Introducing SCORPION

Cover of the novel SCORPION

My newest novel, Scorpion, is available starting today. Let’s start with an excerpt from Publishers Weekly:

This stunning near-future thriller from Cantrell takes some truly breathtaking turns. CIA data analyst Quinn Mitchell is sent in pursuit of the Elite Assassin, an apparently unpredictable and unstoppable killer. Readers, meanwhile, are introduced to the inscrutable murderer Ranveer, whose killings efficiently carry out someone else’s master plan. Quinn’s clever investigation, using neatly extrapolated high-tech gadgets, is fascinating in itself, and, as the CIA receives missives from the future through the time-bending Epoch Index, Quinn’s search collides with some darkly fascinating thought experiments.

And one from Kirkus Reviews:

All this takes place in an only slightly futuristic world that snaps and bristles with technological capabilities that may seem distant or improbable but which are in fact just around the corner. There’s snappy dialogue, sharp observation, and compelling characters in Quinn, Ranveer, and Henrietta; the technology sings, the physics is plausibly presented, and the suggestion of time travel fascinates.

The story of Scorpion is almost as interesting as the one it tells. It started out in 2010 as a short story called The Epoch Index which was optioned a total of three times — once for film and twice for television. But Hollywood, I’m learning, is as much about timing as good storytelling, so it wasn’t until 2018 that it really began to resonate, attracting the attention of several studios. It ended up with FOX (now Disney) which gave me the opportunity to expand the story into a full-length novel with Random House. Three years later, The Epoch Index is now Scorpion, and while the core of the original story remains fully intact, I’ve had a huge amount of fun expanding the narrative beyond its original twist and cliffhanger.

Scorpion is available everywhere books are sold, so if you don’t mind a little inconvenience, this might be a good opportunity to help your local bookstore recover economically. If you get a chance to check it out, let me know your thoughts. I love interacting with readers!

Negative Proof


My most recent short story, Negative Proof, is unabashedly about gun violence. But it does not revolve around the politics of the Second Amendment. Nor is it a thinly veiled parable endorsing or condemning gun legislation. Instead, it’s the story of a journalist who — through an unexpected gift from a controversial philosophy professor — discovers an extraordinary way to turn seemingly irremediable personal tragedy into hope and inspiration.

Negative Proof is for all those whose lives have been touched by senseless and preventable gun violence.

Introducing Equinox (the sequel to Containment)


Equinox is available starting today.

My first novel, Containment, is no longer just Containment. It is now the first book in the “Children of Occam” series. And the second book, Equinox, launches today (not coincidentally, just before the spring equinox).

I took my time in writing a follow-up to Containment (publishing a second novel, Kingmaker, in the meantime) until I was confident that I knew what readers wanted to see in a sequel. Without giving anything away, this is what they will get:

  • A much broader perspective on the Containment universe. Equinox pulls away from V1 and thoroughly explores the different worlds introduced in the first book.
  • A continuation of the plot. Equinox picks up exactly where Containment leaves off. (Then goes far beyond.)
  • A little less technical detail. Although there is still plenty of new and exotic science and technology in Equinox, I spend a little less time describing how it works, and a lot more time inside the heads of characters.
  • Much more of everything. At 575 pages, Equinox is almost twice the length of Containment. The stories of all the characters from Containment are thoroughly explored, as are the lives of several new characters.

I really love Containment, and I wouldn’t have released a sequel that I wasn’t completely happy with. I put a huge amount of time and effort into Equinox, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed the writing.

Kingmaker Optioned

kingmaker_150x225I’m happy to announce that Kingmaker has been optioned by Mark Canton, the producer of 300 (and the upcoming sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire). The agreement was recently announced in Variety, and essentially means that Canton is actively putting together a team (writer, director, etc.) to turn Kingmaker into a film.

I personally think Kingmaker would make an excellent movie (or mini series), and I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Two Short Stories Published

After I published my first novel, Containment, rather than going dark for an entire year while I wrote the next one (which turned out to be Kingmaker), I decided to write several short stories first. The problem was that getting short stories published is extremely difficult — even when you already have a publisher.

Fortunately Amazon realized that digital distribution removes a lot of the barriers associated with publishing shorter works, and consequently created a new publishing imprint called StoryFront exclusively for short fiction. I’m very pleased that two of my stories — Brainbox and Farmer One — were part of the initial launch, and that Amazon was kind enough to mention my work in their press release. So if you like very big ideas in relatively small packages, give them a try and let me know what you think.



Free Copies of Kingmaker


Update: Unfortunately, we’ve run out of free copies, but I’ll make more available as soon as I can. Thank you for your interest!

