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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Sea of Tranquility: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel (@picadorbooks) (@EmilyMandel) Pandemics, time travel, and gorgeous writing #sci-fi

Hi all:

I am back, and I have a few books to share. This one is by an author I have come to truly treasure. Oh, and it will be published on the 28th of April, so not long to wait.

Sea of Tranquility Emily St. John Mandel

Sea of Tranquility: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel 

The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon five hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.

https://www.amazon.com/Sea-Tranquility-Emily-John-Mandel-ebook/dp/B099DRHTLX/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Tranquility-Emily-John-Mandel/dp/0593556593/

https://www.amazon.es/Sea-Tranquility-Emily-John-Mandel-ebook/dp/B099DRHTLX/

Author Emily St. John Mandel

About the author:

EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL is the author of six novels, including Sea of Tranquility, The Glass Hotel, and Station Eleven, which was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Her work has been translated into thirty-two languages. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

https://www.amazon.com/Emily-St-John-Mandel/e/B002BMMGK2/

My review:

I thank Pan Macmillan/Picador and NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I discovered Emily St. John Mandel eight years ago thanks to Station Eleven, which I loved, and I was also very impressed by The Glass Hotel, so I had great expectations for this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. Although it is not necessary to have read the other two novels mentioned to enjoy this one, there are characters and points of commonality between the three, and the way the story is structured (or rather fragmented and then put together, creating interesting and beautiful shapes) is also similar, with jumps back and forth in time (several centuries here), and, in this case, centred on a popular subgenre of science-fiction, time travel.

I don’t read science-fiction often, although I have read some novels in the genre that I’ve enjoyed. This novel is not hard science-fiction. There isn’t a lot of attention paid to how things work and the complex science behind it (the main character knows nothing about it and freely admits to it), nor long explanations and descriptions of the future settings we visit. There are several colonies on the Moon, and also further away, but although we get a feeling of how living there might be (because the characters experiencing it have always lived there, and we perceive things through their eyes. If anything, they are more intrigued by life on Earth than the other way round), there isn’t a deep analysis of every aspect of life in the future, and the mention of metaphysics in the description fits the when trying to describe this novel. It does ask some big questions, about what is important in life, about reality and simulation, about people sometimes living many lives and reinventing themselves, and about circumstances that can make us reconsider our reality, our priorities, and our sense of self.

Because I feel that the way the story is told and the plot are intrinsically linked, and it is difficult to talk about one without unravelling the other, I won’t even try. The blurb provides enough clues for readers to decide if they might want to investigate further. We get snippets of the lives of several characters, who have led completely different lives separated by centuries but are somehow linked. We have men, women, younger and older characters: a female writer famous for writing a dystopian novel set during a pandemic (sharing many similarities with St. John Mandel, in a fascinating exercise in metafiction); a young man exiled by his well-off family to Canada who goes on to fight in WWI; an old violinist who plays at an airport after losing his wife; a woman trying to find a friend whom she thought had betrayed her and discovering something truly disturbing; a listless man trying to find a job that will grip him and help him give meaning to his life… We get to see things from all those characters’ perspectives, narrated in the third person, sometimes in the present tense, but mostly in the past tense, but perhaps because of the fragmented nature of the narrative, and also because of the peculiarities of the characters (who seemed to all be preoccupied with analysing and observing what was happening around them, rather than fully experiencing and living their lives, at least at the beginning), I felt as if I was peering over their shoulders and being a spectator, although with privileged access to their thoughts as well. It wasn’t a problem for me, and as the novel progressed and the whole picture became clearer, I came to change the way I felt about some of the characters and to understand and appreciate them more. Being an avid reader, I really enjoyed the character of Olive Llewellyn, an author from the Moon on a book tour on Earth. The fact that her book has a lot in common with Station Eleven, and also the way her visit coincides with a pandemic on Earth, makes her feel particularly close to us and to our recent experiences, but, as I said, the rest of the characters grew on me, particularly Gaspery, who gains in complexity and interest, and I’m sure I won’t forget him in a hurry.

The author writes beautifully, combining brief and magical descriptions of locations, capturing awe-inducing moments in poetic language, and expressing complex ideas in simple but effective ways. This is a book where plot, characters, structure, and language live in perfect harmony, and despite the jumps in time and the moments of action, the overall tone is contemplative and reflexive. There are moments of telling, due to the nature of the story, but this does not detract from the atmosphere or the flow of the novel, and it does feel like a pretty short read that manages to pack quite a lot of meaning and thought into few pages. Despite the changes in time lineand point of view, the narration is always clearly signposted, and there is no risk of getting lost within its many worlds.

A few samples from the book (although there might have been changes prior to publication):

What if one were to dissolve into the wilderness like salt into water.

Olive here, thinking about the death of one of her characters in her novel, which one of the readers had described as “anticlimactic”:

 ... isn’t that reality? Won’t most of us die in fairly unclimactic ways, our passing unremarked by almost everyone, our deaths becoming plot points in the narratives of the people around us?

The thing with being away from her husband and daughter was that every hotel room was emptier than the one before.

What you have to understand is that bureaucracy is an organism, and the prime goal of every organism is self-protection. Bureaucracy exists to protect itself.

This is the strange lesson of living in a pandemic: life can be tranquil in the face of death.

I enjoyed the ending, and I can’t imagine a more satisfying one. There are twists and plenty of mysteries in the story, but things come together in the end. I am not sure if readers will find the ending surprising or not (it might depend on how much they read about time travel and how closely they follow the clues), but I enjoyed the sense of closure (for all the characters), and also the overall feeling of quiet, calm, and hope that its end brings. We might agree or disagree with the main character’s decisions, but I liked his attitude towards life and towards his fellow human beings.

Do I recommend this book? Definitely. I am sure fans of the author will enjoy it. Readers looking for a hard science-fiction novel or keen on a time travel narrative full of big adventures and thrilling moments might want to look elsewhere. But those who enjoy beautiful writing, don’t mind getting lost in speculation and allowing their minds to wander through a world of possibilities, should try this book. And if they haven’t read Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel and enjoy this one, they shouldn’t hesitate and just keep reading St. John Mantel.

Thanks to the publisher and to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and above all, keep safe and keep smiling.

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog KNIGHT IN PAPER ARMOR by Nicholas Conley (@NicholasConley1) Scary, inspiring, and ultimately life-affirming #RBRT #Sci-fi

Hi all:

Today I bring you the review of a book by an author that impressed me with one of his novels a few years back:

Knight in Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley

Knight in Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

https://www.amazon.com/Knight-Paper-Armor-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B08CLSSX8Z/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Knight-Paper-Armor-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B08CLSSX8Z/

https://www.amazon.es/Knight-Paper-Armor-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B08CLSSX8Z/

Author Nicholas Conley
Author Nicholas Conley

About the author:

Nicholas Conley is an award-winning Jewish American author, journalist, playwright, and coffee vigilante. His books, such as Knight in Paper Armor, Pale Highway, Clay Tongue: A Novelette, and Intraterrestrial, merge science fiction narratives with hard-hitting examinations of social issues. Originally from California, he now lives in New Hampshire.

www.NicholasConley.com

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I read and reviewed Conley’s novel Pale Highway (you can check my review here) a while back, and it left a long-lasting impression. A book that although falling under the aegis of Science Fiction did not easily fit into any category and provided a unique reading experience.

