The Widening Gyre by Michael R. Johnston #BlogTour #Giveaway (@MREJohnston) @flametreepress @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheWideningGyre

The Widening Gyre Cover

Eight hundred years ago, the Zhen Empire discovered a broken human colony ship drifting in the fringes of their space. The Zhen gave the humans a place to live and folded them into their Empire as a client state. But it hasn’t been easy. Not all Zhen were eager to welcome another species into their Empire, and humans have faced persecution. For hundreds of years, human languages and history were outlawed subjects, as the Zhen tried to mold humans into their image. Earth and the cultures it nourished for millennia are forgotten, little more than legends.

One of the first humans to be allowed to serve in the Zhen military, Tajen Hunt became a war hero at the Battle of Elkari, the only human to be named an official Hero of the Empire. He was given command of a task force, and sent to do the Empire’s bidding in their war with the enigmatic Tabrans. But when he failed in a crucial mission, causing the deaths of millions of people, he resigned in disgrace and faded into life on the fringes as a lone independent pilot. 

When Tajen discovers his brother, Daav, has been killed by agents of the Empire, he, his niece, and their newly-hired crew set out to finish his brother’s quest: to find Earth, the legendary homeworld of humanity. What they discover will shatter 800 years of peace in the Empire, and start a war that could be the end of the human race. 

I’m delighted to be taking part in the tout today for The Widening Gyre by Michael R. Johnston, a new, epic sounding sci-fi novel from Flame Tree Press. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had time to read the book but I do have a copy to give away. So if you would like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of the book for yourself, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post. The winner will be picked at random. UK ENTRIES ONLY PLEASE.

If you don’t want to take your chances on the draw and would simply like to get your own copy of the book, you can buy it here.

To read some reviews of the book and other great content, please make sure you follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

The Widening Gyre Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

Michael R Johnston Author Picture

Born in the San Francisco bay area and raised in Napa, California, Michael R. Johnston grew up steeped in everything Science Fiction and Fantasy from Asimov to Zelazny, as well as endless terrible SF TV shows he still has a slightly embarrassed fondness for.

Faced with the choice between moving back in with his parents and continuing school, or paying his rent, he took “a year” off from college. He spent time as a court process server, a retail sales associate, a sandwich maker, and a data entry tech, before finding himself in a management role. A decade later, burnt out from his job in political research and facing 30, he decided he’d had enough and returned to college, graduating with honors from California State University, Sacramento.

In fall 2006, he became a high school English teacher, a job he likens to herding a swarm of angry bees. It’s the best job he’s ever had.

In 2013, he attended the 17th Viable Paradise Science Fiction Writing Workshop. The experience of having his story critiqued by other writers, some of them professionals he’d been reading for years, helped him realize he could write professionally, and introduced him to some of his best friends.

He currently lives in Sacramento, California, with his wife and daughter. When he’s not writing or teaching, he spends time with his family, plays video games and tabletop RPGs (often with family), and reads. 

Connect with Michael:

Website: https://mjohnstonbooks.com

Twitter: @MREJohnston

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Hard Setdown (Sam Cane Book 1) by T. Q. Chant #BookReview #BlogTour @LoveBooksGroup #TQChant #LoveBooksGroupTours

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Sam Cane – ex-con artist (sort of), ex-soldier (definitely), and woman on the run.

She’s looking to escape a life of petty crime on Earth that’s got her in too deep with the wrong people. Taking a job with one of the corporations contracted to open up and exploit new worlds in the growing Commonwealth, she’s assigned to a young colony right on the edge of human space. It looks like the perfect escape, until she arrives on IGC-187X and things start to go downhill. Fast.

Arriving at the colony site, she finds it mysteriously deserted, its communication systems sabotaged and her ride rapidly heading out of the system. Failing to repair the communications system in time, she realises she’s stuck on the apparently deserted planet unless she can get a deepspace message out. Exploring the colony site further, she realises two things – that something terrible has happened to the colonists, and that she’s not alone. She contacts survivors from the colony, who tell her they were forced to relocate due to raider activity, but their story doesn’t quite add up. Betrayed by them, she connects with the only sane person left – Adissa, the daughter of the colonial administrator, who has been living underground since her father had gone mad and led the colonists to a mysterious settlement elsewhere on the planet.

Suddenly, getting a message out has taken on a new urgency. Playing a deadly game of cat and mouth with the colonists, Sam and Adissa work together to try to get an old buried launch array on-line. The full horror of the situation starts to impact on Sam as she realises just how far the colonists have fallen and that something far worse is lurking hidden under the deserts of the arid world.

Out on the fringe, she’ll find out that what you’re running from isn’t always the thing that will kill you.

Today I am on the blog tour for Hard Setdown by T. Q. Chant, the first book in the Sam Cane series. My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Group Tours for the invitation to take part and to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Sci-Fi is not a genre that I read very often but I do enjoy it if it is well written and this most certainly is that. It is quite a short book that manages to pack a punch of action between its pages and left me definitely wanting to know what comes next.

We join the story as Sam Cane is waiting in a landing pod, about to be jettisoned in to space to join a remote space colony for a few years. She has a shady past and an uncertain future and has no idea what she is getting herself in to – a set up which leaves a lot of scope for a good story.

