(I Also Write Children's Books!)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Yay, It's Out!

Volume two of the Inscrutable Machine is out!  Here's the Amazon link until I get back from breakfast and can put one up officially.

Now I sweat bullets about whether people like it.  There's some reviews already, if you can believe it.  The consistent opinion: It's different from the first book.  That's deliberate, since writing the same book five times would be boring for everybody.  The question is, will people like that difference?


  1. Whoooo. Finished my first read of it. The fact that all mad science has a self destruct is really cool. Also, horay lots of Vera I was worried that she wouldn't be in this book. In reference to Remmy: NOOOO Why you were supposed to be the chosen one whyyyyy (I don't want to be even remotely specific since it's a massive spoiler).

    Thank you for the wonderful book, and I'll be doing my re-read of it tonight.

  2. Let me start out by staying that I absolutely adored the book. I was up late waiting for it to release and then devoured it in ~4 hours.

    It was a great treat to see the Inscrutable Machine in action once again. The entire setting was cool and I really enjoyed the new characters, especially Remmy.

    I could write an entire essay on Remmy. Although I dislike a great deal of the choices she makes her reasons make her a very compelling character. Without spoilering too much I like how you alluded to her motives through the Audit.

    The whole space thing has me torn two ways. On the one hand SPACE. On the other I really liked the world you created in the first book and going to space takes us away from all that. I guess it is like if Harry, Ron and Hermione didn't go back to Hogwarts in The Chamber of Secrets. We have different characters and all the interactions and relationships from the first story are kind of moot after the first few chapters. The new characters in this book are equally good but there isn't that bit of history between them, and I also wonder if we will ever see them again or will they remain in space.

    The only real continuity we see for a vast majority of the book is Penny, Claire and Ray but oh man is there some growth for them. I really really really liked how Penny's character is developing. My favorite moment from the first book was her reaction to her ray gun so I loved parts of this book.

    So space was a bit hit and miss. Penny, Claire and Ray were great. The Inscrutable Machine rocks, even in a vacuum. I eagerly await book 3.

    1. The old characters are heavily referenced early on so that you know they're not forgotten. This is a five book series, and Penny's classmates will the major topic of book three.

      Heck, even Remmy will come back, eventually. Five books will finally give me time to address all the wonderful characters who deserve their time in the spotlight.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Thank you Thank you THANK YOU. Great to hear that they'll be back! Plus a five part series?

  3. Just finished. Kinda have to agree with the run of the comments, pretty awesome book. :)

    While the book is a bit different in flavor, I felt it kept what it needed in the voice of Penny as the narrator, so the feel really worked for me. I enjoyed the way that they responded to a "return to normal" following the events first book, the excitement of breaking out of that, and the genuine feeling of exhaustion towards the end of their newest adventure.

    I also liked seeing the team responding to a positive reception at times, and I loved how you managed to extend the world building even when we weren't on any world for much of the story! I'd come away from the first book with the feeling the supers were a recent (within 60-70 years) phenomenon, so getting the wider view was great.

    I'll be honest, one of the themes I really would love to see explored is Penny's (and Ray and Claire's) reactions to being superheroes - and their opinions of how it differs from being villains. Not that I necessarily want them on the heroes side officially, I just want to see more of the world from the perspective we haven't gotten as much of yet. So obviously I love some of the scenes in school muchly.

    I know you're plans were to write another novel set elsewhere before returning to book three, so I'll just be off here reading this again while waiting for the next book(s). Thanks for another great read!

    1. you're -> your. I do love seeing the typos *after* I post :p

    2. I was. It didn't work out. It was nice, but not gripping, and the problem was the central concept of the book.

    3. "It" being the novel on another subject?

  4. First of all, I very much enjoyed the story!

    I am very glad to see Penny start to wonder exactly what is up with her power -- and the hint early on was very creepy, I thought. I also wonder if Spider knows what's up, considering how she felt about sending the kids out on this mission.

    But there were some things that kind of poked at me, at least in initial reading.

    First, leaping into outer space without all their equipment felt really jarring. I understood why it happened, story-wise, but it also felt out of character to me.

    Second, I'm pretty sure Penny's helmet got left behind. I didn't hear it get mentioned at the end, during the return sequence. I don't know if this is important or not -- probably not, but I'm not sure.

