Here is what readers say.
A fascinating and fast-paced read
The Soul Snatchers by Richard Sanford is about a 40-year-old seismologist named Tzaro. His girlfriend is in danger and he has to find a way to help her. He enlists a few of his friends that he can trust. A bunch of "misfits" must find a way to defeat a cyber terrorist by following clues from an old sourceold computersand travelling in an old car. The terrorist uses a social media app called Wundrus, which is why they don't use new technology. The bunch consists of a Native American, a female activist, a couple of computer techs, a Bulgarian lady who drives them in her Guber car, and a professor of language. Richard Sanford uses a lot of twists as they find their way to San Francisco. They are completely surprised by what they discover.
I thought The Soul Snatchers by Richard Sanford was a fascinating and fast-paced read. There was no good reason to put the book down. I loved how Richard Sanford uses old ideas to solve a crime that was being committed by new technology. The world building was well written and I loved the fast pace. I am usually pretty good at solving mysteries, but was blown away by this one. Definitely a pleasant surprise. The characters were fun too. I especially liked Wilson, the Native American. But, there was one character who seemed to have disappeared, and I never found out what happened to him. The Soul Snatchers by Richard Sanford definitely makes you wonder about the future and how much technology can damage humanity.
Reader's Favorite Five-Star Review
What will the effect of social media be on our society in a hundred years or more?
Immediately, readers are thrown into a new-age version of our current world, perhaps a century or more forward from our known time of the 21st century. The characters still go about normal day events, but are now even more connected to each other via technology… and new social media sites such as Wundrus and Ping. But despite the ability to share and communicate with each other even more efficiently and quickly, the characters show signs of isolation and distrust, leading to horrible events playing on the news daily. An unlikely band of old friends and newfound acquaintances join up and embark on a journey to save the world from an internet virus that can alter people's behavior and psychology. But what will they find along the way?
This book may be a little hard to get into in the very beginning. For me, there were a lot of names of cities and other geographical locations as well as names of new technological advances that were not explicitly explained. However, I was able to discern most of what was occurring without too much difficulty, and I believe that this actually highlights the problem that Richard Sanford is attempting to get across: People in this advanced, technological world are too isolated from each other. They have forgotten how to communicate with each other on a personal and emotional level. The way the dialogue is written reflects this idea, as it tends to jump around without indicators as to who is talking… Similar to the flow of a group chat or other social media communication, where everything is happening very quickly and the topic can change in an instant.
Throughout the novel, the story remains fixed on the main character Tzaro, a seismologist (aka Earthquake analyzer). I love how he is depicted throughout the book; how everything he sees is tinted by his seismologist lens, and thus he is able to see how the beauty of his girlfriend–as well as the world–mirrors the beauty of seismographic wave lines. In this new-generation of overwhelming technology, he is one of the few that are still able to connect on a personal level… And it is because of this fact that he may be able–with the help of like-minded individuals he picks up along the way–to find the source of the problem and hopefully revert its effects. Without his and others disconnectedness from technology, all would be lost.
I really enjoyed this novel as it traveled both through the Sci-Fi and the thriller/mystery realms. Not only was I attracted to learning more about the technological advances such as Phablets, the use of drones, and holograms, but I was also on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out what would happen next. The similarity of this world to our own in this day and age is chilling… Such a problem could occur here as Cyberterrorism is becoming more and more frequent and people are losing themselves within social media. As I was reading, I felt as though the fate of my own world was at stake, and I had to continue until I knew what the ending would be… Good or bad, or both.
What will the effect of social media be on our society in a hundred years or more? Will it band us together or completely isolate us from making meaningful connections to those around us? This novel sheds some light upon the issue that is plaguing our society today.
The Book Dragon
A science fiction thriller with Sixties throwback touches
Richard Sanford's new novel The Soul Snatchers is an energetic and entertaining romp through Cascadia. It begins against the scenic backdrop of the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest. A middle-aged seismologist named Tzaro Janssen discovers clues on his girlfriend Therica's cell phone that lead him to a conspiracy using the internet to take over people's thoughts. Then Therica disappears.
