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Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE VISITORS by Owen W Knight (@OwenKnightUK) Speculative sci-fi and conspiracies for readers who like to think and question everything #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a book I discovered through Rosie’s Book Review Team. As always, I am grateful for the support of the team and for her endless toiling to keep us all in check.

The Visitors by Owen W. Knight

The Visitor by Owen W. Knight

The Great Reset has begun.

Fourteen years ago, Peter saved the world. Now, his sister Emily and two strangers receive coded invitations to return to the hidden village of Templewood, where Peter faces a new, terrifying threat.

Templewood is home to the Sect, a secretive organisation intent on global power. They have infiltrated many Governments and are collaborating with the Visitors: alien invaders who have brought gifts of advanced scientific and genetic discoveries. These gifts will potentially provide enormous benefits for humanity and facilitate the Sect’s bid for power.

But at what cost and what is the Visitors’ motive? Why are they taking, then retuning, increasing numbers of the local population? Peter, Emily, and their friends must uncover the truth before their worst fears are confirmed.

 https://www.amazon.com/Visitors-Owen-Knight-ebook/dp/B0BCX1FZRR/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Visitors-Owen-Knight-ebook/dp/B0BCX1FZRR/

https://www.amazon.es/Visitors-English-Owen-Knight-ebook/dp/B0BCX1FZRR/

Author Owen W. Knight

About the author:

Owen W Knight writes contemporary and speculative fiction.

He creates worlds based on documented myths, with elements of dystopia, mystery and science fiction to highlight the use and abuse of power and the conflicts associated with maintaining ethical values.

His works include The Visitors, a grounded sci-fi ‘first contact’ novel, Another Life, a retelling of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ for the 21st Century’ and The Invisible College Trilogy, an apocalyptic dystopian conspiracy tale for young adults, described as ‘1984 Meets the Book of Revelation’.

Owen lives in Essex, England, close to the countryside that inspires his writing.

https://www.amazon.com/Owen-W-Knight/e/B018GDFUPC/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

Reading this book was a bit of n strange experience, for me. I hadn’t read anything by the author before, and other than the information I found accompanying the book, I didn’t know anything else about him.

After a chapter written in the first person by Peter who referred to some events that had happened 14 years ago and a team of people he needed to confront a new danger, which functioned as a prologue of sorts, there were three chapters, written in the third person, dedicated to a different young woman, who, although seemingly unconnected between them, all received mysterious invitations. As the story progressed, I felt as if I had jumped into the middle of a plot that had been developing for a while. Not only that, but although some of the ideas and concepts were quite abstract and complicated, the language was, for the most part, quite plain and not excessively technical, and I wondered at times if it was addressed at the young adult market, although all the characters were adults. I investigated a bit more, and found out that the author had written a YA trilogy, The Invisible College, composed of three novels: They Do Things Differently Here (1), Dust and Shadows (2), and A Perilous Journey (3). These three novels took place in the same location where most of the action of this book occurs (although this is a book dominated by ideas and most of the action takes place out of the page), fourteen years earlier, in what is referred to by those who lived it as ‘The Templewood Summer’.

The novel is described as science-fiction and ´first-contact’, and this is true. It is also a novel of ideas, as I’ve mentioned, and would fit into the category of speculative fiction, as it proposes an ‘alternative/future’ universe that has many points of contact with our present, but where certain hidden forces play a big part in events. And, there is a first-contact motif, although this has been kept under wraps and very few people know about it. It also has similarities with novels about secret societies and big conspiracies, so it might attract a variety of tastes.

The description gives enough information to entice possible readers, and I am not about to reveal any details that might spoil any of the main plot points. In case you are worried, although I’ve said that the novel takes place after The Invisible College trilogy, it is not necessary to read it to understand the plot, as there is plenty of background provided in the novel, and any points fundamental to the development of the action are referred to in the book. What I missed the most, though, was getting to know the characters better. Although we meet Peter (fleetingly, but we get a glimpse of him), Rachel, Lisa, and Emily, the rest of the characters we come across at Templewood are not introduced in much detail. Emily, who is Peter’s sister and knows what happened there when she was a teenager, takes on the function of a guide, both to the other two women and to the readers, but she doesn’t know what has happened since she left there, and she is a bit of an in-between character, who is also in the dark about some significant events that had taken place in the recent past. I am sure those who have read the trilogy will enjoy meeting the people of Templewood again, but sometimes I felt I lacked connection with the events and most of the characters, and I couldn’t always tell them apart, although that might have been part of the intended effect.

That aspect was compounded, for me, by the writing style, which relied on telling. Because the new arrivals had to be brought up to speed with what was going on, there were quite a few scenes where somebody explained something (mainly Peter, but not only him, as each one of the women had a singular area of expertise and had to be shown a different part of Templewood, where they would be developing their skills and helping the community). I am not an expert on the genre, but novels of ideas and hard science-fiction tend to spend a fair amount of time building up concepts and an understanding of what is at stake, so I don’t think that is unexpected or out of keeping with the genre. As for me, I do prefer books where characters and their psychological traits play a bigger part, in general. A lot of the information is exposed through dialogue, but, as most of the characters live in close proximity and in a closed society, there was little to differentiate between them, and it felt as if there was a degree of repetition.

There were some moments where the scientific aspects and some spiritual concepts took over the narrative, and there were some beautiful and poetic passages as well, which I relished. I particularly enjoyed some of the conversations of other characters with Sarah, and also her own reflections. That made me wonder what a non-fiction book by this author would be like, as I found it quite inspiring. As usual, future readers can check a sample of the book before deciding if the novel would fit in with their tastes, but they don’t need to be worried about explicit sexual or violent scenes, as there are none.

This novel made me think about big themes, and it is likely to do that to most readers: the future of humanity, the price we have to pay for peace and quiet, what influences global politics, the nature of advancement, evolution, technology… Are any animals, species, or even human beings, disposable, and would it be acceptable to sacrifice them in the name of the greater good? Do we know the real consequences of some of the experiments and research that are being conducted? And are the economic interests of the biggest countries getting in the way of real solutions? Templewood and its society made me think of how what would be a utopia for some people, might be a dystopia and the worst-case scenario for others. A sobering thought.

The ending fits the rest of the novel, with a little surprise at the end, which might open new avenues for future stories.

In summary, this is a speculative novel of ideas, which shares some fascinating thoughts on issues such as education, technology, global politics, climate change, and communication technology, suited for readers of science-fiction and conspiracy novels who prefer discussion and thought rather than lots of action and fancy gadgets. Readers of the author’s previous trilogy, The Invisible College, will have the bonus of connecting with old friends, and the ending opens the door to more stories in the future (perhaps).

Thanks to the author for his book, to Rosie and her team, for keeping reading always interesting, and to all of you for reading, commenting, sharing, and keeping in touch. Remember to always keep smiling and take lots of care. ♥

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog ENDING FOREVER by Nicholas Conley (@NicholasConley1) Inspiring, hopeful, beautifully descriptive and heart-wrenching at times #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you today a book by an author who always makes me think and wonder. I kept thinking about an author and blogger I know while I read this book, and I think she’ll know why.

Ending Forever by Nicholas Conley

Ending Forever by Nicholas Conley

Axel Rivers can’t get his head above water. Throughout his life, he’s worn many hats — orphan, musician, veteran, husband, father—but a year ago, a horrific event he now calls The Bad Day tore down everything he’d built. Grief-stricken, unemployed, and drowning in debt, Axel needs cash, however he can find it.

Enter Kindred Eternal Solutions. Founded by the world’s six wealthiest trillionaires and billionaires, Kindred promises to create eternal life through mastering the science of human resurrection. With the technology still being developed, Kindred seeks paid volunteers to undergo tests that will kill and resurrect their body—again and again—in exchange for a check.

Axel signs up willingly, but when he undergoes the procedure—and comes back, over and over—what will he find on the other side of death?

 https://www.amazon.com/Ending-Forever-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B09XW82CXT/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ending-Forever-Nicholas-Conley/dp/194805194X/

https://www.amazon.es/Ending-Forever-English-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B09XW82CXT/

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 (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

This is the third book by Nicholas Conley I read and reviewed, and having loved both, Pale Highway and Knight in Paper Armor, I was eager to check his newest work. His books are never run-of-the-mill or formulaic, and they don’t fit easily into a genre, and that is the case here as well. They also make readers question their beliefs, thoughts, and assumptions, in this particular book, about life and, especially, about death. Not an easy topic, and not one many books discuss openly, and that makes this unique book, all the more extraordinary.

The description included with the book provides a good idea of the plot without revealing too much, although this short book —which probably falls into the category of science-fiction for lack of a more suitable one— is not a mystery or an adventure story, and a detailed description wouldn’t provide true spoilers. But there is something to be said for discovering its wonders without being prewarned in advance. For that reason, I’ll only add that grief (as mentioned) and guilt are behind the main character’s feelings and many of his actions. He’s been pushed (by life and by his own decisions) to desperation, to the point of no return —or so he thinks— and the experiment he signs himself for offers him money, evidently, but perhaps something else, something or someone that will bring him peace.

Apart from grief, guilt, loneliness, depression, trauma, the nature of memory, family life, becoming an adult orphan, losing a child… if those topics were not enough to make it a must-read, the novel also comments on human greed, arrogance, and the immaturity and silliness of some of those mega-rich people who come up with self-aggrandising vanity projects, sometimes hiding behind the gloss of some future venture with commercial possibilities, or under the guise of research useful to humanity at large. I don’t think I need to name any names, here, as I’m sure a few will easily come to mind. And, of course, this is a book that explores our relationship with death and our reluctance to look closely at it.

