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The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev

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The End of the World. Brought to you by K-pop. That is pretty much all I can say about that without spoiling some key points of this plot. 

The year is 2120 and the majority of the world’s populace is living in a fully connected, technological wonderland… until things go very wrong.

The non-linear timeline of this story is very easy to follow and the “info dumps” are written perfectly to keep you in the story while also relaying important information when it is needed. Science fiction stories, especially hard science fiction, tends to be overwhelming, but I did not find that to be the case here. The fact that this story is set 100 years in the future of our reality makes everything a little more believable.

The use of 2020 as an historical period for this story was excellent. The Covid pandemic and a lot of related buzzwords made it into this story, like the warning from the PM’s office that encouraged citizens to disconnect their implants ‘out of an abundance of caution’. And as you might have guessed, so many people disregarded that message. Another favorite is the technique we used to combat the spread of infection through something called ‘social distancing’. From 100 years in the future where advancements in technology allow implants to eradicate any infection that is detected in the body the fact that we could only try to stop Covid this way sounds like science fiction.

Watching 2020 through the eyes of the youngest generation in 2120 is interesting. Discussions of airpods as archaic machines during a history lesson gave me a giggle or two. The white/gold dress viral internet debacle makes an appearance... These are just a couple examples of recent trending topics that are in this story.

Recommended for: fans of fast-paced, sometimes jargon heavy, science fiction

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I thought this would be an interesting book. It was not. It was way too long. It starts with the end and then goes back and tells the story of how we got to the end and it was painful. It was too long and not very many likable characters. When it finally culminates to the end (which we already read at the beginning) there isn’t anything to add.
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I wasn't totally in love with this book, but I'll likely have a hard time forgetting it. It's a haunting, complex story. 

I do read Sci-Fi that takes place in outer space, but I often prefer this style of Sci-Fi (more of a "future fiction"), where the world-building is just a hair evolved from our current reality. The parts in this book about fact checking and the civil war in the US (and subsequent split into the Democratic Union and Free States of America) were spooky. Certainly seems like a reality that could occur someday soon. 

However the majority of the book concerns itself with brain implants (which thankfully is not an emerging a trend in our current reality--though it will likely be in the future) and 4/17, a cataclysmic event where things go very, very wrong with them. This event kicks off the book, so the rest of the story consists of tracking various characters while we, the reader, count down to that event and try to figure out how all of their actions intersect to create something so horrible. 

So, this book is rather a slow burn in that you know how it ends, although it's still heart-wrenching when it occurs. The story is pretty math-heavy, but presented in such a way that it was palatable to readers like me who don't love math. The world building was believable and the characters, relatable and diverse. In the end, their flaws are the same as the rest of us--just being human and being prone to making mistakes and poor choices in matters of the heart.  

My main dislike of the book was Sunny and her cult plot line, which drives 50% of the story. She is an interesting choice for a villain, and is certainly an unlikeable person. However, I found it odd that, after spending so much of the story in her head, there was no follow up with her story after 4/17. Nor did I always understand her motivations. (I understood that they drove the story nicely...just not sure they made sense otherwise.)

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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All. Time. Favorite. 10/5 stars.

This is a deeply thought-provoking dystopian/science-fiction read.

It's not really a "grips you from the first sentence" kind of book, it's definitely a slower-building story, but dear god, that FINALE. Indescribable.

You start the story on 4/17, the day that a catastrophe you don't quite understand happens (and you don't really understand the magnitude of it either), and then you're thrown back decades before 4/17. The entire book is really a countdown to that day. You meet a slew of characters—Sergei, Karima, David, Sunny, Lynette—and you don't really understand their importance to 4/17 or how they are all connected until the final chapters. But the book still somehow ends up being fascinating throughout because you're introduced to this massive, futuristic world that feels SO real, like you're glimpsing at the actual near-future of Earth.

By the time the events start spiraling into 4/17, by the time you understand, "Holy SH** this is MASSIVE and all the puzzle pieces, all the tiny dominoes, have led to this!" you seriously can't put the book down.

I will be subjecting this to a re-read next year. It is the kind of book that needs to be read twice. Highly recommend.
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Thank you to NetGalley and to Liu Book Group for this eARC.

Astonished by how much I enjoyed this book, because I read a couple of pages and then put it down, thinking about how YA it was, and definitely not feeling it. (Those early chapters 😬) But, as it turns out, this is a well-constructed, dense, what if. What if humans had brain implants? (Not so farfetched anymore.) And what if those implants were hackable?

There’s — unexpectedly — rather a lot of math in this book, but don’t let that put you off. A lot of it goes towards explaining why the crisis happens. Also some pretty high-concept thinking required, but, again, I think the story is good enough for most people to get past that.