Conley’s new novel shares some of the same characteristics. It is set in the not too-distant future, a dystopian future where the United States seems to have become more parcelled out and separate than ever —different populations are segregated into newly created states [immigrants have to live in certain areas, the Jewish population in another state, the well-to-do elsewhere…]—, where huge corporations have taken over everything, and prejudice is rampant. From that perspective, the book fits into the science-fiction genre, and there are also other elements (like Billy’s powers, the way the Thorne Corporation is trying to harness those powers…) that easily fit into that category, although, otherwise, the world depicted in it is worryingly similar to the one we live in. Although there aren’t lengthy descriptions of all aspects of the world, there are some scenes that vividly portray some parts of the town (Heaven’s Hole), and I would say the novel is best at creating a feeling or an impression of what life must be like there, rather than making us see it in detail. Somehow it is as if we had acquired some of Billy’s powers and could “sense” what the characters are going through.

I don’t want to discuss the plot in too much detail, as there is much to discover and enjoy, but the book is also, at some level, a rite of passage for the two young protagonists, who might come from very different backgrounds and traditions but have much in common (they’ve lost beloved family members to unfair treatment, discrimination, and manipulation; their grandmothers have played an important role in their lives; they are outsiders; they are strongly committed to others…), and who help each other become better versions of themselves. Although there is a romantic aspect to their relationship (it is reminiscent of “insta love” that so many readers dislike) and even a sex scene (very mild and not at all descriptive), the story of Billy and Natalia’s relationship goes beyond that. I don’t think I would class this novel as a Young Adult story, despite the ages of the protagonists (at least during most of the action), but that would depend on every reader. There is plenty of violence, death of adults and children, instances of physical abuse and serious injuries of both youths and adults, so I’d recommend caution depending on the age of the reader and their sensitivity to those types of subjects.

The book can be read as a metaphor for how the world might end up looking like if we don’t change our ways (and I thought about George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm often as I read this novel), or as a straight Sci-Fi novel where two young people, one with special powers and one without, confront the government/a powerful tyrannous corporation to free society from their clutches (think the Hunger Games, although many other examples exist). It’s easy to draw comparisons and parallels with the present (and with other historical eras) as one reads; and the examples of bullying, abuse, extortion, threats, corruption… might differ in detail from events we know, but not in the essence. There is also emphasis on tradition, memory (the role of the two grandmothers is very important in that respect), identity (Billy’s Jewish identity, Natalia’s Guatemalan one, although she and her family have to pass for Mexicans at some point), disability, diversity, poverty, power, the role of media…

I have talked about the two main characters, who are both heroes (each one in their own way) and well-matched, and their families feature as well and play an important part in grounding them and making us see who they are (although Billy’s family features mostly through his memories of them). We also have a baddie we can hate at will (he is despicable, but I didn’t find him too impressive compared to others, and I prefer baddies with a certain level of humanity rather than a purely evil one), another baddie who is just a bigot and nasty (not much characterization there), and some others whose actions are morally wrong but whose reasons we come to understand. The circumstances of Billy and Natalia are so hard, and they have such great hearts that it is impossible not to root for them (I’m a big fan of Natalia, perhaps because she saves the day without having any special powers and she is easier to identify with than Billy, who is such a singular character), and their relatives and friends are also very relatable, but as I said, things are very black and white, and the book does not offer much room for shades of grey.

The story is told in the third person, although each chapter follows the point of view of one of the characters, and this is not limited to the two protagonists, but also to Thorne, and to one of the scientists working on the project. There are also moments when we follow some of the characters into a “somewhere else”, a vision that might be a memory of the past, or sometimes a projection of something else (a possible future?, a different realm or dimension?, the collective unconscious), and these chapters are quite descriptive and have an almost hallucinatory intensity. The Shape plays a big part on some of those chapters, and it makes for a much more interesting evil character than Thorne (and it brought to my mind Lovecraft and Cthulhu). Readers must be prepared to follow the characters into these places, although the experience can be painful at times. I was touched and close to tears quite a few times while I read this book, sometimes due to sadness but others the experience was a happy one.

The book is divided up into 10 parts, each one with a Hebrew name, and as I’m not that familiar with the Jewish tradition I had to check and found out these refer to the ten nodes of the Kabbalah Tree of Life. This made me realise that the structure of the book is carefully designed and it has a significance that is not evident at first sight. That does not mean it is necessary to be conversant with this concept to read and enjoy the book, but I am sure there is more to it than meets the eye (and the Tree of Life pays and important role in the story, although I won’t say anything else to avoid spoilers). The writing is lyrical and beautiful in parts, and quite horrific and explicit when it comes to detailing violence and abuse. This is not a fast page-turner, and although there is plenty of action, there are also moments where characters talk, think, or are even suspended in non-reality, so this is not for those who are only interested in stories where the plot is king and its advancement the only justification for each and every word written. I often recommend readers to try a sample of a book before purchasing, and this is even more important for books such as this one, which are not easy to pin down or classify.

From my references to Orwell you will know that this is a book with a clear message (or several) and not “just” light entertainment, but I don’t want you to think it is all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite, in fact. The ending is positive, hopeful and life-affirming. Those who like endings where everything is resolved will love this one, and those who are looking for an inspiring novel and are happy to boldly go where no reader has gone before will be handsomely rewarded.

I had to include the quote that opens the book, because it is at the heart of it all, and because it is so relevant:

The opposite of love I not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies. To be in the window and watch people being sent to concentration camps or being attacked in the street and do nothing, that’s being dead. Elie Wiesel.

Thanks to the author and to Rosie and all her group for their support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, and always keep safe.

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog BLACKTHORN by Terry Tyler (@TerryTyler4) Terrific characters and a ray of hope in a dark, dark world #sci-fi

Hi all:

I bring you a book by an author that is a big favourite of mine, and one connected to one of her most popular series. Terrific!

Blackthorn by Terry Tyler

Blackthorn by Terry Tyler

The UK, year 2139.

One hundred and fifteen years ago, a mysterious virus wiped out ninety-five per cent of humanity.

Blackthorn, the largest settlement in England, rose from the ashes of the devastated old world. It is a troubled city, where the workers live in crude shacks, and make do with the worst of everything.

It is a city of violent divisions, crime, and an over-populated jail block, until a charismatic traveller has a miraculous vision, and promises to bring hope back to the people’s lives.

Blackthorn falls under Ryder Swift’s spell, and the most devoted of all is the governor’s loyal servant, Lieutenant August Hemsley.