Axel is the central character, and Conley presents him without any embellishments. This is a broken man, and although the story is narrated, mostly, in the third-person; we only see things from his point of view. The main story takes place over a few days (the ending, though, reveals the after-effects of what happens during Axel’s deaths and is set at a later date), but there are fragments in italics that clearly represent the memories of the character, and there are also brief interjections and thoughts we are allowed to see that come directly from his head. It is impossible not to sympathise with the character, because of all he has gone through, from early childhood onward; and the more we learn about him, the more we get to empathise with him as well. There are other characters, and although we don’t spend so much time with them, it is evidence of the author’s talent that they all feel real and complex nonetheless. I loved Brooklyn, whom Axel meets at the experiment, and who is truly his kindred spirit. Her little girl, Gwendolyn, is wonderful as well, and that makes their part of the story even more poignant. Malik, Axel’s friend and always supportive, keeps him grounded and real. Dr Kendra Carpenter is a more ambiguous character. She is on the wrong side of things, and her attitude is less than exemplary, but her reasons make her less dislikeable and more nuanced than a true baddie would be. We don’t meet the people financing the whole scheme, but that is not necessary to the story, as this is not about them. There are some important characters whom we only meet through Axel’s memories, both from his recent and from his more distant past, but they also become real to us.

The author writes beautifully. I have said already that this book probably falls within the science-fiction category, but not into the hard sci-fi subgenre, as it does not provide any details about the science behind the experiment. The novel is speculative in the sense of exploring and coming up with fascinating ideas and insights into what the other life (death) might look like, and the Deathscape and its inhabitants (for lack of a better word) are described in gorgeous (and sometimes scary) detail, with a pretty limitless imagination. Although the “real life” events taking place in the “now” of the story are narrated in third-person past, what happens while he is dead is narrated in the present (third-person again, apart from the odd moment when we hear his thoughts directly), but the changes in tense felt organic and in keeping with the nature of the story. Of course, one needs to suspend disbelief when reading such a book, but that is to be expected. I was completely invested in the story, and there was nothing that suddenly jolted me and brought me back to reality. Apart from the wonderful description, and the memories that are so vivid they pull at one’s heartstrings, the feelings of the main character are so recognisable, understandable, and so compellingly rendered, that one can’t help but share the way he is feeling, and that applies to both, when he is feeling devastated and when he is feeling hopeful.

Those who want to get a better idea of what the writing is like, remember that you can always check an online sample.

I struggled to decide what to share, but I decided to include the introduction and a couple of fragments:

 Dedicated to everyone I have ever lost. Every sunset precedes a sunrise, and what the dead leave behind shapes the future. May the memory of you —each of you—be a blessing.

 Here, Axel is talking to his father, as a young child. His father has lifted him on his shoulders and is showing him the lake.

…when Ax said that they were on the edge of the world, Papa said, “no, son. That out there, on the horizon.” He pointed. “It’s the beginning of the world. And it’s all yours to explore. To dream. Remember that.”

 “On the other hand, big machines don’t run unless all the little pieces work, right? And infinity… we might be small, Axel, but y’know, maybe we’re still totally vital to the whole thing running. Every decision we make influences every other part of it, I think. Even after we die. Might as well make the most of it while we’re still alive, I say.” (This is Brooklyn talking to Axel).

What a beautiful ending! Conley has a way of making readers experience the highs and lows of existence, of asking them to look into the abyss and to face subjects that make them uncomfortable, like death, but he always rescues them and offers them hope and a positive ending. And this story is no different. Do take the time to read the author’s acknowledgements at the end of the book. They offer an insight into the book’s creation and the author’s own world.

So, would I recommend it? Well, what do you think? Of course! I have mentioned the themes, and although the story is ultimately one of redemption and hope, there are some emotionally difficult and extremely sad moments as well, and it might be a tough read for people who are facing or have recently had to deal with some of the topics mentioned. I’d leave this to the judgement of the individual, but I’d say that most people will finish the book with a smile on their faces and feeling more hopeful and confident about the future.

Another great book by Conley, one of a group of authors I am happy to read and recommend without any hesitation.

Thanks to Rosie and the members of her team for their work and support, thanks to the author for another beautiful book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and always keep smiling and safe. ♥

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann(@EarikB) A heart-warming, fun, and light sci-fi novel, with fabulous characters #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a new book by an author who has visited my blog before, and I suspect will come back int he future.

The Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann

The Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann

Sam never knew his parents. In fact, he’s never met another human—or seen a sunrise, smelled a flower, or eaten a regular meal. All of that is about to change.

It’s night in the desert, but he doesn’t feel the cold. The sky is clear, and the stars twinkle at him. He has never seen the sky from Earth before. Everything looks so strange. So . . . alien. He shakes his head in wonderment and laughs. He can’t stop smiling. This is Earth!

There is a building ahead. Other people will be inside. His heart skips a beat as he takes a step forward, the rocks crunching under his bare feet. He has dreamed of this moment for as long as he can remember.

But that which can be found can just as easily be lost again. It would have been better had Sam’s arrival gone unnoticed. But the artificial life form known only as the Authority is not one to miss such things. Nearly as old as time, and almost as powerful, the Authority was built by an ancient civilization as both an enforcer and a war machine, the destroyer of worlds. It has been watching Sam his entire life. Watching, and waiting, and judging. And now, it has decided that it’s time to act.

https://www.amazon.com/Earthlings-Brother-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B083F74XKL/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Earthlings-Brother-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B083F74XKL/

https://www.amazon.es/Earthlings-Brother-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B083F74XKL/

Author Earik Beann
Author Earik Beann

About the author:

Over the years I’ve been involved in many small businesses, including software development, an online vitamin store, specialty pet products, a commodity pool, and a publishing house. You could say I’ve got a bad case of serial entrepreneurism. But above and beyond all that, my original love has always been writing and telling stories.

As a teenager, I wrote two fantasy novels during summer break. Neither were published–which is probably for the best!–but I loved working on those books, and learned a lot by writing them. Later, I authored six technical books on very esoteric subjects related to financial markets. Those were meant for an extremely niche audience, and would be insanely boring to anyone outside that specific group of people.

In October 2017, I found myself at ground zero in the middle of the Tubbs Fire. A group of nine of us snuck back into our neighborhood in the middle of a mandatory evacuation zone, formed a vigilante fire fighting force, and saved our block (and an apartment complex!) from certain destruction. Working on my memoir of those experiences brought me back to those summers as a teenager spent working on my fantasy novels, and rekindled a deep love for writing that I had somehow forgotten about. Now it’s all I really want to do anymore.

I live in California with my wife, Laura, and our Doberman and two Tennessee barn cats. When not thinking of stories, I enjoy practicing yoga, riding my bike, and playing the Didgeridoo.

https://www.amazon.com/Earik-Beann/e/B001K8RRKW

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here), and I thank her and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I have read two other books by Beann, one a science-fiction novel and the other a non-fiction book, enjoyed both, and loved the cover and the premise of his new book, and I’m pleased to say that I wholeheartedly recommend it as well.

The book reminded me of yesteryear science-fiction movies, but with a touch of self-awareness, humour, and diversity that made it thoroughly modern. It made me think of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Starman (the movie) and, to a certain extent, Terminator, especially the beginning, although here we have a bit of a twist, and more than one being from outer space (but I’ll try not to spoil the story).

The story is not hard science-fiction, and I suspect lovers of detailed scientific explanations and high-tech might find this book too light, but the setting is very compelling, there are plenty of adventures, and lots of fun to be had. And the characters are all winners.

Maria Rodriguez is a great protagonist. She works hard, loves her sick nephew and tries her best to help him get better, looks after everybody, and she is willing to help, no matter what. She gives “Sam” the benefit of the doubt, even if she thinks he is under the influence of some drug or other and a bit weird, and she ends up being pulled into an adventure that we’d all love to find ourselves in. Sam is another great character, like a grown-up child, and allows us to see ourselves from a completely fresh perspective. What would somebody from another world think about us? Mustafa… Well, I won’t tell you anything about Mustafa, other than he’s amazing, and we also have a proper villain (I’m talking about you, Sanders), and some other not very nice characters, although they don’t get off lightly. I particularly liked “Mother”, which is quite a special character but shows a great deal of insight into the workings of the world, despite her limitations, and Pepe… I think all readers will love Pepe.

The story has a bit of everything: there are some quasi-magical elements about it (be careful what you wish for!); we have police persecutions and interrogations; we have references to migration policies and to asylum hearings (this is priceless!); we have alien civilizations intent on destroying the world as we know it; trips to Las Vegas and big winnings at the casinos; a road-trip; flying secret planes; a stand-off between USA and Canadian soldiers, and even a little bit of romance thrown in.

The writing style is smooth, easy-to-read, and there are plenty of action scenes, humour, suspense, and some pretty scary moments as well. Although there is destruction, mayhem, and violence, it is not very extreme or explicit, and most of it is only referred to in passing. All these elements, and the story, that has an all-around feel-good happy ending, make this book perfect for YA readers, in my opinion, and I think older children might enjoy it as well, although I’d recommend parents to check it out beforehand.

In sum, this is a joy of a book. It can be read as a fun and light sci-fi adventure book, although it does deal in topics that are serious, current, and it has a message that humanity would do well to listen to. It suits all ages, and it leaves readers smiling. What else should we ask for? (Oh, and I especially recommend it to any Canadians out there!)