That aside, this is also an interesting story about humans, motivation, greed, and relationships. It’s also, mercifully, refreshingly, not set in the “West,” with most of the action taking place in Israel, Singapore, and a unified Korea. There’s also a really strange cult (yes, yes, by definition, cults are strange, but this is a really bizarre one), which subplot I found a bit discordant; but I guess it all makes sense in the end. (No, I’m not fully persuaded on this.)

High points: Lots of science. Wonderful world-building — this is quite a plausible future. Well-developed characters. An excellent story.

Low points: That initial YA feel nearly put me off the book. The supplied cult just doesn’t jive with the alleged motivation for what happens.

Definitely recommend for people who like future fiction, and thinking about what would happen if we were even more connected.

Rated: 8/10.
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This is an engaging book that holds a mirror to humanity and, while it might be found wanting in certain aspects, ultimately gives hope that we can survive the faults that makes us human. In his debut novel, Eric Silberstein takes us on a trip into the not too distant future and shows us what we are already becoming aware of--technology  can be addicting to the point of taking over our lives. Just try being without an Internet connection for a few hours or days and see how much it impacts your entertainment, news source, communications or job..

In 2100, technology has evolved to the point where through brain implants most of the world's population is constantly connected to the Internet. Virtual reality has become a reality and a way of life from the earliest days of a person's life. Then, on April 17, 2120, there is what appears to be a catastrophic failure in the system and sets the stage for this story. 

Twenty years before April 17, 2120, at a prestigious university in Israel, three doctoral students, Sergi, Daniel and Karima are given a project to expand the brain implants to include an olfactory interface  At the same time, in the unified country of Korea, a young girl sets her life's goal to become the most popular member of an exclusive dance group that has captured the world's attention. The story now follows these characters over the next twenty years as we, the readers, see the events unfolding that puts all four characters on a collision course that will change the world.

I don't think one needs to be a science fiction enthusiast to enjoy this book. The plot is realistic, the pacing excellent and the characters entirely believable. Even though my background is computer science, I don't feel the computer-speak in this fiction is beyond the casual reader. The story itself is compelling enough to grab a reader and suck them in.

Thank you NetGalley for providing a copy of this book. It was published in August, 2021.
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The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev by Eric Silberstein is a highly recommended speculative/science fiction novel set in 2100.

Neural Implants are now a normal part of life and people are connected all the time with each other, and the media. The Board of Reality Overseers blocks false information from spreading through the implants. In this future world, graduate student Sergei Kraev, along with two other students, Karima and Daniel, are given the task of writing  code that will work with neural implants to provide an olfactory experience. When Karima turns down Sergei's advances and starts a relationship with and later marries Daniel, Sergei leaves the program early for the private sector. At the same time Sunny Kim (think K-pop star) is a spoiled, self centered, evil dancer whose family pays for her acceptance into a popular dance troupe. She is later forced to leave and starts her own group/cult, which Sergei is tricked into joining.

Good news and bad news: The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev opens with a horrifying, shocking event called the 4-17 apocalypse. This event, which is actually foreshadows the climax of the book, will keep you reading to discover the backstory of what happened and why. The bad news is that the opening event might have had an even greater impact had it followed the backstory leading up to the terrifying event. The plot is set mainly in Israel, Korea, and Singapore. The narrative is told through the point of view of several different characters and there are several twists along the way.

The cast of characters is truly diverse and international. All the characters are well developed and portrayed as individuals with distinct voices and personalities. Their actions and reactions tell the story of the events that lead up to 4-17, which means well developed characters are essential for the story.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of NetGalley.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, and Amazon.
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So I usually choose not to read science fiction because I rarely understand what's going on and that's on me, not the book. But I couldn't resist when I read the synopsis.

The math and science part was well explained, so well explained that I was able to absorb it really well.

I found the concept quite original, interesting and captivating. The characters were very well built, as well as the universe and the scenarios. I liked it a lot.
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The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev is a fast-paced read, going over the old story of human intelligence outstripping its hold on its emotions. Similar to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but with a far more advanced technology, this book revolves around Sergei, incredibly intelligent but emotionally insecure, and thwarted in love; the object of his unrequited love, Karima; her husband, Daniel, good looking and charming, but ultimately self-interested and duplicitous; and Sunny Kim, spoiled, vain, greedy and basically evil. Their lives and their stories intersect with calamitous results for the rest of humanity. 
Silberstein gives us a rollicking read, transporting us to glamorous locations around the world (albeit, unlike our Covid Zoom experiences, one can more fully experience the virtual), as the scientists race to fix a bug in the ubiquitous neural implants. Like Frankenstein, this is another book that shows how we, as a race, are amazingly talented, intelligent and ambitious, but our dreams outpace our emotional ability to deal with the consequences. 

