📚 The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein

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Goodreads⎮Reviewed Aug. 2017

Narrator: Matthew Mercer
Length: 8 hours 6 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios⎮2017

SynopsisIt’s the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport – a secretive firm headquartered in New York City. Their slogan: Departure…Arrival…Delight!

Joel Byram, our smartass protagonist, is an everyday 22nd century guy. He spends his days training artificial-intelligence engines to act more human, jamming out to 1980s new wave – an extremely obscure genre – and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. Joel is pretty much an everyday guy with everyday problems – until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting. Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.


4.25 ★ Audiobook⎮Heads up: Watch out for technical terms like “science-fictiony”, “sciencey” and “science fiction-ness” in this review, because I’m cool like that.

I’ve recently been in the mood for something science-fictiony and it’s been a while since I finished Dark Matter. The synopsis for The Punch Escrow caught my attention immediately. It’s just what I was looking for. It also happened to sync up with my real life quite nicely which enhanced my listening experience and made the premise of the story feel more realistic.

I loved that Klein’s writing style came across as completely approachable and down-to-earth, even when discussing super sciencey things. The characters he created were relatable and realistic. In technothrillers, and science fiction in general, the characters can seem disjointed in comparison to everything else. That wasn’t the case here. I was genuinely invested in Joel’s story in both a macro and micro sense. Would he and Sylvia work things out? Would they bring down IT? Would Joel ever get over the fact that rain is mosquito piss?

Speaking of mosquito piss, let’s talk about the year 2347 that Klein created. It wasn’t the most seemingly realistic future world I’ve read, but it was close, especially considering how far into the future it was set. Even some of the futuristic notions that seemed completely far-fetched (i.e. The whole rain being mosquito piss thing) were justified pretty well in his writing. It gave the reader/listener a hand in suspending their disbelief. Klein did an impressive job of building his world up in a believable way.

The writing format aided this endeavor. The story is written as a past tense narrative from Joel’s POV from even further into the future. Joe doesn’t know who will be reading his account or their level of knowledge regarding the technology of his time, so he explains things very well. It was a nice angle to take.

The coolest thing about 2347 to me was the AI companions. I was listening to this audiobook at the same time that I was in the process of converting my house into a smart home. I got my first Amazon Echo device and began listening to this audiobook through it. Having Alexa in every room in my house makes Klein’s notion of companion AIs not seem so unfathomable. It also seemed completely realistic that terrorism would still exist in the future and evolve to use futuristic technology in malicious ways.

I was surprised at how action-packed The Punch Escrow turned out today. Klein definitely seems to be a believer of showing, not telling. His writing style made all of the action incredibly easy to follow. I found it to be very balanced. I don’t recall any points in the story in which my interest or attention lulled. There was simply too much going on for that!

I’m coming away from this experience as a fan of Tal M. Klein. His writing was imaginative, engaging, and and well thought out. If he writes like this every time, he can count on me for future purchases.

Narration review: Matthew Mercer absolutely blew me away! Klein’s writing was fantastic, but Matthew Mercer was the star. Mercer performed The Punch Escrow flawlessly. [Insert Beyoncé gif here].

Mercer added so much to this story. He brought both Joels to life and managed to keep me from confusing them somehow. His character distinction was among the best I’ve heard. Accents? Check. Emotions? Check. Singing? Check! Holy cow, this guy can sing. That was the icing on top of a very delicious cake, aside from having “Karma Chameleon” stuck in my head for nearly a week…♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon

Let me know what you think!