a couple hours,) completely breeze though any and all plot holes unapologetically, and tie up the part after your good idea as fast and as unfulfilling as possible. Print.

I’m not going to get into all of the glaring problems with this book- other reviewers have already done this with aplomb. I will just say- there are hundreds of amazing sco-fi books out there- don’t waste your time reading this unless you are all out of options...
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
nikki fitlow
Some fun sci-fi bits that seem plucked right off the internet, but overall not a very good book. Bad jokes, bad dialogue, uninspired pop culture references. The biggest offense is the lack of story and also the poorly drawn characters that I don't care about. Admirable first novel.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
deanne
There is excessive exposition through footnotes and that is just such a tired literary device. Even in fiction "show, don't tell" applies. The narrator is a mediocre narcissist, married to what sounds like the world's most gainfully employed real doll.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
will camp
This book is nothing like "Ready Player One." Now, I wasn't expecting a sequel or anything, or even anything remotely like "Ready Player One," but "The Punch Escrow" is marketed as something similar in vein and style. If you love all the crummy parts of the 80's (which is most of it) you may like this novel. Sadly, it felt like reading a novel based on 80's pop radio on repeat. It could be for you, it is not for me. (see note 1)
.
.
.
Note 1: The footnotes are endless
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
brooklyn lee dodson
Read on-line that this book had been picked-up for production of a movie, even though not officially been published yet. Surprised to find in the Vine program, so had to grab a copy. The book is an excellent elaboration of the fundamental Star Trek postulates of transporting and replication. If you accept the 'science' of these postulates and get on with the adventure, this book is for you. The author includes an Afterword concerning the science of Punch Escrow and the medical physicist that he consulted. He might have also consulted a real quantum physicist as well. Might have rationalized some of the science better. So ... while Star Trek occasionally lost people during transport, the Punch Escrow protocol supposedly prevents this in the future.

The book is organized into many short chapters and in fact reads more like a screen play than a novel, hence very readily interpreted as such, and perhaps why so rapidly selected for movie production. I usually like this kind of style as it can be read in short or long intervals; makes a good companion for the waiting room. The beginning of the book is littered with footnotes that 'explain' some of the colloquialisms in the dialog, although many are unnecessary; the book takes place in 2147 but the colloquialisms refer to the present in many cases.

The plot develops rather slowly but picks up and moves rapidly toward the conclusion. I had several possible resolutions / endings in mind as I read the book, none of which were actually realized. I thought the real ending was fairly tame in terms of the key characters, but there is also a very good twist which can be elaborated in a sequel book or movie.

A good read as a book; expect a better movie with special effects visuals.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
crysta
The main character, Joel, salts computers for a living. Salting tests the limits of AI’s. For every new limit and/or learning the AI gives him chits. Joel describes himself as a guy who is paid to play games with apps in his underwear. His wife, Sylvia, has a very important hush, hush job at IT, International Transport. The story opens on their anniversary of June 2147 and soon after an accident of transportation, think Star Trek, beam me up Scotty. Countries no longer exist, rather corporations like IT, are running the world. It’s an easy fun read and creative. It’s touches on many of the big questions of pubic good, ethics, progress, and religion. It doesn’t get preachy, rather sticks to fun action adventure, with lots of dialogue.

This is classic sci-fi. It reminds me of the books I would devour growing up by Arthur C. Clarke and Larry Niven. I also remember skipping over some of the science explanations. In this book, the in-depth science explanations are put into footnotes on the same page. At first, I found it annoying till I got the gist of them and later appreciated them and found myself reading about a third of them as needed or my interest was perked.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jacquie johnson
★★★★★ 5 SHINING stars
I still feel sad that I haven’t posted a review right after I read it, but life severely got in the way, and there’s also that whole 5 star book review anxiety thing. It was just so good, I believe I won’t be able to write a good enough review for it.

Can I just tell you that:

★ this book was amazing
★ you must absolutely read it
★ there is no other way but for you to read it

And be done with it..? No……?

[GIF of cat pleading with pawsies]

Then let me give you a little bit of background first. First of all, it’s hard to put this in the scifi box… Let’s just call it future-speculative-fiction. No space, okay?

As for what happens, our main character Joel is a… happy-go-lucky guy, so you could say. He isn’t too responsible, too concerned about things. He works when needed, but other than that he calls himself a “breadloser”, because it’s his wife who earns in his family. And although it seems his life should be easy, he is concerned about the growing rift in his marriage. So just as he’s about to join her on their second honeymoon… His teleportation fails (did I mention Joel lives in the future..?) and he suffers a terrorist attack, as a result of which… He finds himself with a double, being chased by the equivalent of the government and abandoned by his oblivious wife. Yes, there’s a lot of action. Yes, there’s speculation too. And there’s philosophy.

Technically speaking, this book has all you could ever want. That’s certainly how I felt reading it.

[GIF of Spongebob making a rainbow]

I actually buddy-read this one with a friend, and he has provided questions for my review (as I have for him). So here are his questions!

What did you like most about the book?

Truly, it’s hard to say! I loved everything about it. It has great dynamics, Joel is a wonderful main character! He’s spunky, witty and imperfect. He will make you laugh even at the most dire of situations, or even when your heart breaks (and it does break in this story.) Other than that, I loved that the writing is sort of a mix between Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London) and Matt Wallace (Sin du Jour). It’s entertainment at its best! And yet, despite that, it’s also deep and touching where it needs to be. I simply couldn’t put it down.

What in the book did you not like, or what gave you pause?

[GIF of parrot shaking head no]

Zip. Nada. Nothing! I can confidently say I loved everything!

What technology from the book do you wish was available for use right now?

The basis of all of everything in The Punch Escrow is this wonderfully amazing thing that has been discovered, and it is called… Quantum Foam! Basically, with the right machine, you can print… anything. Your coffee cup. That perfect pizza from Friday night. A new car. Even humans.

I would be silly if I didn’t think that was awesome! (Apart from the humans bit. Mostly.) Think of all the cooking nobody would have to do. (Think of all the cake we could eat…)

[GIF of cupcakes]

What technology from the book do you wish never becomes real?

I couldn’t say I have anything against the technology in the book (even teleportation, despite how it’s portrayed!) But I was quite terrified of the power of technology – basically the fact that corporations overpowered the government and became it, and the ones that owned technology, owned… pretty much everything else. (That part of the book is quite dystopian, BTW.) That could very well happen. So while my answer isn’t quite about technology, that is NOT something I’d like to witness happening.

What would you do/how would you react to meeting your doppelganger?

Oh my gosh, I would be super curious! Maybe I’d finally see myself from the side and stop thinking that I look fat / ugly / my hair looks stupid understand that I’m like any other normal person?? Also? I’d really like to hear my voice in reality, but not through a microphone. Do you know that way your voice sounds incredibly stupid when it’s recorded?..

[GIF of Janice from Friends saying Oh. My. God.]

Can it, Janice.

Assuming teleportation works like in the book, and also assuming you know the truth about it, would you teleport?

Spoiler territory, but I still can’t answer that question. Honest to god, I have been thinking about this ever since I finished the book and that was at least a half a month ago. I’m leaning towards no… But then again, teleportation??

What book is next on your reading list?

[GIF of Nobody Knows]

I give up in trying to write a decent 5 star review and hope I’ve convinced you to read the book anyway!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sarah s book blog
Best Sci-Fi book I have read in years. Although I am usually a "Far Future" Hard Space or at least Space Opera reader, The Punch Escrow kept me entertained through and through.

Truth be told, never before have I read a "Near Future" SF book quite as entertaining as this one. There was enough science FICTION to keep me interested in the technology, and enough actual science to keep the "near future" predictions believable. Trust me this is a VERY hard balance for a long time SF reader. Additionally, truly enjoyed the dynamic relationships between the protagonists. Their plight, and how it so very emotively impacted them made the whole story very "real."

Really don't want to spoil anything for you, so I'll just leave it at this: Pick up a copy of The Punch Escrow before the movie comes out! 1, you won't be disappointed and 2, when all of your friends are talking about the movie, you can say, "Oh yeah, I LOVED that book!"
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kimber frantz
If you’re looking for a sci-fi novel about teleportation with a heavy dose of snark from the protagonist and a few deep questions to ask yourself about the future of our technology and the possibilities of teleportation, then I highly recommend this book.

Joel is an everyman and I immediately liked his personality. He’s snarky and fairly intelligent and relatable. He even includes helpful footnotes throughout the book to aid in understanding the science of his world. I was rooting for Joel and even after he’s duplicated, I decided I liked Joel over Joel² even though they were technically the same person. I’d already bonded with Joel, I couldn’t help it!

Speaking of science, there’s a lot of it in this book. Much like The Martian, I understood the basics of what was going on, but any details went soaring through my brain like water through a sieve. But I enjoyed the footnotes and even if I didn’t understand what Joe was explaining, they added depth to the story and often made me chuckle.

I thought the book was well-paced and the end kept me guessing. I think Klein crafted a very plausible future and while I have no earthly idea if half of what he wrote is capable of happening, I was totally willing to buy it.

If you’re looking for a sassy, down-to-earth protagonist and a major identity crisis caused by clones wrapped up in a shiny sci-fi package, then you should be reading The Punch Escrow.

I recieved this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
leelan
By 2147 a.c.e., teleportation, once just a gleam in a sci-fi writer's eye, has become commonplace. Mega-corporation International Transport runs stations all over the world. Travel is as easy as pie: "The Punch Escrow, of course, is what made human teleportation – "Punching," as it as quickly branded – possible. Not only possible, but avowed as the safest form of transportation yet. Beaten into our collective consciousness was the fact that not once since the commercialization of human teleportation in 2126 had a person been maimed, altered, vanished, or otherwise mistreated by teleportation.
Not until me."

"Me" is Joel Byram. This future also has implanted comms, and the attendant 24/7 monitoring, which also figures in Joel's problems. His wife works for International Transport and she has a secret, which Joel discovers the hard way. It's going to be a bad week.

Tal M. Klein's writing style is a solid energetic 4 stars. Not polished, but it moves along quickly. For me, the big deal with "Punch Escrow" is the basic premise, the secret which International Transport is hiding. It is a simple concept but a great sci-fi idea. The rest of the story is pretty standard chasing and running.

