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RADIO is an SPFBO 2020 (Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off) Semi-Finalist.

Amid the music, lights and energy of 1928’s Paris, something sinister pulses through the æther. The Radio of the Gods manipulates minds across the continent and its creator, the arrogant god Marduk, will sacrifice everything to keep his kind from perverting his masterpiece.

Attempted treason and bitter betrayal force Marduk to escape into a new, unknown body. Worse still, the previous owner, an opium-addicted jazz guitarist, is still inside.

Desperate, drug-addled and fighting for control, Marduk is forced to rely on the few friends he has left – and one terrifying enemy — to see his mission to fruition. If Marduk and company fail, the gods’ vain machinations will destroy everything they’ve built, including civilization itself, all made possible by his RADIO.

408 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 4, 2020

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About the author

J. Rushing

1 book17 followers
J · Rushing is an American writer whose work blends elements of adventure, fantasy, science fiction, and horror to create worlds that feel as familiar as they do foreign.

He is a musician, amateur luthier, and former teacher who first traded the microbreweries and Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest for the bustle and beauty of Paris. After nearly three years in the City of Light he and his wife settled near Zürich, Switzerland where they spend much of their time traveling and immersing themselves in the outdoors.

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5 stars
21 (58%)
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12 (33%)
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2 (5%)
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Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 19 books431 followers
March 31, 2021

I’ve wanted to read Radio for quite a while. You see, I have a huge soft spot for daring books that deal with fantasy in unique ways, and really, Radio fits the bill. There isn’t anything like it on the market, and that’s part of the appeal. It’s a sort of genre-straddler, which I also understand as that’s the kind of books I write. Is it historical? Is it fantasy? Is it historical fantasy? Who knows. Maybe it’s a bit of all of the above, and that’s part of its appeal.

Radio tells the story of a group of gods who are creating a radio they plan to use to essentially get people to worship them again, all of this set against a backdrop of 1920s Paris. Marduk (M), is not keen on this idea and has some personal problems with it. Forced to vacate his preferred body, which is about to die, he ends up in the body of a passing stranger, an American opium addict named Del. Things do not happen the way he wants them to, and he ends up having to, in some ways, fly by the seat of his pants through this riotous early 20th century Paris while dealing with addiction and a bunch of gods after him.

Now, if that doesn’t sell the book to you, I can’t help you. You are beyond saving.

Radio was amazing. I was instantly entranced by the plot, the setting, and the characters. 1920s Paris is beautifully portrayed to readers. It’s a place steeped in jazz, and an influx of artists, opportunists and the like. People coming there from all over the world, and this really fascinating clash of cultures and thriving nightlife is one result. I really loved how Rushing never went overboard on his descriptions, but he always touched on things just enough for me to be able to “see” the setting and feel the realness in it. Furthermore, he added in small details here and there which not only showed his research, but also lent an air of realism to things. I was genuinely surprised by how much a street name thrown in here or there really helped cement the book in realism.

M is a wonderful character. He’s arrogant and caustic, with some of that grim humor I truly love. He can’t trust anyone, and he’s in a body that’s addicted to opium. His one (sort of) confidant is someone he also can’t trust, so he has to rely on a bunch of monos (humans) to get by. He’s out of his comfort zone throughout the entire book, and I found it truly delightful to see how an arrogant god deals with something like having to (gasp) rely on us pesky humans to get by.

I want to touch on the opium addiction a bit, because I was pretty nervous about how Rushing would handle something like that. It’s a serious, serious problem, and I didn’t want it to be brushed over or used as some campy plot device, especially because so many people all over the world suffer with such addictions. I will say, Rushing handled this element wonderfully, and with very real empathy. It wasn’t something that was brushed under the rug, but it was something that had to be dealt with throughout the book, and M, despite all of his flaws, handled powering an opium-addicted body quite well, and with understanding and genuine compassion that I truly admired. Yes, he could be caustic, and yes, he got fed up, but the way Rushing handled something like this impressed me.

The plot itself moves at a fast clip. The book throws you into the deep end and by the end of chapter one, everything has changed and none of it is good. It took me a few chapters to really wrap my head around what was going on, but this didn’t bother me in the least because it was just so entertaining. After that warmup period where I was being introduced not only to the conflict, but to the idea of body hopping, and understanding the players in the game and what the game is, everything sort of clicked and the book itself was super easy to just sit back and enjoy. There is never a dull moment, from cover to cover, something is always happening somewhere, to someone, for some reason. Gods, as it turns out, do not play nice.

