Blog Tour & Book Review: Expression: Telepaths Rising by Colin D. Vaughn

Posted October 30, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Blog Tour & Book Review: Expression: Telepaths Rising by Colin D. Vaughn

I received this book for free from Publicist in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Expression: Telepaths Rising by Colin D. Vaughn
Genres: Alternative History, Science Fiction
on August 9, 2020
Pages: 220
Format: eARC
Source: Publicist

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
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Colin is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Colin D. Vaughn has a new queer multi-racial sci fi book out: Expression: Telepaths Rising. And there’s a giveaway!


Tarrington placed his datapad on the table. “This begins the psychic assessment of Kenneth Jared Kawashima. Nigel Tarrington, Authorized Facilitator of the Ministry of Citizen Services and Mauricio Vargas, an Authorized MCS Liaison from the Ministry of Psychic Affairs, presiding. Also in attendance are the subject’s father, Takahiro Kawashima; mother, Claire Alma Reed; and sister of minor age, Stephanie Fusako Kawashima.”

Tarrington turned to me: “Kenneth, pursuant to the Telepath Registration Act, as a suspected telepath you are required to undergo psychic assessment. You may not decline, delay or obstruct this hearing in any way. You may, however, have the presence of counsel at this proceeding. If you do not have one available to attend within 24 hours, one will be provided to you by the Ministry. Please touch the datapad and state whether you request or waive counsel.”

All of this was rather pro forma – I was surrounded by my family and it wasn’t as if a lawyer could stop or save me from this process. Not that I wanted it to stop. I touched the pad. “I waive counsel.”

The datapad chirped: “Identity confirmed. Waiver of counsel acknowledged.”

Tarrington turned to my parents. “Please touch the datapad to confirm that you have no objection to this proceeding, its recordation, or your son’s waiver of counsel.”

My parents touched the pad and it chirped: “Identities confirmed. Acknowledgements confirmed.”

Tarrington smiled, “Well, now that all that fussy business is complete. I will turn things over to Mr. Vargas.”

Vargas smiled at me, and then, clear as a bell in my head, I heard him sing a jaunty tune: I am the very model of a modern major general. I am the very model of a modern major general.

I laughed and asked him, “So you’re a general, eh?”

He smiled: No, more like a lowly foot soldier, little brother. Ask me a question. In your head – look into my eyes and say the words of your question one at a time. Remember, don’t speak.

I looked him straight in the eyes and thought: Where. Are. You. From?

Honduras. Suddenly I could see a wide stretch of forest, leading to deeply forested mountains, their tops veiled in low-lying clouds. Though I knew I was still crouched on the floor of our living room, I cool also feel moist spongy earth under my feet, a cool breeze across my cheek. This is my home. Well, actually, my hometown is the metropolis of Gracias a Dios, but the rainforests on the outskirts are what I think of as “home.”

For a moment, I almost felt like it was my home, too. I, who had only ever left Tennessee for our family’s annual trip to the Japan Territory, almost ached to return and hike those forests. Gracias a Dios. Thank you.

It wasn’t until Vargas smiled and said aloud: “My pleasure” that I realized that I had spoken to him mind-to-mind again, but in a natural, almost instinctual, way.

Was this what it meant to be a telepath? This incredible sharing, this intimacy? I felt as if Vargas – no, Mauricio– was some long-lost friend. Could he sense the same about me? I was just about to ask him for more when Tarrington clapped his hands once and said, “I take it that it was a success? He’s a true expressive?” I came to and looked around. My family was just staring at me. At me and Mauricio.

Mauricio nodded, then reached and touched the datapad: “Confirmed that subject’s telepathic gene has expressed, as verified through the receipt and transmission of audio, visual and tactile stimuli between subject and myself.”

Tarrington said: “Excellent! Now, Ken… I may call you ‘Ken,’ yes? . . . You understand that you will be more fully and properly assessed by the Psych Ministry at a later point?” I nodded. He then continued, “However, for myMinistry’s purposes an initial, somewhat rough assessment is necessary. Mr. Vargas will perform this. I am sorry for any discomfort.”