Twenty-one-year-old Evie has lived her whole life in the shacks. She and disillusioned guard Byron Lewis are two of a minority who have doubts about Ryder’s message. Can they stand against the beliefs of an entire city?

https://www.amazon.com/Blackthorn-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B081Z3M8W4/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackthorn-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B081Z3M8W4/

https://www.amazon.es/Blackthorn-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B081Z3M8W4/

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-one books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Wasteland’, a dystopian thriller set in the UK in 2061, the stand-alone sequel to ‘Hope’. Other recent releases include ‘Blackthorn’, a stand-alone post apocalyptic drama related to her Project Renova series. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 14th-17th century), and sociological/cultural/anthropological stuff, generally. She loves South Park, Netflix, autumn and winter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

https://www.amazon.com/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM

My review:

I’ve read quite a few novels by Terry Tyler, and the whole of the Project Renova series, and I was looking forward to this one as well, as it is a story set in one of the settlements we visited in the last novel in the series, Legacy(you can find my review of Legacy here and there are also links to the rest of the novel available on that post).  Blackthorn is a pretty memorable place and my previous visit to that world made me think of Westworld (the old movie rather than the series, which I haven’t watched), because it was like an amalgamation of the worst of Ancient Rome and a Medieval court. Some of the events that happened in that novel are bound to be fresh in the minds of readers, and they are referred to in this novel, but I think even people who haven’t read any of the other novels in the Renova Series would be able to enjoy this one, as the author does a great job of creating a vivid world, and it’s not difficult to understand the rules and get to know the characters that play the different parts. Yes, those who have read the whole series will have a fair more background, and it fits in beautifully with the rest, but that should not deter new readers from trying it (and judging by the reviews, it seems that many new readers have enjoyed it as well).

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about the plot, because there are a number of surprises, and the author has built them up perfectly and paced the story so that we discover each bit of information with the characters at a particular point in the story, sharing in their feelings and emotions, and that helps explain and justify their actions. Most of the story is told in the first person present tense, by the three main characters: Evie, a young girl, a shacker (because there is a strict social order, and where you are born determines your lot in life in Blackthorn. It’s very difficult to rise above one’s station and those who try pay dearly for it), who works in a bakery and leads a very modest life (she has no other option), clever, witty, and a bit of an outsider; Byron Lewis, a guard from a family with a long tradition in Blackthorn but also a bit of an outsider; and Lieutenant August Hemsley, who is a good an honest man, a bit of a loner and has always tried his best to do his duty, remaining blind to some of the most unsavoury aspects of life in Blackthorn. There are also brief chapters told in the third person (and in italics) that offer readers some hints and clues as to other things that might be going on behind the scenes and that our three narrators have no access to. Although those three get to learn plenty about what is really going on, readers get an even closer look at the darkness and horror most of the population are completely unaware of. This is a dystopian novel, science-fiction about a possible future if civilisation were to collapse (in this case due to a virus, a particularly scary thing to read at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic), and it touches on a lot of themes: social control, organised religion, faith, spirituality, and tradition, power and manipulation, family, friendship and identity…

I have mentioned the main characters and the way the story is narrated. There are other characters who play important parts, like Ryder Swift, an outlier who used to visit Blackthorn every year, charismatic, good at telling stories and a favourite with the shackers, who becomes something of a religious leader; Wolf North, the governor, a master manipulator who is one of the darkest characters in the whole story, and many others with smaller parts, like Evie’s friends and relatives, the other guards, the women who live in the House of Angels (I’ll let you learn about that when you read the story)… but if I had to choose one, my favourite would be Evie, who reminded me of Lottie, one of my favourite characters in the whole of the Project Renova series. Tyler excels at creating characters, some likeable, some dislikeable, but all real human beings (no matter what strange worlds and circumstances they might live in), and we see how the three protagonists grow and develop during the novel (the three of them are keen readers, so that helps the connection as well), refusing to be defined by socially-designated roles and categories and coming into their own. This helps us engage with them and feel touched, marvelled or horrified by their experiences, and we feel sorrow when we leave them (although the author hints at a possible follow up on some of the characters’ adventures).

Notwithstanding the author’s focus on her characters, she manages to create a truly compelling and realistic world in Blackthorn, one that might feel fairly alien to our daily experience, and we might not like, but one we can understand, and some aspects of which might be uncomfortably recognisable. Her description of the different parts of the city, the conditions the inhabitants have to live in, their routines, their way of life, their hardships and/or privileges are seamlessly woven into the story, rather than told in long stretches of information dumps, and we learn all we need from wandering around Blackthorn’s streets with the narrators, sharing in their observations, their day-to-day life and their adventures. We see their homes, their places of work, we follow them to the bakery, the prison, the outskirts, the governor’s home, the bars, their friends’ homes, and we get to know the hidden spots in Blackthorn as well. This is done in a fluid style, with an eye for detail that does not disrupt the narrative or interrupts the plot (even when there are short chapters that take us back to earlier moments in the story), and the writing is perfectly in sync with the narrative, not calling undue attention to itself but rather serving the story. There are contemplative and beautiful moments; there are some funny touches; some truly horrific events, and some touching and hopeful passages as well. Tyler’s writing mastery keeps increasing with every novel as demonstrated by this book.

The ending hints at new beginnings and at many more stories. It brings some wonderful surprises and some disappointments (not totally unexpected), but I won’t go into detail. I loved it, and, for me, it is a hopeful ending.

This is another great novel by Terry Tyler, and one set in a world that most readers will be able to connect with. I loved its unlikely mix of characters, the fantastic baddy (Wolf North his pretty up there with the best, or worst, depending on how you look at it), the masterful way the story is told, and how it makes us pause and think, about the past, the present, and the future. A few words of warning, there are some violent scenes (not extreme but upsetting), some very dark and nasty happenings, and its take on official religions could be challenging for some readers. Personally, I can’t wait to read the sequel to Hope.

Thanks to the author for her fantastic story, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep safe, and always keep smiling! ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview Hope by Terry Tyler(@TerryTyler4) A compelling dystopia that feels too close for comfort

Hi all:

I bring you a novel by an independent author who has become a firm favourite of mine in recent years. You’ll love this one.

Hope by Terry Tyler
Hope by Terry Tyler

Hope by Terry Tyler

Terry Tyler’s nineteenth published work is a psychological thriller set in a dystopian near future – the UK, Year 2028.

Blogger Lita Stone and journalist Nick Freer live and work online, seeing life through soundbites, news TV and social media. Keeping the outside world at bay in their cosy flat, they observe the ruthless activities of the new PM and his celebrity fitness guru wife, Mona (hashtag MoMo), with the mild outrage that can be quelled simply by writing another blog post.

Meanwhile, in the outside world, multinational conglomerate Nutricorp is busy buying up supermarket chains, controlling the media, and financing the new compounds for the homeless: the Hope Villages.