Rushing’s prose was wonderful. Descriptive without going overboard, emotional without really leaning into emotions too hard. The characters unfurled quite well, and were crafted with a healthy mix of realistic flaws. The ending was perfect for the tone of the book. I really found myself applauding his ability to just tell a really good story. Well written and carefully planned, Radio really exceeded my wildest expectations.

Radio was a book I’d been looking forward to reading for a while now. A fellow SPFBO semi-finalist (we’ve got to stick together), I had my eye on it. I went into this book uncertain about what I expected and left it feeling like I just read the best genre-bending fantasy I’ve encountered in a while. Rushing is a huge talent, and I sincerely hope he continues exploring this world he’s crafted. I am anxious to revisit it.

If you aren’t reading Radio, you really need to change that. Like, yesterday. This was the breath of fresh air I needed.
Profile Image for Julya Savina .
44 reviews2 followers
April 4, 2020
I was offered the chance to read this book before its debut in exchange for an honest review.

To give you an idea of my taste, I typically only rate fiction to be four stars at best. This is because for me, a five-star book would always teach me something, and from my perspective that is only possible with nonfiction. Why the five-star review for this work of fiction, then? If a new author of fiction can make me consider issuing my maximum-possible review, especially a new author who builds his world as well as J. Rushing does in this book, then I have to make an exception. Also, talented new authors need to get the recognition they deserve, and if my spending an extra star can help make that happen, then it’s the least I can do. (I’ll also admit to being much more critical of the creative decisions of more established writers, as I feel everyone should be.) What follows is a spoiler-free review based on my experience with a book somewhat outside my usual genre of choice.

I read fiction for purely recreational purposes - I spread it out between heavier or just longer nonfiction that can feel like pushing a rock up a hill, for too long a time. So for me, the purpose of (good) fiction is to plant me in its world and sweep me away, for hours at a time sometimes! The longer the better, because that means that the it's easy to seep into the story and harder to pull myself out, to put down the book. I will also admit that my pleasures in fiction are sci-fi and mythology (and sometimes vaguely historically) based stories. RADIO feeds that itch damn well. A swarm of mythological characters meet in 1920's Paris. It is fantastical without being mere fantasy. The plot is unpredictable enough (for me, that's not a common occurrence), and the characters are interesting (decent character development is even harder to find, especially in new writers). The historical research into the setup of this story seems also well-done. I have never been to Paris, but I suppose one could attempt to pull up a map of the city (from the 1920's) and try to parse out the paths taken, and it would all reasonably add up. As I'd never been, it was all Greek to me. Well, French, but you get the idea. Maybe, for anyone familiar with Paris, it might add an extra dimension and appreciation for the story.

The mythological characters were portrayed well not just for their likeness in historical imagery, but also close to their natures in the epics of so many various cultures. Dare I say, it seemed more like "two truths and a lie" where the "lie" took some time to figure out because it all seemed as if, yes, it could be real. Like I said, fantastical without mere fantasy.

Now, was there anything I didn't like? In bits and pieces, short paragraphs of prose that was more ornate than I might have liked. But then again, when I'm chasing the suspense dragon (wha whhhaa reference to the book), I want nothing more than to get to the next word, the next sentence, the next solution to whichever distress is happening. This is just my preference for action fiction. So I did stumble over some words (especially slang I didn't know, which is another thumbs up for the accuracy of historical information from the 1920's). But I didn't find any of that as any reason to tone down the rating, or even my experience of it. I mean, I write on my own time (nothing as terrifying as my own novel) and my freedom of word usage is exactly my own - I most likely would not listen to another writer critiquing my description/imagery, nor would I impose that on other writers. Unless, of course, the word choices were terrible ... I didn't find that the case here. In any case, my slight distaste for ornate prose is a personal issue and I fight with it every day, except when in my own private writing exercises. 😂😂😂😂

