A Package of Moods by Adam Bassett (2016): A Review

A Package of Moods by Adam Bassett (2016)Adam Bassett’s A Package of Moods is a speculative fiction novel set in a future where a pharmaceutical company has distilled moods into a nicotine patch-like form. Through a series of chapters, each focusing on a new character, Bassett’s novel explores various individuals’ lives and how they intertwine and are impacted by the new mood drugs.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The novel was an easy read, with prose that flowed and was rarely interrupted with any awkward phrasing. Bassett’s writing style has a few moments where it shines. A character’s hesitancy to try the mood altering drugs and his transition to acceptance was encapsulated in “Aidan remained hesitant until the night after Christina broke up with him. He fell into a bottle of rum and awoke with a war in his head and Happy on his neck.” Another character’s description stuck out with the succinct lines “death would be hard for Colby to come by. He always buckled his seatbelt.”

I wanted to like A Package of Moods—the premise was intriguing and borderline dystopian—but it never quite delivered for me. I feel a glaring issue is that the novel attempts to cover more characters and ground than its short length lends itself to. There are 11 chapters, including the epitaph, and each chapter of the novel focuses on a new character and their story. All the characters are connected in one way or another—a nurse from early in the book appears at the end briefly to care for another sick character, the owner of the coffee shop where one character works appears later as the wife of another character, etc.—and the main character of one chapter becomes a background character in another (or disappears entirely). This results in a very surface-level feeling to the story. Other books have demonstrated that it is possible to have a large cast of characters and tell the story from different perspectives—the wildly popular series A Song of Ice and Fire (adapted for televison as A Game of Thrones) is an obvious example—but the length of the book must allow time to develop such a large cast and give the reader enough time with the characters. A Package of Moods, being a bit over 50k words in length, just does not have the time to develop the characters and connections it introduces.

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5 self-published Kindle short stories: an overview

Last week, I made an offer on reddit’s /r/selfpublish, calling for submissions of self-published Kindle short stories from which I could pick up to 5 to review. A part of my criteria for the stories I chose was fewer than 5 reviews on Amazon. As you might know, reviews and recommendations are important for getting your work noticed. Not many people want to gamble their money on something with very few reviews. And no reviews? Forget about it. I wanted to offer other authors the chance to get one of those initial reviews.

A bit about my process: I read what each author submitted, then used’s Amazon’s Look Inside to preview the first page or two of the story. Based on my interests and what I read, I tried to pick the stories that I thought I would most like. I read the stories in the order I purchased them, highlighting and taking notes within the Kindle text as I went. After I finished reading, I wrote my initial impression and some more substantial notes before moving on to the next story.

Finally, I wrote my reviews over the course of a couple days, taking my time to balance and polish each. I wanted to highlight positive aspects as I found them, but I also wanted to be honest.

So, without further ado, here are the five Kindle short stories I chose, and a summary of my reviews.

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Review: “Township 7: Life continues, even as society changes.” by T. K. (2015)

This is the final review in a week-long review series featuring Kindle short stories from authors from reddit’s /r/selfpublish.

Township 7: Life continues, even as society changes by T. K. (2015)The longest of all the stories chosen, T. K.’s “Township 7: Life continues, even as society changes.” [sic] is an exploration of global climate change and transhumanism as depicted through a report penned by an anthropomorphic purple dinosaur. Yes, the main character is an anthropomorphic purple dinosaur named Rex. Since this could be a decisive factor for potential readers, I emphasize this upfront because—at this time of this review—the book’s description and other reviews don’t mention this.

Rex is one of many Critters, a new form of mankind appearing after great advances in cybernetics make their existence possible. They are humans transplanted into an exoskeleton that morphs to match their inner “second self.” This half of the plot is very reminiscent of furries and what that group might look like with the technology to make fursuits a real extension, or replacement, for a human body.

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Review: “Immortal Curse” by Scott Gardner Boyce (2015)

This is a continuation of a week-long review series featuring Kindle short stories from authors from reddit’s /r/selfpublish. Check back throughout the week for more reviews.

Immortal Curse by Scott Gardner Boyce (2015)Scott Gardner Boyce’s short story “Immortal Curse” follows an unnamed protagonist who discovers the secret of immortality along with the other six “Knights of Knowledge.” The king for whom they discover immortality dies and the seven decide to keep their knowledge of immortality a secret. Over the years, they separate and the narrator suffers the whips and scorns of time alone until he sets out to unite the seven Knights of Knowledge once again, this time in order to cure the curse their immortality has become.

The style in which Boyce writes “Immortal Curse” is very Lovecraftian. There is no dialogue, only narration. While some might be put off by a lack of dialogue, it does not seem to detract from this tale. In another Lovecraftian theme, the narrator dabbles in sciences before coming to what should be forbidden knowledge to create his cure for death. Predictably, the cure backfires into a curse as he watches loved ones around him wither and die from the passage of years while he remains immune. As he travels the globe to find his fellow knights, the story emphasize the age of the characters as they seek out new experiences to keep their unending lives from growing stale.

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Review: “The Last Ghost” by Dennis Liggio (2015)

This is a continuation of a week-long review series featuring Kindle short stories from authors from reddit’s /r/selfpublish. Check back throughout the week for more reviews.

The Last Ghost by Dennis Liggio (2015)In my request for Kindle short stories to review, Dennis Liggio pointed me in the direction of his “The Last Ghost,” a horror story narrated by a man setting his mother’s estate to order. This is a tale that slowly builds with each paragraph, intent on creating a chilling atmosphere

Since, as the title might suggest, “The Last Ghost” is a ghost story, the narrative adopts a Victorian tone to emulate the golden age of ghost stories. This voice is well-executed for the most part and helps immerse the reader into the narrator’s tale. There were some evocative descriptions, such as the narrator describing “my mother, but not as a young girl, but older, in the winter of her middle age” and “in that sound I saw rot, not the fetid diseased rot of plague, but the dry, gnawing rot of inevitable decay, the dust of a million men reduced to nothing.”

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