Mauricio then said aloud: “Ken, I will now force myself onto you” – at my sister’s gasp, he addressed everyone and continued – “in a very safe and controlled way, I assure you all. Though unpleasant, I will not harm Ken, I promise you.” Then turning to me: “Ken, what you must do is push me away. Pretend there’s a door that you’re trying to push closed. Or pretend there’s a pot on a heating unit bubbling over that you need to slam a lid onto. Or think of it however you think right – trust your instincts. OK, here goes.”

Then, before I could even begin to ponder what Mauricio was getting at, I saw his green light brighten and felt him touch me as he did before, but somehow both heavier and louder than before. Where before I felt like I was sharing with Mauricio, walking in his shoes, I now felt like he was walking on me. Instead of beautiful forests, I saw a man wielding a leather strap. The man – Father! – started hitting me over and over with the strap, shouting. It hurt! God, had this really happened to Mauricio? Or was this all part of the test? I couldn’t imagine my own gentle father or mother (however strict) ever acting so. But – ow! – the bastard kept hitting me! And I felt so angry, that he was hitting me, that he might possibly once have beaten my friend this way. I jumped up and yanked the strap from him. I then pushed him and lashed the strap across his face. He started to back away and I lunged after him hitting him again and again with the strap…”

About the Book:

First in the Telepath alternative history science fiction series and revolving around Kenneth Kawashima, a powerful new telepath in the year 2113.

This eARC was sent to me by Other Worlds Ink for an honest review.

LOGO - Other Worlds Ink

My Take

It’s all first person protagonist point-of-view from Ken’s perspective, and from what he’s hearing…Ken’s mom sounds like a Jewish mother, lol. Unfortunately, that’s about as emotional as the story gets, in terms of show.

Yes, it is an LGBTQ novel, but the sex scenes seem shoved in so the story can qualify as such. It could simply be because almost everything in Expression: Telepaths Rising is telling with very little show. And plenty of info dumps — Vaughn includes an interesting bit of history on how the telepathic community evolved. And I loved that bit where Ken appreciates the artists’ nerves and focus at the opera was sweet! A nice bit of insight into how telepathy can give greater insight. But Vaughn really needs to work on more show and fewer info dumps.

Then again, I do like that in Vaughn’s world, telepaths do touch, and I love that there is no discrimination against sexual preferences! Although I was curious about Ken rooming with a girl at the camp and another girl who rooms with a boy at the campus. Yeah, it does make sense if sex is no biggie in this world, but Vaughn doesn’t give us much on this. It’s simply tossed out there as if this is our own world and we would naturally understand this. We do get more insight into the government’s, society’s??, attitude about sex when we meet Aunt Patricia and her family.

It’s a world we wouldn’t recognize, divided as it is into territories. In some telepaths are hated while others, such as the Commonwealth, they tag and bag ’em. Yeah. Once someone is revealed as a telepath, the government registers them and sticks ’em with a tattoo. Trains them. If the new telepath doesn’t want to cooperate, they can run for a community of unassociated telepaths who are not supported by the government. Of course, this government claims you can opt out and opt back in…hmmm…

I’m curious about that shame of the brand that Mauricio mentions. Then there’s the new tattoo that Mauricio gets on his cheek? What’s with that? Sigh, Vaughn leaves me with lots of questions, including wanting more info on how the governments of earth are organized. Who’s with what affiliation, etc. I’m a little confused about those clubs and their houses. On the one hand Vaughn says the houses are expensive to have which makes me think most of the clubs don’t have one, but then again…

I kept waiting for the shoe to drop, for the government to be exposed. Vaughn keeps dropping these hints — that one about the kids being legally emancipated from their parents only to go into the custody of the Ministry…forever! Eek. Then there’s that Right to Be Left Alone…which again, does not apply to telepaths. That the telepaths are second-class citizens… Then again, Prof Rossi notes that teeps are autonomous from the regular government. Sounds like a luxurious slavery to me.

The controversy between Ken’s mom and her twin sister has me twitching. I can see where this might be the case…but then again…I gotta wonder.

That comment “…it looked like an argument among mimes” cracked me up. That Ken has no respect, lol.

It took halfway through the book before we started to get … serious, but the characters and the action are … lightweight.

