Rendezvous with Literature

Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

Recently, a memory was sparked off in my head of a vast abyss, and floating in the pitchest black possible, alone,  with who knows what waiting to be discovered in its dark depths.

Thankfully – or sadly – all this was experienced between the covers of a book, the one I’m referring to is the slim volume with plenty of imagination, Arthur C. Clarke’s, wonderfully realised Rendezvous with Rama.

Rereading that particular chapter in the cold light of day didn’t have anywhere near the same impact as being cuddled up in bed, touch lamp on low, with the details of my peripheral vision suitably obscured, and reading to the soundtrack of a near all consuming silence. Continue reading “Rendezvous with Literature”

New Title Incoming – Bastion Academy: Malware

For those of you looking for something a bit different to add to your reading pile, this could be your bag, a steampunk sci-fi, cultivation novel.

Cultivation was a new term to me but it basically means levelling up magic, or progressing a character in some other form, and it has its roots in Taoism .

I myself will be picking up book one of the Bastion Academy series when I can, and it would be good to have your company on the journey.  In the meantime check out J. D. Astra’s shiny new WordPress blog here.

Love Machine – Neveah Hor

In the year, 2050, among the humans on the streets, there were these very few others. Others who were made in the biggest technology company, AITA (artificial intelligence and technological advancements), what humans call, the guardians. They were crossbreeds of humans and animals which had the highest Intelligent Quotient (IQ). They were created to protect all citizens with their special abilities. However, they had one enemy. The citizens called them the poachers. They are from another company, The Royal AI. This company was the second most advanced company and they wanted all the glory of AITA. To win them over, The Royal AI had to prove themselves worthy and they resolved to hunt down the guardians to kill them all off by creating their own crossbreeds. Life for the guardians was not that easy. Humans just did not understand one thing. These guardians they so often talk about did not want fame. They wanted something else…

When ambitious thirteen-year-old Neveah Hor emailed to ask if I would review her debut novel, I did take time to debate whether it would be a good idea.  In the end after Crissy encouraged it, reasoning that it was something different to read and an interesting exercise for me, I caved in and decided to give it a go.  And as the saying goes, an honest review in exchange a free book.

The story is one centred around love, heavy on the relationships from the off, it’s very much a coming of age story, with life lessons about friendship and loyalty.  There is lots of action and romance, but Love Machine didn’t grab me, which may perhaps not be surprising to anyone who has read this blog. Continue reading “Love Machine – Neveah Hor”

Interrogation of Author Nicholas Conley (Part One)

Nothing beats the feel of a solid, weighty book in one’s hands, and recently reviewed Knight in Paper Armor is just such a book, both hefty in your desired unit of measurement, and also in message.

Getting a much needed , and rare, bit of Vitamin D, whilst rereading selected passages of the book.

Having enjoyed the book immensely, I was interested to dig deeper into the book and the mind of author, Nick, himself, who kindly agreed to answer some questions, a taster of two are below, and the the others will follow in an upcoming post:

Knight in Paper Armor has been with you for a long time, how long has this story been formulating in your writerly mind and what were the specific inspirations?

The first inklings of the concept – and the title – came to me all the way back in 2010, actually, before my first book even saw print. It took me a long time to figure out how to write it, however. Every time I tried to draft it, it felt like I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t crack the code. Most of these drafts had very little in
common with the finished novel, but there was always one core element that remained—the idea that, basically, there’s something wrong with the world, and there’s this boy—Billy—who, through his strange powers, feels the pain of everyone out there, and wants to help.

Here’s the thing. What is this “pain of others,” exactly? As a writer, with a concept like that, you have to decide whether you’re going to be vague, for the sake of not polarizing readers, or if you’re going to be upfront, honest, and forthright about the brutality, inequalities, and unfairness of the real world. Explicit parallels felt necessary, but back then, I don’t think I had yet gained the maturity and life experience to tackle these sorts of complex, heavy subjects, yet. Writing Pale Highway, which came out in 2015, was the book that really propelled my skills and confidence forward, in that regard. Continue reading “Interrogation of Author Nicholas Conley (Part One)”

Knight in Paper Armor – Nicholas Conley

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

Regular readers of this humble blog will no doubt have read a review – or four – of Nick’s previous books or most likely have viewed his blog. Knight in Paper Armor is his latest novel and, in my opinion, is not only the most ambitious but also the maturest of his work to date.

Night in Paper Armor is a multi-layered work, its sinister overtones are pitched perfectly for a dystopia, which has plenty of the real world feel – both past and present – and chillingly explores a logical conclusion to which the world could find itself moving towards if it stays on its current trajectory. Adding in a bit of the psychic spices up an already interesting science fiction premise and adds more speculations for the reader to muse upon.