Happy Reader
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chista
Despite the lackluster title, this book is one of the most captivating reads of the year. I do think "The Punch Escrow" is neither a title that rolls easily off the tongue nor a memorable one. The other beef I have with the story is the unlikely premise that characters living in New York in 2147 would have an abiding interest in 1980's pop culture. Besides, wasn't that already done in, "Ready Player One?"
Joel is our protagonist. He is married but not completely happily, to Sylvia. She's the breadwinner, working for a giant company known as IT. The plot revolves around these characters and Sylvia's involvement with transporter technology. The action moves swiftly and the final resolution is not easy to surmise.
I found the characters interesting, if not quite as fully fleshed out as I would have liked. The plot is thought-provoking. What will our relationship with technology be like in a hundred years? How far will artificial intelligence have evolved? What will our world look like? Who will wield the power? I think this woudl be an excellent choice for a book club discussion.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rebecca fraser
This is book that came to my attention through the reviews of several fellow bloggers. Mere hours after my curiosity was piqued, I was contacted by the publisher about receiving a copy for review… could they have possibly used quantum entanglement (or something equally physics-y) to predict my interest? Unlikely, but the subject matter of this book might make you wonder such things.

Image a world run by corporations, where teleportation is a totally mundane way of travelling from point A to point B. That’s the world we have here, but we the readers are immediately thrust into crisis – the main character, Joel Byram, is being hunted down by International Transport, the inventors of human teleportation and the most powerful corporation in the world. It’s not even poor Joel’s fault, he’s just trying to use a TC terminal to get to his vacation in Costa Rica when an anti-teleportation terrorist decided to blow up said terminal. Joel’s life is quite immediately thrust into chaos because his very existence now has the power to destroy IT and proves the truth of some very dangerous secrets. You see, there are now two Joels – the one who made it to Costa Rica and the one that exited the terminal in New York…

I found Joel to be a likable character that was easy to sympathize with and the same can be said for Joel2 (aka Costa Rica Joel). The strong affinity with Joel is largely due to the fact that this story is a narrative as told by him – other characters are present (his wife, IT employees, undercover travel agents) but I never felt a strong like or dislike for them. Those who we can identify as the ‘bad guys’ didn’t elicit any really strong emotion from me, just a passive dislike which is definitely a drawback of this type of story. The author’s building of this future Earth was well done and through Joel’s eyes we get a good feel for what the world is like, though it’s definitely an overview and doesn’t get to the nitty-gritty details for the most part. The footnotes regarding certain technologies and scientific developments were and interesting addition, though the physics stuff mostly went over my head and eventually I just ended up skipping over them.

Overall, The Punch Escrow was a really cool book that I hope will actually make it through the production phase and appear as a movie! I think it will adapt very well to that format and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for updates on that front. The ending was satisfying, the pacing quick, and the set-up for a potential sequel has me pretty stoked.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jeff ropiequet
It is the 22nd century and the world is a rather interesting place. Governments, having led the world into one too many disastrous world wars, have been basically replaced by powerful corporations that keep the economy flowing and everyone happy in this nanotech world of imbedded computer chips, fairly sentient personal apps, and medical miracles. No personalized flying cars though, ala The Jetsons, but there is teleportation, otherwise known as The Punch Escrow. A seemingly innocuous and quick form of travel. Something proven far safer than a 21st century car, or a plane. No one has ever died from teleportation, or so they tell the world. But, everything is not as it seems.

Calling upon today’s knowledge of quantum physics, the author, Tal Klein, has written a fast paced, scifi thriller, that leaves the reader at the edge of their seat. You literally will not be able to put this book down. The reader will be drawn into a future that scientifically, in some respects, may not be that far off.

The protagonist, Joel Byram, an obnoxious, lazy true antihero, is catapulted into the center of a scandal that threatens to upend the entire new world order, not to mention hurt the bottom line of The Punch Escrow’s creators. From New York, to Costa Rica, to terror dens, and then back to the iconic Chelsea Piers, you will be the passenger on a rollercoaster of backstabbing, corporate greed, and political machinations worthy of any good drama. How it all ends will leave you breathless, and wanting a sequel.

Not to be missed along the way, is how the author uses footnotes as a tool to tell the underlying backstory of the book. Make sure not to skip this part. It is highly engaging, and adds dimensions to this seat of your pants thrill ride. The footnotes not only tell the history of the future, but it also brings into focus the real science behind many of the books predictions.

This book is a combination scifi, espionage mystery, replete with corporate raiders, evil genius’ and the unlikely savior of the day. It does present some rather interesting questions about humanity, our place in the universe, and ultimately just what are you willing to give up in order to become greater than God.

If you are a scifi buff, someone who enjoys the works of David Weber, John Scalzi, Elizabeth Moon, have ever read Dune, and even enjoy the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then this book is definitely for you.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bob peru
This book has been called the next 'Ready Player One'.

I'm glad that this description isn't exactly accurate. Don't get me wrong, I see where the parallels can be drawn, but where I couldn't get into 'Ready Player One' because of the heavy reliance on nostalgia, 'The Punch Escrow' borrows from other elements that are more attractive to me. The conflict between Joel and... Joel, as well as between other characters is the fundamental backbone to the story and it's all executed with clever wit and fast paced action. There's a perfect balance of dialogue and action with just the right amount of exposition to keep the reader entertained.

I'm not sure I agree with some reviews that describe it as a hard fiction think piece, but perhaps that's symptomatic of my own heavy interest in science fiction and the strange near-hard science used in the book. That criticism is besides the point however as 'The Punch Escrow' delivers on its real promise; a fun science fiction story that kept me turning pages until I got to the end.

It also features one of my favourite tricks in a book like this, in that it's both a complete story, but leaves open the potential for more to come.

I wasn't a huge fan of the footnotes myself but the story flowed well without paying them attention if, like me, they're not your thing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
marty sloot
It’s 2147 and the world is a fascinating place to live. Don’t want to age? No problem as due to nanotechnology, humans can live as long as their heart desires. Hungry? Just ask your fancy 3D printer to whip you up a meal. Need to take a trip across the world? All it takes is a blink of the eye due to teleportation. Yes, the world is a perfect place for those looking for instant gratification.

But not everyone is excited about all these advancements that science has given them. There is a religious group that is opposed to teleportation, believing that it basically is playing God and that when people use the teleportation device, they are dying in one place and resurrecting in another. And these thoughts aren’t as farfetched as one might believe.

Enter Joel Byram. Joel’s a smart guy. His job is to train artificial intelligence to act more human and he is really good at what he does. His marriage however is not the best. His wife, Sylvia, is never at home as she is working on a top-secret project that she can’t discuss, but it’s big and will change the world. Determined to rekindle the romance that they once knew, Joel and his wife plan a trip to Costa Rica. Sylvia leaves before Joel and they are to meet up once Joel arrives. Those plans are destroyed however when someone blows up the teleportation center that Joel was in. But due to a glitch, Joel is still alive……in two different places.

And that my dear reader is when the action ramps up and this story gets exciting. I’m not going to say anymore for fear of giving anything away, but there are some serious twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages until the very end.

If you are a fan of hard science fiction, then you’re going to love The Punch Escrow, a new and exciting novel by Tal M. Klein. I’m not even going to pretend that I understood some of what was going on while reading this story, but I can appreciate the author’s writing and his talent for storytelling, and the research that went into writing this book. The characters are believable and the suspense is gripping. Most of the story moved along at a steady pace. I say most because there are a few footnotes throughout that slowed down my reading somewhat. I can understand the importance of having the added information, it just slowed me down a bit.

Mr. Klein did a fantastic job telling this story which will instantly hook readers from page one and with its compelling narrative, keep them captivated until the very end.

Pick this one up…..you won’t be disappointed!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
luke thompson
I had just finished the brilliant Ancillary Justice/Sword/Mercy trilogy and was looking for something to ease my mind out of the massive intellectual torque it demands. I stumbled upon The Punch Escrow and was suddenly transported to the ball pit at an adult Chuck E. Cheese! Great classic sci-fi with well-thought-out hard science projections of the future and a wonderful original plot. But more than anything, a barrel of replicated monkeys of fun! If you like the smart, sarcastic narrative style of the Limitless TV series, welcome to the future universe it evolved into. Even the footnotes (interactive on Kindle) are hilarious as they ease you through the tech concepts, so you're never in the dark and you're always entertained.

What Heinlein did to the time travel story in By His Bootstraps, Klein does to teleportation: turns it into French farce, with all the expected multiple missed connections, misguided love, and misconstrued motives adding up to comic chaos, in a plausible future where the apocalyptic potential of AI has been reduced to playing stooge to high-tech standup!

And you gotta love a world where even mosquitoes who have been turned away from the Dark Side of the Force are still incredibly annoying!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lacey
The Punch Escrow (TPE) currently holds a record place in my library, as I finished it in five days, which for a slow reader like myself is a huge statement. I couldn’t put this book down, and now I’ve read it understand why people have been comparing it (stylistically) to Ready Player One.

The novel is set in a somewhat distant future (2147) where teleportation has become the dominant form of transportation. It follows Joel Byram, a salter (he teaches AIs to be more human through mind games), as he’s drawn into a conspiracy that threatens the world order and forces him to question who he really is.

The novel is hard sci-fi and the author (Tal Klein) has dome some heavy-lifting in the world building. There is enormous depth to the society he has created and the science that keeps it humming. An interesting style-choice Klein has chosen is to include regular footnotes to explain various aspects of society, history, or science as it is referenced. This wouldn’t always work — these footnotes can be huge info dumps — but in the context of TPE it feels authentic (and the explanations are fascinating.

The story is told directly by the main character, in the form of a message he records for others to find so the “true story” won’t be lost. This is a nice approach, as it lets Klein provide us more than one point of view while staying firmly in Joel’s voice, which is delightful. It also means all those footnotes I mentioned are also explained in character, which is part of the reason they don’t become boring.

