The Punch Escrow
By Tal M. Klein
Paperback, 356 pages
Joel works as a salter – he teaches and tricks AI models to seem more human – and his wife works for International Transport on a top secret project related to teleportation. Her long hours and inability to speak to him about her job have put their marriage on rocky ground and it isn’t helped by Joel’s smart-ass sense of humor. But the two decide to go on a second honeymoon to reconnect. En route to meet his wife, Joel finds himself duplicated due to a teleportation error and is sucked into the battle between the organization that controls teleportation all across the globe and the members of a religious cult who seek to destroy it.
If you’re looking for a sci-fi novel about teleportation with a heavy dose of smartassery 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.
I had a feeling I was going to love this book and I’m so glad I was right. It had been on my wish list for some time (but then, what books haven’t?) and I was a little worried I was hyping myself up. I ended up loving this book from page one and had a blast reading it.
Joel is an everyman and I immediately liked his personality. He’s snarky and fairly intelligent and relatable, “Sometimes my brain was just an asshole.” Yo, mine too Joel. He even includes helpful footnotes throughout the book to help readers understand 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.
For instance, I didn’t understand any of this: “Joan Anglicus’s bomb exploited the nature of teleportation to activate a quark trigger for a muon-catalyzed d-t nuclear fusion that bred and then split a Francium atom.” Riiiiight.
But this one made me laugh: “A glorious, lifesaving, mosquito-pee rainbow.” Yes, folks, in the future, mosquitoes don’t drink blood, they clean the air and they pee what is essentially rainwater. What a world!
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.
Don’t forget to peep that cover art! I love the simple, yet shimmering graphics and appreciate that the praise blurbs (is there a better term for those?) are downplayed. The back cover has some nice typography with more praise blended it to the design. It’s only marred by the fingerprints I kept inadvertently leaving all over it! The cover does note that the story is in development for a film, but I’ll leave my judgment on that for another review!
If you’re looking for a snarky, down-to-earth protagonist a la The Martian, a major identity crisis caused by clones a la Dark Matter and a sprinkling of The Prestige wrapped up in a shiny sci-fi package, then you should be reading The Punch Escrow. It will easily make my Top Whatever list of 2017 and I’m eagerly awaiting more work from Klein.
Big thanks to GGA and Tal M. Klein for a copy of this book. I received it in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.