Tzaro assembles an eccentric, eclectic group of friends including Therica's wild college roommate Morgan, Tzaro's former professor of ancient languages Calvin Carmody, and the professor's old-school programmer friend Wes to help him follow the clues and look for his missing girlfriend. The trail leads the group from Orcas Island to a remote secret hideout in the Santa Cruz mountains south of San Francisco Bay, inhabited by the surprising architects of the conspiracy. Without giving too much away, it's all a game to them! The Soul Snatchers is a fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable science fiction thriller with Sixties throwback touches. Enjoy!
Stephen Billias, author The American Book of the Dead and Quest for the 36
Soul Snatchers is the book for our social media age
Bradbury got us to care about books again, and Richard Sanford gets us to care about each other again, in Soul Snatchers. And he has a lot of fun getting us there. We join an in-the-future-uber full of memorable characters for a West Coast race to crack the code to a mania possessing social media users across the country. Leading us through remote islands, long lost sacred texts, and underground subcultures, Sanford's careening ride keeps the reader in suspense. A relentlessly adventurous call back to empathy – I think readers today are craving the message this book offers by the end.
An alternative to hopelessness
Richard Sanford has the ability to paint visions of a future many of us fear in dreams and one that daily comes closer to reality, while at the same time offering more security in holding onto the simple things that have bonded us together, a bond that even apocalyptic possibilities seem to avoid. In RING OF STARS he has created an Everyman in Walker Beale that anchors our faith in the basic kindness of human caring.
Placing his story in the near future rather than an unnamed distant world that would strain credibility, Sanford gives us Walker Beale, an executive with a company called Xynapse (note his tongue in cheek alteration of the word synapsethat connecting thread between cells and between thoughts and between past and future) that makes video games. A painfully familiar condition named outsourcing leaves Walker with choices, and the choice he makes is to recognize the meaning of a vision that the world is headed toward violent self-destruction. Instead he opts to create a Gilead based on the warmly remembered drive-in movie theaters. Walker envisions his Ring of Starsa magical drive-in theater created with Hollywood chards that reflect light and a huge screen onto which movies can be projected as well as lights from destructive forces can be deflected.
Walker's obsession to create this haven is not without critical changes in his life: his marriage is threatened, his daughter is more distant than geography would define, and he ignores the advice of friends. Though his ultimate dream once realized appears a failurenot many enlightened people are left to attend his theatrical visionin the end his dream becomes a reality: Walker has provided a safe house in the middle of the Nevada desert while the world outside crumbles.
While Sanford's story is one of those novels that comfortably consumes readers, it is more than a well-crafted novel. Sanford has provided a huge dollop of nostalgiaas well as a vision or a hope or evidencethat courage in the presence of potential annihilation is possible, if only a few stand against terror.
Grady Harp, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer
A visionary glimpse into where our country is headed
Ring of Stars is the visionary and entertaining story of one man's response to events in a dark American future. In this prescient novel, things are falling apart fast. Sprawling tent cities, violent confrontations, government crackdowns, assassinations, and incipient civil war are all part of the deteriorating cultural landscape. As happens in the best of books, one man's personal crises are intertwined with the larger story.
Walker Beale has recently cashed out of his executive slot at a software development company. Driven by his changing fortunes, he experiences a Field of Dreams-like visionhe will build a drive-in movie theater. It will be an antidote to the mindless violence and the death of the imagination that he sees all around him. But the Nevada desert is not as benign as an Iowa cornfield. And time is running out for him, as real life threatens to overtake his dream.
Walker presses on with his slightly mad construction project. His single-mindedness takes its toll on his marriage and his relationship with others. He becomes estranged from his wife and has an affair with a beautiful reporter who has publicized his quirky venture. He worries about his daughter Sophie, away at school in Chicago. Another friend who has emigrated to Canada tries to convince Walker to flee to British Columbia. But by then it's too late, the borders are closed off and there's no way out of the country.
Richard Sanford has written a novel that is uncomfortably close to what a near-term future might hold for us. Walker Beale is a haunting character, driven and keenly attuned, an artist at heart. But he is also representative of a middle-aged segment of our society, with memories of how American life used to be and hopes for a better future than is unfolding now.
When the Ring of Stars drive-in opens, it is a failurepatrons are few. But over time more and more people are drawn to Walker's quirky anachronism. It becomes a place of refuge. Finally, as events close in on Walker, he finds himself leading a band of refugees in a breakneck race to the Ringto the last safe placeor is it?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good read and a glimpse into where our country is headed, if we ignore the signs that sent Walker Beale on his personal odyssey into the Ring of Stars.