Thanks to Rosie for her fabulous group and to all its members, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog KILLING ADAM by Earik Beann (@EarikB) A cautionary tale, with plenty of action and philosophical touches thrown in. #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a book that got me thinking…

Killing Adam By Earik Beann
Killing Adam By Earik Beann

Killing Adam by Earik Beann

The world runs on ARCs. Altered Reality Chips. Small implants behind the left ear that allow people to experience anything they could ever imagine. The network controls everything, from traffic to food production, to law enforcement. Some proclaim it a Golden Age of humanity. Others have begun to see the cracks. Few realize that behind it all, living within every brain and able to control all aspects of society, there exists a being with an agenda all his own: the singularity called Adam, who believes he is God.
Jimmy Mahoney’s brain can’t accept an ARC. Not since his football injury from the days when the league was still offline. “ARC-incompatible” is what the doctors told him. Worse than being blind and deaf, he is a man struggling to cling to what’s left of a society that he is no longer a part of. His wife spends twenty-three hours a day online, only coming off when her chip forcibly disconnects her so she can eat. Others are worse. Many have died, unwilling or unable to log off to take care of even their most basic needs.
After being unwittingly recruited by a rogue singularity to play a role in a war that he doesn’t understand, Jimmy learns the truth about Adam and is thrown into a life-and-death struggle against the most powerful mathematical mind the world has ever known. But what can one man do against a being that exists everywhere and holds limitless power? How can one man, unable to even get online, find a way to save his wife, and the entire human race, from destruction?

https://www.amazon.com/Killing-Adam-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B07HZ76PL8/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Killing-Adam-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B07HZ76PL8/

Author Earik Beann
Author Earik Beann

About the author:

Earik Beann is a serial entrepreneur, and over the years he has been involved in many businesses, including software development, an online vitamin store, specialty pet products, a commodity pool, and a publishing house. Before Pointe Patrol, he wrote six technical books on esoteric subjects related to financial markets. His original love has always been writing, and one of the silver linings in working on his memoir in the aftermath of the Tubbs Fire was the rekindling of his love of writing simply for the sake of writing. Killing Adam, his first science fiction novel, is due to be released in early 2019. He lives in California with his wife Laura, their Doberman, and two Tennessee barn cats.

https://www.amazon.com/Earik-Beann/e/B001K8RRKW

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here), and I thank her and the publisher for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is a very interesting book, and I doubt anybody reading it will fail to put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist. The concept is easy to grasp. Accidentally, (there was an experiment linking several people’s brains) an artificial intelligence (who later describes itself as a “singularity”) called Adam is born. Adam quickly takes control of the whole world, creating ARCs (altered reality chips), which are inserted into everybody’s brains, and allow people to control everything around them and to get interconnected and live in an altered (virtual) reality world. Of course, the intelligence behind the inventions (and there is a company behind it too, BioCal) gets to control the brains of the people involved, in turn. You can imagine Terminator with AIs instead of physical robots, or Matrix, although in this case people are not physically hooked onto a computer, but hooked they are, nonetheless. Adam is extraordinary, but a megalomaniac and cannot stand the thought of coexisting with other singularities who might take a different view of matters. He will not stop at anything to achieve his ubercontrol and will use (and has used) any means necessary.

The story, told in the third-person by an omniscient narrator, is plot-driven. Each chapter is told from a character’s point of view (so there is no confusion as to whose point of view we’re following), mostly the main characters: Jimmy (a man who cannot be fitted with an ARC due to a brain injury suffered while he was playing American football), Adam, Trixie (another singularity, and one who sees things very differently to Adam), Jenna (one of the people —or “nodes”— hosting Trixie), and other secondary characters who play their part in the action but whom we don’t learn much about. Jimmy is the character we get to know better, but due to his personal circumstances, his life has become so limited that there is little information we gather in the time we spend with him. He is married and loves his wife, but as she’s mostly hooked onto the altered reality (23 hours a day), he can hardly spend any time with her. He attends “Implants Disability Anonymous”, an association for those who have difficulty adapting to life because they do not have an implant (and it is extremely complicated to live in a world centred on an alternate reality if you are an outsider), and has a friend, Cecil, whose life circumstances are very similar. He becomes a reluctant hero, and, perhaps precisely because we do not know that much about him, it is easy to imagine ourselves in his place.

There are other characters with plenty of potential, especially Crazy Beard, an amateur philosopher who feels at home anywhere, and whose pearls of wisdom are eminently quotable. The language is not overly technical or complex and although there are some descriptions, these are not very detailed or lengthy. In a way, the experience of reading this book is similar to what life must be like for the characters of the novel hooked onto the alternate reality. You become so immersed in the story and focused on the content that you don’t see or notice what is around you, including the details about what surrounds you. The scenes and the actions succeed each other at a fast pace and, every-so-often you are thrown out of that reality by a detailed mention of a location or of an in-depth description of a character’s thoughts or feelings. And then, back you go, into the story.

The novel can be read as an allegory for our modern lives, increasingly taken over by social media and online content (yes, it is not a big stretch to imagine that you could walk along a crowded street and be virtually invisible because all people you come across are focused on their devices), a cautionary tale. Indeed, some of the technology, like the connected fridges and the self-driven cars are already here. It can also be read as a straightforward science-fiction/dystopian novel, with touches of humour, philosophical thoughts, and an inspiring and positive ending (and no, I won’t tell you what it is). Hard science-fiction fans might take issue with some of the novel’s premises (I missed getting a sense of how this alternate reality was, as we mostly see the effects of it but not the actual content), and a fair deal of suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy the novel if you are looking for a realistic story, but if you enjoy speculative fiction, plenty of action, and are open to a story that will make you look around and think, you’ll love this novel. I look forward to the author’s future works.

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

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog SURVIVORS’ CLUB by M.K. Martin (@MKMartinWriter) (@NotAPipePub) #RBRT Fun #sci-fi for lovers of action, genetics, and intriguing monsters.

Hi all:

This review, of one of Rosie’s Book Review Team, is a bit frantic, but it was the effect of the book.

Survivors’ Club by M.K. Martin

Survivors’ Club by M. K. Martin

Geneticist Marius Tenartier wants to cure humanity’s worst diseases, but Chrysalis Biopharmaceuticals uses his work to mutate humans into terrifying abominations. With the CEO’s fearless daughter, Marius races to stop the spreading infection before it becomes a global pandemic. The world is on the line, and the clock is ticking.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Survivors-Club-M-K-Martin-ebook/dp/B07BJLD4KX/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Survivors-Club-M-K-Martin-ebook/dp/B07BJLD4KX/

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A fun, fast read. …thriller, horror, conspiracy and more all rolled into one.”

Kurt Clopton author of SuperGuy

“A taut bio-thriller with an ensemble of protagonists so lovable you’ll want to take them home … and a threat so dire you’ll have nightmares.”

-Karen Eisenbrey author of Daughter of Magic and The Gospel According to St. Rage

..”.too plausible for comfort, the monsters much too close to home, and the knowledge that we have the technology to unleash such destruction is enough to leave the reader gasping right up to the very end!”

-Mikko Azul author of The Staff of Fire and Bone

“Filled with the shrieks, howls, moans, and wordless mumbles of the Infected, Survivors’ Club uncovers malevolent plans and subversive twists that lead us down a path littered with corpses, staggering toward an approaching doom. Get ready, because once you pick this novel up, you won’t be able to put it down!”

Heather S. Ransom author of Going Green

Author M.K. Martin
Author M.K. Martin

About the author:

M. K. Martin is a motorcycle-riding, linguistics nerd. A former Army
interrogator with a degree in psychology, she uses her unique knowledge and skill set to
create smart, gritty stories that give readers a glimpse into the darker corners of the human
mind.
After getting her feet wet with a couple of short stories, M.K. Martin’s debut novel, “Survivors’ Club” is now available.

https://www.amazon.com/M.-K.-Martin/e/B078FVD7X1/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber (check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

Let me start by saying that this book is a pretty wild ride. I quote one of the Amazon reviewers (Eric Witchey) because he says it very well and more concisely than I can (as those who read my reviews know all too well): If Andromeda Strain had mutant, undead Cthulhu babies, this would be the offspring. Yes, indeed. Those of you who follow my blog and my reviews probably know I read some science-fiction but I’m not a big authority on it and it is not one of my default genres. But somehow, when I read the description of this book and the biography of the author, I decided to give it a go. I’ve been interested in genetics since long before I decided to study Medicine, and although I pursued a different line of work, I know I’m not alone in following new discoveries and studies on that field. The book also promised plenty of action, and the author’s own military experience and her degree in psychology intrigued me as well.

The story is narrated in third-person from a variety of characters’ points of view, although each chapter is only told from one point of view, so there is no head-hopping or confusion (although due to the frantic pace the story moves at once the infection starts, it’s important to remain attentive). The three main characters are a scientist (a geneticist), Marius, the head of security at Chrysalis Biopharmaceuticals, John Courage (perfect name), and Miranda, the 18-year-old daughter of the company’s CEO (she joins them later in the book, during the first appearance of the monster/infection). Other members of Chrysalis and other settings also play a part and help create a more rounded view of the events and provide an outsider’s evaluation of the characters. Although there are no lengthy disquisitions, navel-gazing, or tons of biographical information, the main characters are fleshed-out, and they have their quirks (Marius is quite nerdy, with a love of British TV series, while Miranda is a credible young girl, at times losing focus of what is at stake to moan about lack of TV, and she can easily be swayed by the winning smile of a charmer, while John is strong and professional but not without his humanities), their strengths and weaknesses.

The voices of the characters are credible and they use the jargon and technical terms appropriate to their jobs and positions, although the alternating points-of-view ensure that we gain the necessary knowledge from other characters who are also novices, and the story is not difficult to follow, without ever falling into dumbing down or easy explanation. There are likeable and less likeable characters and we get to change our minds about some of them as we read, but I think most readers will find somebody to identify with or care about (and a few individuals to hate too, not to mention the monstruous creature, which has more nuances and is far more intriguing than at first might appear).

The first part of the novel is mostly about setting up the characters and introducing the background information (equivalent to world building) necessary to fully appreciate later the scale of the threat and the difficulties in navigating Chrysalis. The company and its labs are set in an isolated location and their procedures and features turn it into a complex and effective setting for the action scenes, as eerie and creepy as the gothic mansions of the classic horror genre.

The writing is nimble, the scientific and the security topics are well-researched, the action scenes very visual and gritty, showing the expertise of the author, the pace increases as the infection/invasion advances; there is gore, the creatures… Well, the Cthulhu mention is quite apt. There is humour and there are lighter moments, although towards the end of the novel there is not much letting off and the rhythm ramps up to a mad crescendo.

