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Knowledge can get you killed. Especially if you have no idea what it means.

Ben is NOT a genius, but he can spout facts about animals and wristwatches with the best of experts. He just can’t explain how he knows any of it.

He also knows about the Chime. What it is or why it’s important he couldn’t say. But this knowledge is about to get him in a whole heap of trouble.

After he and his best friend Patton are abducted by a trash-talking, flesh-construct alien bounty hunter, Ben finds out just how much he is worth… and how dangerous he can be. Hopefully Patton and a stubborn jar of pickles will be enough to help him through. Because being able to describe the mating habits of Brazilian bark lice isn’t going to save them.

374 pages, Paperback

First published April 12, 2022

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About the author

Chris Panatier

12 books58 followers
Chris lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, daughter, and a fluctuating herd of animals resembling dogs (one is almost certainly a goat). He writes short stories and novels, "plays" the drums, and draws album covers for metal bands. As a lawyer, he goes after companies that poison people.

Chris's short fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming from Metaphorosis, The Molotov Cocktail Magazine, Ghost Parachute, The Ginger Collect Magazine, Tales To Terrify, Trembling With Fear, Ellipsis Zine, Defenestration and others.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 103 reviews
Profile Image for Schizanthus Nerd.
1,137 reviews235 followers
March 29, 2022
Horny insects and tick tocks(1). Are they both now wandering aimlessly around your brain? Welcome to Ben Sullivan’s world(2).

Ben’s brain is chock-a-block with super helpful fun facts that are entirely appropriate to discuss with any audience, like hermaphroditic traumatic insemination(3).

So, our Ben. Is he one of those people with an obsession that’s laser focused on very specific, not so mainstream topics? Sort of, but his obsession isn’t about bug sex or timepieces, although to hear him talk, you may beg to differ. No, our Ben’s obsession is about how the hell he knows so much detailed information about topics he’s never actually researched. He has no idea how he knows what he knows and it’s not for lack of trying to figure it out.
Every waking moment is a constant barrage of intrusive thoughts with even the most innocuous stimuli churning up commentary from deep within the folds of my brain.
Sounds exhausting, right?
And it’s exhausting.
Good thing Ben has quite possibly the most understanding best friend in all the worlds, Patton(4).

This is the story of the Shopkeeper and the Pipefitter. There’s also Insectoid Boba Fett and some other folk that are out of this world. Then you’ve got some VIP’s(5), expert level LEGO and the Fray(6) to look forward to(7).

Ben is a man after my own heart.
I subscribed to the canceling-out method of eating, where you eat as much junk as you want, so long as you cancel it out with something healthy.
And, let’s be honest. Doesn’t knowing that the water boatman has been certified by Guinness as having the World’s Loudest Penis enrich your life?

This read was so much fun. It gave me the action and the humour I was hoping for but then it went above and beyond, granting me a new favourite swear combo(8).

The best advice I can give you as you prepare to spend some quality time with Ben? Whatever you do, don’t cross the tubes.

The other best advice I can give you? Stay tuned after the book for the acknowledgements. Included are a list of bands the author listened to as this story journeyed from their brain to the page. If you need me I’ll be hanging out in the forest with Jonathan Hultén. When I return I’ll be making my way through the rest of the list.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Angry Robot for the opportunity to read(9) this book(10).

1. The telling time variety.
2. It’s a world with lots of swearing so if you’re not a fan, perhaps this isn’t the book for you. And you may want to avoid the rest of this review while you’re at it.
3. Which give the term fucked in the head a whole new meaning.
4. Handy hint: We love Patton.
5. Very Important Pickles.
6. Not the band.
7. This book should also probably come with a warning for people who have emetophobia. If that’s you, look away. Now.
8. Shitfuck. One word. Use it in a sentence today. I have.
9. Did I mention this book has footnotes?
10. So many footnotes.

Blog - https://schizanthusnerd.com
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
668 reviews91 followers
April 21, 2022
Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the free early read of Stringers by Chris Panatier! As always, all opinions are my own!

Stringers features two friends, just regular guys on Earth that get abducted by an exceedingly snarky space bounty hunter. Ben knows every factoid ever about bug sex, Patton is a stoner, and the bounty hunter lures them into a trap to sell Ben to an inter-dimensional alien race

So…wow. I mean just wow. The book is dense on the science and puzzle content which slowed the reading down. Some of the really technical parts I was tempted to skim, but I stuck with it and felt rewarded.

There is also plenty of adventure, banter, brutality, and discovery to keep the plot moving. The bounty hunter, named Aptat, is a great example of a morally gray character that kinds of just ends up being self serving.

In not skimming, I learned that Stringers is actually a super smart book where the layers are revealed slowly and expanded on as the characters learn their own mysteries. There are two points of view, Ben and Naecia, as well as interludes that make sense later on

Character wise – Ben is pretty funny and Patton is the loyal friend. If nothing else his friendship and loyalty make him a worthy character, always looking out for Ben whether or not he deserves it. I enjoy books where everyday beings are forced into heroics, or discover their capability for bravery and heroics. Naecia just wanted to help her family and probably got the shit end of the abduction spectrum, but none of the Stringers fared too well.

The only thing I didn’t love was a weird but blessedly brief episode of feeding and excrement tubes, it went wayyy beyond toilet humor into something a little gross.

One thing I did love? A jar of pickles that oddly enough became a character in itself for a bit. Also – mixing serious themes with humor is always good, if not mentally draining.

