Pendragon by Mike Weatherley

This book is about a ‘decurion’ in the roman army whose family home is ravaged and destroyed by Saxon raiders. He additionally loses both his parents and his beloved wife in the raid. He and his brother {also a decurion} obtain 10 days leave to ‘recover’ from their loss.

During that time they ride North to the ‘wall’ and join up with the battalions there. Although the battalions are known as ‘dragons’ due to their standards. Ambrosius is keen to follow through on a plan that he has been working on since his devastation of his loss. His brother is supporting him and riding alongside him, despite not knowing ‘the plan’. So even Victor is surprised at Ambrosius’ actions during the battalions multi-faith ceremony.

And from there, it is history, of sorts (in other words, you will have to read it for yourself).

There was a short explanatory section at the front giving the background and details of the story, in such a manner as to not spoil the book for anyone. At the end of the book was a further explanatory along with references.

The language of the book was modern British English, though the explanatory had already given details of roman equivalents to give the reader a ‘setting’.

I liked that the author took the time to give a background to the story at the beginning, as I like to know how to pronounce names etc in my head as I’m reading. I did also like having the map of roman places to get my bearings in the story.

The longer explanatory at the end along with the references support the factual elements of the story and substantiate the ‘arthurian’ and ‘amazonian’ aspects.

The book is quite a short story (and having subsequently had communication with the author about this, I understand that this is due to a word limit imposed by the publisher), so I was disappointed when the story came to an end. I do look forward to the rest of the trilogy in due course, to see how the relationship between Ambrosius & Geneva (an amazon) continues.

This book will probably suit those who like books with historical reference. I have in mind the style of Ken Follett, when he wrote his historically based “pillars of the earth”.

“… he necessarily shucked-off his erstwhile hunched demeanour of a grieving widower, now standing straight and tall, once more, like the military man he was…”

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Pendragon: The Arthur Chronicles: 1

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Official description:
Ambrosius Aurelianus is a historically attested fifth century A.D. Christian Romano-British soldier. His regiment is one of few defending his Celtic homeland against pagan Anglo-Saxon pirates. In the year 485, Anglo-Saxons murder his wife and parents, while raiding local farms. Ambrosius then goes on a quest, galvanising the remaining British troops to hunt down all Anglo-Saxon tribes threatening his fellow Britons. He is accompanied by his younger brother, Victor (Uther in Celtic), who worries Ambrosius has a death wish to rejoin his wife in the next world. However, Ambrosius finds love again with Geneva, a woman serving in another cavalry regiment. Descended from the original 5,500 Sarmatians brought to Britain 300 years earlier, they retain the tradition of women fighting alongside men, like their ‘Amazonian’ ancestors. This regiment’s founding commander in Britain was: Lucius Artorius Castus!
Mike Weatherley grew up in the county of Kent (whose Latin name was Cantium), which was the first part of Roman Britain conquered by invading Anglo-Saxons in the late-fifth century A.D. Born in the Chinese year of the dragon, he always felt an affinity with those mythical creatures, as well as being fascinated with the legends of the mysterious ‘Arthur’, the British hero who fought those first Anglo-Saxons. Despite a career as a scientist, Mike always harboured the dream of writing a definitive version of Arthur’s story. How appropriate that his fifteen years of research on the subject reveal just how closely intertwined the worlds of the historical Arthur and dragons actually were. Having reached his solution to this mystery, Mike hopes his novel has given back to the British people their greatest cultural icon, who was previously stolen from history by writers of medieval fiction and Norman propaganda.

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A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon

“The lantern glowed with a silver and blue prismatic light which, seen through the lens of the kaleidoscope, appeared to be a wheel of knives, ever turning.”

John Henry Nyquist is a private investigator living in Nocturna and working (mostly) in Dayzone. Like most PI’s he has a cash-flow situation to manage and has to take what jobs he can to pay his way.

This latest job involves find a rich girl who has run away from home, her powerful father wants her back.

Somehow the case gets more complicated – the Quicksilver murders start to have an impact on things, and for the life of him, Nyquist can’t quite remember why!

His continual switching across time zones begins to affect him and he starts to think he is becoming to suffer from chronostasis.

