Book Review : Broadcast – unsettling sci-fi social-media thriller

Broadcast by Liam Brown

4 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction, dystopia, big brother, blogger.  A book relevant to our future with social media.

Book blurb: “The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me – within a few months you’ll be the most talked about person on the planet.

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity.

Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world.

A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show’s creator has for him.”

My review

A fast paced and thought provoking book, Broadcast explores what would happen if our every thought was transmitted to millions of viewers.   David  Callow is an egotistical vlogger who takes the chance to expand his fame by appearing in a new online show MindCast. We follow as he has a microchip inserted into his brain which transmits his thoughts, feelings and memories online 24/7 to MindCast’s viewers in a big brother style documentary.  As the show goes on David’s wishes to become a major celebrity are fulfilled but he also discovers the dangers and darkside of Mindcast and the shows producers terrifying vision.

Broadcast delves into what it means to be a celebrity. The instant fame of our generation.  It holds a mirror to lives in the public eye through facebook, twitter and online media where what we see is an edited online persona of an ideal life not a true reflection of reality.  It conveys a “Black Mirror” style social satire on the potential for abuse and evil within social medias future.  Freedom of speech, subliminal advertising, online privacy, social responsibility  and other moral dilemmas are thrown into the mix, as the plot speeds along adding interesting narration on today’s society.  At under 300 pages its a relatively short book which delivers a dark, unsettling vision of the future.   Despite having a base in technology there is very little tech talk which adds to the easy read though it might disappoint people who prefer more hard sci-fi.  The ending leaves many loose ends hanging which fit well with the style of the novel, echoing real life. Paranoia seeps out of the pages as you realise how plausible the story is with our increasingly digitalised world.  Although I did not completely agree with all the commentary the author paints a horrifying vision of an online future.

I found the main character David to be an air-headed celebrity obsessed with getting more followers.  It was hard to like him at all with his self-involved and obnoxious character that only seemed to care about fame.  However this didn’t distract from the book.  It was interesting to see how he reacted to each situation he got into and he does get less selfish towards the end.    Even though I did not sympathise with him, the fast pace of the book kept me hooked.  There are many plot twists as the book hurtles along through this near future setting.   I wanted to see what would happen next as the author explored the pros and cons of Mindcast and fame through David’s eyes.

Overall a thrilling, fast paced, sinister sci-fi  which was an quick enjoyable read.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Science fiction, fast paced reads, blogging, big-brother dystopia, near-future society.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 15th 2017 by Legends Press
ISBN 1787199932 (ISBN13: 9781787199934)
Edition Language English
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Book Review : The Unremembered Girl – Prime October Pick

The Unremembered Girl by Eliza Maxwell

Why I read:  Thriller.  Amazon Prime pick for October

Book blurb: “In the deep woods of East Texas, Henry supports his family by selling bootleg liquor. It’s all he can do to keep his compassionate but ailing mother and his stepfather—a fanatical grassroots minister with a bruising rhetoric—from ruin. But they have no idea they’ve become the obsession of the girl in the woods.

Abandoned and nearly feral, Eve has been watching them, seduced by the notion of family—something she’s known only in the most brutal sense. Soon she can’t resist the temptation to get close. Where Henry’s mother sees a poor girl in need, his father sees only wickedness. When Henry forges an unexpected bond with Eve, he believes he might be able to save her. He doesn’t know how wrong he is.

Eve is about to take charge of her own destiny—and that of Henry’s family. As both their worlds spin violently out of control, Henry must make an impossible choice: protect the broken young woman who’s claimed a piece of his soul, or put everyone he loves at risk in order to do the right thing.”

 

“The stray thought occurred to him that if it weren’t for women, in all their cloaks of unfathomed mysteries, men would lead very boring lives.” ― Eliza MaxwellThe Unremembered Girl

My review

A fast paced thriller  The Unremembered Girl  is a tale about a dysfunctional family living in the backwaters of Texas and what happens to them when they encounter a feral girl Eve.  The story mostly focuses on Henry, his views and the decisions he makes and his relationship with Eve.   We are fed bits and pieces of information as the family discover more about  Eve.  There were many twists and turns and just as you think things can’t get any worse something else is thrown into the mix.

There’s a lot of dark and unsettling themes running throughout the book including human trafficking, child abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism and murder.  Most are just there as an under layer never fully explored.  The book is filled with sadness and tragedy with a few hopefully moments thrown in. The plot jumped around a bit but  the language and writing style was easy to understand and skim through so it was a quick read.   The setting for the book was really well written and you got a real feel for small town politics and values and got drawn into the swampy Texas scenery.  I’m normally a fan of doom and gloom but the book lacked the full emotional dimensions to pull me totally  in.