With new alien races, technology worthy of a sci-fi classic, and enough bug sex facts to keep it relatively light – even if I don’t want to know what the author’s search history looks like 😂 – this is also a surprisingly deep story of a galaxy in extreme danger

And.you definitely want to read the footnotes
Profile Image for Jonathon Von.
323 reviews31 followers
June 8, 2022
There was an old Zach Galifianakis bit about doing a comedy routine for toddlers, "What if POOP... ON MY HEAD!". That's what the comedy in this book reminds me of. And then he said PENIS. And then he had a FAT BELLY. And then something was put IN HIS BUTT. And then he ate a SANDWICH IN SPACE. Oh my god, it's exhausting. I couldn't discern any actual jokes but it reads as if totally confident in its hilarity. "I'll get away from you, I'll run out into space!" "Oh, but then your gasses will expand and you'll pop." LOL LOLOL! Give me a break. This was maybe the most unfunny comedy book I've ever read. Comparing it to Douglas Adams is an insult. It gave me a headache. Wow, pickles look like dicks? Do tell...

That said, the plot is ok. The universe is decent. I wasn't sure where it was going for a lot of it. Some of the characters are colorful, even though the female lead is pretty much a vacuum. It's mysteriously abusive towards goth people and Wiccans. But if you're into light sci-fi time killers, it actually isn't that bad. I can't necessarily blame an author whose work gets overhyped and it's not that the writer is without talent, but "hilarious"? I disagree.
Profile Image for Gabriela Houston.
Author 6 books22 followers
May 13, 2021
Many writers try to play it safe with the dreaded second novel.
Many writers, but not all, as Chris Panatier took chances and delivered with his second book, Stringers, coming out April 2022 from Angry Robot Books.
Stringers follows a small group of intergalactic “stringers”, people who can access the memories of long dead people whose minds accessed the same “string” of consciousness matter, leaving behind traces of obscure knowledge and skills. Some of the “stringers” get the useless end of the weird stick, but then others have awareness of a mysterious phenomenon, which is evidently enough to change the course of history for the entire universe.
Like with his first novel, Panatier caters to a wide audience, with his easy humour and intelligent writing style.
Reminiscent of the well-loved Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, Stringers delivers the laughs, with the jokes drawing on the author’s clear love affair with the grotesque, with poignant moments peppered throughout.

A highly enjoyable read with moments of real emotional honesty that deserves to reach a wide audience.
Profile Image for Dan Hanks.
Author 2 books76 followers
May 3, 2021
I was kindly given a copy of this to beta read (doesn't need it, it's perfect) and blurb, and loved it so very much I have to leave a little review here.

STRINGERS is fucking ridiculous in all the best ways. I haven't laughed this hard at anything EVER. In fact, to have this many laugh-out-loud moments should be illegal - there are nuggets of gold to be found on every page. Throw in a fun plot, characters who are rich and lively and incredibly funny in their own distinct ways, and a unique and engaging format (you'll see), and you've got yourself a joyous and exciting read. None of you are ready for this.
Profile Image for Lezlie The Nerdy Narrative.
391 reviews394 followers
March 15, 2022
STRINGERS by Chris Panatier is my first introduction to this author. It was fantastic first impression because at 23% in, I was adding his debut novel, The Phlebotomist, to my TBR.

This science fiction standalone novel is one of many anticipated reads coming out this year from Angry Robot Books. Why did I read it? The blurb. Completely sold me even though I knew nothing about this author at the time. Boy, did it pay off!

This book is about a fellow named Ben. Ben has always been a very odd sort, but not for the usual reasons - he can rattle off facts about insects (mostly concerning the manner in which they have sex), animals and wristwatches. Yes, wristwatches. Funny thing is, he didn't *learn* these facts, he was *born* with them.

"It was a form of paralysis, arresting all of the other things I might have done with my life if I hadn't been so simple-minded about solving the mystery of my jumbled psyche."

Ben has never stopped searching the ends of the internet trying to find out why he is this way, or at least find someone else like him....which lands him and his best (and only) friend Patton in a whole mess of trouble. Like, abducted by aliens that want to probe you kind of trouble. Think Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back...but in space.

This book is absolutely hysterical. The first night I started it, I read a quarter of it and my cheeks actually hurt from grinning and laughing the majority of the time. For those of you who only dabble a little in the sci fi genre, it's a bit more involved than Blake Crouch or Andy Weir, but it doesn't lose you in its explanation. Well, I do think my brain took a couple vacations, but Ben and Patton were on vacation with me, if you're picking up what I'm putting down.

I loved the humor, loved the story - wouldn't change a single thing. It is VERY important to read the footnotes...I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. You'll also need a mirror in the second half of the book - yeah, this one is interactive!

Superb. 10/10 will reread many times in the coming years - I was given an eBook ARC to read and review, provided by Angry Robot Books, but I will be purchasing a physical copy with my own money because I have to have this one in my collection. This is a book that I'll use to come out of a reading slump or to help ease me out of mourning when I finish a series that sends me into a tailspin of despair.

You cannot go wrong picking this one up.
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,266 reviews202 followers
February 27, 2022
STRINGERS is quick, witty, and exuberant. Ben possesses useless but vast knowledge about animals and wristwatches. He knows A LOT; he just can't explain how he knows any of it. Do you want to discover the mating habits of Brazilian bark lice? He's your guy? Wanna learn about butterfly's toothed vaginas? He's your guy. Or about creatures that eat and defecate through the same orifice? Yeah, you guessed it. Ben's your guy.

He also knows about the Chime. He can't tell you what it is or why it's important, but the fact that he knows gets him in trouble. I'll be more specific - a trash-talking alien bounty hunter abducts Ben and his best friend, Patton. And so the adventure begins.

Panatier's sense of humor won't appeal to everyone. Gross facts about insects' intimate lives and fart jokes appear on almost every page. I found them tiring but, to be fair, Panatier's writing is intelligent and the pacing excellent. His extraterrestrials are varied and extraordinary, and the story is engaging. So, if you like your stories on the wild side, you'll probably love this heartfelt cosmic romp. On the other hand, if stories driven by manic energy and dozens of unfocused asides tend to tire you, you might want to skip this one.