    Thirdly, and this is probably the thing I noticed most during my read through, exactly what happened in terms of settlement -- and how it's sort of a secret to folks on Earth, was a little jumbled. I think I worked it out, but the large number of factions and the details around how exactly everything fit together felt slightly underdeveloped to me. I'm not sure how to fix it, and I think you avoided bit exposition dumps, but this, again, felt out of character, especially given how Penny loves history and Ray and Claire both love superhuman history.

    And finally, I'm a little worried about the three-way dynamics of the team. I'm slightly worried that Ray is going to end up overshadowing Penny, and I really don't want that to happen.

    Hopefully this doesn't sound too negative, and isn't too spoiler-y!

    1. First, huh. Really? I thought teenagers responding to an offer to go to space with 'YES, NOW, PLEASE' was downright inevitable.

      Second, yes. Yes, it was. Yes, yes it is. Not hugely so, but yes.

      Third, I'm sorry you found that unsatisfying! I'm discovering that EVERYTHING rubs SOMEONE wrong. Thankfully, like yourself, they all seem to like the book overall. I'd be happy to explain it here, but that would be missing the point, I suspect. The question is whether it belongs in the book.

      Finally, why, yes. I noticed questions like that too, and I have three books to go.

  5. I really, really enjoyed the first book, I put in my personal top ten of super hero fiction books list. I was waiting eagerly for the second book to come out and finished it in a day. I did enjoy some of it, but not as much as the first book.
    I think part of that was the setting, for me space travel and the sci fi setting took away from the super hero/super villain feel/setting that made the first book so good. Then to me at least it seemed that the three main characters all took a major step back in this book by not planning for space, not equipping for space and not being more wary of Spider. Why didn't they even stop to ask what Spiders plan for covering their absence from Earth was or since E-Claire's mom knows their secret why didn't she stop and call her to let her know what they were doing? Lastly it seemed odd to me that Bad Penny and the crew didn't end up gathering/bringing much of anything home from space. A couple things like the bio engineered stuff the book explained but all those other gizmos, doo dads and interesting parts and elements?
    despite these grumbles I am still hoping to see/read the next book, I just hope it will be more along the lines of the first one.

  6. I liked some of the space stuff but my favorite things were honestly the ones on Earth. I'm glad the next book is going to involve Penny/her classmates.

    Things I liked about space:
    - Juliet and Harvey, the Red Herring, the psychic kitty (of course), getting a bit of insight into both the Puppeteers and the Conquerors.
    - I really like your description of the gate at the end.
    - The colonies were interesting if a little jumbled.
    - Them blowing up the moon, sealing off the solar system from invaders (as much as they could right then) and giving Juliet and Harvey a happy ending.
    - More Vera, with some Orb of the Heavens on the side. Cool that we get to see how Spider put it to use.

    Things I liked from Earth:
    - More on Claudia, who is totally Bull's daughter or you're red herring-ing us.
    - the Audit's dissection of TIM/Penny and her friends' similarities. Masterfully done, just lacking a couple of important facts -- I really loved it.
    - the possibility of a 'rivalry' between Penny/Bad Penny. I'm trying not to laugh even typing it.
    - Penny's thoughts on her classmates. I'm wondering which are going to become important and how. For instance, did that red-headed boy from Chinatown catch who Bad Penny actually is?
    - The calling card thing in computer science. Now I'm wondering who left it.
    - The entire thing with Lucyfar, and then the entire thing with Mourning Dove. TIM were back in action, Lucy was fabulous as always, the employees hilarious, Mourning Dove exactly as creepy as Ray said (and it's interesting she got the measure of TIM as well as she did), and the slowdown-bullet thing was just cool.
    - Claire's mom making her do cat burglary lessons.

    Things I didn't like:
    - Remmy being irrationally jealous, jumping to the stupidest possible conclusions, blaming someone for fighting back (even with mind powers) while she's bearing down on them in a monster mech suit, etc. etc.
    - On top of that, her being the first one to contact Earth from the Jupiter colonies. I am really, REALLY nervous that the Inscrutable Machine actually told her where they live!!! She doesn't seem like the type to establish intelligent relations with the Earth, especially considering all the kinds of superpowers and technologies Earth people have (and have collected), and the kind of conclusions she would jump to about them if she knew. So that makes me really concerned. I hope they just stay out of each others' way.

