Brand new review: The Future is Yours by Dan Frey

By Ekta R. Garg

February 24, 2021

Genre: Science fiction thriller

Release date: February 9, 2021

Rated: Bypass it / 2 stars

Two friends create a piece of technology that they think will be the next gamechanger in Silicon Valley. As they work on the details, however, their friendship and other relationships—not to mention the fate of the world—are put at risk. Author Dan Frey tries to keep the mood lighthearted but also keeps his readers at arm’s length in the unsuccessful novel The Future is Yours.

Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry know they have the next big piece of tech on their hands—really. Former classmates at Stanford, the best friends are sick and tired of working their boring day jobs. When Adhi uses his Ph.D. dissertation to talk about a machine that allows users to see into the future, Ben knows it’s only a matter of time before they start rolling in the money.

The challenge, of course, is building the machine and getting investors on board. Ben leaves Adhi to work on the details of the technology itself; he freely admits that of the two of them, Adhi is the bona fide genius. Instead, he does what he always does best: leverage personal and professional relationships to get the money and lab space they need to build a prototype.

Soon enough, they have the machine built and start looking into the lives of their future selves. Ben is ecstatic at what he sees. Their company, which they call The Future, is disrupting every convention. He and Adhi are being hailed as the next hot inventors to come out of Silicon Valley. The parties, the money, the fame and attention—it’s everything Ben has always wanted.

Adhi is a little more reluctant about the entire venture. Although he started out as enthusiastic as Ben about The Future prototype, looking into events one year down the line proves to be unsettling. Along with all the good that will come to Ben and him, there are plenty of bad situations as well. People die; governments threaten one another. Sporting events get disrupted, and the blame is being put on The Future and its technology.

The friends begin bickering about their goals. Ben wants to push forward. Adhi says they need to reevaluate. As they start disagreeing about what they really want from The Future, issues with the prototype begin cropping up. It’s only a matter of time, Adhi argues, before what looked like a rosy life ahead actually might become a horrendous one.

Author Dan Frey chose an unconventional format for the novel. Instead of a straightforward narrative, the story is told through a series of emails, text messages, news articles, and Congressional records. The result is that readers will feel like they’re mostly on the outside of the action. They might find it hard to drum up much sympathy for Ben. Adhi is slightly more sympathetic as a character but doesn’t seem like a full-fledged protagonist in his own right. His role is more to support Ben’s ambition and hubris.

Also, while the friends begin their company after their graduate school days, the tone of the book sounds more like Ben and Adhi are still in college. Ben’s devil-may-care attitude seems fitting at first, but as a character he doesn’t change throughout the novel. At some point, his frat boy approach gets tiresome.

Other aspects of the book are left sorely undeveloped. Ben and his wife, Leila, have a tumultuous relationship, but readers don’t get to engage with that part of the story as much as is warranted. Frey positions Adhi as a dark horse figure, but it’s questionable by the end if Adhi has really succeeded at much of anything.

The technology, too, feels too vague to cheer on. Readers don’t get much more information on it other than the fact that it looks more or less like a standard computer and allows users to see one year into the future. Characters use the prototype almost exclusively “off stage,” which makes it harder to get excited about the machine.

The ending—as in, the last few pages—unravels the entire story, which might frustrate some readers. The novel starts on a promising note but doesn’t end strong. I recommend readers Bypass The Future is Yours.

Latest review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

By Ekta R. Garg

August 26, 2020

Genre: Science fiction

Release date: April 7, 2020

Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars

After saving the continent from a major threat, five young people find themselves struggling to return to normal life. When one of them dies, the others discover their mission may not be over. Author Veronica Roth offers her first adult novel to readers in a book with several shortcomings called Chosen Ones.

Sloane just wants the world to leave her alone. For the past 10 years, she’s been hounded by the press, conspiracies, and anyone on social media with an opinion on her fashion sense. Her friend, Esther, has cashed in on the attention, and her boyfriend, Matt, has turned it into a spotlight for worthy causes. But Sloane wants a normal life.

“Normal” isn’t in the cards for the Chosen Ones, though, and Sloane is only one of five people in that group. Along with Esther and Matt, Ines and Albie also joined Sloane in the fight against the Dark One. Fifteen years ago, he began killing people in terrible events known as Drains that pulled victims to shreds.

The government launched a search for those who could kill the Dark One. Sloane and the others were recruited and trained, and after harrowing events that involved magic and grit they did it. The circumstances of Sloane’s battles still haunt her; at one point during the war, she and Albie were kidnapped and Sloane can’t seem to get past it.

Society demands that she stay involved, though, so on the ten-year anniversary of the Dark One’s death she joins the others at the commemoration ceremony. Then Albie dies from an apparent drug overdose. The other Chosen Ones are devastated, but before they have time to mourn him Sloane, Matt, and Esther are whisked to a parallel dimension.

If real life wasn’t enough of a nightmare, the new dimension seems like that nightmare times ten. In this version of the world, called Genetrix, the Dark One is still alive and well. In Genetrix he’s called the Resurrectionist for his magical ability to bring back people from the dead and use them as soldiers. Genetrix officials have determined that Sloane, Matt, and Esther are the best chance to kill him.

The three Chosen Ones agree, but this new version of their home sets off warning bells in Sloane’s head. The longer she stays, the more she realizes it’s possible the people who summoned them may have lied. Sloane refuses to relive her encounters with the Dark One unless she knows it’s really the only option.

Author Veronica Roth’s Divergent series for YA readers became a hit on release, and she followed up those books with a duology also in the young adult genre. While Chosen Ones is positioned as a novel for adults, it doesn’t read like one. The only thing “adult” about the characters is their ages, and even that’s hard to believe. If readers make the mistake of thinking these characters are in their late teens, it won’t change the experience in the slightest.

Roth starts the story ten years after the major events have already taken place. In author interviews, she said she was interested to explore how a hero/heroine copes with the aftermath of the completion of their quest to save the world. If readers look only to Sloane, the answer would be to sit around and feel bad a lot.

Post traumatic stress disorder is a real challenge for many people and is not to be taken lightly. Given the hints and quick peeks Roth gives readers into what Sloane and her friends endured during their fight, there’s no doubt that Sloane is dealing with PTSD. Yet her voice sounds too young for the adult she’s supposed to be. What should be an existential crisis often comes across as teen angst.

Also, the novel takes a good 200 pages to pick up any sort of momentum. That’s half the book, and most readers won’t wait that long for Sloane to get her act together and find a new cause. By the time any sort of significant action begins, the book is almost finished and wraps up in such a rush that it feels like a letdown. Despite talk of a sequel, the end of this book isn’t compelling enough to warrant another installment in this story world.

Anyone curious to know what Roth has been writing since Divergent might want to read this. Otherwise, I recommend readers Borrow Chosen Ones.