Stephen Billias, author The American Book of the Dead
Getting back to a place in the heart
Walker Beale, a marketing executive at a computer games company, had a remarkable memory—especially of going to drive-in theaters with his parents, lying on the hood of their car, and feeling the projector light over them as if it was a huge white river. He even remembered the smells that came from the concession stands, like those in county fairs. He recalled hitting baseballs in the back yard. And all of this while feeling perfectly safe. Walker yearned for that time when kids could walk alone and go to the corner for a root beer float and safely make it home. That was better than the evening news reporting: "Two shot on the North side."
There were a lot of drive-ins in that era, and there was a general spirit of kindness and generosity. People helped each other out, and that orientation of peacefulness and cooperation was America. No looking over your shoulder. Just looking forward to going to the drive-in.
Then one day at his company, Walker was informed that the creative, stimulating work he had been doing was going to be outsourced to another company. The company was going in a different direction, a very dark direction. Its new goals were out of sync with Walker's, and he felt it as a death of a kind. If he remained and went along with the new agenda, he felt he would be guilty by association. He made a difficult but courageous decision; he would leave the company and build a drive-in movie theater as a way of getting back to an earlier time… a community of consciousness, not turf, not political ads or attacks. Where people would not have to worry about their kids or friends being the latest victims of random acts of violence, where intelligence and good intentions meant everything. For Walker, the drive-in was much more than a movie venue, it was the full experience, a way of getting back to a place in the heart.
This is one of the most thought-provoking novels I have read. It is a call to all of us in this land to stop the violence, the assassinations, that have overtaken our culture. Thank you, Mr. Sanford, for reminding us of what could be.
A Chicago reader
This is definitely one to try
Sanford has certainly come of age as an author. His prior works dealt with a variety of themes culled from his varied background and often painful personal experiences. This new work creates an entertaining and insightful, albeit chilling, view of the near future and the protagonist's attempts to find meaning in a future characterized by shattered beliefs, factionalism, and social unrest. Sanford's writing style has evolved, and this new work should be well received. This is definitely one to try.
So easy to pick up and so hard to put down
Richard Sanford's Long Time Gone is a superbly written novel set in America's turbulent year of 1968. The search for a missing heir involves an unlikely cast, from the ghost of a best friend to a Buddhist from Detroit, to a girl-woman soulmate. A fictional memoir to the revolutionary changes of a bygone era, Long Time Gone is an enthralling and highly recommended tale, just the kind of novel that is so easy to pick up and so hard to put down!
Midwest Book Review
Normal people shaping extraordinary times
In this masterfully woven tale of discovery and loss, Cal, a familiar young loner, sets out in search of a childhood friend gone "off the grid" during a time of turbulent social transformations. His quest takes him through the vast expanses of a racially charged United States in the 1970's. Leaving his hometown and the weighty humidity of the Mississippi River Valley his trail forces him to dive deep into the underground world of draft dodgers and radical activists. Cal takes readers on a path through the dizzying brightness of Florida's beaches and musty college crash pads of Boston where the young and naive are trying to make sense of a changing world, often with cruel and harsh outcomes.
For younger readers, this story illuminates a specific time and captures the great awakening of American awareness and political engagement, its best intentions and unfortunate consequences. The sheer suspense and certainty of being part of a defining moment in history carries the reader through an emotional roller coaster. I was left asking myself, How did we get from there to here? Has consumerism vanquished our demands for justice? Where is the fire? I recommend this book for anyone interested in gaining a more nuanced understanding of an exceptional era in U.S. culture and history.
Ahmad J. Aaf
A resonant novel of the Sixties
Cal is a young man born during that indeterminate span of years between the last Depression-era babies and the first boomers. Adopted, seeking a moral compass, Cal abides by the small southern river town values of his best friend's fatheruntil the family's younger son leaves home and the father sends Cal to bring the youth back. I've been riding along with Cal as his journey takes him to Daytona Beach, Boston, Chicago, and points west, sharing in his confusion as his perspective alters.