Yet he continues on, driven, with his inner clock, tick, tick, ticking, keeping him moving onwards. Exploring Dayzone, the Dusk and Nocturna. Moving closer to his moment.

If anything, this book make me edgy, anxious and from time to time I paused in my reading. It was a complex story, fantastic and ghostly. I enjoyed it, yet as I said, I had to keep pausing and coming back to it. I didn’t settle in to it as I would have liked.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

3/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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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.

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Keeper of the Watch by Kristen L. Jackson

“They had been following the boy, Chase Walker, since his birthday, looking for signs of The Coupling. He had not been wearing the watch earlier this evening, so maybe there was still time.”

I liked the story and the characters, they were solid enough. I found the writing style a bit too young for me, I guess when you read below your age, that is bound to happen 🙂

The key character is Chase Walker, his Uncle Charlie died three weeks ago and he’s having trouble adjusting. He also feels like he is being stalked, which is weird as he’s never been one to worry about that sort of thing. Until his Uncle’s house (now his of course) is broken in to, though the police cannot find any evidence of such an event and simply advise him to lock his doors!

His best buddy is Mason Moore, he’s off to University soon. He reminds Chase that he has a football scholarship to look forward to, but Chase knows otherwise.

Later back at the house, Chase is sure that there is an intruder, again. This time there is a girl called Alyx and she tells him that she is there to help him.She wants him to put on the watch. Chase isn’t keen, it’s old and ungainly looking, despite its initial attraction when he first touched it.

The story continues with the introduction of hunters, they seek the watch and the bearer. Chase and Alyx avoid them as best they can. The adventure develops and gets more complicated (and likely to be spoilt if I write it here).

At times I found the writers style got in the way of my reading, realising that it was aimed at teens I was able to tolerate this. I expect that in the subsequent books the writing style will develop and improve, so I look forward to reading the next books (I did say that I enjoyed the story).

If you enjoy such things as ‘Sliders’ (the sci-fi & fantasy tv series), I anticipate that this will be highly suitable reading for you.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

3/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Chase Walker is beginning to doubt his own sanity. From the moment he turned eighteen, a strange paranoia has taken over his mind. It all started the moment he discovered his uncle’s old watch…
The watch calls to him. Though it beckons, he resists. His body strains toward it, blood pulsing, heart pounding in a mysterious and primitive need to connect with his uncle’s old beat up watch.
When sexy and mysterious Alyx saves his life, she promises answers. She talks of dimension travel, and wears a magical watch of her own…

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Beyond Burning Sands by P R Adams

The concluding book in an epic trilogy of earth, post “Fire”. Reginald Lee is the leader of Test Bunker 1, set against Jonathan Pryor, his old hero/adversary from before. Before they went into the hibernation program that stole 50 years of their lives. It stole those years and spat them into a world of hot desert sun, strange hybrids and wolf-like creatures.

Now Reggie has to work out what Jonathan is up to! Jonathan woke 5 years before Reggie and has used that time to try and find Reggie’s Bunker and its resources. Jonathan has plans that he keeps to himself.

The humans of Nellis live a quiet and peaceful life. Their only problems are Sharpteeth and Snake! Snake’s plans are to take over their compound and make what is theirs, his own. Somehow Snake controls a band of Sharpteeth and some drones. These make life so difficult for the people of Nellis.

Reggie is central to this story. He isn’t perfect and is completely aware of his failings. He aim is to keep his team alive and find a way for them all to survive. This sentiment expands to the people of Nellis as they take them in and Reggie considers them as part of his extended ‘family’. Snake has other ideas!

This story is of ancient rivalries and the struggle for human survival. That and the ever prevalent tendency for at least one human to have the the ‘god’ fantasy! Believing themselves to be the most important thing of their time.

Quite an engaging read, it kept me reading on. It is a hefty tome (metaphorically speaking for a kindle book) and it kept my interest engaged throughout, so it is a worthy read. But note, you must read the other two books first!

I am very interested to see the film(s) when (if) they are released (hint to author – this would be a great series for the big screen or a box set)!