There are pop culture references and some themes running through the novel (what happened in Argentina?) that will amuse some readers more than others, but I feel they add to the atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed the mix of danger and humour, the realism and inside knowledge of how the ex-army security personnel worked and their esprit de corps, and the way the three seemingly disparate protagonists come to know and care for each other. Ah, and there is no explicit love story (there are hints at possible loving feelings between some of the characters but, thankfully, no true or fake romance going on. Hooray!).

The is a sample of the catalogue from the publishers, Not a Pipe Publishing (I love Magritte as well), at the very end of the book, so don’t get too comfortable while you read it, as it will end before you expect it, but the blurbs of the novels made me feel very curious and I’ll have to try to explore it further.

Talking about the ending, yes, it ends with a promise of more adventures and a twist that did not surprise me but I found satisfying. (Oh, and I’ve also read that the author is thinking about writing a short story about what happened in Argentina for her subscribers. I think that’s a great idea and something I was thinking of suggesting as well). I wonder if adding a list of abbreviations or technical terms at the end might assist readers in not missing a single detail, but it is not essential.

In sum, a wild ride, with plenty of thrilling action, scarily credible science, likeable and relatable characters, good doses of humour, in a great setting, and with horrifying and intriguing monsters, who are not, by far, as guilty as the corporate greedy industry behind the plot. I recommend it to lovers of adventures set in a scientific/genetic research environment, especially those who like their monsters to go beyond easy scares. An author to keep an eye on.

Thanks to Rosie and the members of her team for their support and hard work, thanks to the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling! 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE LAST FEAST by Zeb Haradon Unusual science-fiction which makes us question what it means to be human #RBRT #SciFi

Hi all:

Today I bring you another author I discovered through Rosie’s Book Review Team and the recommendation of one of the group reviewers and great writer, Terry Tyler (yes, the Terry Tyler whose Renova Series I’ve reviewed here). Believe me, this one is not same old, same old.

Book review. The Last Feast by Zeb Haradon
The Last Feast by Zeb Haradon

The Last Feast by Zeb Haradon

Jim, the only human still alive in the universe, lives his life on a small escape pod orbiting a black hole, where he survives by replicating himself and eating his clones. Before eating one of his duplicates, he entertains his meal by recounting the story of how he got here and how he managed to survive.

It began when he had decided to travel to an interstellar colony where he could sell some museum pieces he owned. En route, the ship he is on gets momentarily caught in the powerful gravity of a black hole and is flung trillions and trillions of years into the future. The passengers find themselves in a time of maximum entropy, where all life is extinct, all the stars have burned out, and there is nothing left in the universe except a black hole and a complete vacuum extending in all directions.

As the original crew of seven is slowly reduced through suicide, murder, and accident, two factions form. One group believes, against all evidence, that somehow, somewhere, there exists intelligent life in this universe that can rescue them from this hell, and they devote their energies to sending out more and more powerful distress calls. The other group simply wants to preserve the ship’s power, so that they can live comfortably in this hopeless universe as long as possible.

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Feast-Zeb-Haradon-ebook/dp/B07DY2WB8S/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Feast-Zeb-Haradon-ebook/dp/B07DY2WB8S/

https://www.amazon.es/Last-Feast-Zeb-Haradon-ebook/dp/B07DY2WB8S/

Author Zeb Haradon
Author Zeb Haradon

About the author:

Zeb Haradon grew up in Corning, NY, studied cognitive science at SUNY Buffalo, lived in Utah from 1999-2004, and has lived in Seattle since 2004. He’s a parent to identical twins.

He’s made two movies (one fictional and one documentary) and written three books.

https://www.amazon.com/Zeb-Haradon/e/B07DYZG87B/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber (check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, that I freely chose to review.

I had read a number of reviews of this author’s previous novel, The Usurper King, and although I haven’t read it yet I was intrigued by the subject and the feedback on the quality of his writing, and following a recommendation of his new book by a fellow reviewer, I could not resist.

This book is difficult to categorise and, for me, that is one of its appeals, although it will perhaps put off some genre readers. I won’t rehash the plot as the description is detailed enough and the book is quite short (it is perhaps a bit long for a novella, but it is shorter than most novels). The setting and much of the action would fit into the science-fiction genre. The degree of detail and description of technology and processes is not such that it should put off casual readers (I found the scientific background intriguing although I’m not an expert and cannot comment on how accurate it is), although it might not satisfy hard science-fiction fans.

A number of characters appear in the short novel, but the main character and first-person narrator of the story is Jim. Like Scheherazade, he is doomed to be forever telling stories, although, in his case, it is always the same story, the story, or history, of his (their) origin. Somehow (I won’t go into the details. I’ll leave that for readers to discover), Jim has managed to cheat death and has lived for hundreds and hundreds of years. Although the story he is forever retelling is, at least in appearance, the story of how he ended up in his current situation, through the process of telling the story, we learn about Jim himself. Snippets of his life keep coming up, and these are enmeshed with the history of humanity at large, as he has become, accidentally, the somewhat reluctant chronicler of human civilisation. I am not sure any of the characters are sympathetic but that is not surprising given the circumstances, and it does not hinder the enjoyment of the story.

The story —which gets at some of the fundamental questions Philosophy has been studying for centuries— involves a small spaceship crew faced with an impossible situation. What if they were the only beings left alive in the universe and only had access to finite resources in order to survive? (Yes, this sounds familiar). Would they hold on tight to the hope of a possible rescue from outside and risk their survival possibilities to pursue that dream? Or would they try to survive at whatever cost? The book divides the crew into two, the ones who are more realistic and are happy to continue living on their current circumstances, and the ones that refuse to give up the hope for a better but uncertain life. There are members of the crew that seem to cycle from one position to another, and some who keep their cards close to their chests and we don’t know full well what they think. Suicide is high in the book, and the desperation of the characters that choose that way out is credible and easy to understand and empathise with. The narrative takes the characters to the limit and then pushes them beyond it. Ultimately, it is impossible not to read this book and wonder what makes life worth living. Is life itself enough in its own right? Is survival against all odds the best attitude? What is the result of, and the price to pay for, pursuing such a course of action?

I am fascinated by the novel, and particularly by Jim’s character. As he tells the story, it becomes clear that at some point he made a momentous decision. He says he has been on the brink of suicide for hundreds of years, but after something tragic happened (no spoilers), he decided he would keep on living. Although the book has plenty of strange goings on (cannibalism, BDSM sex… which make for a hard read but are not the most graphically detailed and gore examples I have read, by any means) and it shuns conventional morality, this decision and Jim’s motivation behind it are what will keep this book present in my mind, and I know I will be thinking about it for a long time. (Why would anybody put himself or herself through such a thing? How do we deal with loss and grief?)

There are references to literary classics (and the author’s note at the end mentions some of them and also the conception of the project, its development, and its different incarnations), to historical artefacts and works of art, and the distinctive voice of the narrator (a mixture of wit, matter-of-factness and the odd flash of dark humour), the quality of the writing, and the story combine to make it a compelling and disquieting read. After reading this book, I’ve become very intrigued by the author, and I’m curious about his previous novel, as the protagonist of that book was also called Jim. That Jim was quickly becoming old and this one is determined to live forever. I wonder…

I recommend this book to people looking for an exceptional voice and a unique story, who don’t mind being challenged by difficult topics, dark subjects, and stories that don’t fit neatly into a clear genre. If you like to experiment and are looking for something different, I encourage you to give it a go.

Thanks to the author, Rosie, and Terry, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and to keep smiling! 

Categories
Blog Tour book promo Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog #Booklaunch NOT NOW, NOT EVER by Lily Anderson (@ms_lilyanderson) An intelligent, witty, and fun YA novel with great characters and a big dose of Oscar Wilde. #Bookblogtour

Hi all:

Today I’m very pleased to be taking part in a Blog Tour (book launch) for the second book of an author whose debut novel I loved. And this one is no disappointment.

Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson
Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

NOT NOW, NOT EVER: A Novel By Lily Anderson

Lily Anderson’s debut novel The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You took Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and reimagined it as a fandom filled YA novel that resonated with readers. Now, building on her nerd approved and classic rom-com based plots, Anderson’s sophomore novel, NOT NOW, NOT EVER (Wednesday Books; November 21, 2017), is a play on The Importance of Being Earnest with all the geeky fun that made her debut beloved. Anderson introduces her fierce heroine Elliot and sends her to nerd summer camp where hijinks are sure to ensue.
Elliot is very clear on what she isn’t going to do this summer.
1. She isn’t going to stay home in Sacramento, where she’d have to sit through her stepmother’s sixth community
theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest. No thank you.
2. She also isn’t going to mock trial camp at UCLA. (Ugh.)
3. And she certainly isn’t going to the Air Force summer program on her mom’s base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender’s Game, Ellie’s seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it’s much less Luke/Yoda/“feel the force,” and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn’t appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she’d be able to defeat afterwards.
What she is going to do is pack up her determination, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and run away to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College—the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program, and her dream school. She’s also going to start over as Ever Lawrence: a new name for her new beginning. She’s even excited to spend her summer with the other nerds and weirdos in the completion, like her socially-awkward roommate with neon-yellow hair, and a boy who seriously writes on a typewriter and is way cuter than is comfortable or acceptable.
The only problem with her excellent plan to secretly win the scholarship and a ticket to her future: her golden-child,
super-genius cousin Isaiah has had the same idea, and has shown up at Rayevich smugly ready to steal her dreams and expose her fraud in the process. With a persistent female lead and delightful rom-com update to Oscar Wilde, NOT NOW, NOT EVER is witty and fun—sure to entertain even the non-nerdy reader.