Eve was extremely damaged, and I felt the family did not do much to understand her.  It seemed more they wanted to shelter and protect her. Eve does not say much and throughout seems to just be a pretty one dimensional “damaged girl”.    Henry was a much better written character and you see many layers to his thoughts as he battles with decisions of what is best for himself, his family and for Eve.  Henry’s mother Caroline was a likeable character, a women holding a family together.

There was some unrealistic romance  which to me seemed more of Henry having an obsession with Eve.  With a seemingly instantaneous “love connection” sprouting from out of no-where. The author seems to be trying to tell this as a love story, but it just  felt like Eve was a prop for Henry to try and save.

Overall I found the book a fast read but the sheer amount of tragedy just made me feel sad.   Its not a book for the faint-hearted  but there are few dull moments as the plot keeps hurtling along.  I  settled between 2 and 3 star rating.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: fast paced reads, dark tragedy themes.

**1/2

 

Kindle Edition, 334 pages

Expected publication: November 1st 2017 by Lake Union Publishing

WWW Wednesday! 18 October 2017

I’m participating today in WWW Wednesday! 

“This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived at Taking on a World of Words.”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

Currently reading:

Cthulhu and other Monsters by Sam Stone

I adore Cthulhu  and monster stories so its a perfect pick for me.  I plan to try and read one story every night in bed.  But I’ll probably get so engrossed that I binge read them all.

“Sixteen tales of terror from the blood-soaked pen of Sam Stone. Enter if you dare and discover nine stories inspired by the nightmare visions of H P Lovecraft: Elder Gods returning to the Earth to wreak havoc, tales of death and destruction and betrayal and the last flickering embers of humanity … 

Alongside these are seven further stories featuring the monstrous creations of Stone’s own imagination: a hungry and jealous sea; wolf-creatures prowling the fashion industry; a terrifying creature held captive in a cellar … 

Open the cover and let Sam Stone’s nightmares guide your way into horror.” 

Recently Finished: The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield

“A Hu-Li is beautiful, slender and curiously foxlike. She lives in Moscow and works as a classy prostitute in the city’s premier hotels. But when a client goes inexplicably and fatally berserk at the sight of her in his luxury suite, A Hu-Li has to leave in a hurry. She decides to explore new avenues and place an ad on the internet – and that’s when the trouble really starts.”

This is a weird book:  Set in a gritty Russia where everyone seems out to make money. A fox prostitute  uses her tail to induce sexual visions in her clients.  Whilst also searching out a meaning for her existence.  This was recommended to me by a friend. I’m enjoy reading although its a little different to my usual taste for books it certainly is weird enough to keep me entertained.

 

My full review is here:  Sacred Book of the Werewolf

 

The Unremembered Girl by Eliza Maxwell

 

This is my kindle first book pick for October.   It was a fast read. with lots of twists and turns.  Full Review I hope to write shortly….

Reading Next:

White is for Whitching by Helen Oyeyemi

I’ve still not started this one !  I will be reading this one as part of The Galactic Girlfiends Book Club.  Its the October pick for us all to read.  It looks suitably spooky and supernatural for Halloween month.

 

 

Book Review : The Sacred Book of the Werewolf – supernatural weirdness

The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor PelevinAndrew Bromfield (Translator)

4 star read

Why I read:  Recommended to me by a friend as something weird I might enjoy.

Book blurb: “Paranormal meets transcendental in this provocative and hilarious novel.

Victor Pelevin has established a reputation as one of the most brilliant writers at work today; his comic inventiveness has won him comparisons to Kafka, Calvino, and Gogol, and Time has described him as a “psychedelic Nabokov for the cyberage.” Pelevin’s new novel, his first in six years, is both a supernatural love story and a satirical portrait of modern Russia. It concerns the adventures of a hardworking fifteen-year-old Moscow prostitute named A. Huli, who in reality is a two thousand-year-old were-fox who seduces men in order to absorb their life force; she does this by means of her tail, a hypnotic organ that puts men into a trance in which they dream they are having sex with her. A. Huli eventually comes to the attention of and falls in love with a high-ranking Russian intelligence officer named Alexander, who is also a werewolf (unbeknownst to our heroine). And that is only the beginning of the fun. A huge success in Russia, this is a stunning and ingenious work of the imagination, arguably Pelevin’s sharpest and most engrossing novel to date.”