I loved this book from beginning to end and can see why it’s been building so much hype. If you enjoyed Ready Player One, or fast-paced hard sci-fi with a sense of humor, I recommend picking this book up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
debanjana sinha
Difficult to put this book down ... I fell asleep with it on my chest.

If you like a very dry wit (think Nelson DeMille's John Corey, only in the future and without the badge), with a fast, entertaining story, excellent character development, and some deep sci-fi that yet doesn't overwhelm, here's your book.

Best sci-fi I've read in a while. Perhaps it does a disservice to label this excellent debut novel solely as a sci-fi, although clearly, that's the genre. Despite the attention to scientific detail, this is as much a story about love, trust, faith, and betrayal. Oh, and running for one's life.

Looking forward to the Lionsgate movie.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lisa barrett
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!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
walter hollenstein
It’s the 22nd century and teleportation has been perfected for objects and humans. And then a terrorist causes something to go terribly wrong. Joel Byram gets separated from his wife Sylvia while in the process of being teleported to a vacation in Costa Rica. Perhaps “separated” is not quite the right word; try “duplicated.” The opening of the book will have you thinking Jasper Fforde is writing under an assumed name; the inventiveness and humor are at the top level. The pollution-eating mosquitoes, whose waste is H20, are an inspiration. Both elements fall off over the span of the story, but Klein holds the reader due to the effectiveness of his characters. Although the philosophical implications of teleportation play a large part of the novel, the book is also a bit of a thriller, replete with a mad scientist. All in all, a science-fiction delight.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carolee
It is the year 2147, and the safest way of transportation is teleporting. There are some religious fanatics trying to boycott this since they believe teleportation is killing people. Joel Byron works training AI's to make them more 'human'. His marriage is in danger, so Joel and his wife plan a trip to Costa Rica. During the teleportation there is a terrorist attack and something fails when it is Joel's turn, resulting in him remaining in the the departing room... but there is also a copy of himself that appeared in Costa Rica. After the incident, the transport company is trying to kill Joel, but why? And is this related to his wife's job, since she is working for the transport company?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! This is one of those sci-fi books that makes you think and will stay with you for a while after it is finished. What is it that makes us human? Is cloning or duplicating a way of creating human beings or just an aberration? These and other related questions popped in my head while listening to this book, after seeing the implications involved in the teleporting proposed by Klein.

The book is written in first person, from the point of view of Joel, the one who stayed at NY, and the one who first realizes that he is being chased by the transport company. It is written as a memoir, in which he relates what happens to him and where he puzzles together the events affecting the other characters. Apart from Joel, the characters are not fully developed, but as he is talking to us, it is easy to connect to him and understand his actions and motivations. Due to his job, which I found amazing, he will try to trick some AI's in his way to try to save his wife and reach his doppelganger.

The narration was very well done, and I especially enjoyed Matthew Mercer's singingof Karma Chamaleon, so much that I found myself singing along at the top of my lungs. Mercer really became Joel Byron and delivered impressive character interpretations. He gave different voices, accents, and styles to all the characters in the book. I had a small issue though, with one of the characters and his wife Costa Rica, since both sounded quite similar to me (same accent and similar tone). Since the husband's voice was supposed to be electronic, a subtle sound effect would have helped here. For the rest it was a top notch narration, with a spotless audio production.

I genuinely loved this book, the ideas behind, and its execution. I think the innumerable hypothesis that sci-fi makes possible are a great way of exploring, experimenting, and make us think t of the box. Whenever a book makes me think twice I consider it a success.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Tal M. Klein. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ashley ong
Tal Klein’s debut novel delivers everything readers want in science fiction; a compelling premise, intriguing characters, a rich universe, big twists, loads of action, and most of all- a fresh take on a genre staple. Klein’s concepts around teleportation bring something new to the table in a very plausible, grounded way. And the technology with all its complexities really makes us face issues of morality.

Add in a fast-paced thriller of a story, pepper it with humor, and punch-to-the-gut twists, and you get an idea of what The Punch Escrow is all about.

Another refreshing aspect to Klein’s story is his vision of the future. Not a burned out dystopia, nor a snoozefest utopia, the world is much as it is now. Many of our current problems have been solved, but more have crept up needing attention. It feels real and relatable.

Klein writes in a very cinematic style, allowing us to easily picture this tale in our heads. But soon enough we won’t have to as the book has already been picked up by Lionsgate and will be made into a movie! Count me in for opening day. The Punch Escrow quite simply Rocks!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michael brunelle
This is a terrific first novel by Tal Klein. It's labeled as "hard science fiction" but if you're not a super geek, don't let that intimidate you. It's a great story with an intriguing premise. There are quite a few footnotes at the beginning explaining some of the physics behind teleportation and other future inventions, but these are more like asides than required reading. The main character, Joel, has a lovable slightly snarky style. They're making this novel into a movie and Klein leaves a few openings to suggest more stories set in this universe. It's a fun read, with serious overtones, about identity, the morality of science on the level of Bladerunner's famous "Tears in the rain" monologue. Also, some fun '80s new wave references. It's a good book, and Klein keeps the pace moving quickly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lauren gilbert
It is the year 2147 and the world’s governments have collapsed and have been replaced by large companies who run things. It is also a world where teleportation of goods and even humans is commonplace. One would think nothing of paying to jump several blocks if one was late for a date. The concept was easy. You went to a transport site, got scanned, sat in a chair and then in a flash, you were teleported into another place. Joel thought nothing of teleporting to a bar to meet his wife who was a developer for International Transport, the company whose employees figured out how to make human teleportation safe. But, as much as he asked, his wife could not tell him that night or any night what she was so busy working on at International Transport. She promised it would all end soon, but before it did, Joel suddenly found himself sucked into a world of espionage and deception that centered around his wife’s work at International Transport. Joel doesn’t know who to trust or where to turn as his life and his worldview is suddenly turned very upside down.

The Punch Escrow is an intriguing book centered on teleportation and evil corporations. The storyline is one that I haven’t seen before and I did find it intriguing. The pace of the story is consistent and I found the book to be a quick read. The main focus is on the character of Joel and he is the only character which is really developed although there are other characters who were intriguing. But, the reader only gets a brief glimpse of these characters as they support Joel’s storyline. The book raises a lot of questions and ends in a cliffhanger which means that a sequel will be coming (I hope).

I found the science to be believable enough and a lot of the human - computer interactions to be humorous which is undoubtedly what the author intended.

Overall, this was a fun an interesting read. I recommend it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
stefan yates
in 2147, it you want to travel anywhere on the planet you go to a transporter run by International Transporter (IT). Just like on Star Trek, they 'beam' you where you want to go. The title refers to the slang term for the transport "Punch". The Escrow is the part that IT invented which made the technology usable for everyday use. Before you're reconstituted at your destination, the equipment verifies that the transfer was made completely, if so, you're moved. It not, you appear back at your original departure point. The story concerns a regular guy who gets caught in an act of terrorism which interrupts the punch escrow. He ends up at both sides of the trip. Kind of like the good and evil Captain Kirk, except that both of him are exactly the same. I very much liked the book. Most of the characters seem very real, and for the most part, the technology (including 3D printers that can make just about anything) are well integrated into the story background. The duplicated guy's job is working for artificial intelligences to make them feel more human. He does this by telling the AI riddles. These interactions were funny. The AIs for the most part were like very gullible smart people. The interaction between the two versions of the guy were good. The story is being told in first person by one of him. He keeps wondering if he really is as much of an ass as his other self seems to be.

There are two big twists to the story that I can't go into because they are major spoilers. One is pretty obvious and has been subject of Star Trek transporter stories. The other is new (to me). It this was the way the transporters on Star Trek worked, Dr. McCoy would never get in one.

My only problem was the footnotes. Sometimes I thought he could have worked the information into the narrative. Sometimes I thought the information was superfluous. They often interrupted the story. Without the footnotes, I think I'd have given it a 5.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
susan m
The book started off strong. It asked the question of what it means to be human...

... Then meandered on and on, and ended in such a way that it didn't have to answer anything.

But what really frustrated me is the author interview in the back, where he said he was trying to portray a smart, fun female physicist. While I appreciate the idea, in the book, the female physicist is a workaholic damsel-in-distress. This merely replaces one terrible stereotype with another, equally bad. The reader never really gets a sense of her personality, or why the main character will do anything for her. If you are looking for a smart, strong secondary female character (or fast-paced sci-fi), go elsewhere.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mahesh gondi
By chance, I read The Punch Escrow right after two books that are in a very similar vein: All the Wrong Todays and Dark Matter. If you like either of these books, then Tal's hard science romp will be very satisfying to you. I was immediately charmed by Joel Byram and especially his wife Sylvia, and found I really enjoyed seeing a realistic marriage correctly portrayed. Nothing is always dark, nothing is always rainbows and unicorns; Joel and Sylvia remind me a lot of my own marriage, flawed and beautiful by turns.

I am a slow reader, but I tore through this book in a week. It's hard scifi, but not dense. I did feel dense in places, and maybe got a bit confused as to how a self-proclaimed con man knew so much about quantum physics, especially in the footnotes. Yes, there are footnotes! Glorious, insanely detailed footnotes! I really felt like Tal was channeling Douglas Adams in those babies.

I really enjoyed The Punch Escrow. It's solid, polished, and well paced.