Lita and Nick suspect little of the danger that awaits the unfortunate, until the outside world catches up with them – and Lita is forced to discover a strength she never knew she possessed.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hope-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B07S89DK54/

https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B07S89DK54/

https://www.amazon.es/Hope-Terry-Tyler-ebook/dp/B07S89DK54/

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of nineteen books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Hope’, a dystopian, psychological drama set in the UK, a decade into the future. She is currently at work on ‘Blackthorn’, a post-apocalyptic stand-alone story set in her fictional city of the same name. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 14th-17th century), and sociological/cultural/anthropological stuff, generally. She loves South Park, Netflix, autumn and winter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM/

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this novel prior to its publication, and I freely chose to review it.

I have read some of Terry Tyler’s work before (I’ve read her dystopian Project Renova series and I cannot recommend it enough, you can check my review of the last novel in the series, Legacy, here), and I was keen to read her new novel, which also fits into that genre.

This story, set in the UK in the near future, felt even more prescient than Renova, and it perfectly captures some of the realities of today’s society (the increased reliance on AI and machines to replace many jobs, the dominance of social media, fake news, and the near impossibility of living a truly private life, the increase in populist politics, the problems of housing and homelessness in a society averse to welfare…), creating a mirror effect that reflects back to the reader some very ugly truths about today’s world. The rise to power of a politician supported (?) by a huge corporation, whose spouse is a media darling, the doctoring of social media news, hashtags, blog posts and reviews, a “new” (read “final” for a historical parallel that this novel will bring to mind as well) solution to deal with homelessness (very akin to “out of sight, out of mind”), the lack of funding for volunteer and charitable organisations, all sound far too real, and a more than likely scenario illustrating what fascism might look like now or in the near future. And the novel also makes readers realise that something like this could be the rule, rather than the exception. What would it take for many of us to lose everything and not be able to afford a roof over our heads or food on our tables? The author points out, loud and clear, that it is a likelier scenario than we’d like to believe.

Tyler always manages to combine gripping plots with engaging characters. Here, Lita, a blogger with a sad and unhappy childhood, tells most of the story in the first person, and although she is very private (understandably so, due to her circumstances), it is easy to identify with her (well, in my case I also blog and review books, so I felt particularly close to her), her friends and co-workers, and the people she meets. There are some fragments of the story that are narrated in the third person from the point of view of the people in charge, and that allows readers to get a wider picture of what is going on (and to fear even more what might be coming).

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about the plot, to avoid spoilers, but the ending is great (creepy, worrying, but not totally black), the writing is of great quality, as usual, and I challenge anybody to read this novel and not feel chills down their spine.

The author includes two short-stories that, according to her notes, had initially been written as part of the novel but she later decided to remove, to improve the flow of the story even further. They provide background information about Lita and Mona, and they enhance the novel, in my opinion. Mona’s story, in particular, should serve as a warning to parents (fat shaming and lack of true affection will have enduring negative consequences) and feels psychologically so true… I advise readers to make sure they don’t miss them, as they give a more rounded picture of the characters, and particularly in Mona’s case, an insight into a character that otherwise we only see from outside and feels totally unsympathetic (not that I loved her after reading the story, but I gained some understanding of how she got to be her, and also as to who might be behind it).

Another great novel by Terry Tyler. Do read it and take the warning about our future to heart. I will keep reading her novels, for sure, and I just hope she is wrong.

Thanks to the author for another great book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling! (And be prepared!)

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog LITERATURE® by Guillermo Stitch (@GuillermoStitch) #Bookreview #RBRT Short but perfectly formed. Highly recommended.

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that is due for release early next month (the first of July) but is already available in preorder, and as there is a Goodreads giveaway you can access here, if you live in the USA, I thought I’d share it ahead of time, so you can be prepared. I hope to read more books by this new author, and I wonder if there will be more books about this very peculiar world he introduces us to in this novella.

But now, without further ado:

Literature by Guillermo Stitch

Literature® by Guillermo Stitch.

We don’t know exactly when Literature® takes place and we don’t know exactly where. All we know is that Philip Marlowe would fit right in.

We don’t get Marlowe though. We get Billy Stringer. And Billy is on nobody’s trail.

He’s the prey.

The day hasn’t begun very well for Billy. He just messed up his first big assignment, he’s definitely going to be late for work, his girlfriend won’t get back to him and, for reasons she has something to do with, he’s dressed like a clown.

Also, he’s pretty sure someone is going to kill him today. But then, that’s an occupational hazard, when you’re a terrorist.

He’s a bookworm too, which wouldn’t be a problem–or particularly interesting–except that in Billy’s world, fiction is banned. Reading it is what makes him an outlaw.

Why? Because people need to get to work.

It’s fight or flight time for Billy and he’s made his choice. But he has to see Jane, even if it’s for the last time–to explain it all to her before she finds out what he has become. That means staying alive for a little while.

And the odds are against him.

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Literature%C2%AE-Guillermo-Stitch-ebook/dp/B07D6YK614/

https://www.amazon.com/Literature%C2%AE-Guillermo-Stitch-ebook/dp/B07D6YK614/

Editorial and early reviews:

Literature®: a speculative noir that wraps the razor wit of Raymond Chandler around the extraordinary vision of Philip K. Dick…

“Wonderfully written…a beautifully rendered story, mixing the cynicism and moral ambiguity of classic noir fiction with startling flashes of humour and disarmingly tender moments.”
E.O.HIGGINS, CONVERSATIONS WITH SPIRITS, UNBOUND/PENGUIN

“A clever interweaving of speculative fiction, dystopian vision, and classic noir, what’s most striking about Literature® is the quality of the writing…lean and spare with moments of beauty fizzing through…it is also very funny.”
KATHERINE GRAHAM, THEATRE RE

“A futuristic look into a land where book-burning ceremonies are embraced and those who rebel are punished. Protagonist Billy Stringer is both vulnerably lovable and irritatingly suffocating all at once in his mission to save his future. Brave New World meets 1984 in this Big Brother masterpiece.”
KRISTI ELIZABETH, SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW

Literature® speaks to the industrialization of art and also to the link between alienation and radicalization in consumerist societies. Mainly, though, it speaks to our need for great stories. By providing one. There is heart here, and heartache. And, crucially, a chase scene.

“To put it in its simplest terms, “Literature®” is one of the most entertaining books I’ve had the pleasure to read, anywhere, at any time.”
WILLAM L. SPENCER, GOODREADS

“I was enraptured from the start. A beautifully balanced piece of writing. I love his style.”
SIUN O’CONNOR, A RICH INHERITANCE, RTE

“This is satire in the grand tradition: Fahrenheit 451 but with better jokes.”
JOHN PATRICK HIGGINS, EVERY DAY I WAKE UP HOPEFUL

“Here we have a classic treatise in the making.”
MADELON WILSON, GOODREADS

Author Guillermo Stitch?