All in all, I charted this as 5 stars because it fulfilled its own purpose well. It's a story that takes you away into a (slightly) different world and keeps you in its grips until the very end. As I mentioned, I prefer that most of my reading be nonfiction, but nonetheless, I still somehow made the fit into the category of readers that this book caters toward. Actually, no spoilers, but I loved the setup for the ending. Sometimes, stories end too soon after all the climactic action toward the end and it always feels incomplete. Life doesn't become all mundane and "happily every after" after the most harrowing moments, so why would stories!?!? In RADIO's case, the resolution seems fitting and it gave that little extra oomph at the end that people like me require in order to feel satiated. This resolution also, simultaneously, opened up a whole new vista on which a sequel could be predicated. Masterminds in fantasy and world-building do something like this superbly and looks like J. Rushing might be a promising future member. Here's to hoping!
Profile Image for Timandra Whitecastle.
Author 12 books148 followers
July 30, 2021
This is a very weird book. I like weird, though!

It’s hard to summarize the plot, but it has jazz and the Roaring 1920s and ancient Gods/ entities who can bodysnatch people and opium dens and twists and turns and the Eiffel Tower and betrayals and so much more. Listen. There’s a lot going on at all times!

Definitely a pageturner.
Profile Image for Ali Sarrafan.
16 reviews
April 5, 2020
Here goes my first ever GoodReads review:

This is what "Radio" promises: A surly god has to save the world by taking back the mind-control radio he invented from the other gods who used to be his colleagues, while trapped in the body of an opium addicted jazz musician in 1928 Paris.

That premise is what reeled me in, and it’s also what the book delivers.

“Radio” has much going for it: an intriguing conceit, enough well-developed main characters to keep your interest, world building that shows great imagination and skill (three set-pieces stand out, including the big finale), and pacing that keeps thing moving along (most of the time).

This is a debut novel and it isn’t perfect. The dialogue sometimes feels out of place for the intended time period or just simply off. Some character development seems overly reliant on dialogue style versus actions. None of this is a deal-breaker. Far from it.

For example, the passages describing the ecstasy of opium, and the hell of trying to quit the addiction, are not only well-written but show a great deal of empathy. An attempt to quit cold turkey is an especially harrowing set-piece that has stuck with me.

I'm a nighttime reader, and now that I have finished this book, and moved on to another very good book ("Fleishman is in Trouble"), I find myself wishing there was more of this story to read. “Radio” has obviously been written with the intention of being first in a series. I will gladly pay for the next book in the series to find out what happens next.

I received a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.
April 14, 2020
I was given an ARC by the author for an honest review.

Admittedly, this is not a genre I tend to lean towards. However, I found this book accessible. The opening of the book felt a bit overwhelming, with the first few chapters throwing a lot of characters, information and plot at the reader. Once Marduk makes the body jump, the book slows down to a reasonable and consistent pace for the rest of the story, which was quite enjoyable to read.


Overall, I liked the book. I do wish there was more about the Radio and how the various Gods were using it, so that the importance of Marduk's device made more of an impact, rather than how it currently reads in passing and in the background until the final scene. I would say, though, that this is a mark of a well-written book, as I wanted more and more from it. My favorite part of the book was its ending, which had a twist I did not expect but was incredible and perfect to the story line.
Profile Image for Yoanna.
111 reviews14 followers
April 30, 2020
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

It took me a while to sit down and finally write this review because I needed to be fair. In order to be fair, I had to let it sit in my mind for a few days and see what's left. Well, short answer is a LOT!
The world in which J. Rushing's characters operate is multilayered and vivid with detail - architecture, food, smells, drinks, clothes - it transports you to 1920s Paris with ease. I've only been to Paris, albeit modern-day, once and it was an underwhelming experience during scorching heat. "Radio" made the slushy, frigid banks of a winter Seine sound much more appealing. Mayhem, aside! :)

And speaking of the mayhem, let's get to the story itself. It revolves around Marduk, the ancient Babylonian god, who is alive and well in the 20th century. Well, he's alive. Alive and in a whole lot of trouble involving a plethora of other gods ranging in popularity and powers. They have been reigning over humanity in their own way for millennia, but as it often happens with power-hungry entities, it's simply not enough. So they've planned a comeback. Big time! Only not all of them agree on the method.
Reading, my mind was often pulled into making comparisons with Neil Gaiman's "American Gods". Only here, instead of a clash between New and Old we've got a clash between old and ancient gods, between friends/rivals/lovers for hundreds and hundreds of years who suddenly don't see eye to eye anymore. Stick the main character in an addiction-riddled body (and mind) to contend with and an over-protective best friend of said body, and you've got yourself a team. Add a few helpers with special powers of their own, and the team of outnumbered underdogs is complete.