What else? There are footnotes here. Mostly funny and interesting. But they're LEGION, and exhausting. They fit the whimsical and wild narrative. They contain a lot of cool facts. For me, though, there are just too many and I felt they distracted me from the flow of the story. The world-building goes in-depth and is fascinating, and the changes in a tone fit the story well.

All in all, STRINGERS is an entertaining book, but not for everyone. I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to readers looking for something fast, wild, and surprising. Fans of odd wristwatches and insect trivia will also be delighted.
Profile Image for Noelle Salazar.
Author 4 books742 followers
October 4, 2021
Wholly original. Ridiculously brilliant. Panatier’s Stringers is filled with genuine characters, mind-boggling humor, and the raw and hysterical emotions of beings plucked from obscurity, sold to the highest bidders, and used to serve Universe altering purposes. Panatier’s unconventional storytelling, combined with poetic sentences and a plethora of bug facts you never knew you needed, will keep you entertained until the very end. I can’t recommend enough.
Profile Image for Beth Tabler.
Author 5 books155 followers
April 25, 2022
Ben Sullivan, the lead protagonist of Stringers, Chris Panatier's new novel, has a wild view of the world. Imagine having a mind that is chockful of useless information, information that has somehow inexplicably been there your whole life. Add in heaping loads of social awkwardness, and you have Ben. His whole life has been full of oppressive details about the mating habits of animals, exotic watches, fly lure creation, and not much else.

We start our story with Ben at work making an exotic and beautiful fly lure, and he is being accosted by a customer Jim. Jim would like "oneuh them boom trains then." Ben reminds Jim that he can have one of them boom trains flys for some cold hard currency. We segway from the current conversation into the mating habit of moles, dolphins, and porcupines. This intrusiveness of thoughts permeates every waking moment for, Ben. His life is one constant battle against animal sex lives, watches, and fly lures.

His desperation is apparent. From a character perspective, I think Panatier did a great job with Ben. Ben is more than his quirks, but his battle with his quirks defines who he is out in the world. From there, we segway to the Ben's Samwise Gamgee, Patton. Patton is a screwup, an often drugged kid in an adult's body who never could grow up. He is also fiercely loyal. We should all be so lucky to have the caliber of friend that Patton is.

Again, in a moment of great desperation and curiosity, Ben finds another person in an online group who has similar issues as he has and decides to meet up with them. Patton fears that Ben will be made into a skin vest or something and demands that he comes along. He is always trying to protect his friend. One thing leads to another, and aliens abduct both Patton and Ben.

Now the real adventure starts.

This story's blurb proclaims it to be a bit like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, except instead of towels, the friends are armed with a giant container of pickles and whatever wits the two f them can scrape up together. I found this to be very true. Stringers is an amusing story; it wasn't "side stitch" funny but undoubtedly funny enough to see how ridiculous this predicament is.

I also loved how Panatier described space and aliens. It wasn't hard science fiction, but just enough details, especially about what a stringer actually is, to make my science fiction-loving heart happy. And to top it off, Panatier nailed the ending. None of which I can talk about for fear of giving anything away.

All and all, this is one of my favorite science fiction reads so far this year. So much so that I will check out Panatier's The Phlebotomist. I am in for a treat if the writing is anywhere near as fun as this is.
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,461 reviews445 followers
February 5, 2022
It’s been tricky finding science fiction to my liking. This book is a shining example of that. While traditionally I do strive for a certain degree of objectivity in my reviews, first and foremost they are meant to represent a personal reading experience, and thus…while this technically might be a perfectly good sci-fi adventure, it really, really didn’t work for me.
Objectively speaking, it has the mad manic energy of a contemporary space romp and the intricately convoluted intrigue of a space opera and the wildly contrived quirk of “look how quirky we are, we’re going to do footnotes, copious amounts of footnotes that’ll make it look like the protagonist might be talking to himself, but is he, really”. And that might be enough for some readers. It wasn’t enough for this one.
Random facts about the animal kingdom (which the protagonist of this novel is loaded with), sure, yeah. The rest…no, thank you.
I did try, I really did. But it was just so hyper, so busy, so over the top, that it managed to leave me completely indifferent. Most of the time it was just turning pages. Sometimes there were some fun things occurring on those pages, but honestly, I don’t think I can even do an accurate plot summary for this and that’s after 400 pages.
For some reason the publisher, Angry Robot, has decided that 400 is a proper length for a science fiction novel and that’s all they do. Personally, I believe that to be much too long, not to mention peculiarly inflexible. Although far be it for me to argue with a robot. It was certainly much too long for this novel, even though technically about 6% of it is taken up by footnotes, all those freaking footnotes.
It’s an inventive novel, it might even be clever, although in that “look how clever I am” way, but it’s exhausting and really kind of hyper, like hyped up on its own energy. For me, contrived cleverness and animal trivia aside, it barely amused and mostly ended up being a waste of time.
It was easy to tell the sort of book this was meant to be…a wacky, whimsical, humorous space adventure that gets a lot of mileage out of a jar of pickles, it just didn’t quite get there.
It stands to mention…I don’t normally like space operas, and I am particular about my science fiction, so my opinion might very well be a minority one and must be considered as such. Which is to say, user mileage may vary. Thanks Netgalley.

This and more at https://advancetheplot.weebly.com/
Profile Image for The Wulver's Library.
191 reviews38 followers
December 30, 2022
Stringers by Chris Panatier is an out-there, witty novel about Ben. Ben possesses useless knowledge about animals and wristwatches but he has no idea how he knows all of this. He knows about the Chime but can't tell you what it is or why it's important. This knowledge could get him in a whole heap of trouble. After he and his best friend Patton are abducted by an alien bounty hunter, Ben finds out how much he is worth and how dangerous he can be.

We have word-play and flatulence jokes filled with incredible Douglas Adams-esque humour that elevates the space opera, tongue-in-cheek mood that Panatier is going for. Our characters have appealing appreciation that allows us to see different perspectives whilst we are shown different races and areas of space that astound the scope.