I am grateful to the author for allowing me to read this before it went to the editor.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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The deadliest hunter is human.
Reggie Lee has survived the nightmarish, genetically engineered horrors of Cro-Magnons and sharpteeth that ruled the ruins of Las Vegas. Now he must face the greatest threat of all: another human.

Snake is a former rival from the world before the cataclysm, and he has declared war on all other humans. To survive, Reggie must find more answers, because fighting Snake will require a strength Reggie might not have. But if he can’t stop Snake, humanity truly is doomed.

Read book three of this horrifying post-apocalyptic series and see if you can go Beyond Burning Sands.

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Keeper by Kim Chance

“Right above my elbow, in the very spot the woman’s fingers had wrapped around my skin, was an angry, red handprint. The mark, raised and puffy, was the exact silhouette of five slender fingers, not much bigger than my own. I prodded the skin gently with one fingertip and hissed through my teeth; the spot was tender to the touch. It looked and felt like a bad burn, but the pain radiated much deeper.”

Lainey and her best friend Maggie are hanging out at a comic book store event, Maggie is invited out by a boy who is just her perfect partner, so Lainey heads off home alone. Before she reaches her car a ghost, all bloody and gruesome, grabs her and Lainey falls unconscious during the encounter. When she comes to she calls Maggie to get her help, as she is freaking out from the experience.

Maggie is obsessed with all things comic book and explains life and it’s happenings based on her favourite subject. Lainey is science oriented and likes to analyse life based on logic.

Ty is a young man that Lainey met for the first time while avoiding a Thor costumed boy at the comic book store event. He has been in town for about two weeks (Maggie found that out).

Lainey lives with her uncle Gareth and his girlfriend Serena, but prefers not to discuss her situation with them, as it’s a) weird and b) Serena is a hippy medium.

So the story unfolds with Lainey and Maggie having ‘adventures’ and Lainey and Ty teasing out how they should be.

There is magic and murder and mayhem and Maggie would love to be able to claim to be something more than human, like the characters in her comic books.

Lainey discovers that she is a witch, like her mother before her, with a duty to be the keeper of an ancient magical grimoire. The grimoire was taken and Lainey must find a way to retrieve it.

I could have finished this in one sitting if I had started it earlier in the day! As it was I had to wait until the next day to see how the second half unfolded. It was worth waiting for, there was a lot to read. And now I wait for the next book to see what happens to each of the characters.

I am not a ‘romance’ reader, so I was pleased that the author didn’t go all soppy with the boyfriend / girlfriend interactions. And the amount of blood and gore was definitely within my acceptance sphere. I really enjoyed reading this story and as I mentioned I’m keen to read the next book.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother. After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world’s magic. With the help of her comic-book-loving best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave her life of college prep and studying behind to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.

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The Girl in The Tower by Katherine Arden,

“”It is a talisman, that thing,” Morozko said. He spoke as though he were choosing his words. “It may be some protection.””

This is book two, I haven’t read book one, but the story still worked for me.

Vasya has left home, her parents are dead, the villagers think she is a witch and will kill her if she returns. She doesn’t want the life of a woman in Rus, life in a convent or a tower. Vasya wishes for life as a traveller, on the move, experiencing new places. That is not something a woman can do.

Vasya rides Solovey, a bay stallion, with whom she is able to communicate. Solovey helps to keep Vasya safe wherever he can. But even immortal horses have their limitations.

Her brother Sasha is a monk and he too is a traveller. Wandering about the countryside doing the bidding of his masters.

There are characters in the story whose aim is to do mischief and mayhem in order to enrich their own lives. These are the people who are set against Vasya, Sasha and their companions. Vasya must hide herself under the guise of a boy throughout it all, in order to protect herself.

Morozko ‘Winter King’ is there on the periphery watching out for Vasya where he can, but he cannot reach into the city and that is where Vasya is most at risk, and where disaster hits.

I found myself worrying about Vasya when I was away from the book, there were parts where she was in dire straits and I couldn’t help but wonder what would come next.

