John Sundman is the author of a single book (thus far), Acts of the Apostles. He is also a fascinating fellow; throughout his life, he has been a truck driver, chair of the Software Development Architecture Team of Sun Microsystems, and construction laborer on an Internet billionaire's island trophy house. He is the only author to move me so much that I actually called him to complement him on his work; we had an hour long phone chat and I now own an autographed copy of the novel.

Basically, John Sundman is not a writer. His main career has been software engineering, with a great deal of success at Sun Microsystems. He's also worked a great number of odd jobs. Not much biographical information is available about him. All I can comment on is what I learned about him when I called him up (and, no, I won't reveal his phone number; it was something that I probably should not have done, but he thanked me at the end of the call and I wound up with an autographed copy of the book in the mail).

He took two years off of work to write Acts of the Apostles, which was a risky career move to say the least. Once he was done, he felt it was a fine work of science fiction, so he took it to several book publishers. They all flat-out rejected him. As a last resort, he invested his life savings in his own publishing company, printing off his own first run of the novel, hoping to sell enough copies to independent book stores to make his money back.

The book's popularity spread by word of mouth, aided greatly by an adulatory review by Hemos on the well-read website Slashdot in 2000. John did his part, actively trying to promote his own book via the internet and in bookstores, sometimes meeting a bit of success, sometimes meeting failure. According to him, sometime in the middle of 2000, the sales reached a critical mass (about 1,500 copies sold) and he was able to turn a small profit on the book, enough to be able to partially finance him as he wrote a second novel, which he was just beginning when I talked to him on the phone in October of 2000.

As a result of this experience, and the relative positive feedback that his efforts have received, he has become something of an icon in the self-publishing genre. He often admits to dreaming of being the next Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, or James Joyce, all of whom were self-publishers.

I was able to track down Acts of the Apostles in September of 2000, and I devoured it in a weekend. It is an extremely well-written and thought provoking piece of science fiction. The plot is deep and intense, but Sundman's style is such that you can easily put it down and pick it up again if you must. He builds interesting characters (Monty Meekman, for one) and besets them with many profound moral and ideological choices, which can trigger a great deal of reflection. Fortunately, Sundman's prose is such that you don't realize that an issue has been raised until you sit the book down or finish it; the story carries the book. That, my friends, is my definition of the sign of a great writer and a great novel.

I would compare his writing style to Isaac Asimov with a greater real-world basis, or perhaps Orson Scott Card without the intense ego of his more recent works. He writes science fiction with moral dilemmas very well.

The second book from his publishing company, Rosalita Associates, Cheap Complex Devices, is nearing release, or so I've heard through the grapevine. It's a collection of two novels written entirely by machine, which interests me greatly. I will eagerly track it down.

His only novel, Acts of the Apostles, has sold only 2,500 copies to date.

His website is utterly fascinating, at It includes a long excerpt from Acts of the Apostles and a taste of Cheap Complex Devices, as well as a bit of background info on John Sundman. He is an author well worth reading, and in terms of average enjoyment of his works, is unquestionably my favorite author of all time.

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