Sergei Kraev is light examination of this subject, but a highly enjoyable read, except for the very end, where I found the impact and explanations of the so-called 4-17 apocalypse very unconvincing indeed. This part should have been left out altogether, instead of cobbling on a brief, and unbelievable, adjunct on the resolution of the issue.

My thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
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This book is different from most books I’ve read in this genre in that the vast majority of the book takes place before “the event.” Following “the event,” the narrative ceased rather abruptly though not jarringly, but not with an untidy or poorly planned ending. While I would happily have read more “after event” content if it existed, the book did have what I felt was a quite satisfactory ending. I will be recommending this book to friends and other readers. 

Thanks to #LiuBookGroup and #NetGalley for the provided e-ARC and the opportunity to read this book. My review is honest, unbiased, and voluntary. #NetGalley #TheInsecureMindOfSergeiKraev

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I read the NetGalley ARC. This is my review: 

What an annoyingly detailed novel, just interesting enough that I finished reading it--but only because I started skimming all the descriptions and the awful Sunny speeches and so on. In the end, I wish I'd bailed, because ultimately it's a tech hubris/manipulations/detective story with too many characters I didn't care about. It all hangs together well enough, it all feels plausible enough although I think the science is destined to be much slower in the real world. The bad guy (Sunny) is awful and that's good, but I hated her sections. The three stars are for writing a readable novel. Some people will love it, and I hope those readers find it.
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I very much enjoyed this book. The characters were all pretty believable. The main "villain" was a bit over-the-top narcissistic. Good plot. But most importantly, I wanted to keep reading. That doesn't happen very much anymore, as my reading time is limited and I will give up on a book if I find it too frustrating to get into.
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This book was pretty interesting. But I feel like it missed an opportunity to be really great as the concept was really interesting. 
The first chapter was gripping. I thought for sure this would be a 5 star book, But it just kind of fell short for me. 
It opens with the climax. And when I realized what was happening I was pretty disappointed.
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4.5 Stars - excellent debut!

I cannot believe this is a debut novel by Eric Silberstein. It is smart, insightful regarding the vulnerabilities of human minds and moral slippery slopes, has great writing and pacing, a diverse cast and international setting. What is not to love?

"The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev" tells the story of how the world has changed fundamentally at the hand of one Sergei Kraev, a most improbable cause of a near-apocalypse for mankind. How this comes to be and how the different characters, from whose perspective the story is narrated, play a part in this is for the reader to find out.

As with all good books, it is the details that make them stand out. And there are just so many things I loved about this one: 
- The setting and cast is truly diverse and international, with the plot taking place in Israel, Korea and Singapore mostly and the protagonists being from all parts of the world. This is a great change from the often US-centric perspective of American authors. I also appreciate a lot that we have a Russian main character!
- The characters have all a distinct voice and personality, they feel real and you get a feeling for how their mind works. I cared/hurt very much for Sergei and Nadezhda and was properly terrified of Sunny (who is an AMAZING villain).
- The worldbuilding is just great! The story takes place in a not-too-distant future where brain implants connect people's brains directly to the internet. The implications of such a world are well thought through and there is plenty of commentary on current technical developments and ideas, as well as on politics. 
- The pacing and writing suck you right in. The author doesn't sacrifice character development for the sake of more action and finds just the right balance. The plot is generally character driven, which I find absolutely crucial in a good book.
- The editing is very good. I'm not sure if I spotted even one error, which is a very welcome change.

There is only little I disliked, and that is the fact that brilliant (and apparently almost supernaturally beautiful - was that really necessary?) Karima is attracted to David, who is totally a bro-dude and just a jerk. The way Karima is being introduced as very intelligent, precise, caring, hardworking, with high moral standards and sure of herself makes it just not very plausible that she would be instantly attaracted to the lazy, morally ambiguous bro-dude just because he is somewhat talented in maths. I feel like this decision was just needed for the sake of developing the plot, and I thought that choosing this tired trope was a bit lazy of the author. Personally, I think the trope of smart women going for jerks against their better judgement needs to go away and die in a corner altogether.

So, this is the only thing that prevented me from giving 5 stars, otherwise this one's just brilliant and I very much hope that Eric Silberstein keeps on writing!

I have received a review copy via NetGalley and voluntarily provide my honest opinion. Thank you very much!
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The author takes the reader to a future where biotechnology has advanced to the point where everyone on Earth is expected to have implants in their brains. There obviously are many advantages to this technology - but also disastrous results if things go wrong. The author reveals the story by starting with the end result and, through several points of view, we find out how it happens. The story is a bit slow to start, but once the reader is fully immersed in the story, it’s hard to put down.
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Review of eBook

Fast forward to 2100. Having survived the virus pandemic of 2020, humanity willingly accepts the implants scientists have created, implants that allow them to interface directly with the internet. The majority of the world’s population has received these implants and, as a result, can seamlessly communicate with others, can interface with media, and can experience enhanced learning.