From an early glimpse of a child’s creepy drawings to the ethics of science and the horrors it can inflict in its quest to help people – and be profitable – the real and those things unseen come together perfectly to ooze a strong sense of unease.  It is a great start, and maintains that subtle intensity throughout, whilst slowly building on those ideas and themes and adding in a strong dose of the human, the personal and potential. Continue reading “Knight in Paper Armor – Nicholas Conley”

The Magician’s Nephew – C. S. Lewis

NARNIA…where the woods are thick and cold, where Talking Beasts are called to life…a new world where the adventure begins.

Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory’s Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to…somewhere else.

I wrote a brief overview of the Narnia chronicles years ago, and have been wandering in that world again of late.  This time I plan to review each book, and it seems that my overall view of the series have changed over the years.

Although written as the sixth book in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew can be read first as it explains the beginnings of and explores the key aspects of the series.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a stronger starting place for the series, The Magician’s Nephew however, is a mixed bag and doesn’t feel as natural, it also assumes you have read the former work which can be a bit annoying at times, if you haven’t yet done so.

The rings with which the adventures starts feel a bit out of place in this universe, as a device they veer more to the sci-fi but this is however juxtaposed with the dangers of technology so that does work in its way.  For this reader though, it does feel somewhat forced. Continue reading “The Magician’s Nephew – C. S. Lewis”

Knight in Paper Armor

Well, well, what do we have here?!  A new and shiny book to be released on the 15th September, from perennial blog favourite Nicholas Conley.  Long term readers may remember I reviewed his previous four books: The Cage Legacy, Clay Tongue, Intraterrestrial, and Pale Highway, so a new book is always welcome and highly anticipated in these parts.

All the details are below, to whet your appetites, and check out his blog here too.  Being a new dad like myself hearty congratulations are in order for managing to complete anything with a new baby added to the usual daily mix of life and coffee.

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

Cover Love Letter

When scanning the shelves for prospective books, neither the spine colour and font interest me, it’s all about about if I recognise the title/author, or if the title is quirky enough to arrest my relentless and speedy march to the end of the shelf.

It would be remiss of me not to take the time to repost this absolutely gorgeous specimen, which is one book to certainly judge its cover by.  This beauty was cunningly placed in my eyeline, demanding my attention and money, both of which were duly and happily paid.

It is a shame that there aren’t more well thought out and intricate covers adorning shops everywhere, after all the appeal is not just for the bibliophile but also a way to entice those normally not interested in reading into picking up a book.  For those interested in more of Christopher Gibbs’ work, check out his visually arresting portfolio here.

Also worth a mention is Stephen King’s, The Wind Through the Keyhole, which used mosaic design technologies to incorporate thousands of rader’s faces into the artwork used on the back cover illustration of the first edition, which I think is a wonderful give back to the fans, especially those with magnifying glasses who wish to find themeselves.

The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass – Stephen King

As usual when reviewing any series of books, I won’t include the blurb but will plunge straight into a spoiler free review, so even if you haven’t read the first book, The Gunslinger,  you will hopefully feel enticed to start after reading this.

The first time around I was disappointed by this book, especially after its predecessor had been so exciting and visual. Coming back to this brick of a book, it wasn’t exactly with relish that I started but more of a resigned interest to see if I had misjudged it, especially with the hindsight of the rest of the series.

The forward momentum created in The Waste Lands carries on for a time but then slows down – stalls – as backstory takes over for the much of this entry, and that was my major gripe with this instalment.  There is too much focus on a history with which the reader has gathered enough hints to know the ultimate outcome.

It is great to have a more fleshed out story, especially as it goes to motivation for the characters and allows the world to become more understood, if tantalisingly mysterious, even after such a long reminiscence.  Speaking with readers over the years I am usually surprised to find the regard with which this book is held.

Sandwiching the story within a story, there are more insights into King’s creation, it’s a universe is a gloriously apocalyptic amalgam,  the geography of which – and our understanding – is much more apparent here as are the links to other books, which takes on a much more obvious direction towards the end. Continue reading “The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass – Stephen King”

Token Book Haul

Being gifted some book tokens for my birthday, I naturally went to the nearest bookshop to grab some good books.  Sadly said shop was WH Smiths and despite a smattering of other genres, it largely focuses on bestseller ficton, which on the whole are usually a disappointing bunch.

The next day I found myself up at the High Peak Bookshop (and Café) which had a much better range of stock in, and I plumped for a number of genres I haven’t explored in a while, and endured lots of annoying people passing through my browsing eyeline.

Sci-fi is something rare for me to venture into although when I have dabbled, there have been some corkers namely Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequels.  A story from titan H.G. Wells will surely live up to such names. The Elegant Universe was another choice to continue a ‘science’ theme.  There is something fascinating about the universe, it’s a majestic mystery and well worth the time to explore. Continue reading “Token Book Haul”