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It’s the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport—a secretive firm headquartered in New York City. Their slogan: Departure… Arrival… Delight!

Joel Byram, our smartass protagonist, is an everyday twenty-fifth century guy. He spends his days training artificial-intelligence engines to act more human, jamming out to 1980’s new wave—an extremely obscure genre, and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. Joel is pretty much an everyday guy with everyday problems—until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting.

Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.

Author Tal M. Klein recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his debut novel, THE PUNCH ESCROW:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

The main thing I hope people take away from the book is that future doesn’t have to be dystopian in order to be interesting. Cool stuff still gets to happen if society continues its path forward on our current trajectory. We will not be ruled by AI overlords who use us as batteries, and although there will be robot armies (hey, we have those today already), our future selves will also not always be at war.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

THE PUNCH ESCROW features an existential bizarre love triangle in which the protagonists are two versions of the same person vying to rescue his figuratively and literally at-risk marriage. I believe the way each version of Joel Byram uniquely evolves to deal with the challenges and decisions conforonting him is an interesting approach to the thriller genre, in that both Joels are competing and cooperating with each other.

Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?

I learned a ton during the research phase of the book! The most interesting tidbit I discovered is that the Mona Lisa has an older sister. There are two Mona Lisa’s!

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

Other writers will appreciate this: There’s a chapter entitled Chekhov’s Gun in which an actual gun seen earlier in the book makes a very unexpected reappearance.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

I’m a huge Larry Niven fan because of the authentic way he integrates real hard science into his books. I also love Scott Meyer’s writing; his Magic 2.0 series was probably the most influential piece of writing that catalyzed me to write.


Tal M. Klein was born in Israel, grew up in New York, and currently lives in Detroit with his wife and two daughters. When she was five years old, his daughter Iris wrote a book called I’m a Bunch of Dinosaurs that went on to become one of the most successful children’s book projects on Kickstarter—something that Tal explained to Iris by telling her, “your book made lots of kids happy.” Iris then asked Tal, “Daddy, why don’t you write a book that makes lots of grownups happy?” Tal mulled this over for a few years, and eventually wrote his first book, The Punch Escrow. It won the Inkshares Geek & Sundry Hard Science Fiction publishing contest, and will be the first book published on the Geek & Sundry imprint.

To learn more about Tal, please visit his website.

Photo credit: Lai Long

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