There is a lot to unravel with this but early discussions in the story bring to light what is going to happen. There are definitive twists and turns that have us less confused than other novels with this style. This can be the sort of novel that is hard to nail and Panatier did this in a satisfying conclusion.
Profile Image for Tammy.
816 reviews135 followers
April 4, 2022
The nitty-gritty: Full of effortless humor, imaginative world-building, and complex characters, Stringers is a smart, bold sci-fi adventure—with pickles.

"The Chime sounded, like, well, a chime. A really big chime. But still. If there truly was a sound evil enough to destroy the galaxy, wouldn’t it be something like pre-Black Album Metallica, or Justin Bieber? This was a…a doorbell. He sighed. From the bathrooms to the pending End of Everything, outer space had so far been one disappointment after another."

In 2020 I read The Phlebotomist, which was one of my top five favorite books of the year, and since then I’ve been dying to read Chris Panatier’s next book. Stringers, out next week, is a completely different animal, different in both tone and genre. Even so, the bones of the writer himself are still present, and even if I didn’t enjoy the story quite as much, it’s clear than Chris Panatier is the real deal. Stringers is a wacky, irreverent, mad-cap sci-fi adventure that falls firmly into the "absurd" category of speculative fiction. And while “wacky” and “absurd” aren’t usually elements that work for me, Stringers has a lot more to offer readers. It’s clever as hell, and hysterically funny too. And yes, it also tugged at my heartstrings, especially at the end.

The story revolves around a man named Ben who makes fishing flies for a living. He’s your average, normal guy, except for one thing—-Ben knows absolutely everything about insects and animals, including their sex lives, but he has no idea where this information comes from. It’s just there, in his head. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of timepieces, intricate facts about watches and clocks that are completely useless. Ben also knows there is something called the Chime, but he doesn’t know what it is or why it might be important.

But Ben can’t leave well enough alone and so he spends all his free time searching the internet for clues about his affliction, hoping a message left in a chat room might lead to answers, or at least catch the attention of someone else out there who has the same, useless information rattling around in their brain. And one day, it happens. He meets someone named EarthBro_99 who seems to be just like Ben. Even more shocking, EarthBro_99 brings up the Chime, something Ben has never mentioned to anyone. When his new friend suggests meeting up to exchange information, Ben readily agrees, taking along his best friend Patton for protection. 

But EarthBro_99 turns out to be an alien named Aptat, and before Ben knows it, he and Patton have been kidnapped. Aptat explains that Ben is a Stringer, someone who carries the knowledge of other lives in his head. Aptat needs Ben because he knows about the Chime. He’s a bounty hunter and he’s made a deal to sell Ben to a race called the Scythin, aliens who are looking for something called the Note of Jecca. Ben may not know exactly what the Chime is, but through a process called dredging, that buried information can be “dredged” up from his subconscious.

Not surprisingly, Ben isn’t too happy with these events, but luckily another Stringer named Naecia steps in to help. With the Scythin after them, Aptat determined to cash in on his bounty, and the fate of all the worlds hinging on whether or not Ben can find the Note of Jecca, Ben, Patton and Naecia find themselves in a dangerous race for their lives. 

Stringers is a great combination of interesting characters, humor and complex plot, and it has much more depth than you would expect from such a funny story. The characters, while frustrating at times, ended up really growing on me. Ben is unremarkable—-except he’s actually remarkable in ways that most people wouldn’t understand, and so he becomes the reluctant hero of the story. I also loved his friendship with Patton, a stoner with no real redeeming qualities, but who turns out to be a steadfast friend to Ben and the most sympathetic of all the characters. Then there is Aptat, our non-binary alien, who I didn’t like at all in the beginning. And yet they became one of my favorite characters by the end of the story-–go figure! Aptat and Naecia made a fantastic duo, and it was a toss-up as to whether I liked their chapters or Ben’s better.

Chris uses footnotes in his story, and not all readers are going to like them (although to be fair, it’s easy to ignore them if you want). I personally think they worked really well with the story and added a lot of humor. Through these footnotes we see how Ben’s brain copes with thousands of trivial facts about insects and animals, which come to him at the worst times and act almost like a counterpoint to Ben’s normal thoughts:

“Male millipedes inject sperm through a pair of modified legs called gonopods.

File under “stuff I wish I didn’t know.”

Sorry, Ben, that file is full.”

Some of the footnotes show Ben responding to these facts and it was pretty funny! The bottom line is Ben has no control over these bizarre facts, and I thought it was the perfect way to explain his weird knowledge.

Panatier’s writing was so good, full of clever moments that I wish I saw more of in fiction, to be honest. For example, a couple things show up in the beginning and carry through the entire story to the end, like Patton’s jar of pickles—and many jokes revolve around those pickles!—and a fancy fishing fly that Ben finds in his pocket. The author inserts several chapters throughout the story from another point of view, a woman simply known as the instrument maker. At first these chapters made no sense and didn’t have any connection to what was going on with Ben, but later the meaning becomes clear, and it blew me away!

A couple of things didn’t quite work for me, though, but these are personal preferences and should in no way deter you from reading this book (unless, of course, they are your personal preferences as well!) I do not like “potty” humor at all, and unfortunately Ben and Patton find themselves in an awful situation on the Scythin ship where potty humor comes out in full force. Both men are put in skin tight space suits, and in order to deal with eating and, um, elimination, tubes are inserted in the appropriate places to deal with their bodily functions. In addition, Ben is rewarded with “nectar” a food source that includes feel good, addictive drugs. The whole thing was sort of icky and went on far too long for me (it seemed never ending at the time), and I was so relieved when the tubes were finally removed.