As for the ending…it was another one of those endings that don’t really end, to ensure you race to buy book two.

The Story

It’s the year 2113. Telepaths are real. They’re exalted. Feared. Hunters. Hunted. Kingmakers and slaves. With his expression, Ken is catapulted into the ranks of a tiny elite. With immense telepathic potential, he will have to learn how to use his powers and whom to trust. And quickly. Because there are enemies, both within and without, and they’re not going to wait.

The Characters

Kenneth “Ken” Jared Kawashima lives in Nashville, Tennessee and he’s revealed as a telekinetic telepath. Stephanie is his thirteen-year-old sister. Claire (she’d trained to be an opera singer) and Takahiro “Taka” are their parents. Takahiro “Tee” is the older brother who also expressed but ran rather than be part of the system. The family will be elevated from 2nd Tier to 3rd Tier because of Ken’s ability.

Patricia Reed is Claire’s twin, the one who did develop telepathy. She’s on the Psych Council and chief of staff for the Ministry of Psychic Affairs. Her children include Keenan III “Trip“, Derek, Raven, Mars, and Salome — all are Ken’s cousins. Keenan West, Jr, is Trip and Derek’s father as well as a Senior Justiciar for the Justice Division; the gay Pierluigi “Lou” Amadeo Rossi is Raven, Mars, and Salome’s father as well as Professor Rossi for Civics. Tripp already has a baby daughter, Sandra, who is with her mother, Ursula. Aunt Patricia’s security includes Captain Declan O’Connell and Second Lieutenant Alexander Heller.

The Ministries

The Psych Council is…

…the governing body for all telepaths. The current minister of Psychic Affairs is Council Chairman Wong Kar-fen. Deputy ministers include Luis Oliveira (João’s twin and deputy minister for the Interior); Scott Mitchell (Commerce); Ciwana Polat (Justice); Vicenta Maria Pirir-Aquino (Intelligence); and, Darren Turner (Political Affairs).

The Ministry of Citizen Services (MCS)

Nigel Tarrington is an Authorized Facilitator with the Psych Division.

The Psych Ministry

Mauricio Vargas was one of Ken’s first contacts when they first tested him. Susan Cassidy is another liaison with MCS. João Oliveira and Megawati Soetardjo evaluate the students’ acquired skills.

Camps are where new telepaths live for a month, receiving entry-level training. Ken will be at Camp Middleton in South Carolina. Vice-chancellor Brian Phelps is in charge of the camp. First Lieutenant Natasha Wójcik, who is in charge of security at Middleton, Wendy Deng, and Murad Najafi are instructors there.

Other students at Middleton include Michaela Day, Tom Conway, Sarah Feinberg (Ben is an older brother and Tamar is her sister; both are telepaths), Yadira Cabral y Báez, Tyler Morris, Raul Vega, Lori Druske, the snooty Roman Kirchner, James Barrett, Luka Dragovic who’s all about the physical exercise, Sissy Thompson, Vivica Chatelain, Kate Herrera, Robert Demirjian, and Kane Winston from Alabama.

Campuses are where telepaths receive the rest of their training. The premier campus is the Institute in Ithaca, New York. Other campuses are in Vancouver, Osaka, Nairobi, Hamburg, and Fortaleza in Brazil, each having a specialty.

At the Institute in Ithaca

Marsha Haussmann assists with orientation. The teachers will include Asst Professor Steven Livingston (English; he also has a little brother, Alan, an upperclassman and a Key member); Sensei Igor Trachenko teaches karate; Dr Shruti Dasgupta is the chancellor for the Institute, a member of the Psych Council, the Deputy Minister for Science and Education, and the boss of Dr Sven Carlsen (Marc’s father and the foremost expert on telepathic development); Salma Vargas teaches Telepathy I; Sue is Salma’s assistant; Clara is a volunteer; and, Professor Faludi teaches calculus. For Ken’s telekinetics class, his instructors will include Colonel Erica Hernandez; Douglas Presk, an aide to Pirir-Aquino and a student; Mina Khalaji, a jack-of-all-trades for the Ministry; Darren Turner; and Alastair Galbraith. Sascha Alekseyev is a fellow student in the class. Bill is one of the school landscapers.

