Categories
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. ♥

Categories
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. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE SHIVERING GROUND AND OTHER STORIES by Sara Barkat For those who dare get lost in the beauty of the writing and the magic of other worlds #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you something that defies easy definitions. Ah, a word of warning. The book will be published (if there are no delays) on the 1st of December, so it might not be available for immediate download if you read this post on the day of its publication, but you could reserve it and won’t have to wait too long for it.

The Shivering Ground and Other Stories by Sara Barkat

The Shivering Ground and Other Stories by Sara Barkat

The Shivering Ground blends future and past, earth and otherworldliness, in a magnetic collection that shimmers with art, philosophy, dance, film, and music at its heart. 

A haunting medieval song in the mouth of a guard, an 1800s greatcoat on the shoulders of a playwright experiencing a quantum love affair, alien worlds both elsewhere and in the ruined water at our feet: these stories startle us with the richness and emptiness of what we absolutely know and simultaneously cannot pin into place.

 In the tender emotions, hidden ecological or relational choices, and the sheer weight of a compelling voice, readers “hear” each story, endlessly together and apart.

~

“The word ‘original,’ as a compliment, is both overused and quite often misused. But sometimes it’s the only word that will do. Sara Barkat is an original. Her imagination is imperious; she wields words as she pleases, in ways that delight and unsettle. In this, she reminds me of Emily Dickinson. Reading her, I expect you will agree. Don’t miss the opportunity.”

—John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture (1995-2016)

Author Sara Barkat

About the author:

Sara Barkat is an intaglio artist and writer with an educational background in philosophy and psychology, whose work has appeared in Every Day Poems, Tweetspeak Poetry, and Poetic Earth Month—as well as in the book How to Write a Poem: Based on the Billy Collins Poem “Introduction to Poetry.” Sara has served as an editor on a number of titles including the popular The Teacher Diaries: Romeo & Juliet, and is the illustrator of The Yellow Wall-Paper Graphic Novel, an adaptation of the classic story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

https://sarabarkat.com/bio

My review:

I write this 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 to read and review an early ARC copy of this special collection…

I enjoy short stories, but I rarely read anthologies or collections of them, other than those of authors I already know and whose writing I love. However, although I had never read this author’s work before, there was something compelling and utterly different about this book, and the cover and the title added to the appeal.

Although I’m not sure what I was expecting to read, the stories were surprising and extremely varied. Some seemed to be set in the present (or an alternative version of the present), some in the past (or a possible past), some in a dystopian future, some in parallel universes, and the characters varied from very young children to adults, and from human beings to a variety of “Others”. Some of the stories are very brief, some are long enough to be novellas (or almost), and they are written from all possible points of view: first person, third person (in some cases identified as “they”), and even second person. I usually would try to give an overview of themes and subjects making an appearance in the stories, but that is notably difficult here. The description accompanying the book gives a good indication of what to expect, and if I had to highlight some commonalities between the stories, I would mention, perhaps, the desire and need to connect and communicate with others, in whatever form possible, and to create and express one’s feelings and thoughts, through any medium (music, painting, writing, sewing…),

These short stories are not what many readers have come to expect from the form: a fully developed narrative, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, although usually providing fewer details and not so much character development as we would find in a novel, and often with a surprising twist at the end that can make us reconsider all we have read up to that point. Barkat’s stories are not like that. They rarely have a conventional ending (even when they do, it is open to readers’ interpretations), sometimes there are descriptive passages that we aren’t used to seeing in short narratives, and the plot isn’t always the most important part of the story (if at all). The way the story is told, the style and beauty of the writing, and the impressions and feelings they cause on the reader make them akin to artworks. If reading is always a subjective and personal experience, this is, even more, the case here, and no description can do full justice to this creation.

Despite that, I decided to try to share a few thoughts on each one of the stories, in case it might encourage or help other readers make their own minds up. I’d usually add here that I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, but these are not that kind of stories either.

1. The Door at the End of the Path. A wonderful story full of vivid descriptions of a young girl’s imagination, her internal life, and a reflection of the heavy toll the difficult relationship of the parents can have on their children.