I also found the first half of the story to be a bit confusing at times. There is a lot of information to set up and quite a few characters to introduce. In addition to Ben’s chapters, Naecia’s story is told in alternating chapters, and although their stories eventually converge, they spend quite a bit of time apart on different adventures. The author’s vivid imagination is in full force here, but there are all kinds of new things to absorb and remember, including the intricate world of Stringers and how the dredge works to access information. But once you reach the half-way point, the story takes off like a rocket, and when Ben and Naecia start working together to save the world, I could barely put the book down.

I absolutely loved the ending, and while it certainly wasn’t the ending I was expecting, it made perfect sense with the rest of the story. Readers who appreciate a well-rounded, humorous sci-fi story, both challenging and accessible, should not miss Stringers.

Big thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.
Profile Image for Marith Zoli.
23 reviews
August 10, 2021
Totally wild, hilarious, smart, and heartfelt too. I was lucky enough to beta read, can't wait for the published version!
Profile Image for S.J. Higbee.
Author 13 books29 followers
April 13, 2022
Panatier is clearly a gifted writer with an unusual way of looking at the world. I haven’t read his debut novel, The Phlebotomist, as my book blogging buddies confirmed that it is on the horror side of dark – and right now, I cannot deal with that. But once I’m better, it’s definitely on my ‘To Read’ list. This one, however, is right up my alley. Poor old Ben is on track to be one of the most unusual of this year’s protagonists that I’ll encounter. He’s afflicted with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the mating habits of insects, along with all sorts of other details regarding their lives. I learnt – thanks to one of the many, many footnotes – about the Australian Peacock spider, known as the ‘sparklemuffin’, which has now become a term of endearment in our household. Look it up – it is the most fantastical little creature.

The trouble is, that from the time he could talk, Ben is driven to share these facts, along with his other hyper-obsession about watches, with anyone and everyone who’ll listen. As well as those who won’t. It doesn’t win him friends, or even make him a particularly nice person. Although, he has got a friend – dear Patton, who has to be one of the kindest people I’ve encountered in a book, without coming across as unbearable. Indeed, Patton insists on accompanying Ben when he goes to meet up with someone who professes to suffer from the same problem. Quite rightly, Patton suspects a trap and wants to be there to look out for his buddy.

It doesn’t come as a massive surprise when they’re abducted by an alien, who is going to sell Ben for the contents in his head. There is also a parallel narrative about an alien pipe-fitter called Naecia, who has suffered the same fate. The resulting adventure takes us on a familiar journey with nasty, destructive aliens and a bunch of plucky protagonists trying to save the galaxy. So far, so familiar. What sets this one apart is Panatier’s quirky writing style, riddled with jokey allusions and footnotes, many of which are genuinely funny. Some… not so much. I enjoyed much of the humour and a lot of the nerdy scientific stuff – this one is on the harder side of sci fi genre – and all of the character development, which is outstanding.

I did feel that the pace stuttered a tad about two-thirds of the way through. Some of the humour by then was a bit annoyingly predictable, while I felt the techie details around what was going wrong and how to fix it got a tad too involved. However, Panatier managed to land the ending in a wonderfully poignant way that will stick in my memory for a very long time. So although this wasn’t a flawless read, it’s one that will definitely stay with me. And I’m looking forward to seeing what this clever, original writer does next. While I obtained an arc of Stringers from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
Profile Image for Sarah B.
813 reviews13 followers
May 9, 2022
Whew! I have finished this one just in time as it is due today at the library!

So this is definitely an adventure story. And in some ways it kind of reminds me of Star Wars as it has a load of strange alien races plus a deadly weapon that can destroy the whole universe. But make no mistake. This weapon is no Death Star made by man and it certainly is way more powerful. Another reason why it reminds me of Star Wars is because the group of main characters are a bunch of randomly thrown together characters and there is even a crooked "bounty hunter" who is only after sales and profit. And oddly enough it was the "bounty hunter" Aptat that stood out the most to me. I think they had more character than Ben and Patton the two humans in here. I certainly had fun reading this.

Some parts of the story I found confusing. Like the small chapters that spoke about this person who was making these musical instruments. I was unsure how they had tied in to the bigger main story. In fact I still am a bit unsure.

Other parts were like a video game. Arranging all of these pieces. There are also some big concepts in here. About space and time and dimensions.

Truthfully I am unsure how I feel about reading this... The ending was very unexpected. And even though I just read over 370 pages oddly enough I do not feel attached to any of the characters? One would think I would but I don't. And I could not really relate to them either.

I suspect the one thing that I will remember about this story is how Ben and Patton were hanging onto that jar of pickles throughout the story as if it were the most important thing ever. But I do not think that is what I am supposed to remember? But it turned out that way.

And even after reading this, I still have no idea what that tangled mess on the cover is! I understand the concept of Stringers and what they can do...but that mess on the cover looks like a spider web mixed up with human hair maybe as some bits are brown like hair.

I guess the takeaway from this is that the galaxy is a very strange place indeed with many strange aliens. And if one isn't careful you could get kidnapped and end up on a ship traveling to some distant star - and that is exactly what happened to Ben and Patton.
Profile Image for Reese Hogan.
Author 5 books35 followers
August 30, 2022
The brand of humor in this book is wholly individual, and the delivery of most of this humor—in offhand footnotes—is downright brilliant. Patton’s loyal following is well-deserved, and bounty hunter Aptat kills it in every scene they’re in. Hitchhiker fans, be sure to put Stringers on your reading list!
Profile Image for Scott - Book Invasion.
216 reviews69 followers
April 20, 2022
Being a science fiction fan, the landscape of books out there could look fairly similar and synopsis oftentimes doesn’t do the book justice. The books that really shine are the ones that manipulate the root notes of science fiction to create a lush, exciting, engaging, and all around fun composition. Stringers is one of those books.

Stringers was high on my anticipated list after reading Chris Panatier’s debut The Phlebotomist. The first things I read about this book was a mention of space opera, Hitchhikers Guide, a jar of pickles, Becky Chambers, alien bounty hunters, and mating habits of Brazilian bark lice. If that isn’t a collection of wtf items that triggers your ‘must read’ senses then check you pulse.