Lily Anderson Photograph: Chris Duffey
Lily Anderson
Photograph: Chris Duffey

About the Author
LILY ANDERSON is an elementary school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California. She is also the author of The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You.

https://www.amazon.com/Lily-Anderson/e/B01B9X4746/
NOT NOW, NOT EVER: A Novel By Lily Anderson
Published by Wednesday Books
On Sale November 21, 2017
Hardcover | $18.99
ISBN: 9781250142108| Ebook ISBN: 9781250148179
For more information or to set up an interview with the author, contact:
Brittani Hilles at brittani.hilles@stmartins.com or 646-307-5558

Editorial reviews

“This is a wonderful book that explores the desire to be loyal to family and to create a space that belongs solely to
oneself. Ever’s is a fresh and welcome voice that unashamedly embraces her geekiness.”
—School Library Journal
“Smart, strong, and confident, Ever is a likable protagonist…and fans of The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You will
joyfully greet the return of major characters. Good geeky fun.”
—Kirkus Reviews
“Fans of Anderson’s debut novel, The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You, will recognize some characters and delight n
the steady flow of witty banter and sci-fi references.”
—Booklist
“NOT NOW, NOT EVER definitely lives up to even the highest summer-camp novel expectations, and watching Elliot gain her stride and find herself at a summer camp for genius nerds is extremely entertaining…This is a strong novel with a solid cast of supporting characters surrounding Elliot, one of the most charismatic heroines in recent memory.”
—Romantic Times
More Praise for NOT NOW, NOT EVER:
“Witty, romantic, and exuberantly geeky, Lily Anderson’s clever teen tribute to The Importance of Being Earnest is
delightful. Readers will be wooed by sci-fi fangirl Elliot’s compelling struggle to remake her identity while discovering
how to be true to herself. Brimming with a cast of standout characters and spot-on family dynamics, this is a flat-out joy
of a book. Oscar Wilde would applaud—I certainly did! Bravo!”
—Jenn Bennett, author of The Anatomical Shape of a Heart and Alex, Approximately
“NOT NOW, NOT EVER is a smart, sexy, nerdy love story that would have delighted Oscar Wilde. Once again, Lily
Anderson has reinvented a beloved classic with contemporary friends, fears, and fandoms, nailing humor with
intelligence and heart.”
—Cori McCarthy, author of You Were Here and Breaking Sky
“If you’re not already familiar with Anderson’s rom-com chops, you missed out on a seriously delightful (and hilariously nerdy) debut in her Much Ado About Nothing–inspired The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You. Don’t make the same mistake when she takes on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.”
—BNTeen Blog, “13 of Our Most Anticipated Sophomore YA Novels of the Second Half of 2017”
“Fantasy may have its duels to the death, and sci-fi may have the threat of planets blowing up, but don’t make the
mistake of underestimating just how high the stakes in the real world can be…. Anderson takes on Oscar Wilde in her
sophomore romcom, about a girl named Elliot who rebrands herself as Ever in order to pursue the summer of her
choosing at a hypercompetitive academic decathelon…[there’s] she’s also greeted by a nasty surprise that keeps her on her toes when it comes to maintaining both her true identity and her secret whereabouts…and a more pleasant one in the form of a delightfully cute math nerd.”
—B&N Teen Blog
Praise for THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU:
“A geeky Shakespearean retelling that tosses Much Ado About Nothing into a comic book store. The result is a hilarious contemporary romance that pays tribute to everything in the geek canon, from Firefly to Doctor Who.”
—Paste Magazine, “The 16 Best Young Adult Books of 2016”
“There’s a lot to enjoy in debut novelist Anderson’s geek-positive update of Much Ado About Nothing, including…an epic love-hate relationship. Readers familiar with the Shakespeare will enjoy Anderson’s riffs on the original’s plot points as Trixie and Ben get their nerdily-ever-after ending.”
—Publishers Weekly
“Debut author Anderson updates Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing with impressive nerdisms and stinging
wordplay… Cultural touchstones, as well as the anxiety of keeping up in a highly competitive academic setting, will
resonate with plenty of readers.”
—Booklist
“A fun romance romp with a witty, geeky spin.”
—New York Daily News
“This book is the geeky best friend you’ve always wanted. A hilarious, heartfelt book that treats pop culture and
Shakespeare with the same reverence and adoration, The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You a perfect geeky read that I wish I’d had in high school.”
—Eric Smith, blogger and author of The Geek’s Guide to Dating
“Full of modern-day fandoms, such as Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars and Marvel comics… [and with] lovable, relatable, and realistic characters…that fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park or Fangirl will enjoy.”
—School Library Journal
“The adaptation is spot on, the witty banter is quoteworthy…brain candy for the brainy crowd.”
—The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books

Here is my review:

I read and reviewed Lily Anderson’s first book The Only Thing Worse than Me Is You (you can check my review here) last year. I loved it and I mentioned that I would be watching out for more of the author’s books. When a publicist from St. Martin’s Press got in touch with me offering me to take part in the blog tour for the author’s next book, I had to check it out. When I read that this time the author’s inspiration was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest I knew I’d fight tooth-and-nail to take part if necessary. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that, but it would have been worth it.

Elliot/Ever (if you know Wilde’s play, you’ll know that there are several people using false identities for a variety of reasons, mostly to live a different kind of life away from prying eyes) is a seventeen year old African-American girl, who lives in California, with a somewhat complicated family background (the Lawrences, on her mother’s side, have a long tradition of joining the Air Force, and her mother, in fact, teaches at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, while she lives with her father, a lawyer of French descent. Her step-Mom, Beth, is an estate agent, white, and an amateur actress, and she has a half-brother, Ethan). Her mother and all of her mother’s family expect her to join the Air Force, while her father wants her to do anything but that (mostly go to College somewhere nearby). And Elliot… Well, she wants to study Science-Fiction Literature. She is a geek. Her step-mother is about to play Gwendoline for the sixth time in an amateur production of The Importance of Being Earnest (that Elliot knows by heart from so many performances and rehearsals) and she decides to take control of her life and avoid another farcical summer. She lies to everybody around her, creates a fake identity (inspired by Wilde’s play), and after passing a genius exam to enter a summer programme (to win a fantastic scholarship to the college of her dreams, mostly because they have an amazing sci-fi collection in the library and they offer a degree in Science-Fiction Literature) she sets off to Oregon, determined to win no matter what.

Elliot/Ever soon discovers that you cannot outrun Wilde and that there’s nothing more farcical than a camp for geniuses. She has a few surprises (she’s not the only one to use a fake identity or lie), meets wonderful people (and some not quite so wonderful), finds love, and discovers what’s really important.

Like in Anderson’s previous novel, we have a first-person narration, this time by Elliot, who is a clever, witty, and determined girl. In this case she was not aware she was a genius (another member of the family was always considered the clever one), but the summer camp is not that dissimilar to the high school in the previous novel, although in this case everybody, apart from the college students who facilitate the camp, are new to the place, they don’t know each other and are thrown together in pretty stressful circumstances. We have, again, many pop culture and bigger Culture references (some, I must admit went over my head, but I didn’t mind that), a diverse group of students, but all clever, studious, dedicated, nerdy, and quirky. I loved Leigh, Elliot’s roommate, Brandon (a guy who carries a typewriter around. Come on, I’m a writer too. Who would not love him), and most of the characters. The dialogue sparkles and the quotes from Wilde’s play, that keep popping up into Elliot’s head, are sometimes humorous (I particularly like the ‘A tree!’ ‘A handbag!’ comparison) but sometimes the author chooses quotes that reflect the serious matters at hand. Although at first, it seems the less-likely possible setting for such a play, the summer camp works well, as we have many restrictions, a lockdown, rules that can be broken and people hiding secrets, overhearing things they shouldn’t, and getting into all kinds of problems.

There is cheating, friendships, betrayals, bizarre but vividly portrayed contests (Star Wars based fights to the death, The Breakfast Club themed memory tests…) and young romance.

I don’t know if it was because of the build-up and the identity changes but it took me a bit longer to get into the story than it did the previous novel, but once at the camp and when I got used to Elliot/Ever’s voice and her accurate descriptions of people and things, I felt as if I was there and could not put the book down.

The ending… Well, you’ll have to read it. It’s probably not what you expect but it’s good.

Once again I’ve highlighted many bits. A few random ones:

And he was wearing loafers. I couldn’t get my swoon on for a guy who didn’t wear socks.

Two narrow pressboard wardrobes that were less Narnia, more IKEA.

She sounded as though she really meant it, but that could have been because everything she said sounded vaguely like it was licensed by Disney.

He was cute and presumably very smart and, unlike so many other white dudes, he’d never told me how much hip-hop meant to him like my melanin made me a rap ambassador.

Another great YA novel that I’d recommend to people who enjoy sci-fi and pop culture references, people who love books and libraries, and who appreciate young female characters that have interests beyond school balls and boyfriends. And of course, if you love witty dialogue, farcical plots, and are a fan of Oscar Wilde, you are in for a treat. I’ll for sure be waiting for Anderson’s next novel.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Not-Now-Ever-Novel-ebook/dp/B0722MRCCS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Not-Now-Ever-Novel-ebook/dp/B0722MRCCS/

Just in case my few quotes have not sufficed, I have an excerpt from the novel:

with melting coconut oil. The air conditioner wasn’t up high enough to permeate through more than the top layer of my hair. Even with the streetlamps burning outside the windows, I knew it would still be almost ninety degrees outside. I took a long sip of my lemonade.

Sid’s biceps gave an unconscious flex. “They couldn’t have picked something useful for you to do with your vacation?”

“No,” I said. The truth came out cool and clean against my lips. “They really couldn’t have.”

When we perfect commercial time travel, everyone in the past is going to be pissed at us. It’s not only that their quiet, sepia-toned lives will be inundated with loud-mouthed giants. And it’s not even the issue that language is a living organism, so all communication will be way more problematic than anyone ever thinks about.

It’s jet packs.

At some point, someone is going to ask about jet packs, and no amount of bragging about clean water and vaccines and free Wi-Fi will be able to distract them. Even if you went back before the Industrial Revolution, someone is going to want to know if we’ve all made ourselves pairs of Icarus wings.