 My review

Set in a gritty Russia where everyone seems out to make money. A fox prostitute,  A Hu-Li, uses her tail to induce illusion.  Sexual visions in her clients allow her to assimilate human sexual energy released during the act of love.  Maintaining her enchantment and youthful appearance of a tall, slender young woman.  A Hu-Li meets a were-wolf and falls in love.  Whilst also searching out a meaning for her existence.

The book is told from A Hu-Li’s perspective.  Her pursuit of the mysteries of life were entertaining and sometimes inspiring as she dabbles with Buddhist theories towards the end of the novel.  Throughout she comments on the state of Russia and the world offering her insights.    Conveniently werefoxes mostly forget what they know so her comments were not clouded with a millennia of knowledge.   Hu-Li also seemed to me to be a mans idea of what a woman is and thinks… again this is kind of explained by the fact that werefoxes are really gender neutral but just look like sexy young girls.

This is a weird book that was recommended to me by a friend. It certainly was strange enough to keep me entertained.  There’s a real mix of blatantly stupid and  intelligent thoughts throughout the book.  Sometimes it makes you laugh, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes enlightened but always I wanted to know what would happen next.  Though I had to put the book down a few times and return to it later when my brain felt it had had enough.   Its has elements of dark fairy-tales and a kind of magical mysticism but set in a realistically abrasive reality.  There are many wordplays and puns which appear to have translated well from the original Russian.   Original and complex ideas are littered through the pages but the novel just felt a bit pretentious and tedious.   Overall it didn’t quite gel for me.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: weird tales, foxes, werewolves, magical animals, dark gritty commentary and religious undertones.

***

 Paperback, 333 pages

Published June 1st 2008 by Faber & Faber (first published 2004)

Original Title Священная книга оборотня
ISBN 0571227988

Edition Language: English

Book Review : Doorways in the Sand – weird, fun sci-fi

Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny

Why I read:  humorous sci-fi.  Looks fun!

Book blurb: “Humanity is not alone in the cosmos. The aliens have given a precious relic to the people of Earth: star-stone. The harmony of the galaxy is at stake when they discover the disappearance of their star-stone.


Likeable Fred Cassidy is an eternal undergraduate. All he thinks he knows about the star-stone is that it came to Earth in an interplanetary trade for the Mona Lisa and the British Crown jewels.


Then Fred is accused of stealing the cosmic artifact, and he is pursued from Australia to Greenwich Village and beyond, by telepathic psychologists, extraterrestrial hoodlums and galactic police in disguise; as he enters multiple realities, flipping in and out of alien perspectives, through doorways in the sand.

 

“Time means a lot to me, paperwork wastes it, and I have always been a firm believer in my right to do anything I cannot be stopped from doing. Which sometimes entails not getting caught at it. This is not quite so bad as it sounds, as I am a decent, civilized, likable guy. So, shading my eyes against the blue and fiery afternoon, I began searching for ways to convince the authorities of this. Lying, I decided, was probably best.” ― Roger ZelaznyDoorways in the Sand

My review

A wacky, playful,  sci-fi book that doesn’t take itself too seriously.   Fred has been a perpetual student supported by funds from his cryogenic-frozen uncle.    An alien artefact “the starstone gem” goes missing and everyone thinks Fred has it, including the aliens.  What ensues is an adventure through multiple realities as we follow Fred’s quest to find the starstone and stay alive.

The main character Fred is amusingly eccentric and we are treated to the zany banter that goes on through his head.  But even he seems normal when you are introduced to aliens undercover on earth as a wombat and a kangaroo, a telepathic donkey and overgrown houseplant. There are a whole host of entertaining characters thrown into the mix but it stood out that there was a real lack of female characters in the book.

A good mix of sci-fi, sillyness and detective  novel.  Its a nicely quick and entertaining read with plenty of action and packed full of weird ideas and references.   There’s a lot of references to Lewis Carole’s works including Alice in Wonderland which made me smile: “Curiouser and curiouser.”  Zalazny has an entertainingly intelligent and  bizarre writing style that keeps you engaged throughout.  Each chapter starts at the end and then you jump back and forth before resolving the previous chapter and getting a new cliff-hanger.   It can get confusing but its all great fun.       I really enjoyed the book but found it  delightfully silly rather than funny.    Its a book to sit down with when you just want an up-beat sci-fi adventure  that’s truly weird and wonderful.

I’d recommend to fans of: sci-fi, wacky humour, aliens, weird stories.

****

I received a free copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.  

EDITION
ISBN
PRICE
 (first published March 1976)

Book Review : Monsters Exist – horror shorts

Monsters Exist – Edited by Jesse Deadman & Theresa Braun

Why I read:  Monsters, urban tales, spooky shorts.