The story builds up the anticipation nicely, peppering mentions of mythical creatures and centuries-long mind games. The stakes are high, the time is of the essence, and the twists abound. The ending is both flashy and satisfactory, tying up lose ends nicely and even providing a twisted little door for more.

My world was not shaken and my life remains unchanged after reading it, hence the 4*, but it was a genuinely fun read with colourful, well developed characters, jazz and whiskey! What more could one want from a 1920s noir? :)
Profile Image for Lyndsay Lomax.
Author 2 books3 followers
April 5, 2020
I'll be honest - fantasy is not my thing. Whether films or books, I've never enjoyed it that much so I've pretty much stayed clear of the genre all together. I was offered a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review of this debut novel so I thought why not?

From the first chapter I was completely hooked. I became immersed into the world of 1920s Paris and was intrigued by the relationships of the character and the action unfolding. Maybe fantasy isn't that bad after all?

The story was fast paced and well researched. I could imagine walking down the Parisian streets with characters, experiencing what they were. I love J. Rushing's way with words, the way he brings a scene to life off the page. His vivid imagery and clever observations struck a chord with me. He even finds humour in the darkest of moments. The themes of mythology, music, history, betrayal and deceit, which ran through the book, kept my interest.

The characters were believable and realistic. Overall I liked the protagonist but I also felt that he had the potential to be disliked. I don't know if this was intentional, the author hinting to the reader of what is to come in any future novels in this series, or not.

I will admit I was slightly disappointed with the climax to the story. But not because of what happened. I felt that the scenes towards the end of the book were a little rushed. The whole book was leading up to this moment, I wanted to savor every bit of it but it was over too soon. I appreciate that taking more time with the ending of the story, describing each blow in detail would slowed the pace down and taken the edge off the action and impact but perhaps this was just my desire for the story to keep going.

I very much hope there are more books in this series. This book has left me with many questions, tantalizing poised to see what happens in the future. Fingers crossed the next installment is planned soon.
Profile Image for Kerry Smith.
305 reviews13 followers
December 7, 2020
A 2020 highlight

One of this year's SPFBO6 semi-finalists and I can see why; this has been one of the more imaginative books I've read this year.
'Gods' taking over Paris, using the Eiffel tower as a broadcasting antenna to scare humans into worshipping them again.
The god Marduk (or M) is against this idea and knowing his current body is about die 'throws' his consciousness into a passing human; unfortunately the body he possesses is a young opium addicted American called Del. With help from Del's best friend and a small group of players can they stop the gods from returning in all their selfish glory.
As an ex opiate addict myself I found myself relating well to M/Del's cravings for and withdrawal from the drug and in one chapter trying to go through cold turkey brought back some personal recollections and was extremely well written. Paris of the 20s, the jazz era of the time, influx of American artists is portrayed nicely too.
4.5 stars for me
Profile Image for Douglas Lumsden.
Author 7 books124 followers
April 17, 2021
I enjoyed this book very much! The ancient Babylonian god Marduk runs afoul a plot by his fellow gods, led by the delightfully deranged twins Apollo and Artemis, to bring themselves back to prominence, and winds up in control of the body of an opium-addicted American jazz musician living in post-WWI Paris. And that's just the beginning of this amazing ride through mythology, Parisian noir, colorful characters, and enough suspense and thrills to keep you turning the pages late into the night. An amazing story!
40 reviews
May 5, 2021
Fascinating concept. And author kept
the story interesting till end
1 review1 follower
June 19, 2020
I'm a sucker for good world building. There's nothing I love more from a book than being thrown into a new world, with elaborate descriptions of the setting and its underlying rules, allowing my imagination to create a vivid visual space on which the characters have their adventures.