Defrost Walt Disney and he’ll ask to be put back in the fridge until Tomorrowland is real. Go back to the eighties and everyone’s going to want to know about hoverboards.

Hell, go back to yesterday, find your own best friend, and they’d still ask, “Tomorrow’s the day we get flying cars, right?”

People want miracles. They want magic. They want to freaking fly.

Unrelated: Did you know that crossing state lines on a train is pretty much the most boring and uncomfortable thing ever?

Despite sounding vaguely poetic, the midnight train to Oregon wasn’t much for scenery. Unfortunately, running away tends to work best in the middle of the night, especially when one’s cousins have a curfew to make and can’t wait on the platform with you.

Twelve hours, two protein bars, and one sunrise later, the view was rolling brown fields that turned into dilapidated houses with collapsing fences and sun-bleached Fisher Price play sets. Apparently the whole “wrong side of the tracks” thing wasn’t a myth. Everything the train passed was a real bummer.

One should always have something sensational to read on the train, whispered Oscar Wilde, sounding remarkably like my stepmom. With my headphones drowning out the screech of the tracks,

I reached into my backpack, pushing past the heavy stack of books and ziplock bags of half-eaten snacks, to the bottom. Tucked between the yellowed pages of my battered copy of Starship Troopers was a folded square of white printer paper. I tried to smooth it over my leg, but it snapped back into its heavy creases.

Dear Ever,

On behalf of Rayevich College and our sister school, the Messina Academy for the Gifted, it is my great pleasure to offer you a place at Camp Onward. At Onward, you will spend  three weeks learning alongside forty-seven other accomplished high school students from all over the West Coast as you prepare for the annual Tarrasch Melee. The winners of the Melee will be granted a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Rayevich College . . .

The page was starting to wear thin in the corners from my fin- gers digging into it whenever it stopped feeling real enough. The packing list that had once been stapled to it was even worse off, highlighted and checkmarked and underlined. I’d had to put that one inside of an N. K. Jemisin hardcover so that the extra weight could smash it flat.

I ran my thumb over the salutation again. Dear Ever.

I shivered, remembering how my hands had trembled as I’d read those words for the first time, stamped to the front of an envelope with the Rayevich seal in the corner. It meant that everything had worked. It meant that freedom was as simple as a checked box on an Internet application.

The train lurched to a stop. I shoved the note back inside of Starship Troopers and popped out my headphones just in time to hear the conductor’s garbled voice say, “Eugene station.”

I staggered down to the platform, my laptop case and my backpack weighing me down like uneven scales. I sucked in fresh air, not even caring that it tasted like cement and train exhaust. It was cooler here than it was back home. California asphalt held in heat and let it off in dry, tar-scented bursts.

Oregon had a breeze. And pine trees. Towering evergreens that could have bullied a Christmas tree into giving up its lunch money. We didn’t get evergreens like that at home. My neighborhood was lined in decorative suburban foliage. By the time I got back, our oak tree would be starting to think about shedding its sticky leaves on the windshield of my car.

As a new wave of passengers stomped onto the train, I retrieved the massive rolling suitcase that Beth had ordered off of the Internet for me. It was big enough to hold a small person, as my brother had discovered when he’d decided to use it to sled down the stairs.

I’d miss that little bug.

There were clusters of people scattered across the platform, some shouting to each other over the dull roar of the engine. I watched an old woman press two small children into her bosom and a hipster couple start groping each other’s cardigans.

In the shade of the ticket building, a light-skinned black guy had his head bowed over his cell phone. His hair was shorn down to his scalp, leaving a dappling of curl seedlings perfectly edged around his warm brown temples. He was older than I was, definitely college age. He had that finished look, like he’d grown into his shoulders and gotten cozy with them. A yellow lanyard was swinging across the big green D emblazoned on his T-shirt.

“Hey,” I called to him, rolling my suitcase behind me. My laptop case swayed across my stomach in tandem with my backpack scraping over my spine, making it hard not to waddle. “Are you from Rayevich?”

The guy looked up, startled, and shoved his phone into the pocket of his jeans. He swept forward, remembering to smile a minute too late. All of his white teeth gleamed in the sunshine.

“Are you Ever?” His smile didn’t waver, but I could feel him processing my appearance. Big, natural hair, baggy Warriors T-shirt, cutoff shorts, clean Jordans. Taller than him by at least two inches.

“Yeah,” I said. And then, to take some of the pressure off, “You were looking for a white girl, right?”

His smile went dimply in the corners, too sincere to be pervy. “I’m happy to be wrong.”

“Ever Lawrence,” I said, hoping that I’d practiced it enough that it didn’t clunk out of my mouth. It was strange having so few syllables to get through. Elliot Gabaroche was always a lot to dump on another human being.

“Cornell Aaron,” the college boy said, sticking his hand out. He had fingers like my father’s, tapered, with clean, round nails. I spent the firm two-pump handshake wondering if he also got no-polish manicures. “I’ll be one of your counselors at Onward. It’s a quick drive from here.”

He took the handle of my suitcase without preamble and led the way toward the parking lot. I followed, my pulse leaping in the same two syllables that had wriggled between the folds of my brain and stamped out of my shoes and pumped through my veins for months.

Bunbury.

It was a stupid thing to drive you crazy, but here I was: running away from home in the name of Oscar Wilde.

Thanks to Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), to NetGalley and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’1250079098,B0722MRCCS,B00006673M,B004U7MQZ6,1503331741,B06XKPJSN8,0486401464,0486278077′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’3bdae503-c46d-11e7-bb23-afa3f25bc899′]

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview and #mini-interview ‘what if I got down on my knees’ by Tony Rauch. For readers who enjoy short-stories, love language and the unusual.

Hi all:

As I promised, I’m coming to the end of the reviews I had accumulated, but I had a couple I had only shared on Lit World Interviews that I wanted to share here. Today’s, not only because of the book but also because the author kindly offered me a mini-interview.

what if I got down on my knees by Tony Rauch
what if I got down on my knees by Tony Rauch

Title:   what if I got down on my knees
Author:   Tony Rauch
ISBN:  098293355X

ISBN13:  978-0982933558
ASIN:  B00YNR6HBM
Published:  Whistling Shade Press; 1 edition (May 31, 2015)
Pages:  189
Genre:  Literary Fiction/Short stories

Description:

what if i got down on my knees? presents romantic misadventures and entanglements of absurd, whimsical, existential longing, featuring discovery, secrets, identity, escape, strange happenings, endurance, regret, and hope. The stories are little postcards from the lonely regions of the human heart.

These tales of wonder are about people trying to find meaning and a place in an indifferent world, and their discoveries, revelations, secrets, failures, struggles, connections, and odd encounters along the way—

—two unemployed men steal dogs and run them through buildings around town.
—a man goes on what turns into the worst date in recorded history.
—you are asked to baby-sit for a neighbor, only to find a giant baby waiting for you.
—a man comes home to find his entire yard and home paved over by a long lost rival.
—a clerk at a used record store finds a man has passed away on one of the couches.
—some young adults go into the basement to get sad, in order to impress girls.
—a stranger extracts a baby from a man waiting for the bus.

With themes of longing, fragility, uncertainty, impermanence, regret, the mysteries hidden in everyday life, discovery, ennui, loneliness, irresponsible behavior, confusion, change, identity, and absurd situations, Tony Rauch is a worthy successor to the artistry and absurdism of Donald Barthelme and Steve Martin.

 Body of review:

I received a copy of this novel from the author and I voluntarily review it for Lit World Interviews.

Short stories are an acquired taste. We might think a short read is perfect because we are always rushing and don’t have a lot of time, but sometimes we might feel disappointed when the story ends and we’ve invested time and, in the best of cases, emotions only to have to get to know some new characters after a few pages. Of course, not all short stories are born equal. And this collection of short stories by Tony Rauch proves the point.

Some of the short stories in this collection are whimsical (surreal) and might leave you scratching your head (or looking up to the sky searching for… No spoilers) , some are vignettes illustrating the lives of people who might appear content with their lives at a superficial level, but whose thoughts and worries run deeper than it seems, many are about lonely people wondering about others and trying to connect (in some occasions with hilarious consequences), some are about pretending to be something or somebody else, about growing up, about growing old, about moving on or remembering the past…

The quality of the writing is superb, and the first person narratives cleverly capture the speech and rhythms of the characters, who sometimes are talking to others, sometimes conducting an internal monologue with themselves, or even writing a story. From young kids trying to impress their friends to old men dying, from people contemplating a new relationship to others letting go, these few pages run the whole gamut of experiences and emotions.

To give you some examples:

His skin appeared two sizes too tight for his body, stiff and washed out, like he’d gotten it secondhand, or found it in an alley late at night.

His suit is mythical—straight, lean, long, pure, giving, musical, thoughtful, caring, dynamic, cosmopolitan, unselfish, strong, industrious, and nostalgic for his mother, her peanut butter cookies, and snowy Christmas mornings.

“And what would someone do with a dream of mine? Where would you keep it?”

“I’d stretch it out to create a sail, and then use it to float off to who knows where,” I advise.

 Some of the stories are nostalgic and melancholy, but there are great comedic moments, ranging from slapstick to joyful turns of phrase (and oh, a so very satisfying revenge story).  Another example I highlighted:

Eventually, he turned up in over 3000 cans of a popular brand of tuna. A horrible fate to be sure, and amplified by the fact that the guy was notoriously reputed to detest tuna.

I won’t tell you which stories I liked the most as I’d find it difficult. I checked the reviews, and on reading the comments when the reviewers mentioned a story or another I’d agree with them. So… Just go and read them and enjoy their variety.

 What the book is about: Many things: growing up, life, dreams, realities, loneliness, relationships, friendship, revenge, writing…

 Book Highlights: The quality of the writing and the very distinct characters and voices. The whimsical sense of humour.

 Challenges of the book: Sometimes with the electronic version I wasn’t clear when I had moved from one story to another. The titles of the individual stories and the different parts weren’t always easy to tell apart.