After i finished reading the book, the thing that surprised me the most was the aspect of the ‘dredge’ – a coffin shaped device used to mind-map shapes into images, and layering of afterimages that reaches past ‘priors’ memories. The creativity and execution of this layer of consciousness, thoughts, reincarnation, and the ‘oblivion fray’ amongst this semi-silly frame really puts this into a deeper read than the goofy-humor the synopsis may lead you to believe.

All in all Stringers is a unique multi-layered space-opera-adventure-romp sprinkled with top-tier self aware humor. A great selection to beat the reading slump and definitely one that will get readers talking.
Profile Image for Marleen.
188 reviews11 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
March 29, 2022
I received an eARC of Stringers through Netgalley.

Sadly I’m going to have to DNF this book. I made it to 60% but I have been reading it for weeks and it has been a bit of a struggle, because this is not the book for me.
I was looking forward to this book when I read praise that it was reminiscent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And while I see the similarities in the start of the plot, I guess Adams’ humor is a lot more my style than Panatier’s humor. I found most of the jokes childish or just not funny at all, and the constant bug fact footnotes interrupted the flow of the story, and mostly bored me. Also a lot of them were pretty gross. As for the characters I liked the side characters more than main character Ben, I found him often pretty unlikeable. The worldbuilding was strange (lots of concepts and words were used with no explanation or were not explained until halfway through the book), and the plot started confusing me more and more. Granted, the plot might have all made sense in the end, but I have no interest anymore to find out. It’s a miss for me.
577 reviews24 followers
June 13, 2022
4.5 of 5 stars
My Five Word TL:DR Review : A Blast of a Book

Having read and loved The Phlebotomist by this author I was absolutely jumping for joy when I was granted a review copy of Stringers. Three things must ye know of Stringers.

Firstly, it’s completely unlike Panatier’s debut novel – they stand at the furthest opposing points that I can think of to be honest and this being sci fi I did feel a little nervous about requesting a copy.

Secondly, and this could just be the mood I was in when I picked this up, but, this made me laugh out loud on so many occasions that it was practically addictive. It was like that moment when you open a huge bag of crisps, sweets, popcorn (or whatever it is that takes your fancy) and before you know it you’ve eaten the entire (family size I might add) bag and you’re puzzled about where they’ve all gone. Basically, this made me feel good, even down to the fact that I persisted with the ‘harder sci-fi’ elements and actually felt like I was on board, and when something makes you feel good you don’t want to stop. Hence I read this almost in a day.

Thirdly, I can safely say this was one of my most anticipated reads this year and we all know how damaging over hype can be to any book. Seriously, my expectations were up there amongst the stars but I’m happy to report that on this occasion the anticipation and hype were rewarded with a fantastic read and then some.

The plot. I can see where the comparisons to Hitchhiker’s Guide come from here. You have your two witless humans, abducted by a space bounty hunter, you have a really amusing (although obviously humour is very subjective so whereas I found this pretty darn amusing others may not) cosmic space opera with a really unique concept. Now, I can’t tell you too much about the plot other than to say that one of the abductees has a wealth of information stored in his brain, something that certain other ‘aliens’ would pay handsomely for. As you may imagine, our two humans are about to go on the ride of a lifetime, dangerous, life threatening and very strange. I seriously don’t want to give away anything else because I had a lot of fun finding out in what direction this story was going in without any prior knowledge.

The characters. We have Ben and his pal Patton. Ben is a mind of useless information – well, probably not useless if you want to know in depth details about the sex life of insects or the inner workings of a wristwatch, but otherwise, yeah, not terribly helpful during your bog standard day. He doesn’t know how he knows what he knows, he just knows it. And, unfortunately it’s like a constant assault of information flooding his brain day in day out. He’s desperate to find out what it’s all about. Patton is a good friend and joins in for the ride not suspecting what he’s letting himself in for. Naecia is another of the abductees, an alien, also with a wealth of strange information within her own brain. Aptat is the bounty hunter. He has a sharp tongue, is totally calculating and, I don’t know if I should confess to this, but I really enjoyed reading the chapters where he was involved. Last but by no means least, we have Pickles. I’ll leave you to discover that one for yourselves.

In terms of criticisms. Well, I did have a slight slowing down period when I was getting on board with the science fiction elements – but, I’m happy to say that this was only temporary and even more happy to have actually felt like I understood all the explanations. Also, I’m not going to lie, there is a certain ‘ick’ factor to some of the chapters that maybe could have been shortened a little for me. But, overall nothing that actually made me want to give up or that spoiled the read.

In a nutshell, Stringers is a witty, madcap, cosmic adventure that was thrilling to read and made me laugh, cringe and (almost) cry and that kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning. I’m absolutely fascinated to see what this author will spring on us next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tina.
739 reviews41 followers
April 8, 2022
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review! (in all truth, I'd first read it on NetGalley and then was offered to be part of the Book Tour before I posted my review, so they sent me a physical copy, which I WHOLLY appreciate).

Stringers is an exciting, fast-paced, and fun space opera with a villain that balances humour with evilness, interesting and memorable characters, and many many comedic elements.

A lot of the time humour in books can make you cringe. I applaud anyone who tries because chances are half the people (or more) won’t find it funny. This book, though, entirely worked for me. It’s not a comedy with sci-fi elements, but a sci-fi with more jokes than usual. It’s not a satire or a parody, but it’s a great balance between silly and serious. It’s compared to Hitchhiker’s Guide, but while there are similar elements (unwitting human man is taken into space by aliens) the tone and trajectory are quite different.

The characters' goals change throughout the novel, but the story maintains its tension and tone. The novel touches on serious subjects but never too much that we forget it's more in the romp category than space opera, but it’s not too much of a romp that it loses its narrative purpose. It’s a book about friendship as well as survival. In that vein, it reminds me of Shaun of the Dead.