Book blurb: “From the time we are young, we fear the monster under the bed or in the closet, making it impossible to sleep without a nightlight. Then, we hear stories of Bigfoot, and maybe even the Mothman around campfires. When we are adults, we wonder if there might actually be supernatural creatures lurking in the shadows. Are these tall tales and urban legends only metaphors for what horrific things humanity is capable of—or do monsters exist?

Go to some terrifying places with this cast of authors. You will be dragged into mystifying realities where demonic fairies hide, where devil monkeys lure carnival-goers to their demise, where Goatmen seek to destroy their prey, and where the goddess of death puts out a hit on victims of her choice. These shocking tales will have you biting your nails and locating that childhood nightlight. Because, in the end, we all know monsters do exist.”

My review

A creepy mixture of 14 short horror stories featuring monsters.  Packed into these short tales are twists and mutations of the typical creature stories.  Really quick reads, loaded with monsters to haunt your nightmares. Mythological and cryptozoological critters.  Stories that bring urban legends to life. That play on your fears.  These are the monsters that lurk within your imagination, and the ones that live next door, or down the well in the woods.  There’s demonic sacrificing fairies, The Goatman, devil monkeys, dog sized rats, seductive mer-woman, predatory spiders, blood-thirsty Chupacabras and The Mothman  to name a few.

It was hard to pick a favourite from the mix but The Voice from the Bottom of the Well by Philip W. Kleaver just clipped it with this memorable and well written tale.  A 10 year old girl Johanna discovers a thing at the bottom of the well that is especially hungry. Johanna must feed it and yeah she did.  Awesome.

There’s something here for every horror fan with a diverse range of writing styles and tones.  There’s creepy, atmospheric  and gore filled tales.   The monster theme pulls it all together as one anthology which makes all the stories gel as they explore this from different angles.  I loved that after each short story you got a bio of the author and other work they had published.  I’ve found a few that I will check out.   Its a great way to sample an authors writing style before going on to read a longer story. Its a mixed bag and I enjoyed some stories more than others.   This made it hard to rate but I settled on a 4 for overall enjoyment.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: horror, urban legends, monsters, quick spooky reads, short stories.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Published July 1st 2017 by Deadman’s Tome
ISBN 9781521468

Book Review : I Am Behind You : Surreal atmospheric horror

I Am Behind You – by John Ajvide Lindqvist

5 star read

Why I read:   New horror by the author of Let the Right One In – how could I resist.

Book blurb: “A new heart-breaking and terrifying novel from John Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of international bestseller Let the Right One In

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear. And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in. ”

 My review

What did I just read?  It’s surreal, confusing, horrific, disturbing, filled with unpleasant people, with horrific things happening to everyone.  Its a totally original horror story.  One that will stay with me.  Hauntingly grotesque.  I want to make everyone read it.  Then tell me their interpretation of what the hell just happened.

The true beauty of the book is how well written all the characters are.  The dark side of people’s nature is thoroughly explored.  All the characters were fleshed out humans, people who made mistakes, had dark thoughts and deeds.  They were flawed and Lindqvist takes you right to their darkest secrets and their shame.  Most were unpleasant people but a child Emil and dog and cat were quite innocent.  Within there is also the warmth of friendship, parenthood, kindness and consideration for others.   I did find I was still able to emphasise with most of the characters because of the solid backstories Lindqvist paints for them all, you saw how they were driven to dark deeds and got a deep insight into their heads.  You might not like the characters but you can get them and this makes the horrors that happen all the more terrifying and fascinating.   Its a book about people, about society, supernatural and darkness.

The first half of the book is mainly spent exploring the characters.  However I don’t want to speak too much of the second half of the book for fear of spoiling it for anyone.  There are many unpleasant incidents, acid rain, tortured beings, fears brought to life.  You never find out why or what is really happening.  Why are they even there and how did they get there?  I loved the mystery of this but if you like horror neatly tied up with explanations then this is not the book for you.   It’s all very surreal and the 2nd half of the book especially is darkly unsettling and scary.  I’d really love to see this book turned into a horror film.  A seriously creepy horror film that gets under your skin and stays there.

I gave it a solid 5 stars because I enjoyed it so much.  I read it slowly as I wanted to enjoy the descriptive writing and fully experience the surreal atmospheric horror.  Its a book to put away and read again in the future.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: horror, surreal atmosphere, weird happenings, exploring the dark-side of people’s nature.

*****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Pub Date 07 Sep 2017  by riverrun (first published August 1st 2014)

ISBN 9781786480392

Original Title: Himmelstrand