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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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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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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Official description:
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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The Australian Concern by Jan Reyneke

“‘One has to assume it’s sticking to its guns with regards to leaving us alone. After all, it is supposedly here to protect us from outside threats, not to chitchat.’ Almost the moment the words left her mouth the visual matrix changed. Where previously it was a mesh of content, what remained in its place was single dark background with text floating ghostly in front of her. THAT IS CORRECT.”

The concept of this story is so very good and I feel so let down because the proofing of the book has not been done as it aught. Which is such a shame for the author too.

Essentially this is book two and you should read “The Argentine Intervention” first, if you haven’t already.

The “Guardians” protect the earth from anomaly incursion under the direction of the “Sentinel”. The Sentinel is eons of years old and has maintained Guardians throughout human habitation of the planet.

Recently incursion events have increased in number and the Guardians have had to be deployed more and more often.

AIX was set up at the point that humanity was made aware of the existence of both the Guardians and the Sentinel. And now AIX wants to be more self determining in protecting earth. But at the very first opportunity, it becomes obvious that humans do not possess the wherewithall to undertake that role.

Until the biggest incursion ever is forecast. Then the world gets to have a say in what happens next.

Because of the proofing issue I should (by my own rules) give this a two star rating, but it feels mean to do so for the story and the concept, so I’m bending a little!

I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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

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With a continent broken in two, and the people of Earth settling into the uncomfortable realisation of alien life in the universe, the true fight for the destiny of the planet has only just begun. The alien sentinel and its custodians are yet to face their harshest test.
For Chris, the newest member of this unique group, it will be a trial by fire. With the challenges of balancing his day-to-day life and literally protecting the world against threats—both internal and external—it might simply be too much to expect from him.
In the conclusion to The Argentine Intervention, follow these earthly custodians and those around them, as the consequences of an ancient mistake play out over time and space.

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The Argentine Intervention by Jan Reyneke

“‘What you’ll now experience, is how it would be to find yourself on the moon. I suggest you keep calm and make no sudden moves.’”

This is a story of the modern day, where technology is a natural part of our lives and yet we humans are infants in science and physics. The Queen of the United Kingdom is visited by a stranger in the safest refuge of her home and no-one is even aware of the visit. It is as if it didn’t happen, and yet it has a profound impact on the world and its future, as well as that of a loving son.

The world is guarded by a sentinel, which has been in place for centuries, during that time humans have been selected to act as Guardians for the planet. Serving their time and then passing their inheritance on to another to carry out the responsibility.

They protect the earth from destruction and use extreme physics, far beyond the capabilities of any average human.

This latest incursion may tax the Guardians and their Sentinel more than expected. Humanity is watching.

I found the first 45% of this story a bit slow, with all the scene setting and people descriptions. Once I’d gotten through all that, the story lifted a little bit and flowed better.

I found it a bit like what I think of as a symbiosis between a James Bond script and a science fiction novel. I’d have preferred to just have the science fiction story and then at least I wouldn’t have had to have had the token explicit sex scene, which served no purpose at all in the overall plot, hence the star rating.

The overall plot was in concept a good one, it just took some teasing out, slow to start with most of the action in the last third.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

2/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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1.5 Billion Years ago, an alien civilisation attempted a grand experiment with fatal consequences. In an attempt to protect other future civilisations, an advanced system of Sentinels were deployed and tasked with protecting young developing worlds. For eons, unbeknown to its dominant specie, Earth counted amongst those protected worlds. Yet as human development progressed, knowledge of the existence of these Sentinels and the Guardians within its service could no longer be obscured. Now, as knowledge of alien intervention becomes common knowledge, Earth and its extra-terrestrial protector faces their most threatening challenge to date.

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Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

“She is just hours from her first meeting with weird, cartilaginous Lönnrot, just over a week from her loss of faith in everything she has believed in her life.”

An epic read and not for those who want an easy, quick read. It took me a couple of weeks to read it completely, though I wasn’t taking big reading sessions.

It was a story that unfolds in your mind as you think back over it. Which is a bit scary as that is exactly what is happening in Inspector Mielikki Neith’s head as she works through the Gnomon case.

In order to work the case, Mielikki takes the evidence (which is in effect a brain trawl) into her own brain. It then unfolds and Mielikki is able to view and experience the trawl in order to determine the guilt or otherwise (and in this instance it is not clear) of the subject.