About the author:

Although the author provided me with a copy of his book, I haven’t found any personal information about him and after reading the book, I wondered if there was a good reason for that, or if it is only an oversight. Just in case, I decided not to dig. It seems, from this article (check here) that he lives in Spain, in Tarifa of all places. I live you some links, as you might want to investigate further.

Links:

www.guillermostitch.com

Goodreads

Twitter

 

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you’re looking for reviews) and thank Rosie and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novella, which I freely chose to review.

It is difficult to describe the reading experience of Literature. I have read reviews comparing it to noir novels (absolutely, especially the voice of the characters and some of the situations), to Fahrenheit 451 (inevitable due to the plot, where fiction has been banned and nobody can possess or read books) and 1984 (although we don’t get a lot of detail of the way the world is being run, the sense of claustrophobia and continuous surveillance, and the way terrorism is defined are definitely there), and even Blade Runner (perhaps, although Literature is far less detailed and much more humorous). I did think about all of those while I read it, is true, although it is a pretty different experience to all of them.

Billy Stringer is a mixture of the reluctant hero and the looser/anti-hero type. The novella shares only one day of his life, but, what a day! Let’s say it starts badly (things hadn’t been going right for Billy for a while at the point when we meet him) and it goes downhill from there. The story is told in the third-person but solely from Billy’s point of view, and we are thrown right in. There is no world-building or background information. We just share in Billy’s experiences from the start, and although he evidently knows the era better than we do, he is far from an expert when it comes to the actual topic he is supposed to cover for his newspaper that day. He is a sports journalist covering an important item of news about a technological/transportation innovation.  We share in his confusion and easily identify with him. Apart from the action, he is involved in, which increases exponentially as the day moves on, there are also flashbacks of his past. There is his failed love story, his friendship with his girlfriend’s brother, and his love for books.

The story is set in a future that sounds technologically quite different to our present, but not so ideologically different (and that is what makes it poignant and scary, as well as funny). People smoke, but you can get different versions of something equivalent to cigarettes, but they are all registered (it seems everything is registered). And you can drink alcohol as well (and Billy does, as it pertains to a hero in a noir novel). Transportation has become fundamental and it has developed its own fascinating-sounding technology (the descriptions of both, the vehicles and the process are riveting). It has to be fed by stories, by fiction, although literature itself has been banned. We get to know how this works and, let me tell you that it’s quite beautiful.

The book is short and I don’t want to spoil the story for readers, but I can tell you the writing is excellent and it is exquisitely edited. Despite its brevity, I could not help but share a couple of snippets.

“You like her?” he said. He was looking at the knife like a person might look at an especially favored kitten. “Been with me a long time,” he said. “She’s an old lady now. But she’s still sharp.” He looked up at Billy. “I keep her that way.”

In a day very generously populated with problems, Jane’s kid brother was Billy’s newest.

I loved the ending of the book. It is perhaps not standard noir, but nothing is standard in this book.

I recommend it to anybody interested in discovering a new and talented writer, with a love for language and for stories that are challenging, playful, and fascinating. A treat.

Thanks to Rosie and to all the members of her team, to the author, for the book, and to all of you for reading. Remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview ARTEMIS by Andy Weir (@andyweirauthor) A great caper story, with fun characters, not too deep, but with plenty of technical and scientific information to keep your brain going

[amazon_link asins=’1250119243,B00SN93AHU,0553418025,B017S3OP34,1451678193,178274164X,1426214685,1452134359,1681774461′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f895054e-a5c7-11e7-b739-912cdef9bbe8′]

Hi all:

I’ve brought you the review of a book I read a few weeks back but didn’t want to share until it was closer to the release date. Artemis will be published tomorrow, so I thought this would give you a chance to get it if you fancied it, but you wouldn’t have to wait too long to read it. As I was preparing this post, I realised that I had not shared the review of Andy Weir’s first book, The Martian, here, so I’m now wondering if there are more books whose reviews I’ve shared elsewhere but not here… Oh well…

Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis by Andy Weir
Ever had a bad day? Try having one on the moon…

WELCOME TO ARTEMIS. The first city on the moon.
Population 2,000. Mostly tourists.
Some criminals.

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. She lives in a poor area of Artemis and subsidises her work as a porter with smuggling contraband onto the moon. But it’s not enough.

So when she’s offered the chance to make a lot of money she jumps at it. But though
planning a crime in 1/6th gravity may be more fun, it’s a lot more dangerous…

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Artemis-Andy-Weir-ebook/dp/B06ZZMYC4G/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Artemis-Andy-Weir-ebook/dp/B06ZZMYC4G/

Author Andy Weir
Author Andy Weir

About the author:
ANDY WEIR was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.
https://www.amazon.com/Andy-Weir/e/B00G0WYW92/