Because this book is short, the writer keeps character development to a minimum. Sam is the only one we really find out anything about, and even huge chunks of her past are only hinted at, leaving the readers with a lot of tantalising questions about what has gone before. This is is either a clever ploy to make you want to read the next instalment in the hope more details are revealed (which is how it worked on me) or frustratingly hole-y, depending on your perspective. This limited character development does mean that the reader has very little connection with the other characters in the book, which has the effect of lessening the impact of some of their fates and making others’ motivation somewhat of a mystery that is barely touched on.

The world building the author has done is more detailed, which makes me think this is where his true interest lies in the writing. The topography and workings of the planet are well established and there is a lot of information about the mechanics of how things work – tools, weapons, machinery, logistics. To anyone less interested in this aspect of things, parts of the book may drag a little, particularly in the beginning, as it gets very technical. Other people will revel in the fact this has all been carefully thought out. Depends what floats your particular boat.

The greatest strength of this book is the action and the author manages to shoehorn a lot in to a little space. There is plenty going on, and it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat, providing thrills, tension and proper shocks. I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen, and cleverly/ annoyingly, the author leaves enough loose ends in the book to mean that I HAVE TO read the next instalment. Don’t start if you don’t want to be dragged into the trilogy!

My verdict? An interesting exercise in pushing my horizons that is in equal parts entertaining and frustrating but left me needing to read on.

Hard Setdown is out now and you can get a copy here.

To get some other opinions on the book, check out the rest of the bloggers on the tour:

hard-setdown

About the Author

Tim Chant grew up (mostly), went to school in East Anglia and university in Scotland. He took his History degree and did the only thing he could with it – joined the civil service. When not shackled to his desk he writes science fiction, alternative historical fiction, historical fiction and any other fiction that takes his fancy. When not doing that, he’s an inveterate roleplayer and wargamer (and getting back into historical fencing). He lives in Edinburgh with his partner and their two rabbits.

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Battlestar Suburbia by Chris McCrudden #BookReview (@cmccrudden) @farragobooks @NetGalley #BattlestarSuburbia #NetGalley

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“In space, no one can hear you clean…

When Darren’s charge-cart gets knocked off the Earth-to-Mars highway and lost in space forever, he thinks his day can’t get any worse.

When Kelly sees Darren accidentally short-circuit a talking lamppost, and its camera captures her face as it expires, she thinks her day can’t get any worse.

When Pamasonic Teffal, a sentient breadmaker, is sent on a top-secret mission into the depths of the internet and betrayed by her boss, a power-crazed smartphone, she knows this is only the beginning of a day that isn’t going to get any better.

Join Darren, Kelly and Pam in an anarchic comic adventure that takes them from the shining skyscrapers of Singulopolis to the sewers of the Dolestar Discovery, and find out what happens when a person puts down their mop and bucket and says ‘No.’

Battlestar Suburbia will be loved by fans of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde, as well as anyone who’s ever wondered just how long someone can stay under one of those old-fashioned hairdryers.*

*The answer is: a really very, very long time.”

If I tell you that I spent my teenage years bingeing on the books of Douglas Adams and episodes of Red Dwarf (yes, the first time around when Dave Lister didn’t look mad/sad in his leather jacket and hat) that is really going to age me, isn’t it? However, I think I am exactly the age group that was going to enjoy this book the most because it reminded me of those things I enjoyed in my youth. (Middle-aged people, yes.)

Although I am afraid, for me, that no writer is ever going to be able to reach the genius heights of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this book comes as close as anyone is likely to get. It manages to attain that perfect level of absurdity and humour balanced with wit and intelligence and a healthy dollop of pop culture references to spot and snigger over as you wend your way through the book, a really delicious mix to relish.

We are set in a dystopian future where machines have got sick of being used as tools by infinitely less intelligent units, namely humans, and have turned the tables so that humans now serve them, mostly in the form of mopping floors. This happens not in a creepy Terminator/Matrix way, but in a humorous way where some machines actually secretly decide that they miss having their touchscreens fondled… that pretty much gives you a taste of what to expect. Throw in a very ‘mobile’ hair salon with the best pun name ever whose clientele are at least several millennia old and you must be totally intrigued by now, surely.

Humans have similarly decided that they aren’t overly happy about cleaning up after toasters and a resistance has formed, while some of the machines in the higher echelons have dreams of taking a form more physical, more squashy, more feeling… Quite what will happen when these two opposing desires clash, well you will have to read the book to find out.

This book is extremely well-written – very clever, very witty, great fun and with plenty of action and absurd plotting to keep you intrigued to the last page and beyond. The jokes appealed completely to my warped sense of humour, even the really, really corny/bad  ones. In fact, especially the really, really corny/bad ones (seriously, the salon name, genius). I have ordered a paperback copy of this book and I am already looking forward to the sequel. In space, no one can hear you…tapping your fingers in impatience to see what happens next. I highly recommend this book to everyone…man, woman, cyborg…of any age or persuasion, but especially ageing Dwarfers like me.

Battlestar Suburbia hot of the press and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley and Farrago for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Chris McCrudden was born in South Shields (no, he doesn’t know Cheryl) and has been, at various points in his life, a butcher’s boy, a burlesque dancer and a hand model for a giant V for Victory sign on Canary Wharf.

He now lives in London and, when not writing books, works in PR, so in many ways you could describe his life as a full-time fiction. If you like science fiction, graphs and gifs from RuPaul’s Drag Race you can follow him on Twitter for all three, sometimes at once @cmccrudden.