The book has many protagonists, and sometimes I found it hard to work out when a switch between them took place. It is a complex story, probably because the brain is very complex. And somehow this complexity was necessary to the tale to give it its depth. At points I wondered where it was all going, but I think in the end it was proven appropriate. And the end is true!

I was able to get lost in the story, it was helpful during a time of duress for me. It gave me relief and I escaped into Mielikki’s life and the lives of those around and in her.

For some people this book may take a bit of getting into, but give it a chance, you may find it becomes quite compelling, and provokes quite a bit of thought.

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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In a near-future Britain, a distributed surveillance-democracy called The System knows everything you, and can even spy on your mind. It’s a Panopticon country. But when state investigators then look into the head of a refusenik novelist named Diana Hunter, what they find there is not her life story but that of four other people, spread across thousands of years, all vibrantly real and each utterly impossible – and before they can unravel that puzzle, Diana Hunter, shockingly, dies as a result of the investigation, an unheard of result in a perfect system which protects everyone from harm.
That’s where Inspector Mielikki Neith comes in, a staunch believer in The System who is assigned to investigate the Hunter case. The only problem is that the teasing mysteries in the dead woman’s mind may change all that. And these are extraordinary memories, ranging from the life of a banker named Constantine Kyriakos, who finds himself pursued by a shark that may in fact be a god; and an Ethiopian retired pop artist, Berihun Bekele, who picks up his brushes to create a virtual world called The System at the behest of his games’ designer grand-daughter; and Athenaïs Karthagonensis, the jilted lover of one of the Church’s most beloved saints, who seeks to resurrect her dead son with the help of a non-existent miracle; and then finally GNOMON, the acerbic post-human who is plotting to assassinate the next iteration of the Universe . . .
The question is whether there is a truth hidden in the noise of all those lives, as Mielikki begins to suspect?
Or is all that unfolding experience and drama simply a cover for some kind of attack upon the fabric of the most democratic nation state ever constructed?
And the questions just keep coming. Who was Diana Hunter, and why are her books impossible to obtain? And above all, was Diana Hunter innocent all along – worse, could she have been correct to attempt to withstand a perfect, democratic system?

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The Last Librarian (Book One of the Justar Journal) by Brandt Legg

““I am not running, I am seeking. I am not hiding, I am finding.” “Where do you go? What do you do?” “I’m just dancing with time, and occasionally wrestling with it. Like my daddy used to say, ‘Time’s a funny thing.’ But I’m not laughing.” He sat next to Deuce again. “It’s almost over.””

This is a story set in the future, when all the books except those in the last library have been destroyed. Books are only available digitally now and the government agencies have decided that the last paper books are no longer necessary. The library is scheduled to be destroyed. The Last Librarian is Runit Happerman and he wants to save as many books as he can before ‘they’ come in 10 days to destroy his world, he just needs a little help with that.
His best friend Nelson is an author, he offers to help and gets his sister Chelle Andreas involved too. Runit is concerned about his son Grandyn becoming embroiled in the rebellious act, but is unable to prevent him joining the growing team and also bringing his girlfriend Vida along, as well as his Treerunner colleagues. Surely all those would be enough to achieve the saving of 100,000 books.
There are of course other factors involved, but to write them here would be to spoil the story for the next reader, so trust me when I say that it is a massive task, made difficult by shifting parameters and personal interactions.
The story could be considered a prophetic tale, with the prevalence of digital books, many people nowadays don’t need the paper books anymore. But who keeps the records of what the author intended to be read?
This was an interesting and involving read and I did enjoy my time with it.

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

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USA Today Bestseller “Never let them catch you reading!”
In the year 2098, there is no more war, no more hunger and no more pollution. The world is secure and Earth’s 2.9 billion people are healthy and happy. There is also only one remaining library that still houses physical books. In addition to the dusty volumes, the library holds many secrets. But the government has decided to shut it down and burn the contents. Unless an unlikely trio can save the books, humanity will lose more than just what is printed on those antique pages.

With a single government ruling the entire planet, one currency, one language and no religion, the population is unified and enjoying the prosperity that comes with more than seven decades of peace. Free healthcare for all and guaranteed employment make the future a dream. But this future may only be safe if they can hide the past. The books must be saved . . . the impossible task is up to an angry author, a brazen revolutionary and the last librarian. When everything is perfect, the only thing left to fear is the truth.

The Lost TreeRunner (Justar Journal #2) available now – The Lost TreeRunner (The Justar Journal Book 2)
The List Keepers (Justar Journal #3) available now – The List Keepers (The Justar Journal Book 3)

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