Book Review : The Unity Game – An inspiring vision – including author Q&A

The Unity Game  by Leonora Meriel

Why I read:   Intriguing sci-fi that sounded different to anything I’d read before.

Book blurb: “WHAT IF THE EARTH YOU KNEW WAS JUST THE BEGINNING?

A New York banker is descending into madness.

A being from an advanced civilization is racing to stay alive.
A dead man must unlock the secrets of an unknown dimension to save his loved ones.

From the visions of Socrates in ancient Athens, to the birth of free will aboard a spaceship headed to Earth, The Unity Game tells a story of hope and redemption in a universe more ingenious and surprising than you ever thought possible.  “

 My review

When I finished the book,  I put it down and thought – what did I just read and how do I begin to review it?  I can’t even explain why its called the Unity Game without giving away the surprise and wonder inside.

The Unity Game is a really thought provoking interstellar mystery.  Its both strange and beautiful. Three main stories, intertwine with each other:  David a New York Banker who is obsessed with making his fortune and thoughtless egoism, Alisdair a Scottish barrister who is exploring the afterlife and Noœ-bouk an energy-channelling alien who is looking down on earth from his alien perspective.  Each one explores the meanings and perception of life  as their story unfolds.  But each story is meaningfully connected to the other.  There are dark, gritty areas in the book but overall its a book of love and mind-bending ideas.

More speculative fiction than sci-fi,  its a unique and complicated book with many themes running through it.  It doesn’t follow a totally sequential plot, more an intertwine of stories that jump space, time, characters and states of conscious.  It contains a wonderful vision of the afterlife and the universe.  I love weird fiction and this book contains a magical obscure beauty. I took my time reading and pondering the ideas which will stay with me.  What if life is just one perception of a moment?  What is love?  What is the meaning of life?  I don’t have any answers but this book gave me new perspectives.

Overall I’d highly recommend reading The Unity Game.  Read and enjoy it with an open mind and be prepared to be surprised and delighted by the ideas that it contains within.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes:  speculative fiction, aliens, meaning of life, sci-fi, original ideas, interstellar mystery

****

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

Kindle Edition, 344 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Granite Cloud

About the Author

 Leonora Meriel kindly gave me permission to share some added details about the book and herself.
 
Q&A from Leonora Meriel which give more insight into the book:

What inspired you to write Unity Game?

“I wanted to write about New York City, where I had lived for several years and where I started my career. However, I needed to find a new perspective on the theme, and it felt right to draw parallels with an advanced planet far from Earth. This is how the novel became Science Fiction, and then I decided to go a step further and add an after-life dimension. The inspiration started with my work on Wall Street when I lived in NYC, and the desire to write about this in an original way.”

Are you an avid reader? What kind of books do you like to read if so?

“Yes – I am an utterly avid reader. While my favourite genre is literary fiction, I try to read as widely as possible. I read across countries and across genres, I read independently published books and traditionally published books, I read fiction and non-fiction. My favourite books to read are those which have pushed some boundary of literature, for example Virginia Woolf, in her use of language; Haruki Murakami, in his expression of the borders of reality; David Mitchell, in his extraordinary word-crafting. Anything that is doing something new inspires and delights me.”

The following Q&A is from her website:

Tell us about your new novel The Unity Game?

“The Unity Game is a literary fiction and science fiction novel, with a few other genre elements mixed in. It is set in three locations: New York City, a distant planet, and an after-life dimension. It follows three story lines which deal with similar themes, and the story connects in the grand unity game, which is revealed towards the end. It is quite experimental, and has a lot of ideas in it. In the end, I hope that it is uplifting and makes my readers think differently about the world, and about their lives.”

The Unity Game has elements of Science Fiction. Do you read much in this genre?

“I certainly do! I really love science fiction writing when it is also literary fiction. My favourite is Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris which is overwhelmingly brilliant. Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness is also timeless. For newer writers, I am a huge fan of Ken Liu, who I think is one of the best authors of this century, for any genre. Through him, I also came to Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem – another great work. Science Fiction is amazing because there are no limits to where you can let your imagination go. And when wild ideas are combined with disciplined, brilliant writing – you get a masterpiece like Solaris or The Paper Menagerie.”

Did your books need a lot of research?

“For The Unity Game, the New York part needed the most research. I had lived in Manhattan for several years, and had written the entire section from memory, but I had to go back there and check all my details. Google Street View is very useful nowadays, of course! One of my characters dies in the first scene and finds himself in an after-life dimension, so I did a lot of reading about after-life experiences and beliefs. That was very fun. And one of my characters is the philosopher Socrates, so I had to read some Plato and some biographies. I didn’t have to do too much research for the Science Fiction part – mainly I had to make sure I wasn’t repeating an idea that had already been written about.”

