E by Kate Wrath

7 05 2015

E-cover

Yet another version of the dystopia that seems to be how we the masses envisage the brave new world that lies ahead. (Coming utopias do not make for gripping fiction, though, do they?) Still, no zombies in this one. Nothing supernatural at all. The setting, Outpost 3, is a walled town – not as in an ancient walled city, but a shanty town with a makeshift wall around it – where life consists of struggling to survive from day to day in a dog-eats-dog environment. That was metaphorical: there are, of course, no dogs left. It is a human-eats-rat environment.

What ‘law and order’ there is consists of immensely strong and fast robots known as ‘sentries’, left-overs, clearly, from a previous technocratic dictatorship, which respond to stimuli such as the smell of spilt blood. Nobody there understands them, they are just a fact of nature, but everyone fears them, including Matthew, the local gang-leader and most powerful man in the enclave.

As the story opens, the protagonist wakes up knowing only that she has been erased. No name, no memories. It seems that she has been dropped there by some outside organisation, because erasing is not something that happens – that could happen – in Outpost 3. She hears men coming, hides among the rubbish, and listens. She learns that the two goons were expecting her and that she was intended for slavery.

The rest of the book is the tale of her survival in what can only be described as a man-made hell. In the face of the unfaceable, she remains brave and kind, and there are lines – thoughts of hers – I shall always remember. For instance this:

There are things that set us apart. Things that are human. Decent. And humor, alone, is not a qualifying factor. (Reminds me of Shakespeare’s “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”)

and :

Ironically, coming to terms with my impending doom offers me a sweet taste of freedom. I’m going to die makes I might die far less potent.

I enjoyed every word of it and shall certainly be reading the sequels, Evolution, and the forthcoming Eden.





SHAMAN FRIEND ENEMY by M. Terry Green

14 04 2015

Shaman Friend EnemyThe second in the series and not as good as the first, Shaman, Healer, Heretic, but that was brilliant (my review HERE); this is very good in parts and good in others. I enjoyed it though and I’m fascinated by shamanism so I shall definitely be reading the third one.





IRRADIATED by S Elliot Brandis

29 03 2015

Irradiated coverNot much time for reviews at the moment. I just want to give a brief mention to this book, Irradiated, and to Jenny Schwartz’s The Icarus Plot (coming up next).

Irradiated was a Kindle Free and, as we all know they, like all self-published books, range from the highly professional and as good as anything brought out by the big publishing houses to utter rubbish. Irradiated, fortunately, is one of the former, and far better than many of the mediocre paperbacks gathering dust on the shelves of Smith’s and Waterstones.

It is set in a dystopian post-nuclear-catastrophe future of mutants desperately trying to eke out an existence in the ruins of our “civilisation”. (I put civilisation in quotes, sarcastically, but in fact when you compare it with the world they are living in, or with much of the all-too-real past, you have to admit that the world we live in is very civilised indeed.)

It is extremely well written in every respect, and highly recommended. My only gripe with it is [SPOILER COMING UP] that the heroine, Jade, a character I identified with totally from the word Go, dies at the end of the book. Yes, dies. Just like that. I’d been all ready to leap straight into the sequel , but a sequel without her? Perhaps she only seemed to die? I rushed to the blurb and reviews of the sequel (Degenerated). No, she had died.

So had my interest in the series.

You can’t introduce a James Bond in the first book then kill him off and expect the series to go on quite happily without him.

 





SHAMAN, HEALER, HERETIC by M. Terry Green

2 03 2015

Shaman etcI am always more than happy to download a free book from Kindle when an offer catches my eye, but I often read only a few chapters then delete the book if it fails to live up to its cover and blurb – or only a few paragraphs if it is full of grammar and spelling mistakes or has not been properly formatted for Kindle.

The Amazon Free Book system really works, though, when the book on offer is a good one and is the first of a series several of which have already been published. You immediately order – and pay for! – the sequel

And that is what happened here. I got it in December, it sat in my Kindle, ignored, for three months, then I opened it in an idle moment and was hooked. It is, quite simply, brilliant. It is original – I have never read anything like it – it is gripping, and the heroine, Livvy, is perfect.

Livvy is a shaman in present-day Los Angeles. Well, perhaps it is a slightly alternative Los Angeles, I don’t know how popular and trendy shamanism is there in reality, but in this story it is the alternative therapy and shamans are everywhere. But most of them are “techno-shamans” who make use of special goggles to enter other planes of existence, rather than drugs (traditional ones like peyote or mescaline, or more modern ones like LSD or ecstasy) or mind-altering activities such as fasting or dancing. We follow Livvy as she enters the Middleworld, then the Underworld, in search of someone’s lost soul – all absolutely fascinating – and we are there when she realises that all is not right. It is too quiet. Deserted, in fact. What is happening?

And during the night she wakes in a panic. There is someone in her room. Only it is not a someone, it is a kachina, a Hopi god. Which of course is impossible, she tells herself. Her “manager”, SK, a dwarf, later tells her the same. Only it was there. It touched her, tried to communicate with her. Why? Read the book and find out.

As I say, I loved it, and have already downloaded the sequel!





AFTER THE END by Bonnie Dee

18 12 2014

After the End coverI have read several books (and seen several films) which really were set in the post-apocalyptic world evoked by this title, After the EndAfter the End itself, however, is set at the end rather than after it, yet is none the worse for that. On the contrary, although there is nothing very original about the epidemic, the revenants (those who died of the A7 virus and rose again as zombies), and the zombies created when the revenants attacked and bit people, this is not a story of zombies. It is a novel about people, people suddenly thrust into a horrifying situation, and as such is almost entirely character-driven.