My review:
Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.
I read Weir’s The Martian shortly after its publication (I discovered it through NetGalley. Many thanks again), before it became a movie, and loved it. Although I regularly recommend books to people I know, this must be one of the recent books I’ve recommended to more people. (In case you want to check my review, I published it on Lit World Interviews and you can check it here). Because of that, when I saw the ARC of the author’s new book was available on NetGalley, I requested it. A few days later I also received an e-mail from the publishers (well, their PR company) offering me a copy as I’d reviewed The Martian. Good minds think alike and all that. I read the book a while before its publication but I don’t expect there would be major changes with the final version.
So, how is the book? Well, I loved it. There aren’t that many books that make me laugh out loud, but this one did. Is it as good as The Martian? That’s a difficult question to answer. It is not as unique. It is very different, although in many ways it’s quite similar too. I suspect if you didn’t like The Martian you will probably not like this one either. The story is a first-person narration from the point of view of a young woman, Jazz Bashara. She lives in Artemis, the first city in the Moon, and has lived there since she was six years old (children are not allowed in the Moon until they are a certain age, although that had increased by the time of the story, so she’s probably one of the few people who has been there almost from birth, as most are immigrants from Earth). Nationality is a bit of an interesting concept in this novel (people are from wherever place on Earth they come from, but once in Artemis, they are in a Kenyan colony… I won’t explain the details, but the story of how that came to pass ends up being quite important to the plot), as are laws, work, money, economy, food… Based on that, Jazz is from Saudi Arabia, although she impersonates women from other nationalities through the book (even in the Moon, otherness unifies people, it seems). Like its predecessor, the story is full of technical details of how things work (or not) and how different they are from Earth. Jazz is a quirky character, foul-mouthed at times, strangely conversant with American pop culture, including TV series, music, etc., extremely intelligent, and like Mark in the first novel, somebody who does not express her emotions easily (she even admits that at some point in the novel). She also has a fantastic sense of humour, is witty, self-deprecating at times, one of the boys, and does not tolerate fools gladly. She is a petty criminal and will do anything to get money (and she’s very specific about the amount she requires), although we learn what she needs the money for later on (and yes, it does humanize her character). Her schemes for getting rich quick end up getting her into real trouble (she acknowledges she made some very bad decisions as a teenager, and things haven’t changed that much, whatever she might think) and eventually she realises that there are things we cannot do alone. Although she does commit crimes, she has a code of conduct, does not condone or commit violence (unless she has to defend herself), and she can be generous to a fault at times. On the other hand, she is stubborn, petulant, anti-authority, confrontational, and impulsive.
There is a cast of secondary characters that are interesting in their own right, although we don’t get to know them in depth and most are types we can connect easily with as they are very recognisable. (Psychology and complexity of characters is not the main attribute of the book). Most of Jazz’s friends are male (so are some of her enemies), and we have a geeky-inventor type who is clumsy with women (although based on the information we are given, Jazz is not great with men either), a gay friend who stole her boyfriend, a bartender always after creating cheap versions of spirits, a rich tycoon determined to get into business on the Moon, no matter what methods he has to use, and Jazz’s father, a devoted Muslim who is both proud of his daughter and appalled by her in equal measure.
The plot is a caper/heist story, that has nothing to envy Ocean’s Eleven although it has the added complication of having to adapt to conditions on the Moon. Although there is a fair amount of technical explanation, I didn’t find it boring or complicated (and yes, sometimes you can guess what’s going to go wrong before it happens), although when I checked the reviews, some people felt that it slowed the story down. For me, the story flows well and it is quick-paced, although there are slower moments and others when we are running against the clock. As I’m not an expert on the subject of life on the Moon, I can’t comment on how accurate some of the situations are. Yes, there has to be a certain suspension of disbelief, more than in The Martian because here we have many characters and many more things that can go wrong (the character does not only fight against nature and her own mistakes here. She also has human adversaries to contend with), but we should not forget that it is a work of fiction. Some of the reviews say there are better and more realistic novels about the Moon. As I’m not a big reader on the subject, I can’t comment, although I can easily believe that.
The other main criticism of the novel is Jazz’s character. Quite a few reviewers comment that she is not a credible woman, and her language, her behaviour, and her mannerisms are not those of a real woman. I mentioned before that she is ‘one of the boys’ or ‘one of the lads’. She seems to have mostly male friends, although she does deal with men and women in the book, not making much of a distinction between them. For me, Jazz’s character is consistent in with that of a woman who has grown up among men (she was brought up by her father and her mother is not around), who feels more comfortable with them, and who goes out of her way to fit in and not call attention to her gender by her behaviour and/ or speech. She is also somebody who has not been encouraged to be openly demonstrative or to share her feelings, and although she is our narrator, she does not talk a lot about herself (something that was also a characteristic of the Martian, where we did not learn much about Mark himself). In Artemis, apart from the first person narration, there are fragments that share e-mails between Jazz and a pen (e-mail) friend from Earth. Those interim chapters help us learn a bit more (however fragmented) about Jazz’s background; they also give us a sense of how things are on Earth, and, although it is not evident at the beginning, fill us into some of the information the narration has not provided us. Although she is not the most typical female character I’ve ever read, she is a fun woman and it’s very easy to root for her (even if sometimes you want to slap her). She does act very young at times, and hers is a strange mixture of street-wise and at times naïve that some readers will find endearing although it might irritate others. The book’s other female characters are as hard and business-like as the men, and often the most powerful and intelligent characters in the book are female (the ruler of Aramis and the owner of the Aluminium Company are both females, one from Kenia and one a Latino woman). Both seem to be formidable, although nobody is pure as snow in this novel and everybody has some skeletons in their closets. Although gender politics per se are not discussed (Jazz notes physical differences between her and other characters as is relevant to the plot, and makes the odd comment about her own appearance) one gets the sense that in Artemis people are accepted as they are and they are more concerned about what they can bring to the community than about their gender or ethnicity.
I agree with some of the comments about the dominance of references to American culture and even the language used is sometimes full of American colloquialisms. There is no clear explanation given for that, other than to assume that media and the Internet are still mostly full of content produced in the US, but even mentions of news and feeds about other countries are not elaborated upon.
I highlighted a lot of the book, but I don’t want to test your patience, and as it was an ARC copy, it is possible that there might be some minor changes, so I’d advise you to check a sample of the book to see if you like the tone of the narration. Here are a few examples:
If my neighborhood were wine, connoisseurs would describe it as “shitty, with overtones of failure and poor life decisions.”
My cart is a pain in the ass to control, but it’s good at carrying heavy things. So I decided it was male.
(Only Americans wear Hawaiian shirts on the moon.)
I left without further comment. I didn’t want to spend any more time inside the mind of an economist. It was dark and disturbing.
In summary, a great caper story, with fun characters, not too deep, but with plenty of technical and scientific information to keep your brain going. I’d recommend reading a sample of the novel, because, once again, you’ll either click with the style of the narration and the characters, or you won’t. I did and laughed all the way to the end of the book. And, if you’ve not read The Martian… well, what are you waiting for?

Thanks to NetGalley, to Penguin Random House/Ebury for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview THE LAST DETECTIVE by Brian Cohn (@briancohnMD) #RBRT A symbiosis of the genres of the noir detective novel and science-fiction with a hero with a dark-sense of humour and a heart

Hi all:

Today I bring you another of the books I’ve reviewed as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. And it’s a fabulous one.

The Last Detective by Brian Cohn
The Last Detective by Brian Cohn

The Last Detective by Brian Cohn

It’s been two years since the invasion.

Two years since the slicks came to our planet and herded humanity together like cattle, placing us under constant watch in the few cities that remain. The lucky ones are left to their own devices. The unlucky few are rounded up and carted off to labor camps to face an unknown fate.

Former homicide detective Adrian Grace was cut off from his family, but has somehow managed to survive. When one of the slicks is murdered, they ask him to find the killer. He reluctantly agrees, and in the course of his investigation witnesses the best, and the worst, that humanity has to offer: a plot to escape the labor camps; a pending war between an in-your-face councilwoman and the corrupt city mayor; and a priest who claims to have befriended the dead alien. But worst of all, he stumbles onto a conspiracy that puts the fate of the entire city in jeopardy. In the end, Detective Grace discovers that the killer might just be the last person he would have suspected.

A story about betrayal, redemption, faith, fear, and hope, The Last Detective is a thrilling look at what happens to humanity when our world crumbles around us.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Detective-Brian-Cohn-ebook/dp/B01MSUR137/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Detective-Brian-Cohn-ebook/dp/B01MSUR137/

About the author:

Brian is an ER doctor practicing in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives with his beautiful wife and their two rambunctious children. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama where he grew up loving to read. His passion for books continued through his college career at the UNC-Chapel Hill, and traveled with him back to Alabama where he attended the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He moved to St. Louis for residency training, met his wife, and fell in love with both her and the city itself. He has been practicing emergency medicine for over a decade and loves helping people every day, but turned to writing as a creative outlet.