A well written tale of the old gods of medieval Russia. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

5/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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The next in The Bear and the Nightingale trilogy.
For a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya will choose a third way: magic…
The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.
Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior’s training, recognises this ‘boy’ as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical…

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WaR: Wizards and Robots by will.i.am & Brian David Johnson

“‘The Mechanical Men, The Mechanical Men, They came one day And stole life away. Beneath the sun We went underground To the heart of the ankh Where hope is found.’”

This is a children’s book therefore it is short. The concept is one of a world (our world effectively) in which there is magic (wielded by Wizards) and also Robots (who have come from the future).

The main characters are a schoolgirl named Ada Luring (and her mum Sara) and a boy wizard named Geller (son of the Wizard Elder).

Geller has been asleep for 500 years and his nightmares have awoken him. His father sends him on a mission with a group of Wizards aiming to destroy the ‘first robot’. Things don’t go to plan and Geller is left behind by the other wizards. He escapes, with help, and returns to the underground hideaway of the wizards. He discovers the existence of Ada and is drawn to her.

Ada is a ‘techno-nerd’ and doesn’t fit in at school. Her mum is trying to build the first intelligent robot to win a competition, which means Ada doesn’t get much attention from her, so has ‘free reign’ on how she goes about her daily routine.

The robots need to save the world in which they exist, in the future. They need the help of Ada and ultimately Geller. Somehow the book contrives to get them all together to give them this chance.

The story is quite fast paced, so although it is short, you do get your story’s worth. I would certainly recommend it to young school children. It may even encourage some weaker readers that enjoy wizard or robot stories, particularly as it has will.i.am as one of the authors.

The only off putting thing I found was the numbers at the start of EVERY line, even if mid-sentence. It may well be that it was because it was a proof copy, in which case, it shouldn’t affect anyone reading the final version. With the numbers I give this book the stars indicated below. Should they be removed for the final edition, then you can add half to a full star to it, for the improved readability.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

3/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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An explosive action-adventure novel created by will.i.am and renowned futurist Brian David Johnson. Wizards are real, robots from the future are here, and the fate of our world rests in the hands of one unsuspecting teenager. When a young man breaks into her home claiming her life is in danger, Ada Luring’s world changes forever. Geller is a wizard, on the run from his father’s hidden clan who want to kill Ada and her mother. Sara Luring is the scientist who will create the first robot, the wizards’ age-old foes. But a robot has travelled back in time to find Ada, and will lay everything on the line to protect her, as she may just be the key to preventing the earth’s destruction in the future. Ada, Geller and the robots must learn to work together to change the past and secure the future. But they don’t have much time before a mysterious enemy launches its attack on Earth…

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Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds

“Dreyfus put on a solemn look. ‘You died.’ He paused, letting that sink in for a second or two. ‘It was violent and irrevocable, with no prospect of neural consolidation. But you had a beta-level instantiation shadowing you for many years. That beta-level has now been legally sequestered and brought to a responsive state within a simulated environment, executing inside Panoply.’”

I’m so pleased to have been able to read this latest book by Alastair Reynolds, one of my favourite authors.

The story of the Prefects in the Glitter Band around the planet Yellowstone, continues with Tom Dreyfus again featuring prominently as he did in “The Prefect (recently retitled ‘Aurora Rising’)”

Opening with a young boy watching a distant fire and then returning to his bed coughing from the smoke inhalation, it starts benignly enough.

Until we switch to Thalia Ng who is doing her duty as a Prefect upgrading the polling core on the Shiga-Mintz Spindle. It is from her shift on Shiga-Mintz that Thalia is drawn into the main story, when she is required to undertake an unexpected gory duty.

Citizens are having ‘issues’ with their implants which are causing them to malfunction and effectively cook their brains. The Prefects need to recover a viable set of implants from a ‘melter’ in order to find out what is causing the malfunction.

The aforementioned boy is one of two ‘Voi’ sons who play a pivotal role through the story. I had thought that I had figured it out part way through and found it interesting to see how right I was about what the provocateur line would run like. You’ve probably guessed that I was wrong in any case.

I found myself visiting the story in my mind even when I wasn’t actually reading it, as I pondered what was happening and where the next twist would take me. Thoroughly enjoyable to read and I would really like to read more about the Prefects and Panoply (their own little pumpkin-faced boulder of a world).