About the Author

Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.

In 2003 she moved from New York to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA, which included a study trip around China and Taiwan, and climbing to the top of Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest peak and part of the Carpathian Mountains. She also served as President of the International Women’s Club of Kyiv, a major local charity.

During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development.

In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.

Leonora currently lives in Barcelona and London and has two children. She is working on her third novel.

You can read more about Leonora and read an extract from the book: http://leonorameriel.com/the-unity-game/

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Book Review : White Bodies – psychological thriller about twin sisters

White Bodies by Jane Robins

3 star read

Why I read:   Dark, psychological thriller with unreliable  narrator

Book blurb: “Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?”

 

 

My review

A dark, twisted psychological thriller about two twin sisters obsession with each other. When Tilda meets Felix, charming but with controlling tendencies, Callie becomes fearful for her safety.    Callie narrates so we see the story unfold through her eyes and observations,  occasionally delving into the past to shed more light on their entwined lives. I found the relationship between the twins fascinating  and it kept me hooked throughout the book. With its themes of love, manipulation and violence.  Jane Robins writes the sisters characters brilliantly, neither are particularly likeable, they are flawed, weird and interesting to read about.  Tilda’s narcissism and Callie’s compulsion to consume things that belonged to Tilda demonstrate how their mental states distort their reality.  Which creates a dark book full of clues, red herrings, twists and suspense that keep you reading and guessing.

Overall White Bodies is an enjoyably unsettling page turner.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: psychological thrillers, unreliable narration, twisting storylines and sibling relationship drama.

***

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

297 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Touchstone
ISBN  1501165089

 

Book Review : The Amoeba-Ox Continuum

The Amoeba-Ox Continuum  by Trent Portigal

Why I read:  Science fiction and detective novel combined

Book blurb: ” Natalie Chaulieu has a new assignment. A series of deaths in an old workers’ utopia has caught the attention of the central government and she has been chosen as the liaison between the government and the investigation team. On arriving, she is struck by a world more brilliant and poetic than she has ever known, but as the case progresses it becomes clear that the deaths are intimately connected to the utopia, which is itself suffering a slow decline. As the investigation continues Natalie is forced to question whether the brilliance and poetry are worth saving, and, if so, at what cost…

 

 

My review

An intriguing sci-fi  which centres around Natalie Chaulieu as she  investigates a series of deaths in a workers utopia.   The story is told through Natalie’s eyes as she poetically describes and reflects upon what she finds within this strange world and what caused the deaths.     Her reflections and contemplation are often interestingly bizarre, for instance Natalie categorises the people she meets as insipid amoebas with the occasional ox thrown in.   There’s plenty within to apply to current society as well as: Puppeteers who depict mindless violence,  officials who avoid charges through their status, traditions around Death, poverty, workers conditions etc.  and plenty of witty commentary on them.   Although I loved the weirdness of the book I occasionally got a bit lost and had to re-read sections of Natalie’s thoughts on what was happening.   Overall its a strange and unique story with plenty to keep you entertained.

***

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

Paperback, 184 pages
Expected publication: December 1st 2017 by Roundfire Books
ISBN 1785356917

Book Review Killing Is My Business – Robot Crime Noir

Killing Is My Business A Novel by Adam Christopher (Ray Electromatic Mysteries #2)

Why I read: Robots!!!! Crime noir.

Book blurb: “A blend of science fiction and stylish mystery noir featuring a robot detective: the stand alone sequel to Made to Kill

Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape for intrepid PI-turned-hitman–and last robot left in working order– Raymond Electromatic. When his comrade-in-electronic-arms, Ada, assigns a new morning roster of clientele, Ray heads out into the LA sun, only to find that his skills might be a bit rustier than he expected….Killing is My Business is the latest in Christopher’s noir oeuvre, hot on the heels of the acclaimed Made to Kill.

“Robot noir in 60s Los Angeles? You had me at ‘Hello.'” —John Scalzi, New York Times bestselling novelist on Made to Kill”?”

My review

Ray Electromatic, is the last robot. He works as as a Private Investigator but as the pay is better he sidelines as a hitman under the guidance of a supercomputer, Ada.  Every 24 hours his memory tape run out and he has to be reset by Ada with data for his current assignment.   Here the action packed novel begins as we follow Ray as he begins his current task  to infiltrate a gang and kill the boss.

This book is great robotic fun.   A quick and easy read with plenty of laughs. Filled with robots, explosions, car chases, gangsters, murder and a huge dollop of noir.  A  crime mystery with little twists alongside the main plot line that keeps everything entertaining.  There’s even a touch of “what does it mean to be human” philosophy thrown in.  It doesn’t take itself seriously and there is a lot of tongue in cheek humour.  Ray is a brilliantly lovable character, fun, witty and  endearing as he overcomes everything the world throws at him.