    Things that made me worried but not in a bad way:
    - Penny's power. I'm itching to know more and hoping it doesn't all go south for her. I mean, so far all the stuff she's built has actually been useful and fairly benign (even blowing up the moon, since it was for a good cause), but ... mainly the way Mourning Dove put it was SO. CREEPY. What does she know!?

    Anyway. All in all, I liked it; not as well as the first one, but I have a hunch I'll like the third even better.

    1. My god that comment got long. Sorry about that!

    2. My god, someone figured it out. I may have to erase your comment before the spoiler gets out.

    3. Eh, it's probably common knowledge among fans!

    4. Although on reflection I maybe shouldn't have posted it. Sorry. We can't edit comments on here, can we?

    5. I can, and proooobably will delete it. I don't *think* it's common knowledge, so I'm leaving it up at least overnight as a way of celebrating the first time I've heard someone figure it out.

      Also, you're really going to like book three, because almost everything you speculated about on the home front is squarely in focus.

    6. I suspected it from the first book and several things in this one confirmed it 110%.

    7. after having it pointed out i can see how it makes sense, but wouldn't have made the connection with out help, the best kind of twist or surprise

  7. Really enjoyed both books and eagerly awaiting the third. No nits, just sad that I'm mature enough to recognize you have a life and I need to wait patiently for TIM 3 :)

  8. I've got to be blunt. I thought the book was only meh. It didn't have the same manic energy level as the first book and I thought the Remmy story was kind of forced and all over the place. I'll still look forward to the next book as the whole concept is great. It could be that its just so hard to meet expectations after how good the first book was.

  9. Other things I forgot to mention I liked:
    - Ray's string of "surreal witticisms"
    - Claire and the E-Claire twitters
    - "A straight up fight may be what we do, but reading someone else's diary at them isn't fair."
    - Penny's internal rant about "blasters"
    - Claire can get kind of invisible by being too cute and harmless to be noticeable? Useful, that!
    - the ubiquitous self-destructs
    - Penny's love affair with history, especially when she takes it to space and starts teaching
    - the mechanic kids getting out of class
    - everything with Claire/Penny and Penny/Ray's friendships
    - "It's not my underwear drawer, but criminy!"
    - Claire Lutra the anti-chaperone
    - "-- to loot, rampage, destroy, and misuse, without an appointment."

    And a bunch of other things it would be too long to list.

  10. I guess I agree with the whole jump to space thing being to soon, but if ya swallow the rocks first you can leave the good stuff for last. Also I'm a huge space nerd, and I have to say that I just loved the retro future feel. So I harbor no grudges. Also, 5 parts!?!?, I Shat my paints when I read that, yay. All I know that if this doesn't end with penny being a bada## saveing the whole universe/ solar system from a evasion and evryone being in aww of her being the best super ever, then I will feel a opportunity was missed. But you got this whole thing planed out, we all got faith in your superpower to write books that keep me from working.
    Also: Thankyou

    1. i'm wondering if she is going to have to destroy her superpower. if she does i'm betting on being bada## enough to continue supering with out it somehow. written right that might be even more impressive

    2. I would wager that when push comes to shove, the climax of the series will involve her doing the one thing she's 'unable' to do. Reproducing and or upgrading a previous invention (likely one that gets destroyed prior to the main climax...) You can likely guess what I'm guessing but we'll see what happens.

  11. Gonna be honest, didn't enjoy this one as much as the first. I laughed at them jumping at the chance to go to space, though, because that is exactly what I would have done. Loved the parts set on Earth.

    Now, for the parts I didn't like. Penny's relationship with Remmy was a little...poorly developed and seemed to come out of nowhere. Part of this is because Penny was completely oblivious, so it's hard to show something that she isn't seeing. I still haven't done a reread, so maybe it will be more obvious in hindsight.

    Also, I feel like a lot of the space stations weren't described adequately. I was having trouble getting a picture of them in my head. Maybe it's just me again, I dunno.