Side note: This is the first book in which I actually enjoyed reading the Q&A and the acknowledgments.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
shaza
With a cheeky narrator running the show, THE PUNCH ESCROW takes place in the year 2146, set to an 80’s soundtrack, displaying a humankind reaping the morally flexible rewards of too much knowledge. Governments are a thing of the past, much of the world now run by a few gigantic corporations. Every single person has their own virtual personal assistant, allowing the wonderful ability to receive 24/7 help while assuring the government can track your every move. Our hero Joel Byram is a slacker in the truest sense of the word. He does the minimum amount of work necessary in order to keep his lifestyle moving and his ambitious, overly-worked wife from leaving him. In order to encourage a constantly increasing Artificial Intelligence knowledge base, people get paid to stump their personal assistants. Every time Joel tricks his, or anyone’s, assistant, he gets paid a small fee and the assistant gains a small piece of knowledge. While his life appears to be puttering toward the end of a marriage that has run its course, Joel is scrambling to figure out how to reverse course. Joel’s wife works in a highly classified capacity for International Transport, the most powerful corporation in the world. IT gained its power and position after creating the ability to tele-transport humans but, as with any amazing discovery, there are always unintended consequences. When the unintended consequences have a personal impact on Joel, all hell breaks loose. With his debut novel, Tal M. Klein has envisioned a frightening 1984 on steroids that might keep you up at night when you think of the implications. Keep your eye out for the movie-he received a seven digit picture deal prior to publication. Not bad for a first timer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
emily lakdawalla
A fast-paced tale of one of Science Fiction's greatest what if questions. What if we really could transport? Klein explores this from the perspective of the 21st century looking forward, taking familiar technologies of today to make the process possible, then cramming that question into an existential tale of one man's quest to restore his life to what it once was. But, as the star-crossed Joel is destined to learn, Humpty Dumpty never goes back together again.

My one issue with the story was that I felt Joel was way too-hotheaded all the time. As such, his actions were a bit predictable in their unpredictability: you could always count on him to do something stupid first. Thankfully he does seem to grow through the story, particularly once he was face to face with the cause of his existential crisis. Still, he managed to both grow and remain true to his inner self as established throughout the book.

Overall, from start to finish, a nicely woven tale of mystery, intrigue, love, and espionage set in a dystopian Earth where even the mosquitoes aren't what one would expect them to be.

Wait, did something just pee on me?
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
fatih cetken
What I liked:
*I flew through The Punch Escrow! It was so fast paced, and there was constantly something going on, so I couldn’t put it down and read it in a day and a half.
*I love books set in the future, and I was fascinated by the details we got about how things were different: from printing and replicating food, to teleporting famous artwork, to peeing mosquitos (really!), to comms implanted in everyone’s heads, I was fascinated by it all!
*The book is from Joe’s POV, and he talks to the reader as if we don’t have any clue about his future world (we don’t, haha!) and he goes into detail explaining how things are in his future, and how they came to be. It’s something that’s usually lacking in future sci-fi books, and that’s always what I’m most interested in.
*Because so many people are trying to kill Joel and he doesn’t know who he can trust, or often, what is even going on, it really kept me engaged and at the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was happening right along with Joel.
*I loved the interactions Joel and the other characters had with various artificial intelligence. It was interesting to see how the AIs learned from their varied contact with the humans interacting with them.
*Joel’s day job as a “salter” was both interesting and entertaining. Basically, he gets paid to teach AIs new tricks, jokes, etc. It came in handy a lot throughout the book when he was in trouble and had to talk his way out of tricky situations with several AIs.
*In this future world, corporations have all the power rather than governments, and a lot of the conflict arises from various religions fighting over power and advancing technologies. This was both terrifying and felt very realistic, especially with the current political climate right now. I would have liked to know even more about how everything is run from a corporate standpoint now, so I’m hoping we get to learn more from the future books in the series.
*Cliffhanger ending!!!! These can be hit or miss for me, but I thought this one really worked, especially since there was some added content after the end of the book and I didn’t realize it was over until I turned the last page and was faced straight away with the author acknowledgements. I wanted more!! I’m really excited to see what happens next in this world.

What I didn’t like:
*A lot of the detailed science talk and explanations went over my head. The language wasn’t explained in a way that was easy to understand for those of us without science backgrounds, so I found myself saying “huh??” a lot and shrugging past huge paragraphs that I didn’t gain any new information from. I often felt like I was reading a textbook in the earlier parts of the book when the world was being explained. I’m sure quantum physics is all but impossible to explain in plain English though, so I don’t really fault the author for this.
*Along the same lines, there were many lengthy footnotes during the first 1/3 of the book, and I thought most were unnecessary. Maybe someone more science-inclined would have found them interesting, but most they weren’t essential to the story. Once I figured that out, I skimmed a lot of them.
*I wish we’d gotten more backstory for all the many characters. It took me awhile to remember who everyone was at first, and I felt disconnected from most of them because we didn’t get to know them very well.

I highly recommend The Punch Escrow for fans of The Eye of Minds, Ready Player One, The Martian, and Lock In.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shafina khabani
If you like real research behind your narrative adventure, you'll love Tal M. Klein's adventurous tale of the future of transportation. He spent the time to research the science behind the ideas of teleportation with a series of scientists working in the field. The result is a page turning, hard science fiction adventure that will make a fantastic film from Lionsgate.
The adventure is palpable. Tal M. Klein spun a tale with dynamic but very believable characters. Joel Byram, the protagonist, is an everyman who finds the strength to work through the puzzle of the adventure that the story presents to him. He is no superhero, he isn't a super spy. He's an average guy with the brains to think through the predicament he suddenly finds himself in. Joel is us. Joel does the things we believe we would do in a desperate situation.
If you liked The Martian: A Novel in 2014, you'll love Tal M. Klein's The Punch Escrow, it's my pick for THE novel of 2017.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
morgan snow
It's often with a bit of trepidation that I approach Sci-fi, both in books and in other media. The genre is just not always in my wheelhouse. But all fears faded super fast with Tal M. Klein's THE PUNCH ESCROW, maybe because Klein does such a smashing job drawing characters who, even though they exist in the future, feel so human and so real. I was rooting for Joel and Sylvia from page one -- what a cool, engaging couple they are. And while it's the human element that makes the book work so well for me, Klein also touches on so many important tech issues that are so relevant right now. This is a deep and thought-provoking story that will keep you turning pages until the very end. What an awesome debut and can't wait to see what this author does next.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
allison jones
Wow! This is one of those science fiction novels that really makes you think about your personal beliefs and ask yourself, “how far is too far?” when it comes to human advancement in technology and science. In the 2100s, nanotechnology runs everything, and teleportation is the preferred method of travel. I used to love the idea of teleportation and the convenience of being able to teleport instead of drive around (and just imagine all of the international traveling you could do!), but after reading The Punch Escrow, I honestly hope it’s scientifically impossible for teleportation to ever exist.

The Punch Escrow is for fans of true science fiction, but it also has a fair amount of humor. Joel Byram is hilarious and sarcastic. In his own words, he “tells jokes to computers” for a living, and there are several chapters where we get to see him trick computers into doing illegal (but nonviolent) activities for him.

I listened to the Audiobook version and I was pleased to discover that Matt Mercer does a fantastic job of bringing Joel Byram to life, and he gives each of the supporting characters realistic voices, including an ambulance (this is from one of the computer-tricking scenes that I mentioned earlier). I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook, and I look forward to listening to other narrations by Matt Mercer in the future.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
justin ramroop
When I first got this book I couldn't put it down. I enjoyed the prose, the science, and the personality of the main character. But something is lacking here in quality control. Alot of parts later in the book seem like they didn't get the attention they deserved. The prose dropped in quality, as well as the character development for those who ended up playing a significant role. A fun read but I don't think I'll pick it up again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
alicia vogelsang
but Jesus doesn't love teleportation.

It was brave and risky for a first novel.
That's what i liked about it. He took a chance. Was it perfect? No.
You want a safe formulaic adventure story read Clive Cussler.
A well written quick paced story.
It was refreshing to see a non dystopian future although we will have to live through a third world war.
the store creating the 'Glacier'. Will it be the end of us all? Jeff Bezos the anti christ or will he become a righteous person? The leader of the Gehinnomites? Dear God!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
karen mae
The book itself is printed with adequate quality. The story begins with a few hard science fiction components. However, the determined reader should be prepared to suspend disbelief. The text contains numerous footnotes, which are cute at first, until they get increasingly obnoxious.

The Punch Escrow plot is disappointing. The serious parts are predictable, and the attempts at humor are tedious. While reading, there may be more than one reminder of a more...prestigious...movie. With every page there is an opportunity for a redeeming quality, yet the intense dislike grows for a number of reasons. Telling the story out of order does not prevent the reader from realizing consequences much earlier than the main character. Referring to the reader as if they are from some distant future is pointless and annoying. The author desperately wants the husband to drive the story, when the true protagonist in the sense of making things happen is the wife, whose potential is wasted in this immature story. The villains are explicitly evil, yet they are not interesting. It is awful how the story introduces a question, then refuses to answer it for no good reason. Rather, the author prefers to defer anything of substance, and intentionally avoids a satisfying ending. The tropes continue until the last insulting word.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
julie cohen
Matthew Mercer did such a good job, his narration was full of personality, I could tell each character apart easily and it never felt caricature-like. I’m quite impressed.

The Punch Escrow is set in the year of 2147, where air pollution has been eradicated by genetically-engineered mosquitoes who feed on fumes, people have control over how they age and transportation is done via teleportation, which is offered exclusively by the mysterious and powerful company International Transport. Our protagonist Joel has a very interesting job: he trains apps with artificial intelligence to be more human and understand the complexity of human interaction. He’s a quite normal guy, trying to save his failing marriage, listening to 1980s New Wave and generally being a smart-mouth. Except… one day, when teleporting to meet his wife Sylvia for a very much needed vacation in Costa Rica, Joel gets accidentally duplicated. Now he must use every trick he knows to save his skin from a company that will do anything to keep its secret safe…

Can I just say I love the concept of teleportation plus its ethical and moral dilemmas? I was discussing this with my boyfriend literally two weeks before starting this book, so I was quite pleased by the theme. Awesome!

The world building was quite realistic and interesting – a future where things are different and technology was definitely improved. It scared me and fascinated me the idea of having a chip which is your entire identity implanted in you, and apps that will talk and interact with you like best friends… it’s both creepy and cool.

The Punch Escrow’s style reminded me a bit of Dark Matter with a touch of Dan Brown-esque conspiracy. Which for me is a winner. It was very engaging, the main characters intriguing, smart, complex and with depth – which sometimes thrillers fail at, but this book definitely delivered.

While I loved the way this book both keeps you on the edge of your seat and also provokes thought on technology, morals and how far one will go for the sake of a bit of comfort, it also felt like it digressed from time to time, spending too much time on discussing those points. Although very interesting, I wish it’d been kept a bit shorter. It also felt to me like the ending was longer than it needed to be, but it didn’t bother me, really.