2. Conditions. A glimpse into the relationship between a brother and a sister, where the best intentions can have the worst results, set in a world that is half-dystopia, half an alternative present, with more than a slight touch of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

3. The Eternal In-Between. A dystopia set during a pandemic, with plenty of steampunk-like fancies, and an ode to the power of imagination.

4. The Mannequin. A dystopian world epitomized by the willingness of its subjects to undergo quite an extreme and symbolic procedure to keep the status quo in place.

5. Brianna. A very special retelling of a fairy-tale story that digs dip into the psychological aspects and the effects such events would have over real people, especially if it was a fate repeated generation after generation. One of my favourites.

6. Noticing. A story with a strong ecological theme, a generous dose of fantasy, some beautiful illustrations and eerie pictures, an endorsement of the power of stories, and a strong warning we should heed. Both terrifying and breathtakingly beautiful. Another favourite.

7. Entanglement. A short but compelling story/metaphor of a love affair, and/or the possibility of one.

8. The Day Before Tomorrow. Although set in a very strange and dystopic society, it is a Young Adult story of sorts, and the relationship between the two main characters feels totally natural and everyday, despite the extremely unusual surroundings. Perhaps our stories never change, no matter what might be happening around us. A hopeful story I really enjoyed.

9. It’s Already Too Late. Very brief, very compelling vignette with a very strong ecological message. A call to forget about our excuses and the reasons to carry on doing nothing.

10. The Shivering Ground. A sci-fiction/fantasy/dystopian story that might seem utterly sad and pessimistic, but it is also moving and (I think) hopeful.

11. A Universe Akilter. A wonderful story that kept wrong-footing me, as if the ground the story was set on kept shifting. A Universe Akilter indeed! It starts as the story of the breakup of a romance, seemingly because the man has been caught up cheating, set some time in the past (many of the details and the way the characters behave sound Victorian, but there are small incongruous details that pop up every so often and others that seem to shift), but as the story progresses, it becomes the story of a (possible?) love affair in parallel universes (the universe of our dreams, perhaps), that influences and changes the life of the protagonist, making him discover things about himself and his creativity he would never have considered otherwise. This is the longest story in the book and one that might especially appeal to readers of dual-time or time-travel stories (although it is not that at all).

 

As usual, I recommend those thinking about reading this collection check a sample of it. The stories are quite different from each other, but it should suffice to provide future readers with a good feel for the writing style.

I could not help but share a few paragraphs from the book, although as I have read an ARC copy, there might be some small changes to the final version.

 

All the wreckage, all the ruin, and the ground was brilliant red. Every morning, he would wake to more of the world ending, and the earth laid out a scarlet cloak as though waiting for an emperor to arrive.

 

He wishes, desperately, that he could remember the sound of her voice hen she still knew innocence; that he had thought to fold it in his pocket with the mementos of another life.

 

Perhaps being a mis-turned wheel in a spinning globe is only as it should be after all, when in the spring, the scent of mint and apple blossoms fills the acres behind you.

 

But, surely, I wondered, interpretability only goes so far. To go further would be to strike out onto one’s own adventure, breaking the mass of the art’s finished illusion.

 

I wouldn’t say I “understood” all the stories, or I got the meaning the author intended (if she had a specific design for each one of her stories), but I don’t think that is what this collection is about. Like in an exhibition of artworks, the important thing is what each one of them makes us feel, what thoughts and reflections they set in motion, and how much of an impression they leave on us.

I don’t recommend this book to readers looking for traditionally told short stories, with a clear beginning and end, and a satisfying conclusion. On the other hand, readers seeking something outside the norm and happy to: explore new worlds, try new experiences, ponder about meanings and possibilities, and get lost in the beauty of the writing and the magic of the words, should read this collection. It’s too beautiful to miss.

 Thanks to Rosie and the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember, if you’ve enjoyed it, to like, share, click and comment. Stay safe, keep smiling, and dare to explore all the wonderful worlds books can take us to. 

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security