With the Board of Reality Overseers keeping false information in check, the populace feels safe in its continual interfacing and secure in the knowledge that a mathematical proof promises them that implant hacking is impossible. As always, scientists champion continued development and seek greater enhancements.

Meanwhile, others seek their own power. Dancer Sunny Kim auditions for 100M, a pop dance troupe; when that dancing experience doesn’t work out as she’d expected, she creates her own troupe, 1Billion, and begins to see dance with a new vision.

Unknown danger lurks in everyone’s fragile future. How can a dancer threaten humanity? And can Sergei find the desperately needed solution?

The characters here are well-drawn and nuanced; the mathematics heavily sprinkled throughout the telling of the tale makes sense within the plot [and, at the same time, refrains from making the reader feel doltish]. Three storylines . . . Sergei, his colleagues Daniel and Karima, and pop dancer/star Sunny Kim . . . all charge headlong toward a stunning convergence that may well spell disaster for all that they know.

Anchored by a strong sense of place and an inescapably riveting plot, the unfolding story weaves a captivating web of intrigue as it reveals human foibles and vulnerabilities. Love, intellectual challenge, and desire mix with driving ambition, self-absorption, and a fair amount of insolence to create a disparate playing field where even the best of intentions may precipitously turn into a catastrophic event.

Plot twists keep the story moving along; the underlying tension creates a sense of uneasiness in the reader that impels a fervor of anticipation. The pace is swift and relentless; the technology both familiar and futuristically innovative.

As with most narratives, the unfortunate inclusion of an underlying political agenda does nothing to enhance the telling of the tale and may well serve to alienate readers who seek profound stories rather than opinionated posturing.


I received a free copy of this eBook from Liu Book Group and NetGalley
#theinsecuremindofsergeikraev #NetGalley
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Eric Silberstein delivers a very powerful and prophetic warning in his debut novel.  Like the sci-if classics, his tale mixes advances in tech with reflective commentary on topics of our world today. The characters are realistic and flawed, they love and hurt, and they are fragile yet hopeful. It is a story that will leave readers thinking long after the final page. Highly recommended.
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Only 100 years in the future, almost everyone has a brain implant facilitating immediate communication with others, media consumption and enhanced learning. Implants are proven unhackable. Or are they? A recently-developed app enabling virtual olfactory sensations may have a flaw making implants vulnerable. Sergei Kraev, a brilliant but shy programmer is used by a K-Pop dance-star turned cult leader to influence even more people to follow her. Too late, he discovers that his greatest programming achievement may be his worst mistake.

Eric Silberstein nails the writing advice "Show, don't tell". His characters seem like people you've met, or they may remind you of yourself.  Sunny Kim, the dancer-turned-cult leader, is so obviously a malignant narcissist and so realistically portrayed that I wondered if Eric had the misfortune of relationships with such people. He certainly must have been to Moscow and Haifa to write about these places so vividly, and he also seems to be familiar with the practices and perils of academia. Fiction is best when it seems real, and at no point in this story was belief suspended. 

If you like hard scifi and Neal Stephenson, you'll be glad you read Eric Silberstein. Highly recommended, and very much enjoyed!
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It';s 2100 but it could easily be now, The world has wholeheartedly adopted neural implants that allow brains to directly access the internet. Multiple points of view offer the parallel stories of Sergei, a mathematical genius, his colleagues Daniel and Carima and an up and coming K-pop start name Sunny Kim.  The novel shoots from Israel to Singapore,  to Russia and reunified Korea seamlessly. Flashback provide the history behind what is sure to be an international disaster as the unhackable neural implants may in fact hold a back door.

I can't believe this is Eric Silberstein's first novel! The storyline is well thought out and quick moving, all of the characters are likeable and interesting. Best yet, there is plenty of "math talk' that someone like me can follow. I feel smarter, exhilarated and a little bit scared for the human race. If. you like thrillers, techno-thrillers, lite syfy, cult novels or just great character studies then The Insecure Mind of Sergei Kraev is for you! Highly Recommended! Thank you to #NetGally for the Arc in exchange for a fair  review #TheInsecureMindOfSergeiKraev
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The narrative's developmental interweaving of characters' cross-purposes, rivals that of Neil Stephenson. 

Exceptionally well-written Sci-Fi DEBUT. Way beyond expectations for a new author's first offering. Wonderfully surprising quality/ skill of story development.  In a dramatically changed post-Covid world's political new hierarchical order, it's a scary outcome considering the likelihood of believably flawed charters working at cross-purposes. With this being Silberstein's first Sci-Fi novel, sign me up right now for his next!
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