When it comes to world creation, RADIO delivers on all fronts. The setting is described in exquisite detail, with obvious care by the author. I thoroughly enjoyed getting sucked into 1920's Paris, its surface-level grandeur as well as its grimy underbelly. In this world, major events in government and culture are masterminded by gods and goddesses, with some vying for even more control of the unsuspecting populace. The concept of godhood described in RADIO is clever and captivating, and with each chapter I relished in learning more details about how it all worked.

Weeks after finishing the book, I can't stop thinking about one particular scene, which affected me on an emotional level. The main character, a god inhabiting a musician's body, has to play at a jazz club, so he temporarily relinquishes control to allow the musician to play his instrument. The vivid description of the concert - the mood, musical progression, connection of the band members, and effect on the audience - was written with such love for music that the feeling of it all came through the page. Reading this scene actually gave me goosebumps, as I get when I listen to a beloved piece of music. That the author achieved this through writing is a testament to his talent!

One weakness of the book was the number and length of scenes wherein the main characters are lounging, drinking and talking. The emphasis on these dialogue sessions rather than on the action/exploration scenes was a bit too much for me, and so the balance felt off.

All in all, I highly recommend RADIO. It was a pleasure to get lost in its unique world. The level of writing is excellent. The setting and story are memorable. I feel myself wanting more, so I hope that there is more to come from the author in what should be a series.

I received a free copy of RADIO in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Bill Rushing.
1 review
May 9, 2021
Mythology and Jazz, opium and intrigue. Enemies become allies and pawns become players as the God Marduk races to save the the world from his own invention.
This fast paced tale of espionage and mind control set against a backdrop of 1920’s Paris is a must read.
Profile Image for Trudie Skies.
Author 5 books98 followers
December 6, 2020
RADIO isn't the usual types of fantasy that I read. This one straddles the genres so I'm not entirely sure where it fits (which I imagine is a nightmare when it comes to marketing it) as it has touches of fantasy, science-fiction, thriller, mystery, and dystopia all wrapped in one. But this doesn't confuse or muddy the story. If anything, I found RADIO to be a great reason why genre can sometimes be restrictive!

The plot of RADIO then is of the arrogant god Marduk, a scientist and god who is part of a group of gods that use mind control to spread their influence throughout humanity whilst hopping between bodies. The gods plan to use their giant radio to broadcast horrors and make them feared once more, which Marduk disagrees with. On one fateful night, poor Marduk is forced to vacate his preferred body whilst being hunted by his former god friends and finds himself trapped in a new body. Unfortunately, his new host is a wretch and a drug addict, and his consciousness remains inside.

This leads to a lot of challenges for Marduk (Or M as he's known) as he's forced to adjust to his new body and the drug addiction that comes with it, handle the personal and professional life of his host, all whilst hiding from his former allies who are more powerful (including his former lover) and trying to sabotage their apocalyptic plans. All this whilst set to the backdrop of 1920 Paris.

I personally loved M. His arrogance and humour came across perfectly, especially the relationships he's forced to endure with the Monos (normal humans). M's view of the world, as well as the side characters of his host and host's best friend, are what kept me reading more than the conflict with the gods.

The author painted a wondrous picture of 1920's Paris without drowning in the details, which shows how much loving care and research went into RADIO. I especially appreciate that the author didn't shy from the darker side of this world, or from the opium addiction that M and his host is forced to endure and deal with. This wasn't just hand waved aside, but had real consequences.

RADIO revealed its secrets at a lovely pace and with a delightful writing style that I thoroughly enjoyed. I have to admit that the ending both made me laugh and also say "oh Jesus" out loud, so well done! I'd love to read more of M's adventures and world in the future.
8 reviews
May 2, 2020
In this fantasy novel, set against the backdrop of Paris in the late 1920’s, the main character, known as ‘M’ to his friends, has been forced to swap bodies to ensure his survival down the centuries. When all goes well, he has an easy life with the other god-like entities of the ‘Mentium’. M might even have the talent to head their company, especially as he’s just invented a diabolical machine to amplify their power. This turns out to have been a mistake, though, as the others’ intended use of his machine could destroy human civilization and with it much of his fun. After opposing the others, M goes on the run from them, including from his former lover Lileth, for whom all is fair in love and war. To hide, ‘M’ makes an emergency switch to the body of a musician. All does not go quite to plan...
Before seeing this novel in its finished form, I’d seen parts of a very early draft (having met the author through another writer at Paris Lit Up). Then, as now, it took a few pages for me to connect with M, but that’s not a failing, and I’m maintaining a five-star rating for quite a few reasons, including: plot; character development/arc; pacing; this is the best-handled and most original take on mind-control I’ve read; I enjoyed streaming some of the early jazz titles referred to, and discovering the ground-breaking guitarist Eddie Lang; although music is a small part of the novel, the author brings it to life from the musician’s perspective in just a few lines – and does this even better than, say, Vikram Seth in ‘An Equal Music’; just the right mix of dark and light; monsters.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
Profile Image for Riv Begun.
52 reviews2 followers
May 1, 2021
I loved this book! I'm all about a story I can get lost in, and this was one of them. The setting and characters were phenomenal and I was completely transported. Great world-building without infodump, and nice small details to make the world real for me.