The audio takes a little under 9 hours to listen to, and I just had to listen to all of it in one day. So if you like taking a good thriller for travelling, you definitely won’t even feel the time pass by as you read this!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
roman catala
The Punch Escrow is inventive, astounding, and intense! This one will take you on an unforgettable ride to the future! Prepare for twists and turns, action, humor, and a thought provoking plot.

The Plot: The Punch Escrow takes place in the year 2147 where teleportation is the main mode of transportation, people decide when and how they age with nanotechnology, each person has a neural transplanted comm system, and pretty much everything is automated or run by artificial intelligence. Joel Byram is on his way to Costa Rica to meet his wife for a second honeymoon when something goes terribly wrong with the teleport. He teleports to Costa Rica, but he doesn’t. Suddenly, there is another Joel in Costa Rica, meeting with his wife, and taking over his comms and identity. Now New York Joel is on the run from the corporation that controls the teleportation system, and from the religious group that is set out to destroy the company.

I don’t know if I have any words that can properly represent this book. I was blown away by the immense amount of creativity that Klein has shown with this story! This one is going down as a “one sitting read” because I could not put it down!

The Punch Escrow is one of those books that provokes deep thoughts about the future, technology, and humanity. I can tell that the author spent a tremendous amount of time building this highly imaginative world for us to fall in to! The book has awesome foot note details that help us delve in to the “history” of the world, and the writing style has an immense amount of detail and imagery to help us really see the story.

I really loved the plot. I felt like it really involved me, and I was thoroughly surprised at every twist and turn. When I arrived at the “big reveal” of the story, and the secret behind the teleportation system, my mind was blown! This plot revelation was unbelievable, incredible, and terrifying! I think I would have had the same reaction the main character had if I had found out this secret in reality.

I really enjoyed reading the story from Joel’s perspective. He was an interesting character. He was intelligent, had a funny sense of humor, had decent morals, and ended up being pretty brave and heroic! I really loved his admiration for the 80’s (1980’s)! Klein did a fantastic job with getting us in Joel’s head and making us feel like we were caught in this crazy situation with him.

I enjoyed the rest of the characters. I felt like they had just enough development to help me understand their personalities and roles in the story. I liked Joel’s wife, Sylvia. I was intrigued by Joel 2, and I really loved the “mad scientist” villainous character!

This one made it in my top list of Science Fiction novels! It had an incredible plot, profound writing style, developed characters, and awesome plot twists! I really loved the Princess Bride reference and 80’s song title chapter names! There were so many fun science aspects in the story that I felt like the guys from The Big Bang Theory would approve of this book!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bryan worra
Please Note: I received an advance reader's copy of this book as part of the Irish Banana Blog tour promoting this book. This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

The Punch Escrow, by Tal. M. Klein, is set in a future where technology has transformed the world. Some of the innovations are predictable, such as everyone having chip implants and the widespread use of cyber-currency. The most transformative technology of the new age is teleportation.

The use of this technology, and it's moral implications is at the center of this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and devoured it in a few days. With plenty of imaginative world-building, action, and existential dilemmas, this an entertaining book that every fan of science fiction should read.

What I Liked:

World-Building:

While some of the uses for technology are ones I think most people will predict, others were delightful and fun. Of course, there were the requisite driver-less cars, and Google Glass type interfaces. I particularly enjoyed the 22nd century's way of solving air pollution! I think this is why the book seems so believable to me. Many of the innovations are things that I hope will actually occur in the future.

I also like that the wise-cracking main character, Joel, takes time to humorously explain these technological breakthroughs, as well as the "history" of these inventions.

Action:

This is a fast-paced book with Joel, Joel², and their wife, Sylvia trying to find each other, and evade those who want to erase the evidence of the two Joels. Besides the International Transport company trying to "clear" one of the Joels, there are also religious fanatics who want to capture the two Joels and display them as examples of the evils of teleportation.

There are at least three storylines happening at once, but the author does an excellent job of keeping everything from getting too confusing. Don't get me wrong, some of the plot IS confusing, but that is deliberate and helps the reader to understand how bewildered Joel, Joel², and Sylvia must feel.

Existential Angst:

There are several moral conundrums in this book which will make the reader think, and may be fun for a book club to discuss. What if you get promoted to an amazing job, only to realize that your company is doing something horribly immoral? Would you quit? Now that you know their secret, would the company try to have you (or your loved ones) killed to keep you silent.

What would happen if you were suddenly replicated? Who would be the "real" you? If you were their spouse, how could you choose between them?

These were great dilemmas to ponder, and led to me thinking about progress versus purity. Do we want genetically altered food that may keep costs down, and help us feed a growing population? Or do we want to keep the food supply "pure"? Do we want medical innovation that will allow people to live forever, or should people age naturally?

What I Was Mixed About:

My only criticism of the book (and it is a tiny one), was how the book ended. I appreciated that the main story was resolved, but felt that there didn't need to be any cliffhangers. If the author wants to create a sequel, there are many avenues for him to explore. Let the characters have a moment of happiness, please.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
philip raby
This is "hard" science fiction like the Martian, that assumes at least SOME awareness of science and technology, etc. So if you like more simple plots and not having to work out some of the "facts" behind the events, you might not like this quite so much.

I did like it - but it got a little too cute in spots, the ending wasn't great (I couldn't understand what was supposed to be happening), and there are red herrings that were disappointingly not followed up on. But I was engaged and interested the whole time, and that keeps it four stars.

The writing is very solid - there's a LOT of unimaginative books out there and Tal Klein goes all-in with his idea, and for the most part it works. He has come up with a completely obvious idea - that was not obvious until he came up with it! His take on teleportation is really pretty brilliant, and it does successfully raise some questions about reality. Very neat.

I get the "Ready Player One" comparison - but this is a better book IF you can accept the 'hard science fiction' style. It doesn't have the pop culture aspects of RPO, but it's a lot more adult and he put a lot more thought into it. Like my title says, it's good to see somebody with a NEW idea for his story, and not an obvious derivation of something that came before (there's an old Stephen King story "The Jaunt" which deals with something similar, but "Punch Escrow" takes it in a new direction).

I would read more books by this author - I can't tell if he meant to set this book up for a sequel or not. I think he did? The ending was unsatisfying for a few reasons, but the vast majority of the story was very well done.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
abdualrahman
‘The Punch Escrow’ incorporates, evil corporations, sci-fi technology, and some funny moments which all combined for a fun story. The plot is unique and inventive and the characters are fun and interesting. The writing is great, I really felt as if I was part of the story. If you love sci-fi (or 80’s music) this book is right up your alley. I highly enjoyed it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sam dugan
I bought this on Inkshares a day before the release and was pleasantly surprised to receive it within minutes of paying. Over the course of a few days, in between moving house and work, I read every second I had a chance. One moment iBooks was saying "just started" and the next I felt the end approaching - all too soon! Only a select few books and movies have that dreaded feeling that it will end before my curiousity runs out!
The Punch Escrow was a joy to read, and hard to put down to focus on the mundane nanobot-less world that we live in. Thought provoking and well paced.
I am not in particular a fan of first person humour,but Tal M. Klein pulled it off!
To any fan of technology, and the future - I highly recommend you read the Punch Escrow!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lindatahir
Science Fiction skips over a lot of the science behind amazing future Utopia of the world's we love; The Punch Escrow seeks to explore it. Wonder at a world free of many of the problems we experience today while exploring the technology and science that solved the issues we face. The issue explored the most is Teleportation and it's breaks down the Science, Ethics and Morals behind the technology.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carole m
I love the genre, but I can't really enjoy hard sci-fi unless it's also very well written, and The Punch Escrow blows that requirement out of the water. The character development is totally amazing, the worldbuilding is done to great detail, and the pop-culture references and jokes are on point. When reading this, you can totally see why Lionsgate optioned it for a film before it was even released.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sean stromsten
The Punch Escrow is one of the finest modern sci-fi debuts, period. It’s more lighthearted than Altered Carbon, but just as immersed in its carefully considered technology. It’s more grounded in its world-building than Ready Player One, but just as eager to make you laugh or to warm your heart.

While its protagonist Joel is unabashedly male, the viewpoint of the book is decidedly feminist. And not in that nagging, I’m-only-in-it-for-the-virtue-signaling way, either, but just in the sense that this is how the world will evolve, and that this is a good thing.

Many of the elements will have a familiar ring to sci-fi enthusiasts: teleportation, powerful corporations, scrappy protagonists, and plausible but freewheeling technological speculation. But these things are stolen, not borrowed. The teleportation has a past and a future that feels organic to the world we’re inhabiting. The powerful corporation feels a little more inhabited by humans than you might be used to. The scrappy protagonists are more saucy, resourceful, and humble than baseline. And best of all, the freewheeling technological speculation will make you laugh with delight again and again.

So, you know, go read it already, yeah?

[Disclaimer: Although I was a volunteer beta reader, I don’t have any financial stake in the book or this review. It just hooked me from the first read!]
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
margot saunders
I love hard-SF and when I saw The Punch Escrow described on InkShares last year, I was intrigued and the sample chapter (excerpt?) sealed the deal and I backed it. Like all the best SF, the science is kept entirely believable and the focus is on the characters, the society in which they live, and how the presence of that particular bit of science/technology impacts both.

The way that Tal M. Klein presents the story in a "memoir" style and uses footnotes to give details to the future reader who may need some context on the "past" worked well as a technique to provide the kind of detail that firmly sets this into the hard-SF genre without bogging down the story-telling.

For me, a 5-star rating means that I not only loved it, but I can see myself reading it again some time in the future. (Probably well before 2147, too.)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
el quijote
Wow!

Yeah, that sums up my experience with this book. I really enjoyed it. There’s tons of science-y bits, and you know how I like my science. There’s the mosquitoes that eat carbon fumes (and then pee rainwater), the personal assistant AIs, self-driving vehicles, and teleportation. Yep! The 22nd century is looking mighty fine indeed. Then in steps Joel Byram.