A self-professed nerd, Brian has long enjoyed everything science fiction, from books to TV and movies. He is also a huge fan of great mysteries and thrillers, and is a sucker for a surprising plot twist. He writes the kind of books that he would want to read, reflecting a deep-seated curiosity about what motivates people to do the things they do.

When he’s not busy writing and taking care of patients, Brian loves to run, play with his children, and spend quiet time watching TV with his wife. If he can only figure out how to do all three things at once, he’ll finally have it made.

https://www.amazon.com/Brian-Cohn/e/B01MYVF8I0/

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Amber for organising Rosie’s Book Review Team and for providing this great opportunity for reviewers and authors to meet. If you’re an author, check here how to submit your books to the team.

I don’t read many purely science-fiction books (I’m not a big fan of lengthy descriptions, and world-building can take a fair amount of space while I generally care more for characters) but I’ve read a few recently that I’ve enjoyed, enough to make me pay more attention to sci-fi offerings. Some novels combine sci-fi with other genres and that usually brings them onto more familiar territories. This novel is one of those cases. It is a fairly classical (in style) noir detective novel:  you have the disenchanted detective who has left the police disappointed with the way things are done now (in his case, though, there was an alien invasion on Earth that all but destroyed Humanity’s achievements and progress over centuries [no electricity, limited access to fuel, no telephones, no TV, no democracy]… Humans have become prisoners, rationing of food has come back, and aliens control access to the few resources left, and they send humans to ‘labor camps’ somewhere outside of Earth with some cooperation from the human ‘authorities’) and who is called back because he’s the only one who can solve a murder. Now that the police have become no more than puppets of the aliens (also called ‘slicks’, because of the peculiar aspect of their skin), there is nobody else who still remembers how things were done. This is a DIY police procedural novel (no computers, no DNA analysis or blood tests, only very basic gathering of evidence and use of deductive powers, almost back to Conan Doyle or Christie) with a main characters, Adrian Grace (a very apt name, as we discover), who has probably lost everything and who describes himself as being ‘addicted’ to detective work. There might be other reasons (read excuses) why he chooses to accept the case of the murder of a Slick (they have somewhat of a herd mentality and do not hurt each other but it seems unthinkable that a human would dare to try and kill one of them) but the main one is because he misses being a detective.

The story is told in the first person, present tense, from Grace’s point of view, and it follows the chronological order, with the main action taking place over only a few days. Although he has fallen quite low, he hasn’t reached the level of others, and he is smart, witty, and has a rather black sense of humour that is what keeps him going.  Although he does not dwell for too long on his circumstances, or those of humanity (the novel starts with a brief chapter that takes place right at the moment when the aliens arrive, that allows us a glimpse into Grace’s work before normal life came to an end, and we get to meet his partner, Yuri, who is missing by the time the main action of the novel starts), he is harder in appearance than in reality. He trusts his instincts; he suspects everybody but is also quick to believe in first impressions and happily accepts as a partner a young female detective, whom he trusts from very early on (because he needs somebody to trust). Grace reminded me of many of the hard-boiled detectives of old, but he is not violent by nature and avoids guns if he can help it, and in contrast to more modern models, he is witty but not foul-mouthed. He drip-feeds us details about his life (he was brought up a Catholic, he was married with kids, he talks about his mother’s death when he explains his lack of faith…) and he still looks after his father. His relation with his father is heart-warming, despite the terrible situation, and it only reinforces the fact that we are dealing with a human being and not a collection of clichés. Although I’m very partial to unreliable narrators, Grace is not one of them, at least not by design. This being a mystery, we are not always given always given all the information, but if we are misguided, it is because Grace is mistaken or wrong-footed (by others or himself).

The book is not heavy on descriptions and the world the book describes is like a ghost of our world, like those empty and abandoned towns we sometimes see on TV that have fallen prey to disasters (economic, natural, or man-made). We have human beings that have lost their purpose, groups of religious extremists (the Abandoned, who sustain God has abandoned Humanity), resistance groups, and the aliens can also function as stand-ins for many dictatorial regimes bent on the destruction of all opposition (Nazi Germany comes to mind, but many other, recent and distant, would also fit the bill). Some of the humans are complicit with the regime whilst others are not what they seem to be. The book allows for reflections on the nature of society, politics, religion (there is a priest that plays an important part), family, betrayal, guilt, and ultimately hope. Grace is not always right, but he has not lost his humanity, and he is a realistic character we would all like to befriend.

This is a tremendous book, where the science-fiction and the detective genre work in symbiosis and create a novel that is more than the sum of its parts. Recommended to fans of both genres, especially those who don’t mind experimentation within the genre, and in general to people who enjoy fiction that pushes them to think whilst keeping them turning the pages.

Thanks to Rosie and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

 

Categories
Book reviews

#RBRT The Dead Lands (A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller. The Dead Lands #1) by Dylan J. Morgan (@dylanjmorgan). A futuristic nightmare, where you can’t trust anybody. #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

Yes, today I’m sharing a review, but I wanted to take a chance to explain what’s going on in my life at the moment, as you might find that the blog is not as regular as it was and the content might be more haphazard.

I am in Barcelona at the moment. I came towards the end of May because my mother was having a cataract operation (she has to have both eyes operated, but they started with the left). That went well, but unfortunately she wasn’t that well otherwise and she’s ended up in hospital with a heart problem (she had a myocardial infarction and now they’ve found a stenosis in her left coronary artery). It requires treatment as it’s in a dangerous place but it’s also quite difficult to treat. I’m spending most of my time in hospital with her and I don’t know exactly how things will evolve. I’m trying to use some of the time to read, so I expect I’ll carry on sharing reviews but all the rest of the content might not be happening.

I’ll keep you informed of how things evolve when I can. Be well. And now, the review.

The Dead Lands by Dylan J. Morgan
The Dead Lands by Dylan J. Morgan

Description

Lane is a bounty hunter for Erebus’ corrupt government, his life a constant battle against past demons. Framed for murder, Lane is offered one option to avoid the death penalty: rejoin the army and partake in a covert operation to the apocalyptic world of Hemera, Erebus’ sister planet.

A century after the nuclear conflict that ended mankind’s third age, Hemera has now sent a distress signal to its sister: the president has awoken, and he’s calling for aid. Early intelligence reports indicate the mission will be straightforward, that Hemera is a vacant shell with all forms of life and hostility extinguished.

They are wrong.

Bandits control the dead lands, but there are things much worse waiting for Lane and his squadron once they enter the city walls. Having lived with the nightmares of his shattered past, Lane must now face the mutated horrors of mankind’s future in the toughest battle of his life.

My review

This review is written on behalf of Rosie’s Books Review Team. Thanks to Rosie Amber and to the author, Dylan J. Morgan for offering me a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I recently read and reviewed another one of Dylan Morgan’s novels Flesh (see here), a horror novel, and I was impressed by the book. Another member of the review team (hi, Terry!) recommended The Dead Lands and I took note. The author is preparing the second book in the series The Dead City and kindly offered the reviewers a chance to catch up with the updated version of the first novel in the series. And I’m happy I followed the recommendation.