I would definitely recommend this book to friends (I already have!) and hope it goes on to reach even more success.

The action and plot were fast paced, never dragged down. Really well written. I can't wait for J. Rushing's next story.

Profile Image for Keyara Cheevardee.
1 review10 followers
July 22, 2020
I generally don't like fantasy novels about gods, but this book was a totally different thing. It got me hooked from the very beginning! Great story, good pace, relatable characters, fantastic descriptions (I love the facts that different locations are accurately described!) and well researched!
I really hope there will be a sequel or prequel or anyway something more about the story :-)
Profile Image for TwoTurtleducks.
39 reviews
April 8, 2023
This was an entertaining read. The main character was definitely an asshole, but in a way that wound up being more amusing than obnoxious, which is a tricky balance to strike. The middle section dragged a little bit, but I enjoyed the Parisian setting and the dynamics between the characters. 3.5 stars, rounded up.
Profile Image for William Munn.
61 reviews22 followers
August 15, 2021
A unique and compelling romp through the streets and underbelly of 1920s Paris with morphine addiction, mind control, and marvelous characters. This is a heck of a debut!
Profile Image for Susana Imaginário.
Author 5 books67 followers
September 6, 2021
When I asked around for indie book recommendations to review for SPFM, I specified I was looking for an unusual, underrated book aimed at an adult audience. It had to be well written, well edited and preferably a debut by an author who chose to self-publish. RADIO was the first and the only recommendation I received that fit my pre-requisites and was not based on the author’s popularity.

I had come across this book last year during SPFBO 6, but didn’t add it to my TBR, probably having lost interest when I read it was set in 1928 Paris, a location and time period I had no interest in, but I took the author’s lack of popularity as a good sign and decided to give RADIO another chance.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw the story opens with a conversation between Apollo, Artemis and Marduk. Not only that, their characterisation was great!

Marduk’s character is everything one can expect of a ‘god’ trapped inside a mortal’s body. His conversations with Del and especially with Bernard are excellent. Nothing in the narrative felt contrived or unpolished.

RADIO not only ticked every criteria on my list, its quality surpassed my expectations and remained high throughout.

This is a well thought out book with well-rounded characters, engaging dialogue and a clever plot. The setting fits the narrative perfectly and, despite my preferences, it did not affect my enjoyment of the story. My only complaint (if it can even be called a complaint) is that it dragged on a bit too much at times, especially when dealing with Del’s addiction. This was pertinent to the plot and character development but I felt that the constant meanderings into the effects of withdrawal, although respectfully and accurately portrayed, detracted from the main narrative. The ending makes up for it though. I figured a twist of some sort was coming, but failed to predict it all and was pleasantly surprised.

Genre bending and unique, RADIO is a work of heart and mind, not ego, and it deserves more attention.
Profile Image for K.M. Alexander.
Author 4 books177 followers
March 3, 2022
A thoroughly fresh debut that is unlike anything I’ve read before. Rushing brings his unique, well-researched world of 1920s Paris to life with a captivating voice. There’s a transgressive edge here, intentionally subversive—the characters are morally gray and the situations even more so. Don’t expect a saccharine overly-romantic version of Paris; this is a stained, broken, and bloody place. RADIO is a jazz-infused, opium-soaked, historical fantasy that explodes from the opening chapter and never relents until its final pages—a welcome addition to modern fantasy literature.
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