Joel is such a smart ass and I had a lot of fun with this character. He’s a Salter, someone who is paid to provide conundrums to AIs. Legally, benignly, salting teaches the AI. However, Joel could use his salting skills to backdoor hack an AI, which is totally illegal and our hero would never do that. Or would he? The author did a great job of showing us this job, which is totally fascinating to me, but is rather humdrum boring to Joel. There are tons of Salters and Joel makes it sound as boring as customer service.

Then there’s Joel’s fascination with 1980s music. Oh my! I had so many of those songs stuck in my head while listening to this book, especially Karma Chameleon by Culture Club. At least some, if not all, of the chapters were named after 1980s songs. I’m sure I missed some of the references. Which makes this a perfect book for a reread.

It did take me a little bit to figure out the title of the book. At one point, Joel goes over the philosophy of this 17th century British dude, John Punch along with Ockham’s Razor. It wasn’t until halfway through that I finally understood the ‘escrow’ part of the title: holding in trust. As Joel learns the true mechanism behind International Transport’s teleportation, the title becomes clear and it is a very chilling and horrifying truth indeed! Tal Klein, hats off to you. You made my blood run cold with that reveal.

OK, so I loved all the science though if you’re not into science, some of the info dumps might bore you a little. Fear not! This tale is full of action and danger and snark. Oh yes, we get plenty of snark (yay!). Joel goes to great lengths to ensure his wife Sylvia is OK. She works for International Transport on top secret classified stuff and after the Big Event, all sorts of people are either trying to kill or capture Joel and Sylvia. Joel resorts to various types of trickery, torturing people with 1980s songs, hijacking an emergency vehicle, and teaming up with questionable people. It is a wonderful roller coaster ride.

In short, this was a unique and completely engaging story. The mix of science and snark captured my brain and my heart. Klein is a talented author and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

Narration: Matthew Mercer – you rocked this book! Literally, you rocked it 1980s style. Thank you for pulling out all the stops and making Punch Escrow a total delight to listen to. You were the perfect smart ass Joel and I loved the bits of song. As Joel went through his myriad of emotions, you were right there portraying them to the listeners. All together, it was a great performance.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Tal M. Klein. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
paul headrick
There is nothing bad that I can say about this book. If I can give one piece of advice it is to try something out of your comfort zone - you just might get a pleasant surprise. I certainly got that here.

It's a book that brought back memories of childhood. It's a book that makes you think about what is possible. It's a book that makes you wonder what our future may hold. I'm all about the romance but I don't miss that here. I loved it from beginning to end. Mr. Mercer was the perfect choice for the voice actor.

Mr Mercer is multi talented. He does a great job of bringing all the characters to life. He changes the tone and timbre of his voice in order to create some of the people in this story. He even does a pretty good job with female voices - does enough that you can picture a woman performing in this story. And he even sings. He's an all around actor performing a one man play. One sad note was this is the only book that I found he has narrated so one can always hope. My only disappointment is that there is no visual - I bet it would have been amazing.

Mr. Klein was also a pleasant surprise. I took the chance and got out of my comfort zone and was completely blown away. His story took me back to shows that I watched while growing up. He reminded me how simple they were compared to the shows and movies that get created now. The technology is so much more advanced. It's that technology in his story that has me wondering what our future truly holds. Current events bleed into the story because of the villain in the piece. His mindset could be of any of those whose mind becomes a little skewed. I could not find any more books and that was a disappointment because he makes it a pleasure to go outside what I'm usually comfortable with.

These two men are the perfect couple. Mr. Klein has words that just sing and makes each scene flow. Than you have a very versatile narrator in Mr. Mercer. And if you listen through the whole book, he'll actually sing to you. In searching about these two gentlemen imagine my surprise when Mr. Klein notes on his Facebook page that it may be adapted to the screen. And that please me very much. It's just another way to bring his words to life. But after hearing our narrator sing a certain 80's song, I can't picture anyone else doing that once I can actually see "The Punch Escrow". It will be interesting to see if this author creates a followup.

I have to say thank you to these two gentlemen for a very pleasurable experience.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Audio Copy of this book
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
heba abdulaziz
I am late in getting to reviewing this wonderful book, as I finished it several weeks ago. But I cannot let it go. I have to take the time to say that I really, really loved this book.

The writing is excellent, the premise nothing short of terrifying, and the resolution rocks.

Essentially a man, Joel, who makes his living inventing verbal puzzles for computers (to enhance their abilities), goes to a teleportation device to be transported to meet his wife for a last ditch effort to save their marriage. Things have not been going well between them, and part of it is because of the stress of her job. She works for International Transport, the company that invented the teleportation technology that both people and goods use. There's a new project she's working on that seems to have taken over her life.

Teleportation, as with pretty much any new technology, is controversial. In fact, a religious group is convinced that using it damages the soul.

When Joel goes into the teleportation device, a religious fanatic goes into one at the same place at the same time and sets off a bomb. This disrupts the process, and Joel has to force his way out. When he does, he finds that all his technology now ignores him and tells him he's an "invalid user."

Why?

Ah....that's the secret of how teleportation works. And no one is supposed to know. So the corporation sets out to kill Joel before anyone can find out what happened and why it happened.

Joel has one desire - reach his wife. But what he doesn't realize is that reaching her is only going to be part of the battle to stay alive.

The idea is fascinating, complicated, and the story moves quickly. It doesn't waste time letting the reader in on what exactly the secret is, which is good. Then it becomes about surviving being someone outside the corporation who knows.

The book is fun, satisfying and ultimately an incredibly human story about technology. I definitely suggest you put it on your don't miss list.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kelly smith
A great idea ruined by shallow writing. The first page starts with some crude, juvenile humor, which turned me off right away. The rest of the book follows a simple plot that doesn't examine the deep philosophical issues that one would think about the subject matter. As other reviewers have noted, the "twist" is broadcast right from the start, yet the characters talk like the reader should be surprised by it near the end. Is Project Honeycomb the best secret technology ever, or merely a name for the technology that occurs throughout the entire book? The characters' motivations come out of left field and are completely unrealistic and unbelievable. There are no surprises in this book. The protagonist and his double act like completely different characters rather than duplicates of each other.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
corina redis
Forced myself to finish this book. I was interested in the general premise and the pitch on the cover, but everything dragged on through clunky boring action segments and painful dialogue to an unfulfilling conclusion. Any interesting questions brought up through the ship of Theseus nature of teleportation are not addressed with any depth.

The campy characters did not jive with how in depth the author wanted to expound upon his hard sci-fi world building concepts with gratuitous footnotes (ex GMO mosquitoes that clean the air.) The 80's references felt completely shoehorned in and only served to break my immersion in the story.

Joel is an annoying snarky protagonist, his wife is a one dimensional damsel in distress/expository dialogue vehicle, and the antagonist becomes increasingly cartoonish in their conduct and dialogue.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rich flammer
Because who doesn't want to teleport?!?!?!?
Brief synopsis: Joel is a smart-ass "Salter," someone who tricks computers and apps for a living. His life isn't all that remarkable and his marriage to a brilliant scientist may not be salvageable. In an effort to rekindle what's been lost the couple agrees to teleport to Costa Rica for a 2nd honeymoon only something goes terribly wrong. Under attack by religious extremists, Joel's teleporting procedure is seemingly a failed effort and he is stuck in NYC. Yet, things are more complicated than that and Joel is stuck in a web of corporate deceit while his wife, Sylvia, is resurrecting the Joel who died immediately upon arriving in Costa Rica.
Science Fiction is not my primary reading genre and I have a minimal amount of experience. That said, this book is very complex in both concept and delivery and I loved it!
Within pages of heavy scientific language, facts, and even footnotes, lives a humor and depth of emotion that gives the book so much humanity it's easy to forget you're reading a hard science fiction filled with technicalities.
The world building is phenomenal. While the 2147 locations/settings of the book are not entirely different from our own current day world, the technological advancements, the environmental changes, and lifestyle variances of American culture is layered seamlessly and vividly.
Rooms and vehicles are governed by interactive apps. Mosquitos are entirely responsible for preserving air quality. People are equipped with personal communication systems that interface within our field of vision.
This was a surprisingly enjoyable read for me and I highly recommend.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
mark wilkinson
It seems like these days every book is 'the next Some Other Book'. With horribly derivative sub-genres like the whole section of YA devoted to The Next Hunger Gameses, the name often fits. Teens competing to the death for some reward or avoidance of punishment or whatever, sure, that's Hunger Games-esque.

But this? RP1 is an big tub of 80s culture to wallow in, and if that's your thing, it's freaking awesome. The writing's fine, the plot, um, exists i guess, but really what it is for most readers is happy flashbacks to youthful gaming experiences. That's it. Punch Escrow has a culture club reference and that's about as close as it gets to being anything like RP1.

SO.

If you want The Next Ready Player One, this is not it. The publishers or whoever called it that did this book no kind service. People picking up this book expecting a RP1-type-reading-experience will be greviously disappointed, and some people who might enjoy what this book actually is might bypass it because they didn't dig RP1.

Okay okay, enough ranting. If this book isn't RP1.1, what is it?

It's...a pretty generic future sci-fi thing. For some reason it's written as if to be read by people hundreds of years in the future of the main character, who is in turn 100s of years in our future, and i really didn't get that conceit. Why is he narrating-for-an-audience instead of just y'know being the narrative main character?