The humour is a mix of absurdity and wordplay. We have moments like when a person while being abducted eats an entire baggie of shrooms, a running joke about a jar of pickles that serves a narrative purpose, and then these weird foot-notes that I’ll admit I’m not sure what they were for but I found them very enjoyable.

The characters are what made the story for me. While Ben and Patton are the main characters with their own compelling plotline (the friendship one), the side-plot (which is given almost as much focus) with Naecia was my favourite aspect of the story. I loved that she was a) an alien b) take-charge but also just a normal person and c) not a love interest “prize” for the main character.

But it could also be that I loved her storyline because it was the one featuring Aptat, the bad guy. If you want a villain who wavers between chaotic neutral and chaotic evil, but is somehow also very very funny, this is the book for you. I loved Aptat. I loved their sad backstory. I loved their deranged take on life, and I shipped them and Naecia so hard, despite it being highly problematic.

I also liked Izairis, the lesbian, hacker, swearing nun. She was in the story just enough to be funny but not enough that she became over-the-top.

When it came to the story, it’s a space opera through and through (complete with new planets and save the universe goals), but one thing I would have liked would have been more explanation of how the universe functioned. I couldn’t entirely picture the universe that the characters lived in. Granted, most of the time is spent in spaceships, which might be why, but I could have handled a few info-dumps from Naecia or the other aliens imparting said info. It just felt like the one city they go to is like the only city, even though it clearly was not.

But, aside from that, I really enjoyed the novel. I even liked the “in cyberspace” scenes, which is a trope I’m generally not fond of. And, of course, though humour is subjective, I found this book incredibly funny.
Profile Image for Bender.
386 reviews35 followers
May 1, 2022
Fast paced book filled with humour and a lot of bug sex. I mean a LOT. I was just on the verge of being overdone, but author somehow keeps it from overwhelming the plot though personally I'd have preferred it toned down slightly. Still not a big drawback.

Hard to describe parallels to this book as it's 'out there', but in a good way.

Overall a fun read.
Profile Image for Kristen.
576 reviews110 followers
April 13, 2022
This is the story of Ben, who is a fairly normal guy living a fairly normal life. The only thing that doesn't make Ben a normal guy is that for some reason, he has a wealth of knowledge about bugs, fish, and wristwatches in his brain with no explanation. He also knows about the Chime, but he has no idea what it is or why it's important. He's tried for years to find an answer, or at least someone else who has the same affliction as he does. One night on a message board, he does see a post from someone with a very similar condition, and he agrees to meet them. Little does he know that he's about to be abducted by an alien bounty hunter and brought on a crazy adventure.

I liked Stringers. It was entertaining and fun. Ben is an easy character to root for, and I quite liked hearing about his crazy space adventure. I also thought that Aptat and Naecia were great characters who entertained me a lot in between Ben's chapters. There is some really solid banter between the two of them, which is something I latch onto in books a lot.

There are a lot of footnotes in this book, and while they did add, among other things, an element of humor, I found, in the beginning at any rate, that there were just a *lot* of them and so I ended up skipping some of them. This is largely due to how the kindle handles footnotes. I think had I read the physical version this would have been different. I also think this would be a fantastic book in audio, because in most I've listened to, footnotes are just added where they are supposed to go, and it works, 99% of the time. I think it would work very well in this case too! With the right narrator, this would be an awesome audiobook. ^_^

All told, I enjoyed Stringers and I would recommend it to someone who likes unique and often humorous sci-fi. I had 4/5 stars of fun with Stringers, and I can't wait to see what Chris Panatier writes next!~

Profile Image for Sydney S.
548 reviews51 followers
September 27, 2022
Is it perfect? No. Did I devour it and want more? Very much yes. It's a thrilling romp with humorous bits, friendship, human and nonhuman characters, and some science that may require you to suspend your disbelief in order to fully appreciate it all. It's just a whole lot of fun, guys.

In the beginning I thought there was a bit too much play-by-play. I get why the author chose to write this way, but it was still tedious to read until I adjusted to it. After that, I really enjoyed this story and the writing style. It reminded me a little of my experience reading The Venomous Lumpsucker mixed with Project Hail Mary and a smidgen of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This is darker than a Douglas Adams story, which is partly why I like Stringers more.

I think these types of books are for a very specific audience, and I can see how they won't be widely popular. I'm definitely the right audience though. I had a romping good time.

The humor doesn't always land, but I didn't care, because it works for this story and the characters. I loved reading this, and I loved all the characters, especially Patton and Naecia. Strong, special friendships in books are always a hit with me. This is going on my shelves as a comfort read and a favorite.
Profile Image for Permanently_Booked.
779 reviews55 followers
May 20, 2022
"You dirty little space herpe..."

I personally love it when an author can translate the laughs into a novel that is not your everyday type of read. Panatier does just that in Stringers, and while it's a vastly different excursion from his novel Phlebotomist, it's worth every twisted turn and laugh out loud oddity.

There is a lot to take in with this novel and for good reason. Ben is a character that touches on the weird nerd in all of us. His eccentric personality paired with intimacies of the bug world left me either laughing or rolling my eyes at the absurdity of this kids plight. Space excursion meets shenanigans and together they birthed Stringers. I adored it.

I especially loved seeing Panatier bring his style of plot weaving to this novel. He has a way of creating a network of narrative that merges together masterfully. Definitely an author I recommend keeping in your radar. World building and creative sci-fi space chaos go hand in hand as we learn the meaning of the Chime and the fate tied to it.

If you enjoy weird reads, science fiction, goofy humor and action, than I highly recommend grabbing your stubborn pickle jars and journeying through the mindscape of Panatier's newest creation.

Thank you Angry Robot Books for giving me more reasons to love this author!
Profile Image for Cassidee Lanstra.
462 reviews52 followers
April 28, 2022

Bug sex, bounty-hunting aliens, and pickles.