I have given the full complement of stars as I didn’t want to stop reading this book and had a number of late nights as a result. That is the sign of a 5 star book for me.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

5/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Featuring Inspector Dreyfus – one of Alastair Reynolds most popular characters – this is a fast paced SF crime story, combining a futuristic setting with a gripping tale of technology, revolution and revenge.

One citizen died a fortnight ago. Two a week ago. Four died yesterday . . . and unless the cause can be found – and stopped – within the next four months, everyone will be dead. For the Prefects, the hunt for a silent, hidden killer is on . . .

Alastair Reynolds has returned to the world of The Prefect for this stand-alone SF mystery in which no one is safe. The technological implants which connect every citizen to each other have become murder weapons, and no one knows who or what the killer is – or who the next targets will be. But their reach is spreading, and time is not on the Prefects’ side.

Ten thousand city-state habitats orbit the planet Yellowstone, forming a near-perfect democratic human paradise.

But even utopia needs a police force. For the citizens of the Glitter Band that organization is Panoply, and the prefects are its operatives.

Prefect Tom Dreyfus has a new emergency on his hands. Across the habitats and their hundred million citizens, people are dying suddenly and randomly, victims of a bizarre and unprecedented malfunction of their neural implants. And these “melters” leave no clues behind as to the cause of their deaths…

As panic rises in the populace, a charismatic figure is sowing insurrection, convincing a small but growing number of habitats to break away from the Glitter Band and form their own independent colonies.

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We Care For You by Paul Kitcatt

Synthetic humans (‘helpers’) and nanobots restoring elderly residents to better health. It sounds wonderful, until you read further and find out more of the intentions of the helpers.

I was very drawn to Margaret, crotchety old lady that she was, especially after her rejuvenation and restoration to full mental alertness. Her helper ‘Winifred’ seemed nice enough in her own way too. In fact the characters were all believable.

Winifred seems to want to learn from Margaret, to access the accrued wisdom that she has. Margaret is flattered that Winifred thinks so highly of her mind.

It’s when the helpers start to determine what happens to their charges that things start to seem a little bit off. But the care home is doing so well. Everyone wants the healing nanobots, especially on the NHS! I’m not sure that I do! Not now!

“Mortality must resume. People in this care home must continue to die. Not at the old rate, because that would cast doubt on the achievements of the nanobots.”

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Margaret Woodruff is slowly dying in a care home. When her son is presented with the chance of exceptional care in her final months, he finds the offer hard to resist.

Winifred is assigned to Margaret’s care. She’s a Helper: a new kind of carer that’s capable, committed and completely tireless – because she’s a synthetic human being.

Under Winifred’s care Margaret’s health improves beyond everyone’s expectations, and Winifred begins to learn from Margaret what it means to be alive. After all, she has a lifetime of experience to pass on – and in a world where youth is the ultimate prize, perhaps it takes a robot to recognise the value of old age.

But how will Winifred use what she learns from Margaret – and what does she truly want from her?

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Broadcast by Liam Brown

“‘Tongue scanner,’ she says in answer to their bewildered stares. ‘Just as unique as a retina or a finger print, and far harder to forge. They’ll be industry standard within twelve months.’ She pauses, allowing herself a small smile. ‘Although you do feel a tad silly sometimes.’”

David Callow, rhymes with shallow, and really that is what he is. He’s a celebrity due to his VLogging and online presence. All he thinks about is whether people are following or watching him.

Then on a hungover morning he is given the chance to be the next big thing. All he has to do is have a small chip slipped under the skin at the back of his neck and his experiences will be shared with the world.

It takes a while for the chip to ‘learn’ David and his thoughts, then suddenly his thoughts and experiences go viral. David becomes a major celebrity trending around the world. He loves it.

He loves it, until it starts to give him problems, but then he discovers that it’s too late to change his mind, the naysayers were right!

A brilliant concept, scarey that it could happen too! Puts me off the idea of having a chip fitted, for sure. What might be called a ‘cautionary tale’.

I really enjoyed reading this, I didn’t even know where it was heading until the end. Really happy to recommend it to sci-fi and ‘AI’ fans (even though I wouldn’t say that it was strictly AI) .

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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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.

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