It's a fast read, too. Some people will whine about the footnotes, but if you don't like footnotes just skip them. You'll miss a few jokes, a lot of technical details not vital to the plot, and a lot of half-hearted efforts at snark (though i will say that the author's choice to use superscript to distinguish between two of the characters gets a bit annoying since superscript is also used for the footnotes). Even reading the footnotes, it's a fast and well-paced read. It's not a unique plot (see the myriad other books, movies, tv shows, etc that have an 'oops we made a clone/twin' plots), but there are explosions and beat-downs and golf carts on bumpy roads, so it still has a place in the world.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ella fernandez
This book has so much to love: fast-paced action, full-bodied scientific explanations, disarmingly funny and sweet moments, and such a good ending. But what I loved most about this story is what it left with me—it makes the question of how far we might push humanity in the name of scientific advancement very tangible and personal. I imagined making these futuristic choices with the protagonists, feeling their empowerment along with the inextricable dangers and existential crises. This is more than a fun summer read—it'll stay with you long after, and perhaps drive some awesome philosophical conversations with friends and family.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
anoek
Klein's The Punch Escrow is accessible hard sci-fi that's pretty darn hard to put down. The voice is keen and funny, the prose well-wrought, the pacing spot-on, and the themes thought-provoking. To merely say this is a fun read is to give it short shrift. This book has reverberated with me, haunted me a bit, in the best way.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lynnvariety
I really enjoyed this read, it is witty, engaging, makes you think about the ramification of technology and how it interacts with the human condition, and in the end is believable, realistic view of what society would be like in the future with teleportation. With the hard science, I love the way Klein handles this in the footnotes as not to get in the way of the story. Clearly Klein put a lot of effort into every detail of the book and capitalizing on themes of today such as AI, bioengineering, what jobs look like, religion, etc, not just teleportation. And it is a great story to boot. I heard the movie rights have also been bought, I can see this being a super movie/series as well. Sequel or even prequel would be great as well, perhaps more on the The Last War. Well done, great read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sarah leonard
It’s the year 2147 and nanotechnology reigns supreme! There’s no more pollution because genetically engineered mosquitoes suck carbon dioxide out of the air. Cars drive themselves and chits are used to pay for travel. But the highlight of this world lies in teleportation, the ability to travel anywhere in the world in literally seconds. It’s all controlled by International Transport, a company where Sylvia, Joel Byram’s wife, works. The company is into changing life for the better, all with the science of quantum mechanics which IT’s scientists have completely dissected and applied to modern technology. But nothing is perfect, right?

To start with Joel and Sylvia are about to celebrate an anniversary, and Joel realizes that this marriage isn’t working at all basically because communication between the two is nil, both in quantity and quality. Whenever Joel gets close to a time when they can stop and talk, something happens and the talk never occurs.

Now Joel’s on his way to Costa Rica for a much-needed vacation for Sylvia and him. However, something goes very wrong and Joel is now the prisoner of IT scientists who proceed to explain that one part of him got transported to Costa Rica but another part of him, one might call “the soul,” is here, never left and ultimately probably dead although his body’s presence denies that last premise.

Something’s gone dreadfully wrong and it all involves a war between corporate higher-ups, who just don’t know when to curb their greed and realize what they can’t accomplish with science, and a bunch of religious maniacs who believe the new scientific world is evil, the Tower of Babel Biblical story updated by centuries.

All of this is accomplished with Joel’s snarky humor, clear descriptions (wee bit too many) of the hard science facts involved in the plot and this world, and a mystery filled with adventure and Sylvia and Joel go out of the box to find out precisely what IT Corporation has done that is science gone amok and why!!! For science fiction fans, this is a gem! Enjoy it all!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
kelly maher
I bought this book based on reviews that it was a hard scifi book, ala The Martian. Hard sci fi means it's possible without an order-of-magnitude leap in technology. This book's premise centers on teleportation, mosquitoes that clean pollution, and implants that connect to the internet for our comms.

I couldn't get more than 1/3 of the way through. It wasn't what was advertised, and it wasn't that compelling. The story is just going to turn out to be a modern version of The Prestige.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
lynn solomon watters
It starts off well, with a fun and intriguing premise and interesting science asides.
But the main character talks and acts like he is 15. The villains are cartoons: a stock loony religious cult (of course) and a stock mad scientist who won't stop talking. The plot devolves into zany chase scenes.

It started as science fiction and became Scooby Doo.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
padavi
So they make a very big deal about what will happen to society when everyone finds out the truth behind teleportation and the punch escrow but then whenever someone finds out they still continue teleporting. I also thought the characters lacked depth. Now, the AI interactions were actually pretty good and the salting was a nice invention. I would not recommend this book, I think the editors should have left the poop jokes in, maybe I would have given it 2 stars then.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
irum
Calling this the next "Ready Player One" is ridiculous and misleading. Just because the main character listens to Culture Club a couple of times, doesn't make it the true celebration of endless nostalgia that "Ready Player One" is.

Also, like others, I did enjoy the beginning of the book, but by the middle it was beginning to annoy me. It's hard to say why. There seems to be judgement of the speculated technologies, not from the characters but from the author. I'd rather make up my own mind or have the characters convince me. Additionally, although many reviewers enjoy the hard science fiction aspects of the novel, and they do appear accurate science, they aren't very original. Even the main moral dilemma in teleportation has been dealt with deeper and better by other authors.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chauncey
Absolutely loved this book. The story is fast-paced, has plenty of delightfully funny moments and characters in it, and has been well researched. The footnotes are a must read. As a physicist, I can tell you that these provide a healthy mix of real science and a good dose of scientific stretches that are the markup of any great sci-fi story.
The author does a great job placing 20th century pop-culture into a story that takes place in the 22nd century. Well done!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
alia atreides
This book is well written and has a pretty good flow. But... 3 stars because it's too sciency to get so much science wrong. The very first episode in the book is about how the Mona Lisa was lost in a teleporting accident when a coronal mass ejection plays havoc with things on earth. But, of course, a CME is an ejection of mass (it's in the name) and it travels significantly slower than the speed of light, so no one on earth in a technologically advanced future is going to be caught by surprise by a CME. There is also casual mention of time travel without any explanation. Not a problem in a time-travel fantasy, but a jarring miss in a "hard" sci-fi book.
However, it does get extra points for pointing out the problem with Star Trek style teleporters, which is that they kill you. An interesting fact that everybody seems to gloss over. Although having realized that the teleporters kill you, people in this book keep on using them...
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
caroline tien
I definitely enjoyed reading this book. The intro chapters that set-up much of the science of the story did feel to bog it down a bit, but once past that part it flowed very well. Joel, the narrator, struck me as almost any guy I know in how he reacts to the situation he finds himself in. To be fair, sometimes his motivations and thoughts get repetitive and annoying, but again that does put him into the "any guy" category, making a lot of the story easy to relate to.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
chalotte
Mild Spoilers:
Wanted to like it I did, but the ethics are as muddled as modern society. Cool for a main character to abort a baby and that's winked at in a sappy emotional way, but another human being a little bit more developed? Nope, not allowed. That's the crux of the conflict. Odd, very odd for "hard science". Sometimes the science is explained well, at others....well someone dove a bit too deep down the jargon rabbit hole. The initial concept is very intriguing and so is the society of the future in some ways. However, the author's vision is rather limited, and so is his creativity. Instead of imagining the culture and media methods of 100+ years from now, we get an oddly nostalgic narrator who's more than obsessed by cultural items that never really made it big even in their own time. It's unfortunate that the author still expects us to be doing the same sorts of things 100+ years from now in our free time especially with regard to social media. Seems like lazy writing. Finally, the "hard science" of this book is a little poorly researched at times. 3D Carbon printers are not going to replicating gold as it's impossible, well unless you wanted to get into alchemy. Would have been better to have limited the function of 3D printers to just carbon based items like food and lifeforms. Plenty of ideas and implications there. Didn't need to make them the magic lamp that had to be retroactively controlled. A needless side explanation. The plot carries along well, and the characters are likeable. It's just that it falls flat about halfway through. It's like someone ran out of gas.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
j miller
You, yes you reading this review - you need to read this book. You should not even be thinking about it, you should have already purchased it and be sitting down with it right now. Go. Stop reading my review that is never going to be capable of explaining how good this book is.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
patricia chlan
I thought this was a pretty good book that blends elements of pop-sci and thrillers, but the publisher's claim that it is the supposed-next "Ready Player One" is hard to credit. The two books are very different in both feel and content, and only superficial elements (a few pop cultural references) potentially connect the two.

The main point of The Punch Escrow novel is to take up the hoary "transporter paradox" in a way that the author apparently hoped makes it seem more plausible in something like the contemporary near-future. Without unnecessary spoilers, a transporter error leads to a series of mishaps re identity and personhood which, to me at least, were utterly foreseeable and didn't plow much new ground. The better part of the storytelling came with respect to the subsequent investigation and coverups and everything resulting from that. I'm guessing that whether you really get into this book probably depends most on how familiar (or fatigued) you are with stories about the transporter paradox trope (e.g., as in numerous Star Trek plots, or the movie The Prestige, or in about a thousand message board / forum / Reddit discussion threads) and the author's decision to place a fairly stereotypical wisecracking slacker everyman at its narrational center. In short: a good book, but it might make a better movie.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
anne john
This is a very fun read. I love Star Trek, so the teleporter tie in was fun. I did notice some of the science was a bit flakey like losing the Mona Lisa due to a solar flair (like another reviewer mentioned). In a sci-fi book some things that don't add up can pull you out of the story. Other than a few small complaints I had a very good time reading it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jessamy
Engaging and exciting. Klein has created a believable, and understandable future; with insightful detail and some cunning wit. I'd personally disregard the reference to "the next Ready Player One" - this is a far more believable What Will Happen To Your Children's Children - in terms of economy and day-to-day. Some of the best footnotes I've read since Pratchett in his prime.

At its core - what does it mean to be you?

I realise there is a movie, and it could well be Very Good - but my takeaway was - "I hope this universe gets expanded"
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
acbrown
I would be dead by chapter 10.

I listened to this book in audio format with my boyfriend. One of the main reasons we were interested was because we like the voice-over actor, Matt Mercer. It starts out strong with interesting concepts but overall falls short in strange places. I think the author has something good going, but this feels like more of a first draft than a final.

Here are a few things that seemed unfinished to me.
-The main character, Joel, frequently switches from a hard-boiled-husband-who'll-do-anything-for-his-wife to man-with-no-applicable-skills-who'll-do-anything-out-of-desperation. He's not very likable because of this.

- Joel has an unexplained obsession with 90's new-wave music. He lives in the 2140's, but this knowledge is never given backstory or useful to him. It makes it just a strange nod to the 90's that may have been added to draw in audiences based on nostalgia. It would have been better if he had a real reason to like the music, or if his knowledge had come in handy at some point in the book.