Although the book is not long, I think it is best taken slowly and savouring the quality of the writing, rather than rushing to get to the end of the story. It is not a book to be read in a hurry.

 What do you get from it: Beautiful writing, stories that make you think and a few laughs.

 What I would have changed if anything: As I mentioned perhaps change the size of the titles or the formatting (in the digital version) to make the divisions clearer.

 Who Would I recommend this book to?: To readers who enjoy language and a mood more than heavily plotted stories (although there are some great ones too). And to writers who are considering writing short stories, or just keen on exploring the many ways characterization works.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think: 4/5
Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5
Readability: 4/5
Recommended: 5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
 

Buy it at:  
Format & Pricing:
Paperback:  $12 

Kindle: $3.22 

Author Tony Rauch
Author Tony Rauch

And now, I asked a few questions to the author:

People have less and less time these days and short forms of writing are becoming more and more popular. From flash-fiction to microfiction and even stories told in Tweets, it’s all about brevity. Of course, the short story has a long tradition, but what is for you a short story? And what makes it (so far) your preferred choice when writing? –

For me a short story is anything that conveys a feeling, or an event, or that sets up an event that may then spring forward. It does not have to have a beginning or an ending. I like story starters, that is a written piece that poses a situation or premise, and then you have to imagine various outcomes. But the premise is so interesting it creates that zing in your brain and gets you thinking. That to me is a good story: anything that kick-starts that zing in your imagination and gets you thinking on a different track or about various possibilities.

I prefer the short form because I don’t need a lot of useless background info that longer work sometimes gets bogged down in. I don’t have a lot of free time, so the short form is good for getting ideas down. I have a lot of different ideas, so the short form works well in sorting them into more organized paradigms.

Tony Rauch in action
Tony Rauch in action

Who are your favourite writers, in general, and writers of short stories (if they aren’t the same ones)? Why? What have you learned from them? –

Favorite authors, influences: Anyone interesting, imaginative, and concise. Anyone who makes you think.

Mostly I like short stories as they get to the point quickly. The books that really inspired me are mostly imaginative story collections because they were exciting and new and you never knew what was going to happen next in them. Also, they were brief, which made them memorable and easily digestible.

I like strange or absurd adventures that are well crafted and have a meaning to them, and sci fi as it offers ideas. Reading these types of writers is like taking mini adventures that I could not experience otherwise in the limitations of my actual life –

Older writers:

Donald Barthelme, J.D. Salinger, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Charles Bukowski, Leonard Michaels (murderers), Mark Twain, James Thurber, Antoine de Saint Exupery (the little prince), Dr. Seuss (cool illustrations), Roald Dahl, Steve Martin (cruel shoes), W.P. Kinsella (the alligator report), Jim Heynen (the man who kept cigars in his cap), Don Delillo.

Contemporary writers:

Barry Yourgrau, Mark Leyner, Adrienne Clasky (from the floodlands), Lydia Davis (Samuel Johnson is indignant), Etgar Keret, Stacey Richter, George Singleton, James Tate (Return to the city of white donkeys), Thom Jones, Italo Calvino, Stephen-Paul Martin, Will Self, Denis Johnson (Jesus’ son), David Gilbert (I shot the hairdresser), David Sedaris, Paul Di Filippo, D. Harlan Wilson, Andersen Prunty.

Science fiction from the 40s, 50s, and 60s:

Rod Serling, L. Sprague De Camp, Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick, Aurthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Charles Beaumont, Ursula K. Le Guin, Douglas Adams (an 80’s writer), etc.

Author Tony Rauch trying to grab the intangible
Author Tony Rauch trying to grab the intangible

Many writers read this blog. I subscribe to the advice that one should read in order to improve one’s writing. I know it will be a difficult choice, but any stories in particular that have had an impact on you or have increased your understanding of the form? 

Yes, many – see the list of authors above. One thing I look for is that buzz or zing when they convey a feeling or present something I hadn’t ever seen before. For example, I like that F. Scott Fitzgerald story “Winter dreams” because in it the character changes, or his feelings for someone changes. I like that arc, that sense of change the character goes through in a story. That story presents a loss, and the character’s feelings about that change and loss.

Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?

Yes, it is:  https://trauch.wordpress.com/

You can find book information and story samples on that bad boy of rock and roll.

If you know of any good publishers looking for arty story collections, please let them know about me. I’m always looking for good publishers. A lot of places don’t publish single author story collections.

Thank you for your time.

Thanks very much to Tony Rauch for his book and for answering my questions, thanks to you  for reading, and don’t forget to like, share, comment, and CLICK!

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

 

 

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview As Wings Unfurl by Arthur M. Doweyko (@aweyken) A book for readers who enjoy science-fiction that asks big questions, with religious undertones, and lots of action

Hi all:

I’m still trying to catch up on book reviews (not long to go until I can start sharing reviews as I finish books) after my stint as a bookseller at a book fair (I will tell you more about it when I’m feeling more rested, I promise) and this week I have a pretty varied offering. I hope you find something to tickle your fancy.

As Wings Unfurl by Arthur M. Doweyko
As Wings Unfurl by Arthur M. Doweyko

As Wings Unfurl by Arthur M. Doweyko

“… captures the reader’s attention with kick-butt action in a video game storytelling format.” ~ Publishers Weekly

“Apple Bogdanski, a disabled Vietnam veteran, worked in a secondhand books store. When a private detective takes incriminating photos of shape-shifting aliens in the act of transformation and sends the negatives to the owner of the bookstore hidden in a book among a shipment of books, Apple is caught between two groups of aliens-one of which studies mankind’s development and the other who wants to terminate mankind and claim the Earth for their own purposes. Apple has a helper, Angela, who appears just in time to save his life and make him appear to be a hero. Angela has a beef with the bad guys and she and Apple unite with a few good guys to take on the bad guys.

As Wings Unfurl is an entertaining science fiction novel based on the premise that an alien race planted the seed of the human race of Earth millennia ago and now watches quietly as we evolve. Apple is a fairly well developed protagonist who just wants to be left alone to deal with the hand life has dealt him on his terms. Angela is a member of the alien oversight group dedicated to observation. Strangely attracted to Apple, she must deal with a conflict between her duties, her sense of right and wrong, and her feelings. Dane, as the bad alien, has a single side; the discrediting and destruction of the human race for her own purposes. Yowl and Shilog are Tibetans who are caught up in the war between factions and who provide a notable twist to the ending. Both are far out of the world that they know, but both adapt amazingly fast to the developed world.

This book is entertaining reading for readers who love science fiction “what if” scenarios and readers who love action adventures in any form.” ~ Midwest Book Review

Applegate Bogdanski returns from Vietnam with a missing leg, a Purple Heart, and an addiction to morphine. He stumbles through each day, looking forward to nothing and hoping it will arrive soon. When he attempts to thwart a crime, he is knocked unconscious and wakes up to discover that people are once again calling him a hero, though he feels undeserving of the praise.

Apple returns to work and meets Angela, a mysterious woman who claims to be his guardian. Immediately, he feels a connection to her, which morphs into an attraction. But he soon discovers that Angela is much more than she seems.

Apple and Angela are swept up in a conspiracy that stretches through time and space. Together, they must fight to save everything they hold dear from an alien race bent on destroying humanity.

https://www.amazon.com/As-Wings-Unfurl-Arthur-Doweyko-ebook/dp/B01HY589FG/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/As-Wings-Unfurl-Arthur-Doweyko-ebook/dp/B01HY589FG/

Author Arthur Doweyko

About the author:

As a scientist, Arthur has authored 100+ publications, and shares the 2008 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for the discovery of Sprycel, a new anti-cancer drug. He writes hard science fiction, fantasy and horror. His debut novel, Algorithm, which is a story about DNA and the purpose of humanity, garnered a 2010 Royal Palm Literary Award (RPLA) and was published by E-Lit Books October 2014. He has published a number of short stories, many of which were finalists in RPLA competitions. A number of his short stories have garnered awards, which include Honorable Mentions in the international L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest and First Place in P&E Readers Polls. His recently completed Angela’s Apple, a novel about angels who are not angels, won 1st place as Best SciFi Novel at the 2014 RPLA and will be published by Red Adept Publishing. His current project, Henry The Last, is about the last human being, a Lakota Indian cyborg. He lives in Florida with his wife Lidia, happily wandering the beaches and jousting with aliens.

https://www.amazon.com/Arthur-Doweyko/e/B007NWH9O8/

My review:

I thank the author who contacted me thanks to Lit World Interviews for offering me an ARC copy of his novel that I freely chose to review.

I am not a big reader of science-fiction (perhaps because I don’t seem to have much patience these days for lengthy descriptions and world building and I’m more interested in books that focus on complex characters) so I was doubtful when the author suggested I review it, but the angel plot and the peculiarities of the story won me over. There are many things I enjoyed in this book but I’m not sure that it was the book for me.

As I’ve included the description and it is quite detailed (I was worried about how I could write about the book without revealing any spoilers but, many of the things I was worried about are already included in the description) I won’t go into the ins and outs of the story. The novel starts as a thriller, set in 1975. A private detective has taken a compromising photo and that puts him in harm’s way. Apple, the main character, seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, although later events make us question this and wonder if perhaps what happens was preordained. One of the interesting points in the novel, for me, was that the main character was a Vietnam War veteran, amputee (he lost a leg) and now addicted to Morphine. He also experiences symptoms of PTSD. Although his vivid dreams and flashbacks slowly offer us some background information, and the whole adventure gives him a new perspective on life and a love interest, I found it difficult to fully connect with the character. It was perhaps due to the fast action and the changes in setting and point of view that make it difficult to fully settle one’s attention on the main protagonists. One of the premises of the story is that Angela, the mysterious character who is his ersatz guardian angel, has known him all his life. She is oddly familiar to him, and she decides to give up her privileges and her life mission because of him, but as Angela’s interest in him precedes the story, there is no true development of a relationship and readers don’t necessarily understand why they are attracted to each other from the start.