The Dead Lands is a post-apocalyptic vision of a world, or rather, a mission where a group of army officers from the planet Erebus are sent to rescue the president of a planet, Hemera who’s been in a cryogenic state for a hundred years following a nuclear debacle. What at first sight seems to be an elite group sent on an easy mission turns up to be anything but.

The book is told in the third person, and each chapter follows the point of view of a different character, and that includes the president of the planet, Lane, who is the only one of the members of the team we get to know before the mission (a disgraced ex-army officer turned bounty hunter and the one who perhaps it’s closest to a hero figure in the standard sense), a variety of the team members, people they meet at the new planet, and many more. It is difficult to say if any of the characters are the true protagonist or the hero (some are easier to empathise with than others, but all seem to have motives and reasons for their behaviours that are far from straight forward). From that perspective, the novel is very democratic and even characters (?) with no redeeming features, or possibly not human, are given a voice (or a consciousness). That makes for a very unique reading experience, one at times uncomfortable and surprising. Although I don’t play computer games, it feels as if one was living in one and in a mission with the characters, with the possibility of playing different parts (although not of your own choosing).

The book is dynamic and fast paced, with no lengthy descriptions (some can be more detailed like the characteristics of the weaponry), and there’s plenty of action, fights, and scary moments. There isn’t a lot of world building, and the reader is thrown straight into a world (or two worlds) that’s understandable if scary at times. The world of The Dead Lands is at the same time familiar (particularly the corruption and morals, or lack of them) but alien. What would our world be like after a nuclear war? I don’t want to give away the whole story, but let’s say that it’s not called The Dead Lands for nothing.

The novel is a great example of the genre. It has a gripping plot, characters that are complex and fallible (some with backstories we’d like to know more about), nothing and nobody is what s/he seems to be, there is betrayal, greed, corruption, cowardice, surprises galore, horror and a world that’s scarier because it’s uncannily easy to recognise. Ultimately, the question is, who is the real enemy? The one outside, or the fragmented loyalties and lies that are the quicksand on which the mission, and the whole world, is built?

I recommend this novel to lovers of the genre, but also to those who love a fast paced story full of surprises, and are willing to push their reading experience beyond comfort and ease.

Ah, and after reading the tasters of the next novel in the series, I can hardly wait.

Links:

http://amzn.to/1U7w9ye

http://amzn.to/1U7wj8Q

Thanks to Rosie and her team for their great work and the opportunity to review such great books, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

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Reviews

Two Reviews. Kirstin Pulioff's 'The Ivory Tower' and P.J. LaRue 'After "I Do!" A Marriage Map'

Hi all:

As you know, apart from a writer, I’m also a reader and when I have time, I read. I’ve been reading many indie books of recent and being a writer I know how important it is for writers to get reviews for their books. I also try and share them here and see if people who might have missed them find the books interesting.

Today I bring you two short and very different reads. One is a distopian YA novella and the other one a non-fiction book about relationships.

The Ivory Tower
The Ivory Tower

Review of Kirstin Pulioff’s ‘The Ivory Tower’

A sharp, shiny and precise jewel of a dystopian novella.

I read The Ivory Tower very quickly some time ago and have finally managed to catch up with a review. This dystopian story is brief but hides a good punch. I’m always in two minds with regards to shorter stories. On the one hand I want to know more, but on the other hand, the best of them are like perfect jewels, nicely shaped, shiny and precise. Sharp with no rounded edges. I suspect some of that precision and the effect might be lost if they were longer.

The Ivory Tower is one of those stories. The reader is given some details but not the full story behind the situation or the reasons why the characters live as they do. And that makes you think and imagine. It also works because when the main character finds herself in a situation that she cannot quite understand, you are in her shoes and as astounded as her by what happens. The sense of menace and threat increases as one reads and the writing helps create an atmospheric and intriguing tale. Although there are no unduly lengthy descriptions, the reader knows where s/he is. And the ending…

If you only have a little time and want a good story (not a feel good story, though) go and grab The Ivory Tower, quick!

http://www.amazon.com/Ivory-Tower-Kirstin-Pulioff-ebook/dp/B00FJ3A58A/

After "I Do!" A Marriage Map
After “I Do!” A Marriage Map

After “I Do!” A Marriage Map by P.J. LaRue Common sense advice about relationships, from the heart.

Before I write the review I must confess something. I’m not married and I’m not in a relationship at the moment. I’m not sure if that qualifies me more or disqualifies me completely from writing this review, but I’ve already warned you. If you want to read on, it’s up to you.

Having said all that, I have to confess I loved the book. Like all advice, one can take it or leave it. And Oscar Wilde already told us that the thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. That one should never use it oneself. I don’t agree although understand the sentiment.

P.J. LaRue explains her reasons for writing the book. She is aware of the statistics on the survival of relationships and observes that although her marriage seemed to have many numbers for not working, it has (so far for over thirty years). As people kept asking her and her husband for the recipe, that got her thinking, and as she is a writer, she thought she’d write a book about it.

The author’s advice is common sense, but not for that less valuable. She reflects on what she calls ‘Starter Marriages’ and observes that if there is no true commitment to a relationship from the beginning you might as well not even bother. If you’re going to give up at the first hurdle, don’t get in the race. She also emphasises the importance of communication, true communication, and she highlights the elements she thinks are necessary for such communication to exist: honesty, be open, listen, never trash talk, don’t play games, whisper sweet nothings, choose your words carefully, change requires self-awareness, change takes effort, compromise, tone, body language, golden rule and R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Other than ‘whisper sweet nothings’ I’d say they are very good principles to follow in any communication, but even more important when the communication is with your loved one.

If the advice is sound, as I say, what I found more touching (and it is a touching book) was how the author uses her own relationship as a yardstick and example of both the things to do and the possible pitfalls, the type of problems that relationships experience. She is candid and honest when talking about her personal difficulties and the trials that they have had to go through (and they’re still coming to terms with).

It might be that some of the ideas exposed in the book (yes, I’m talking about her stance on sex in relationships) might sound old-fashioned, and she herself acknowledges that, but just because something is old or has been said before it doesn’t mean it is wrong. You can always decide what parts of the advice you think should apply to you, but if you can be as selfless and insightful as the author is after you read it, I guarantee you will have a much better chance at making your relationship work.

http://www.amazon.com/After-Do-Marriage-Map-LaRue-ebook/dp/B00LIGL9FK/

By the way, very recently I’ve joined the BTS-e Magazine team of reviewers (I’ll let you know when my reviews come up and give you a link to the magazine), so I leave you links to it for you to check and explore.

Thanks so much for reading, and you know, if  you’ve found it interesting, like, share, comment and of course CLICK! Ah, and if read any books and enjoy them, remember to review and recommend them to your friends!

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