I’m giving away ten free paperback copies of my new novel Kingmaker, and five audio copies. All I’m asking is that you do one of the following after reading it:

  • Leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
  • Blog about it.
  • Share it on Twitter, Facebook, G+, etc.
  • Pass it along to someone else who loves science fiction.

Of course, there’s no requirement that the review or comments be positive. Just tell the world what you honestly think.

If you want a free copy of Kingmaker, please email me at and include:

  • Your name.
  • Your address.
  • Whether you want a paperback or audio copy.
  • Whether or not you want it signed.

It might take a couple of weeks for it to arrive, and unfortunately we’re only shipping to U.S. addresses. Also, this offer might expire at any moment depending on demand, but we’ll do our best to get as many copies out as we can. Thanks for your interest!

Create Your Own Private Phone Line Free of NSA Wiretaps

personal_phone_lineThe other day, my good friend Mike Chambers mentioned that he was planning on building a closed-circuit phone system as a toy for his kids. Since my kids already think his pancakes and popcorn are better than mine, I decided to beat him to it. It turns out that creating a simple closed-circuit system is extremely easy, and can be done for just a few dollars in parts (especially if you already have a couple old disused phones lying around).

As I was wiring the whole thing up, it occurred to me that building your own private phone line would be an effective (if slightly inelegant) way to ensure that your point-to-point electronic voice communication wasn’t being intercepted by the NSA. You’d probably want something more robust than a few 9 volt batteries, a resistor, and some electrical tape, but it wouldn’t take much more work or money to build something fairly serviceable for a small number of endpoints in relatively close geographic proximity.

I’m certainly not one to advocate using a system like this to break the law, but I am a proponent of civil liberties, and I do feel strongly that citizens of all nations have a right to communicate freely without being spied on by their own governments. The gradual erosion of American civil liberties is a major theme of my new novel Kingmaker which has recently become much more realistic than even I anticipated.

Introducing Kingmaker

kingmaker_350x525With civil liberties finally making its way into the public discourse, now is the perfect time for the launch of my new novel, Kingmaker.

As we all know, a large part of politics is about controlling the message. That means steering the national conversation toward certain topics, and away from others. For too long, American politics have been dominated by issues that, in an advanced and modern society, should have been left behind us a long time ago — issues that have distracted us from far more important debates, and probably the most important debate of all: civil liberties.

Kingmaker is about a lot of things. Ostensibly, it’s about a disaffected Russian spy who sees parallels between the direction of a near-future United States and what he and his parents went through both in the Soviet Union, and in a Putin-era (and even post Putin-era) Russia. It’s about economic and ethnic stratification, human trafficking, and unbound corporate greed and power. It’s about video games, drones, artificial intelligence, bad-ass military mechs, and futuristic weapons and vehicles. But at its core, it’s about the importance of protecting and promoting freedom — not just for the privileged, but for everyone.

All that said, I actually don’t consider Kingmaker to be a political novel. First and foremost, it is an entertaining near-future thriller with plenty of action and technology. But whenever called upon to both predict and depict the future, it’s impossible not to touch on salient social and political themes, and the primary theme around which Kingmaker revolves happens to be one of the most basic and important of them all.

Kingmaker is now available in digital, paperback, and audio formats.

James Cameron

jc_and_meAt the National Geographic 125th anniversary gala the other night, I had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite science fiction storytellers: James Cameron. There are several science fiction movies that I re-watch on a regular basis, three of which he wrote and directed (The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss).

So what does one discuss with such a distinguished writer and director? Science fiction authors, being a vegan (him, not me), and the next four Avatar movies. I look forward to seeing them all.

I recorded a short interview that Cameron did with Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian skydiver who, in October of 2012, made a jump from the stratosphere and became the first person to break the sound barrier while in free fall.

Genetic Data Storage Technology From Containment Becomes a Reality


In my novel Containment, I write about a computer scientist (Arik) and a biologist (Cadie) who work together on a project to use human DNA as a general data storage medium. They call the project ODSTAR for Organic Data Storage and Retrieval, and the first big piece of data they store and successfully retrieve is an image of earth known as The Blue Marble (one of the most famous photographs in history taken by the crew of Apollo 17). Their ODSTAR technology eventually gets used to store critical research which they discover can actually get passed down to future generations.

As was the case with artificial photosynthesis and the proposal to use light pollution from distant worlds to detect the existence of extraterrestrials, technology proposed in Containment has again become a reality. Researchers at Harvard University encoded a 53,426-word book into DNA and then decoded it again with an error rate of only ten bits total.

If you have a subscription to the journal Science, you can read the paper here. Otherwise, you can find more details on Mashable. And, of course, you can find Containment on Amazon.