The story, written in the third person, is told mostly from Apple’s point of view but there are also two other characters, from Tibet, Shilog, a farmer, and Yowl, what most of us would think of as a Yeti, but that we later learn is a member of a native Earth species. In my opinion, these two characters are more fully realised, as we don’t have any previous knowledge or any expectations of who they are, and they work well as a new pair of eyes (two pairs of eyes) for the readers, as they start their adventure truly clueless as to what is going on, and the situation is as baffling to them as it is to us. They are also warm and genuinely amusing and they offer much welcome comic relief. They are less bogged down by conventions and less worried about their own selves.

I enjoyed also the background story and the underlying reasoning behind the presence of the “angels” (aliens) in the world. It does allow for interesting debates as to what makes us human and what our role on Earth is. How this all fits in with traditional religions and beliefs is well thought out and it works as a plot element. It definitely had me thinking.

I said before that one of the problems I had with some fantasy and science-fiction is my lack of patience with world building and detailed descriptions. In this case, though, other than some descriptions about the Tibetan forest and mountains, I missed having a greater sense of location. The characters moved a lot from one place to the next and, even if you were paying attention, sometimes it was difficult to follow where exactly the action was taking place (especially because some of the episodes depended heavily on secret passages, doors, locked rooms…) and I had to go back a few times to check, in case I had missed some change of location inadvertently. (This might not be a problem for people who are used to reading more frantically paced action stories.) I guess there are two possible reading modes I’d recommend for this story; either pay very close attention or go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

I really enjoyed the baddie. Dane is awesome. I don’t mind the bad characters that are victims of their circumstances or really conflicted about what they do, but every so often I like a convinced baddie, who takes no prisoners and goes all the way. She is not without justification either, and later we learn something that puts a different spin on her behaviour (I didn’t find it necessary but it does fit in with the overall story arc). The irony of her character and how she uses human institutions and religions to subvert the given order is one of my favourite plot points and she is another source of humour, although darker in this case.

All in all, this is a book for readers who enjoy science-fiction that asks big questions, with religious undertones, lots of action and not too worried about the psychological makeup of the main characters. Ah, and if you love stories about Bigfoot or the Yeti, you’ll love this one.

Thanks to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK! And of course, remember to leave a review if you read a book. 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview PALE HIGHWAY by Nicholas Conley (@NicholasConley1) A wonderful look at Alzheimer’s, with sci-fi, inspiration, genetics and metaphysics thrown in

Hi all:

I hope this week treats you well. I’m trying to catch up with as many of my pending reviews as I can because next week (well, from Thursday this week) I’ll be helping at a book festival in Madrid and I might not have much chance to come and check, but considering it is a book festival I couldn’t allow that to keep me from recommending some more books.

Today’s is a very special book. It does not fit neatly into any genre, as I explain but I’d advise you to check a few pages and see how you feel. It’s extraordinary and, if you have a big of imagination and don’t mind bizarre events, I’d recommend it especially to those who have an interest (personal, professional… ) in dementia.

I shared the review on Lit World Interviews, recently, so sorry if you’ve read it there but I couldn’t risk any of you missing it.

Pale Highway by Nicholas Conley
Pale Highway by Nicholas Conley

Pale Highway by Nicholas Conley

Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel – Predators & Editors Readers Poll 2015

“Steeped in suspense, Conley’s novel delves into the darker recesses of the medical establishment. Gabriel is a sympathetic character, and the reader is pulled into his private struggles.” – Publishers Weekly

“Pale Highway brings his struggles for survival along with his fierce desire to hold off his symptoms long enough to save everyone around him to brilliant, beautiful life.” – Examiner.com

Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away.

When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus. Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work.

As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Pale-Highway-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B016ALW8PW/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pale-Highway-Nicholas-Conley-ebook/dp/B016ALW8PW/

Author Nicholas Conley
Author Nicholas Conley

About the author:

Nicholas Conley is a novelist, world traveler, playwright, and coffee vigilante. His passion for storytelling began at an early age, prompted by a love of science fiction novels, comic books, and horror movies.

His novel Pale Highway, the winner of the 2015 Preditors & Editors Award for Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel, was influenced by his real life experience working with Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing home. He has written for Vox, Truthout, The Huffington Post, SFFWorld, and Alzheimers.net, and his original radio play Something in the Nothing was performed live on the radio station WSCA 106.1 FM in 2016. He is a member of PEN America, the writers organization dedicated to human rights and freedom of expression. To learn more about him, take a stroll over to www.NicholasConley.com.

https://www.amazon.com/Nicholas-Conley/e/B004M7ITYG/

My review:

Thanks to the author who offered me an ARC copy of his novel that I freely chose to review.

When the author approached me about this novel, I didn’t know what to say. I don’t read a lot of science-fiction (although I’ve really enjoyed some of the sci-fi I’ve read. I think my main problem, and the same goes for fantasy, is that I don’t have much patience for world-building and descriptions) but he explained that although it was classed as science-fiction, and indeed it purports a world that is very similar to ours but with some differences (mostly, the protagonist of the novel, Gabriel Schist, years back discovered the HIV-vaccine but , rather than simply creating a vaccine against that illness, his vaccine reprograms the immune system of the person that receives it and protects them against many other illnesses), it was a bit different to most science-fiction. He told me, as mentioned in his biography, that he had worked in nursing homes and the novel was also about Alzheimer’s disease. I read the description of the novel and was intrigued. And yes, I agree with him, his novel is not a standard science-fiction novel, although it’s true that some of the best sci-fi looks at what makes us human and explores metaphysical issues.

The protagonist of the novel, Gabriel, a famous scientist who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery,  is in his early seventies and suffers from Alzheimer’s, fairly early stages, but noticeable enough. He is trying to hold on to his identity, testing his memory and using tricks to orientate himself and hold onto reality, but it is not without difficulties. The book wonderfully describes the residents of the nursing home, some of their peculiar behaviours, but also the persons behind the behaviours. The novel goes back and forth in time, as does the memory of the character, from 2018 to the 1950s, when Gabriel was a weird young boy (he seems to have presented some traits suggestive of autistic spectrum disorder, likely Asperger’s) already determined to solve the problem of future infectious diseases, and also covering the years when he met his wife, the dissolution of his marriage, his great discovery and how he eventually connected and got to know his daughter. All this is interspersed with what is happening now (well, in the very near future) at the nursing home, as Gabriel never goes out. Suddenly, some of the residents start getting ill, and the virus (if that’s what it is) puzzles everybody as it acts as no known illness. Gabriel starts to have strange experiences that he’s not sure if they are hallucinations or real (the readers are free to make up their own minds about this, although if one chooses to go with a rational explanation, there are enough clues within the story to suggest how his mind might have come up with such weird events) and becomes convinced that he’s the only one who can fight this terrible illness. His is a desperate race, not only against the illness itself but also against Alzheimer’s and the progressive degeneration of his mind.

The novel is written in the third person, although always from Gabriel’s point of view, giving the readers a great insight into the processes and difficulties of a mind coming undone, of the strength of memories of the past, sometimes more vivid than the present, and the style is fluid, with some beautifully descriptive passages, and some very vivid moments, particularly Gabriel’s memories, filled with emotion. Gabriel is a scientist and a keen observer, even in his current state, and that serves the novel well.

The characters are realistically drawn and it’s impossible not to care for them. Gabriel is confused and unclear at times, he hesitates and his self-confidence is marred by his illness and by previous experiences. He feels guilty for letting people down in the past, for his use of alcohol (initially to try and fit in with social expectations, as he was too different and too intelligent for most people, but later he got to like it and used it as a coping strategy but also as something he enjoyed), for allowing his wife to leave, for not being there for his daughter … He also feels guilty because he’s always said that human beings are predictable and not interesting enough and he hasn’t loved or cared for many of them. But his experiences through the novel put him to the test more than once and he discovers that it’s never too late to learn more about yourself. The author, who evidently has first-hand knowledge, depicts well the changes in humour, the confusion, the fear, the loneliness, the disorientation, and also the tenacity and the spirit of the elderly residents, including those moments when their personalities shine through the illness. The character of Melanie, Gabriel’s daughter, and her difficulty coming to terms with the illness of her father (all the harder because of his once brilliant mind), reflects well the difficulties of the families, with their guilty feelings for not visiting more often or for not being able to do more and their difficulty accepting the new circumstances (although not everybody is the same, of course).

The running of the facility, Bright New Day, also rings true. Understaffed, with routines to suit staff rather than residents, and with a mix of staff, some very caring and professional and others not so much. The novel is not an indictment of nursing homes, and other than one of the staff members, everybody works hard and is caring, but it does reflect the difficulties of running such facilities within a limited budget and trying to care for residents as individuals.

The plot is intriguing and the issue of if and how Gabriel might manage to defeat the virus is a page turner, although there are some very quirky aspects of the story that some readers might find challenging (not the scientific part as such. Although I’m a doctor I don’t think readers without medical knowledge will have difficulty with the general concepts behind Gabriel’s discovery. It is a fascinating idea). The story requires some suspension of disbelief although it is also possible to read some of the clues offered through the fragments of Gabriel’s memories as proof that a less fanciful interpretation of events is also possible. That is up to each reader.

I have to confess to feeling very moved by the story and being teary-eyed a couple of times but don’t worry, there are fun moments too and it is not a sad story but a life-affirming one. The ending, whatever interpretation we choose to go with is joyful and positive and might be meaningful to many readers.

This is not an easy novel to categorise in any genre. I think most people who are interested in Alzheimer’s will enjoy it, and people who like books on medical subjects, as long as they have a well-developed imagination. I recommend it also to people interested in memory, identity and in the big questions, and to those looking for a positive and inspiring read.

Thanks to the author for his book, thanks to all of you for reading, and don’t forget to like, share, comment and CLICK! 

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