    There is one thing I realized after reading which I LOVED. There was something wrong the entire book, and I couldn't put my finger on it. I finally figured it out: In the first book, whenever Penny made a mistake, some random super wandered by to fix it before things got out of hand. Not because there's some conspiracy organized by her parents (like some readers thought), but just because when there are a thousand supers in the city, it's inevitable that someone would always be right around the corner. Well, this time there was no community like that, so all of Penny's mistakes blew up in her face and very nearly got a lot of people killed. I was already looking forward to the third book, but even more so now that I realized all this.

    You've said you're planning a five book series. Is there any plan to expand it further? Maybe a prequel from the Audit's POV, or just a small side story from Lucyfar's? I'd really like to see magic from a spellcaster's POV. They seem to understand what they're doing better than the mad scientists (ironically).

    Also, how's the movie coming? Still just putting feelers out, or has there been any progress?

  12. My big view of the secon book is that I spent the entire time thinking Penny was going to get some revelation about her power. Like, all the things where she blacked out she was adapting or utalizing alien tech which she couldn't understand, and that when she stuck with the kind of steampunk mechanics in this series her power worked more like Remmie's. MY other big question is :: What did Spider get out of this? Seriously - I find it hard to see a supervillain overlord budgeting for a space exploration and her not demanding the kids bring back tech, precious ores or - for example, actually STEEL the rundown space station. Maybe park it in orbit on the dark side of the moon, or near ceras. I mean cmon - WHAT did spider get by sending these kids out there?

    1. I also would have liked to see more casual villainy in the first book, like prior to invading Mech's Lab, each of them picked a target trophie to steal so we could get a better scope of their teamwork. Perhaps historical memorabilia or other items that they can then get to people in need.

  13. I loved the first book. The second book was well okay. While the Jovian's and Harvey's motivation is made clear, I am still unclear about the motivation of everybody else. That characters are dropping in and out of the story all the time does not help either. And I found all the action scenes confusing and hard to follow (something which was also a weakness of the first book). Also the Remmy's reaction make no sense to me. Why is she wildly alternating between your stuff is amazing, it is the devils work and everybody makes honest mistakes. Especially the last swing was incomprehensible to me. Jealousy makes little sense to me. It is not like Remmy is lacking respect and recognition.
    That being said. I read it through within 48 hours so it was pretty good.

    1. Allow for the fact that Remmy is only ten. Also I felt a similar confusion. The turning moment on the Rotor colony when the Puppet Squids apparently started turning on people and causing death and destruction confused me as well. I got that Remmy panicked when the firefight started. I suspect the jovian priestess did something we the audience didn't get. But beyond that - I also felt like content was missing from the story.

    2. Remmy was raised by two twisted (in different ways) feuding brothers. Calvin is just as bad about Penny at doing things fairly blasé about collateral damage -- but Remmy gives him a free pass that she can't/won't give to Penny. Her OTHER brother is a fairly brutal Alpha leader. So look at where she comes from, and you can see why Remmy blames her for what the MP controllers she designed and Juno mass-bred did. (and Remmy didn't see ANY of what WE saw that Juno was doing -- which is also why Penny got blamed for what happened to Calvin at the end) So yeah, I understood that part.

      Also note that in the one colony the automatons are basically only in charge because the people LET them. They are trading the rigorous control for comfort/security and have done so for long enough its automatic.

      If anything the reason it was so confusing is there were THREE galactic threats (Jovians, Conquerors, MP) and three major factions with DIFFERENT tech bases as well as Remmie and brothers and THEN we had TIM bouncing between them like a pinball. I am sorta waiting anxiously for an explanation of how Penny manages to make things she has never seen before -- particularly Vera -- she had never seen a working CO and she got it perfect down to weapons, language, activation/deactivation, and auto-hate for MPs. Also the MP ship, which I was partially fine with but still don't get the self-refilling cooler. It was a "cool feature" but really didn't fit with a MP ship -- how is Misty supposed to have ported replacement stuff in?

      At first I thought that if she was making a cat design she would have made it self-aware/intelligent but it DID make sense at the end -- she could never have discarded a pet with a personality as easily as she tossed Archie. :)

      Enough rambling from me, I really DID enjoy it even if I think we are missing some of the pieces. (some on purpose)

    3. Most obvious statement first. .. I always took - mistook that Penny was doing what Ray pointed out in book 2:
      "I think you're power just told you how to press A for spaceship"

      Remember some footnotes. When Penny started she began her Lab using Broken Experiments or Devices from her FATHER's lab...
      Note the keywords. And we also learned that the dump they mined was also the site of a crashed Conquoror ship (or part of one).