-Sylvia, Joel's wife, is a big part of the story. She is often described as beautiful and highly intelligent. Despite this, she is never useful once. Joel is always chasing after her, fixing her mistakes, etc. I find it weird that she can work on advanced teleportation and but is literally the damsel in distress the entire time, even when there is no danger?

-I didn't really feel like there was much of a climax to the story, I kept wondering if something else was going to happen or if I missed something, but before I knew it the book was over.

Tldr; The book has some fun concepts and a lot of potential. I really wish I enjoyed it more than I did, but there's also a lot wrong with it that I couldn't overlook. I feel like if I had wasted my time actually reading it I would have been angry, but because I just listened to it while I worked, I'm not so mad. Matt Mercer definitely improves the book with his audio reading of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
judy seaberg
This is one of those books that I just couldn't put down because I wanted to know what happened next. In a couple places I guessed what was going to happen, but I kept turning the pages anyway because the writing was so good.

This is a great book and it's going to make a hell of a movie, so long as they don't screw it up.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
analexis
The premiss behind punch escrow is brilliant but the attempts at humor and hard science fiction did not work at all for me. After 100 pages of a slow plot, which is constantly interrupted by footnotes and diversions that I think are supposed to be funny pseudoscience, I just gave up. There are dystopian elements here that I think are supposed to build fear/suspense but I just didn't find the characters interesting or deep enough to care about them. Maybe this gets great as it evolves but the beginning is tedious.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
sharmila
Books written in the first person can be good or tiresome to read. The main character, Joel Byram, telling the story in The Punch Escrow is a smart-ass that I quickly began to dislike. As the story developed, he began to realize what was important in life and this recognition led to a maturity that took him from self-centered smart-ass to heroic and caring husband.
The story is about three competing factions fighting over the use of a new transportation technology. Our main character is in the middle with these factions; all are trying to take advantage of him in order to suit their own agendas. From chase scenes, near certain death events, human duplication, to mad scientist threats and secret sects, Joel manages to navigate his way out of all of them as the story unfolds. A little far-fetched, but that is what fiction is supposed to be. We read fiction as an escape from reality. Who would want to read fiction that mirrors real life? How boring!

What happens next, The Punch Escrow is a story that keeps you wondering. It’s sci-fi and thriller wrapped up into a book. An easy read, the story does get a little bizarre when you think about the number of crises the main character had to deal with in a 24-hour period. Other than that, it was an enjoyment to read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hassan el kazzaz
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Punch Escrow; the concept, writing and storyline are superb. It took me a while to get into the story, the footnotes were distracting, but once I decided to not read them it wasn’t a problem. I liked both Joel and Sylvia as well as their character development, as I neared the end of the book I couldn’t put it down. Definitely recommend this intelligent, interesting, funny hard fiction novel.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chris mulhall
From the opening page, I was sucked in and had difficulty putting the book down. It's a fascinating book that sucks you into the life of the protagonist as he puts the pieces of the puzzle that has been created together. I also loved the footnotes, as they offered a lot of "context" to the story and what was going on and were a quick way to get up to speed on the future state of technology. Who doesn't want to know about Quantum Foam and God's Legos? A great book for all sci fi fans out there.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
farah hafeez
Smart, charming, and fast-paced, Klein's debut is a hell of a ride! Explores weighty questions of identity through a hero who's chief skill is quick-thinking humor and an ability to manipulate the service machines that keep our world running. The overall conflict is delightfully twisted, but that would be a spoiler. Can't wait for the movie, but everyone should definitely read the book!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
duncan cameron
Tal has created a totally plausible future world where the scientific advances feel completely natural and wonderfully unexpected at the same time. Tackles important moral questions without ever feeling self-important or losing its sense of whimsy and adventure. It's a thriller, sci-fi adventure, and love story in one fast-paced package. Amazing debut.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
edith petrongolo
Great first time novel from Tal Klein. Heavy Sci-Fi for true science geeks, or you can skip over the footnotes and still not miss anything. I got an advanced copy and read it quickly, immediately seeing the potential for a great movie. The ideas in here build upon some famous science fiction concepts, making some of the subtle touches really work. Can't wait to see the movie version, which is always a distilling of the more audience friendly aspects, and can lead a second life right along side the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
georgia
I thought this was such a fun read that definitely blew my mind throughout with the author's creative future and constant thrills. The ending lacked a bit for me and I felt Taraval was a bit underdeveloped for my liking, but overall, a quick and action-packed read that any sci-fi fan would enjoy!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
bobcatboy99
Great book! I read a lot of books and this is the best this year for me. Set in the future, the author tries to extrapolate what would happen if there was teleportation available (and various manipulation of matter on the smallest level, great footnotes on the tech, if you want to, skip if not interested).
I would say he succeeds, sure there are a few small things that feel a bit off, but nothing that really hinders the enjoyment of this book. Recommended.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
luisa
I bought this book after reading a review at ars technica thinking it would be a great read. But oh boy I was mistaken. The narrative is interesting and the action scenes very well dealt with. But that's about it. The treatment of teleportation is EXTREMELY shallow, and characters don't act according to the knowledge the have about it! Even after discovering "the secret" (which was obvious from page 1), characters continue to use teleportation... which does not make any sense... also, the deeper issues (which I was hoping the book will deal with), such as the problems of identity, continuity, etc. are only mentioned in passing. The Boat of Theseus is mentioned, but no conclusions or discussion ever comes out of it. The identity crisis that should lead to one million philosophical implications comes down to "who will my wife think is her real husband"... so, basically, this is a missed opportunity... very disappointed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ilyse
I purchased the Kindle version and read through it in just a few days. Then came the 3 paperback copies. This book will be shared between friends and family as a wonderful connection between the hard sciences and very eloquent dialogue. What a great read, it expands the mind and makes us think while reading.

I think Tal hit the mark when his daughter asked him to write a book that will make grown-ups happy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
megan cusumano
After a day of work and an evening with my child, I just want some entertainment at night. The Punch Escrow delivers! Don't worry about the hard sci-fi label, it's a fun page turner and laugh-out-loud funny. I may have had to use the dictionary a few times, but it was well worth. Smart, humorous, and surprising! My kind of reading. Plus, now I have a 80s New Wave playlist to go along with it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kit chen
So I have this friend named Tal. We've known each other for a while, and while I've always thought he was funny, entertaining, and talented, I mostly thought that because he's a killer DJ, musician and electronic music producer. A couple years ago, he reached out to tell me that he was expanding his realm into the world of fiction writing. Of course, I offer to back his book on this thing called Inkshares, and low and behold, not only is the thing getting published, but it's also creating quite a buzz in the publishing world! I'm super jazzed to read it and marvel in Tal's next creative venture. I finally get my copy delivered to my house, and before I can get started, my wife picks it up and now, I have to wait even longer because she WON'T PUT IT DOWN. So in truth, I can't yet "Review" the book, as I've only made it through the first chapter (which is enthralling), but one thing I can say with conviction, Tal is a vivid talent.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dona decker
A brilliant book - well written, easy to follow, and hard to put down!
The scientific principles and the human nature in the book is feasible - which makes it terrifying. I rank this alongside Brave New World as a lesson for the future that we will likely ignore anyway, because profit rules supreme...
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
odin
This book is great. If you’re like me and enjoy your sci-fi to be witty, near future, somewhat pre-distopian, and with a GRIP of clever concepts, this book is for you. Dark Matter and Ready Player One are easy comparisons, but I think it has them both beat in just general humor. (Think a far less zany, more grounded (“hard” sci fi) Year Zero.)

Highly recommend.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
andrea grubbe
Calling this the next Ready Player One is ridiculous. Maybe as someone who is secular I just did not really give a crap about the characters. I guess I sided with Taraval in the science. If you have already succumbed to it then why not just finish your life? You aren't losing something you've already lost.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
salama
Admirable attempt, but annoying characters, and plot holes made me put this book down at the halfway point. Calling it the next Ready player one successfully tricked me into buying this—it’s nothing like it. There seems to be a marketing effort to capitalize on RP1 that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Further, the plot twist was obvious from the first page, but is treated like a big reveal. Do not recommend.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
elizabeth severance
There's nothing too unique here. A man is the victim of a transporter accident that duplicates him. Not the first time the story's been told. Star Trek; The Next Generation did it, and used it as fodder for at least two episodes and also at least one book. This is hard sci-fi, and so it has a lot of interesting details in the "how science works" aspects of the book. To help uninterested readers, they have moved them to footnotes. These are annoying, to put it mildly. I am taking a star off for the pretension of having footnotes in fiction. Despite this, there are key questions about transportation that are missing. First, the most famous equation in the 20th century relates matter and energy though the variable C squared. Which is a really, REALLY big number. Even ignoring the entropy involved, it would be vast sums of energy; where's it coming from? This one doesn't answer that, but none have. Other than that, there's the question about how the information is instantaneously transmitted. Where it is stored. Etc.

The plot is fine, although it feels almost as though it was intended to be roughly twice to three times as long as it is, as it wraps up pretty quickly and it feels a bit...deus ex machina. It does detract from the overall feeling. The story starts pretty slow and then hurtles into a speed that is too fast and too neat. The introspection and the consideration present in the beginning are completely absent later in the book. Character development starts happening with a speed that is off-putting and doesn't make much sense, either.

Despite all of that, I found myself wanting to read it all of the time, so...four stars.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
steve williams
To be honest I think this is more of a "2.5-star" book. However, I'm giving it only one in order to try to balance out all of the unreasonably high ratings it has received - and to try to help other people avoid being suckered by those views into reading this piece of crap.

I hope we can dissuade further authors from writing more poorly written, overly chirpy and glib "Martian" imitations that compile semi-science into some semblance of a plot (with virtually no characterization). The world-building here is unbelievably lazy - the main character (in Year 2147) for *some* reason has a taste for late 20th century culture and often winds up in "retro" settings that reference early 21st century decor, thus ensuring neither the author nor his readers need to actually use their imaginations. Get you a sci-fi author who can do both (plot and science).
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
chrissie smith
The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-July.

A giant, wriggling-with-life story in a random, Douglas Adams-style delivery and snappy inset postscripts. A cast of several wandering throughout a world of teleportation. Couldn't get past the bulkiness of the first 10 pages.
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