Adam Kinnear will be Ken’s new roommate. Zhiwei Huang will be Roman’s roommate. Pham Thi Lan is Robert’s roommate, and Omar Görec will be Sarah’s new roomie. More students include Marcus Carlsen, who is only 18 and yet he has several doctorates…and is not a telepath (he has a non-teep sister, Svetlana “Lana“); Tiago; Frederick Dobrev; Bruce; the not-gay Le Nhat Vuong; and, Chip Kosta. Kotaro is a friend of Trip’s who was checking Ken out. Fiona is another non-teep.

Reena had been at Camp Shakespeare in Oregon with Adam.

There are special “eating” clubs at Ithaca: the Keys are the most prestigious with Kyle Ajiashvili its president; the Crossed Swords are for teep boys who like boys; the Queen of Scots if for gays and lesbians; Cicero is for debate; Curie for science; Ataturk for Turks; Bridge for both teeps and non-teeps; Marathon and Sekigahara are for the martially minded; Bolivar is for Latin culture; Sterling is for top non-teeps; Minerva is a scholarship group; Cups of Gold for lesbians; Risley for artsy teeps; Rose and Crown; and, so many more.

Ken’s Practicum will involve a Mennonite community led by the telepath-hating Josef Rupp. Marcy Cole is Rupp’s younger sister with Elijah her eldest son. Alyssa Chang, a Psych Ministry official, is in charge of the inspection MCS rep.

The Psych Guard

Lieutenant General Gunther Hess is chief of staff for the Psych Guard. Colonel Hiroyuki Asada is Wójcik’s mentor. Second Lieutenant Robert Goode is with Region Control. Lieutenants Peddicord and Wang escort the prisoner. Aidan is Polat’s aide who investigated the assault. Major General Watson gets a demotion after the incident.

Natasha Wójcik is promoted to captain and is in charge of Ken’s security detail along with Second Lieutenant Brady Kersavage.

This “America” is…

…part of the Commonwealth (which includes Scotland, Morocco, Turkey), itself part of a three-way power split. They pride themselves on providing the necessities of life to all citizens. Lydia Randolph was a famous leader who rebuilt their world. There are three tiers of privilege.

I think the Council of States is the Commonwealth’s opposite number. I think. There’s a United Republic mentioned and it’s a totally open and free country where no assistance is available. Vaughn also mentions a Corporate Consortia and oligarchs.

Claude Legarde is a dignitary from the United Republic. Jean-Paul is an aide to Secretary Natalia Aleksandrovna Shkrebneva, who is the UR’s Secretary of Education.

To express is to become telepathic. Or more. All telepaths must be tattooed. A teep is shorthand for telepath; a teek is a telekinetic. A Practicum is an internship.

Wanda’s in Nashville is supposed to be the best for barbecue. Arthur in Ken’s old school had been a good friend. Marilyn Walsh will be the Kawashima family’s coordinator in changing tiers. I liked the nickel (five cents) slang, referring to those without any telepathy. Roman’s parents are big deals: his father is the Minister of Finance and his mother is a former governor.

The Cover and Title

The background of the cover is an organic collage of wood and honeycombs with Ken’s head and shoulders, all in in brown and cream, occupying the top two-thirds of the cover. At Ken’s right shoulder, the title begins in a bright blue shadowed in black. The author’s name is below this in the same blue against a black band spanning the cover.

The title refers to the initial reveal, the Expression: Telepaths Rising that indicates a new telepath is “born”.

Colin D. Vaughn

Vaughn as a young boy leaping into the air with joy

Colin is a Midwesterner by birth who lives in Washington, D.C. with his husband. Lawyer by day and aspiring writer by night (and lunch break). Since discovering Asimov and Tolkien as a child, he’s had a lifelong love of science-fiction and fantasy. And he has enjoyed the explosion of wonderful stories featuring fellow LGBT and people of color.

But the more he read, the more he realized that he had his own tales he wanted to tell. And themes he wanted to explore – power and temptation, social progress, the fall of civilizations, ways to love, futurism, beloved community, and many more.

He very much hopes you enjoy his story!

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