      So I always took it that everything she can't repair or duplicate, she started with a rare metal, part of something already made (a fragment of a conquorers orb say) and simply repaired it or adapted it to a new purpose (remember during the dig she saw something 'similar to quartz' brought up)

      ie; the crystals from her dads teleport (wormhole?) couldn't move people through space, due to technobabble, so she used the crystals to warp time instead.

      On a side note; I don't think the fish-ship was self refilling. I think Vera and the Orb were working together with small teleports.

      All shoes aside, I agree with your main sentiment about the three different races and cultures needing more explaining. But I also thought the visuals were extremely niiiice :>

    4. Heh, funnier would be if they ran low on food and Vera/Orb opened a gate for a new cooler... "did we JUST use a stellar gateway for takeout?" RR made a point of Vera opening the gateway and being neccesary so that was why I never felt the teleport/MP connection worked.

      There was no way for Spider/Minx to have known the food storage was even a possibility. Nobody except TIM saw the inside of the ship before it left. It just was an itch, on an admittedly minor issue. :)

    5. No way? Penny was asleep for quite some time, in a building containing an active Orb of the Heavens that I showed Spider was using to spy on them - and with Vera, who the Orb can talk to directly. Spider knew more about the spaceship than they did.

      Never underestimate that while Penny is busy doing something, everyone else - Ray, Claire, Spider, her friends, her enemies, her parents - are also doing something. For Penny, that was a major lesson of the book. She is not the sole actor in the universe.

  14. Hey Hey Hey, @frankensteinbeck - I have a recomendation for a later book. Claire's birthday party, as well as Penny and Ray, she also invites Claudia, Lucyfar, the Apparition and Marcie and tells them all they can invite one parent-guest. I mean it should be common knowledge by now she hangs with heros and villains! :3

  15. Let me start by saying that this book has a very different feel and energy compared to the first book. The first book reads like a grand adventure, and you don't have to sweat the details. The story will take care of itself, just let it fly with it's manic energy!

    PDTMPIBUTM reads with far less manic energy. It's much more detail oriented. All of the details matter, and if you don't pay attention, you get lost in the chaos. I had to reread the book to get the image of the space stations right. It's a very different energy to read.

    Most of the trip in space feels like a "side story", or maybe one of those series books where no matter what happens in the book, everything goes back to the status quo at the end. Everything BUT when Remmy point at Penny and says "Evil". Any author that believes in happy endings, especially happy endings that must be earned, can't POSSIBLY leave it at that. There will HAVE to be a make up, somewhere, somehow. Penny has to be redeemed, and Remmy has to "see the light".

    Also I love the concept of "Perfect Penny". Now Ray and Clair need "superhero" names to go with their "supervillian" names. Ideally something that fits Perfect Penny's theme, AND maybe had that alliteration? Rakish Ray? Cute Clair? All part of The Clockwork Trio? I'm not really sure. Also Penny's efforts to to turn Penelope Akk into a hero have to fail. She's too good at being Bad Penny, and I suspect Bad Penny will always triumph over Perfect Penny! I LOVED the Perfect Penny sequence, and look forward to more.

    I would love to see Penny become more introspective about her superpowers, and what it does/what it means. My first thought was that she should build a super learning machine to teach her all known science and math, so she has words to understand what her superpower does. It also has to fail spectacularly somehow.

    Claudia is a very interesting character in the story. Claudia's emotional problems cause her to miss understand Penny's powers, as well as her own powers. Penny's power's aren't naturally pretty or fun. Penny's powers are downright frighting and evil! It builds bombs, guns, and weapons like they're toys! It naturally gravitates to things that enslave, maim, and kill, and Penny has minimal control over it. Penny's power is cute and fun, because Penny MAKES it cute and fun for her friends. Claudia's power scares her because she doesn't have friends to help her out, and make it fun for her. Claudia NEEDS Penny and her friends, and Penny seems to know it, but they're in middle school. We never get those sorts of things right in middle school! It's beautiful.

    I look forward for the 3rd book. Hope your other stuff doesn't distract you from that goal.

  16. Oh! I forgot to post a review!

    I liked it! I'm lacking verbosity today.