Long Time Gone is evocative and nuanced, moody and delicately lyrical. Partly paean to the varied land- and weather-scape, partly road trip a la Kesey or Kerouac, partly history lesson, partly mind trip, the protagonist's growing awareness of what drives his friends, acquaintances, countrymen, lovers, and eventually, himself, resonates with me.
A Northwest reader
The 60s novel I've been waiting for
The events of 1968 serve as the backdrop for this well-written but accessible novel about a young southerner looking for a missing friend and finding himself. Sanford takes his protagonist, a country dj named Cal, from a small-town Mississippi River town to springtime Daytona Beach, then up the East Coast to a Cambridge crash pad and a summer romance in Boston, and finally to the Chicago convention with a group of militant anti-war demonstrators. The chapters on the Chicago riots are especially well wrought, but every scene has the true feel of the 60s counterculture. Cal's search for the younger brother of his war-casualty best friend mirrors his personal quest for purpose and identity. A remarkable book.
A Midwest reader
Mesmerizing fictional journey
A mesmerizing porthole into a time of turbulence and change. Readers cannot help but experience their own metamorphoses as they follow Cal's journey across America, through the sixties, and into himself. Sanford shows a true passion and genius for the art of fictionfor his fiction truly is art. Whether you choose to see the book as the story of an intriguing character finding his own space in time, or a road map through the altering perspective of a pivotal decade, you cannot help but be touched by the literary beauty that is Long Time Gone.
A Seattle reader
The one novel to read this year!
This book should be designated a national treasure! It is the best novel of the sixties I have ever read. The characters are so real, their beliefs and cause so moving, that I am reminded once again why that time changed all of us. Mr. Sanford knows what's he's doingthe written word is truly his calling. Fortunately, true passion in fiction is not dead. I will cherish Long Time Gone always!
A Northwest reader
Check your tire pressure and keep your gas tank full
In this suspense/horror novel, Sanford never allows blood and gore to take the place of thoroughly heart-pounding passages of escape and battle; and Sanford provides enough fleshing-out of his characters so that the reader never knows who might make it to the end of this particularly rocky road. In the tense battle/chase scenes, all the stops are pulled out in a visual driving-through-hell sequence. Check your tire pressure and keep your gas tank full; if you've ever peered into your rear view mirror, wondering just what might be back there in the darkness, then this book is for you!
Tom Piccirilli, Pirate Writings
Sanford brings back true horror
When two young men attempt to open a new entrance to a tunnel beneath the foothills of northern Oregon, they accidentally cut through a sealed doorway to the tomb of ancient beasts of prey. And these awesome creatures have only one creed: kill and eat.
When Charlie Hardin, a truck-driving alcoholic trying his damnedest to stay dry, and Melissa Frankel, an innocent nine-year-old on a trip to the beach with her parents, cross paths with these vicious killers on a lonely stretch of Oregon highway, they must pit all their wits and strength against the horrid creatures in norder to save their lives.
In this riveting, edge-of-your-seat reading, Sanford brings back true horror as we all knew it with The Birds, The Thing, and Wolfen.
This book quickly became a favorite of mine. In fact, I read the whole thing in one sitting which is rare for me. It concerns some pterosaur-like creatures claiming victims who happen to be traveling along the same road they are. The book is well-written, full of monster action, and the pace remains breathless. I recommend this book to all horror fans and hope it hits the digital format soon, making it easier to be discovered.
Brandon Blankenburg, author Night of the Killer Roos
Prize is holiday trip to terror
A chilling horror debut is crammed with terror and tension in a tale which focuses on a couple who win a raffle prize of a week's holiday at a beautiful mansion set deep in the woods.
The couple, Dana and Louis, should be enjoying a second honeymoon, but the pressures of their everyday lives are hard to shrug off.
Then they meet the owner of a house nearby who has a strange influence over Dana.
The suspense builds with the introduction of a watcher outside the mansion and an animal that kills a man in the woods. Gripping stuff.
Old Alfred Hitchcock would love this one
It is a startling debut in the terror field. A young couple win a raffle prize of a week's vacation in the Alpenhurst mansion, tucked away deep in the backwoods.
Idyllic? Maybe, but is the over-friendly neighbor for real, and what of the watcher in the trees, and the man said to have been horrribly done to death by some animal in the forest? Sanford shreds your nerves twang by tingling twang!