I haven’t read the first novel in the series but this did not seem to matter at all I enjoyed it as a standalone book.

I’d recommend it to:  fans of robots, crime noir, and anyone who wants a  fun read to brighten their day.

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

****

Hardcover, 288 pages   (I read ARC on PDF)
Published July 25th 2017 by Tor Books
ISBN  0765379201 (ISBN13: 9780765379207)

 

Book Review: A Man of Shadows – Noir sci-fi mystery

A Man of Shadows – Jeff Noon

Why I read:   I was intrigued by the mix of sci-fi and detective story with a serial killer thrown into the mix.

Book blurb: “”The brilliant, mind-bending return to science fiction by one of its most acclaimed visionaries.

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.”

My review

Five star read:

A wonderful blend of sci-fi and mystery with a noir feel. Jeff Noon is a master of descriptive prose. Intricate writing and vivid depictions bring the complex world to life. Its dark, disturbing with plenty of bizareness thrown into the mix. Amazing world building in a city where time is a commodity and citizens move from one time to another adjusting their wristwatches to match one of the different timelines on offer. The city is split into 3 zones: Dayzone where darkness has been banished by billions of light sources and it is always bright. Nocturna where darkness lives. And the area in between which people refer to as Dusk where it is rumoured ghosts, shadows and dark shapes live within the mist.

Nyquist’s latest job is to track down a runaway girl Eleanor. But the case turns out much more complex as it appears Eleanor may hold the key to the city’s future. Whilst a vicious serial killer known as Quicksilver stalks the streets of Dayzone adding another dimension of horror to the tale. The writing is deeply layered as we follow Nyquist on his quest more and more complexity is revealed. There were plot twists I didn’t see coming which I love in a good mystery. Because it was a complex book this one took me a while to read but I still really enjoyed it.

John Nyquist is an interesting many-layered protagonist, a noir detective, a tough looking man with raw edges and a sharp mind. Eleanor Bale is another complex character an 18 year old girl, combining beauty and fragility with amazing strength. There are a multitude of other interesting and varied characters all well fleshed out.

I loved the book so much its going in my must read again pile. I can’t wait for a sequel. Its certainly changed the way I think of time.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys, sci-fi, urban fantasy, mystery, detective noir, wierd fiction and likes complex and layered stories.

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

*****

Expected publication: August 1st 2017 by Angry Robot

Paperback: 384 pages   (I read an advanced copy on pdf)

ISBN: 9780857666703

Book Review – Wylding Hall – Spooky Acid-Folk Tale

Wylding Hall – by Elizabeth Hand

Why I read:  Book club pick

Select Quote “ But there was a feeling we all had that we were in a magic place, and we wanted to make the most of it. And we were young, so our powers of recovery were remarkable. We could drink all night, smoke till the house was spinning, do the odd bit of windowpane or blotter, busk at the pub if we needed a bit of ready cash for groceries, and still pop up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and hop down to the living room, strap on our mighty axes, and get to work. ”

Book blurb: “When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.

Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake??”

My review

A haunting story about the disappearance of Julian Blake, lead singer of an Acid-folk band.   “When he was young, Julian was almost unearthly; he was so handsome, it was difficult for me at first to keep my eyes from him. Spooky beautiful.”  Jon.  The band are sent by their manager to Wylding Hall, an old gothic house which is remote and in disrepair in order to create their album without distractions but strange events unfold.  Some years later the people involved meet with a film maker to tell what happened at Wylding Hall.

The story has an interesting structure and is set out in the form of interviews with the various people who were present at the time including the musicians, manager a psychic and a photographer.  This tells the tale from many different points of view with each person giving their own thoughts and opinions of what happened in Wylding Hall.  However sometimes you couldn’t distinguish which character you were reading as some were similar.

It beautifully entwines music, spookiness and  subcultures as the main tale is set in the 70s folk scene.  I loved the British feel and references that speckled the book.   There is a sprinkle of folktales that add to the creepiness.  The atmosphere of the book is more of a mild subtle spookiness, than horror. Personally I would have preferred more creepiness and some more explanation and horror at the end as it is quite ambiguous.  Although I found the end a bit disappointing it was still a wonderfully written tale.

I really wanted to listen to this bands music – especially their haunting folk sounds played out in the garden. So I wish there was an audio-file to accompany the book to further set the atmosphere.

Its a nice quick easy read at under 200 pages, giving a  70s twist on the traditional gothic ghost story.

Id recommend to fans of band bibliographies, gothic ghost stories and mystery.

****

 ebook, 176 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Open Road Integrated