It’s blog tour day with Angry Robot and Chris Panatier is back again with an absolutely original novel! If you’ve been following me for a bit, you might remember I’m heavily into fantasy but have a harder time getting into spacey science fiction. That being said, even though I’m not the world’s hugest SF fan, this was a really fun novel.

Panatier brings the humor in Stringers. I mean, who else can make a jar of pickles the star of the show? If you read any review, you WILL see mention of the pickles. Such a little thing that became such an amusing thread throughout the book. I spent a good amount of the novel laughing out loud. I especially loved the banter between Ben and Patton. Their friendship was wholesome, yet went through some trials in this novel.

There was also a streak of seriousness within the novel, especially as Ben is introduced to an addictive substance. We see him go through a shift as he becomes more dependent on it and it takes the book to a new level.

There’s a lot of info about bug sex in this book. A lot. I can just imagine Panatier researching this and it makes me laugh even more.

This book features footnotes, which, I think writers are aware that readers often love or hate footnotes. I’m not usually the biggest fan, but I didn’t mind them here. It added to the mysterious narrative in Ben’s head of bugs and watches.

Stringers is unique, witty, fast-paced, and humorous. Panatier’s books will slap you awake and keep you entertained until the end. I enjoyed it very much and can say that if you’re a big science fiction fan, this book is likely to be one of your favorite books this year!
Profile Image for Halla Williams.
38 reviews
June 22, 2022
I’d read and very much enjoyed the Phlebotomist by Panatier and several of his short stories, but this is a step up. Stringers is witty, often hilarious, poignant, engrossing, gross, imaginative and has a cast of unforgettable characters.

The concept of Stringers is revealed over the book so it would be a spoiler to say much about why it’s called that but the general idea of the main character having a voice in his head that tells him useless facts about bug sex will give you an idea of what the mystery revolves around. The snarky conversation between him and his brain takes place in footnotes, which are brilliantly handled. The pacing could easily have been thrown off by those but Panatier knows what he’s doing and the footnotes provide much of the humour. If you are like me, you will find yourself wanting to look things up for more details – fortunately, the chapters are pacy and often switch point of view to another character, so if you want to nip off and google something, you can.

Panatier isn’t all about the jokes, though there is a lot of humour (“Bum budda budda bum bum,” is a direct quote - can you name the hit song the rhythm comes from?). The exploration of little and large heroisms as opposed to a mercenary approach to life (you’ll see what I did there) is crucial to this novel and will leave you with plenty to think about, with those thoughts hung on those great characters and that roaring plot.

Not to be missed. I miss it already.
Profile Image for Reid Edwards.
184 reviews3 followers
April 18, 2022
Aside from having the brightest covers in the SFF game (check out Panatier's first novel The Phlebotomist as well), Chris Panatier has quickly made a name for himself with quirky, well-researched, abnormal (in the best way) throught-provoking SF. Panatier's characters are vivid and feel genuine to their settings; too often non-humans end up just reading like re-skinned humans, but he's been able to capture and express that other-ness to differentiate amongst his protagonists. Beyond the characters, Panatier has developed and explored a fascinating system of memory and thought that, as a driving force in the universe of Stringers, works both as a plot-driver and as a intriguing thought experiment. He's also not afraid to toss a little humor into his work, both being willing to go weird (bug dongs spot the landscape as footnotes) but also injecting a little meta-humor with a call out to an author friend. It's tricky to combine the strange and unique into a gripping, wonderful SFF story that still retains its humanity, but Chris Panatier's Stringers is a resounding success. Plus, there are pickles.
Profile Image for Xerxes.
185 reviews20 followers
April 28, 2022
Stringers is a fun, sci-fi adventure novel that reminds me of Russian Doll and Aliens wrapped up in a comedic style adventure that would be perfect for a TV show. It’s episodic in length and has great prose that carries the story forward. Its world-building is a little complex, but you will get the hang of it. Carrying many influences from Micheal Jackson to so many sci-fi references, this novel is a stringer indeed!

The other aspect of this novel is this novel is all about a man who has a fondness for describing how insects have sex with each other and going into very vivid details. It’s also about a man warming his pickles. That’s about as much as I’ll say of it. The story is funny, and man this is what if A Memory Called Peace – which was a great novel, this is what would the parodic version of this would be.

It’s a funny novel, and the novel does have sometimes its fair share of nitpicks – maybe a little bit too much worldbuilding in some areas, some over-detailed explanations in others, maybe a few scenes could have been paced better. But look, to write a novel of this scale requires serious time, effort and a lot of detail. You really need to get this novel now!
Profile Image for Horizon_Universe.
416 reviews38 followers
April 19, 2022
Ben est un jeune homme qui n’est définitivement pas un génie, mais connait beaucoup de choses sur certains sujets (le règne animal et les montres) sans les avoir jamais recherché. Un jour, lui et son ami Patton se font enlever par une sorte de chasseur de primes de l’espace, Ben étant un « stringer », quelqu’un possédant le savoir d’autres personnes car la magie du quantum espace temps.

Je suis si fatiguée des livres de SF qui essaient de se la jouer excentrique so quirky je mets de l’humour et mon perso est FUN tavu, et si, si, SI fatiguée des livres qui utilisent la science / la mécanique quantique comme de la magie pour remplir un trou dans le scénario en mode « si tu comprends pas c’est normal c’est la magie (pardon, la SCIENCE) ». J’ai trouvé ce livre incroyablement lourd (oui, on a compris, Ben sait comment les insectes se reproduisent, et il est si drôle même si c’est un loser aha lol), et les notices de bas de page ?? pourquoi tant de notes de bas de pages ? N’est pas Pratchett ou Scalzi qui veut, et ce n’est définitivement pas pour moi. C’est et hyper simpliste et complexe, c’est le bordel, je suis pas fan. Sorry !
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