Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Review: 'Remember to Recycle' by Tantra Bensko

California author Tantra Bensko has published ten books and has been included in a number of anthologies. Her degrees include an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa. And she has studied the methods of social engineering through manipulation of mass beliefs which she blogs about social engineering at Agents of the Nevermind. Tantra teaches fiction writing through UCLA X Writing Program,, and her own Online Writing Academy. She also is a widely published as a visual artist, and her work was extensively displayed internationally, such as a solo show called Reality Burn!, which traveled for years through the Spanish levant, with openings including speakers and bands. She was the artist on staff at MKzine, Art Director at Mad Hatters Review, Times Journal of Photography’s “World Class Photographer,” and an international judge of photography and visual arts at BTDesigns. GLOSSOLALIA was Book 1 of her series The Agents of Nevermind. REMEMBER TO RECYCLE is Book 2 of that series.

Tantra offers helpful comments on the inspiration for this series The Agents of Nevermind – ‘Psychological Suspense combines profound, innovative aspects of Literary Fiction with Genre’s fast paced, high octane intensity, straightforward language, forward momentum, and tense intrigue and mystery. Psychological Suspense is perfect for entertainment about the antagonists such as media’s social engineers, who are informed by military secrecy and toxic corporate lobbyists. The genre is made for exploring eerie and important questions about identity and reality, bewilderment, being tricked and gaslighted, mental aberrations, coping mechanisms, intense mystery and intrigue. Since our society’s behavior is orchestrated using propaganda’s illogic, this genre is an appropriate one for exploring larger issues of international politics. Intrigue and mystery are always integral, as the reader finds his way through the maze. Suspense tends to be slower paced than Thrillers, more internalized and focused on what might happen, a building dread of the victims, but can be combined with the Thriller genre by the victimized characters becoming more proactive in creating far-reaching effects in the world, whether for the good or the bad. This book, and Glossolalia are Suspense Thrillers. Often the distinction between the antagonist and the hero is ambiguous, and there may be an anti-hero, someone dangerous and impulsive enough that he’s prone to moving the plot forward through the explosions, car chases, fights, last minute struggles, doing what he needs to survive or help others survive in continual life-or-death situations. We often see such conflicted, gritty characters in Noir and Crime.’

It is so rare to find a writer who can combine abuse, mind control, corporations bent on destroying the environment, and government conspiracies with cocky humor and a sci-fi overtones. But Tantra does just that. In her synopsis enough of the story’s secrets are revealed to entice the curious reader – ‘What if the homeless men going through your recycling know more about your life than you do? Like who is going to die. One of the recyclers, Dave, wearing disguises he keeps under a bridge, memorizes the information in people's bins. He, like many others, idolizes the Rescuers, a supposedly neutral, unarmed humanitarian aid group in a Balkanized country, as the possibility of WWIII looms. The Nevermind Agents lie on the evening news to garner support for proxy wars. They say the Rescuers are unarmed, neutral, and giving humanitarian aid to a Balkanized country. Their movie about them is a blockbuster. Rescuer costumes are the bit hit for Halloween. But it's time to unmask them. And that requires a plan so ingenious, even the planner can't know how it's done. Living not far away from Dave's bridge, Becky donates generously to the Rescuers, making her finances even more insecure. She doesn't know what to think when she finds things in her apartment moved slightly. The toothbrush is wet. There's a stain on the ironing board. The cat food is nearly gone. Is it her imagination? Is someone messing with her mind? Could it be Stan, breaking in because he loves her? He certainly loves putting her body into mysterious BDSM contortions for their videos. But what's that muffled moan she hears in the background when she calls him on the phone? Becky hires her friend to spy on Stan. The woman has gone underground since escaping from the Nevermind; she wears a wig, and a mask meant for burn victims. She has traveled across the country to befriend Becky, taking a chance on an anonymous message recommending she do so, though she doesn't yet know the reason.’

Tantra’s story is mindboggling – in a good way. While films and television series attempt to push borders of belief with the help of CGI, Tantra accomplishes this goal better with just words. She is extraordinarily fascinating. Highly recommended for thinking readers. Grady Harp, May 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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