After a perhaps unnecessary Prologue consisting of a gruesome scene extracted from somewhere in the middle of the story, we go back ten days and in Chapter One meet the people we shall follow and come to know intimately as they face catastrophe together. A random group who just happen to be in the same compartment on the subway at that moment on that day, and who would under normal circumstances have hardly noticed each other, but in these circumstances become so close that they are ‘family’ by the end of the book.

Lila, the student trying to read a textbook on World Religions as the train hurtles through the tunnel, I identfied with at once. She keeps glancing, surreptitiously, at the young soldier sitting opposite her, wondering why he is wearing uniform, and thinking, sneeringly, that he must be proud of the “fascist military look”. But when, minutes later, the group start looking to him as the natural leader, she is honest enough to tell herself ironically that “When it came down to it, survivalist nature beat out pacifist ideals.”

Great characters, some of whom we come to love and will always remember, and as gripping a story of a disparate group of people living out a nightmare together as I have ever read.





SUNFALL by James Austin McCormick

1 12 2014

Sunfall coverThe Prologue sets the scene for this SF novella (100 pages)

Fire raged across the molten surface of the increasingly volatile star. Flames rose incredible distances, breaking free as solar winds before light speeding their way through space.

For the small, airless ball of rock that was Mercury and the cloud covered furnace that was Venus it was little cause for concern. Even the inhabitants of Earth, with their twin shields of ozone and magnetism, had little reason to fear the storm.

Yet for Mars, the fourth planet in the system, and its last surviving colonists, it was a grave matter indeed

A means of saving the planet’s colonists has been invented but the directors of the DAX corp, who own the mines, prefer to seize the opportunity to rid themselves of the rebellious colonists. After a series of murders on Earth, only Sana, the teenage daughter of the inventor of the device which could save the colonists, and Zac, a boy on his own with his dead father’s battered old spaceship, can get the device to Mars in time. But Tanaka, the CEO of DAX sends a raijin, an indestructible cyborg, to kill them and prevent the device from ever getting to Mars.

It needs a bit of editing and there are probably too many switches of PoV for such short read, but the story gets told and the excitement builds up. And I liked the two main characters –would like to see more of them, in a full length novel.





DEJA VU by Ian Hocking

27 10 2014

Deja Vu cover

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley
in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

The story opens with Saskia Brandt arriving at the EU Federal Office of Investigation building close by the Brandenberg Gate in Berlin in September 2023 after returning by Eurostar from a trip to London where she broke up with her English boyfriend Simon.

(There is no guarantee that Eurostar will still be running – the tunnel seems to me an easy target for terrorists – or that the Brandenberg Gate – or even Berlin – will still be there in 2023, but they probably will, for 2023 is not far away. Which leads me to wonder about the wisdom of setting a futuristic piece in so near a future. I hope I shall still be writing this blog in and after September 2023, and I can imagine avid readers coming upon this post in, say, September 2024 and failing to realise that this story was set in the future. Think “1984” etc. So let me just point out that I am writing this review in October 2014.)

But back to the – (I almost wrote “the Future” there instead of “the grindstone”. It may have been a dream I had last night. I never remember my dreams but know I have been dreaming and often suspect that the contents or setting of a dream are lingering in my subconscious. Who knows what dreams may return to haunt our troubled musings?)

But now, seriously, back to the review.

So, Saskia returns from England to find her secretary dead and stuffed into the refrigerator.

(Do you think there is any connection, causal or otherwise, between my reading about scenes like this in books like this – which I do all the time – and the dreams I imagine I have?)

She also very quickly finds that she herself is being framed for the murder.

But this is not your average straightforward murder story. It transpires that she never went to London at all, never had an English boyfriend called Simon, that all this was a “memory” planted in her mind by means of a microchip, and that she is not being framed at all. She was there. She committed the murder.

Beckmann, her immediate superior, says: “Oh, Frau Kommissarin. You are so worried about being caught for your secretary’s murder. You think they’ll wipe your brain. It’s too late. They already did.”

Then they convince her that she is – was – a convicted murderer whose brain was wiped and the persona of Saskia Brandt implanted to replace the original. The mind and memories of Saskia Brandt inhabit and control the body of the condemned woman.

She is now Saskia Brandt, and because of this staged murder, and because of the microchip in her head – which Beckmann has a remote control for and can operate, operating her – she has no choice but to obey.

Then she is sent on the mission to which all this has been a prelude. And that is fine, a great introduction to the story.

Problems arise, though, when we are presented with too many other relatively major characters, each with their own point of view, and what is in effect their own story, at least during the first half of the book until the various stories start coming together. And this is not helped by the fact that some of these stories are set in the past when Professor David Procter of Oxford University committed  a murder at a research facility in Scotland some twenty years earlier. Or is he, too, being framed for committing a murder he did in fact commit?

Or, in some cases, the stories are set in a present that was prearranged by people in the past, twenty years ago. Anything that happens may be happening because someone travelled forward through time twenty years ago and arranged for it to happen … Nothing in this book is what it seems.

But I am giving away too much.

Though difficult to follow at first due to the abrupt changes of setting and point of view, the story is well plotted, while the characters, if somewhat stereotyped, are rounded and convincing, especially in the case of Saskia, whom I identified with from the very first page. The body in the fridge shocked me almost as much as it did her!








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