Friday Night Drinks with… D. Ellis Overttun

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Tonight I am delighted to be joined for my weekly Friday Night Drinks by author… D. Ellis Overttun.

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I’m not really a drinker. So, it would probably be cranberry and seven. However, if I had to pick an alcoholic beverage, it would be a Kir Royale.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Well, given I’m not much of a drinker, I don’t really have a spot that comes to mind. One place is basically as good as any other. However, if I had to pick a place that could be any place, it would be Rick’s Café in Casablanca. Believe it or not, it’s a real place, inspired by Rick’s Café Américan.

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I’ll be wearing a double-breasted, ivory dinner jacket ensemble a la Bogie, minus the cigarette. How about you?

Instead of Sam singing “As Time Goes By”, I think I would like to hear Carly Simon’s version backed up, of course, by the incredible harmonics of Stevie Wonder (http://dld.bz/jhag9). What would follow would be a set a la the one from her Live at Grand Central Station performance.

That is very specific imagery, you must be a writer! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

The first person has to be Alice Roberts. I first bumped into her when I came across a BBC documentary series called Origins of Us. It traces the evolution of our bodies from the trees to the plains of ancient Africa. Using her training as an anatomist, she shows how the changing environment shaped our bodies. Several of the chapters throughout my Terra Nova series have been inspired by this BBC series. Apart from getting her take on those parts, I would like to get her opinion on a speculative scifi concept on which my novels hinge: What would happen if sexual relations for pleasure and procreation separated? My take on it is the backdrop to my first novel, Universe: Awakening.

The next person I would like as part of our merry band would be physicist, Brian Cox. I’ve probably seen most of his documentaries, but my favourite is Human Universe. I would like to get his take on the physics in the Terra Nova series, particularly my concept of subspace. It is another speculative scifi concept that postulates that most of the mass/energy of the universe is inaccessible to us under normal circumstances. Also, it would be great fun to hear some of his stories when he was the keyboard player in his Dare days.

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I am in the process of finishing up my 4th book, Mirror in Time. As the title suggests, it’s about time travel. It is a standalone novel with (I think) very accessible science that is faster paced than my other novels. I’ve included the as yet unpublished prologue. Any sci-fi bloggers who want to review an ARC of the soon-to-be-finished book can DM my wife, Natasha (@neoverttun).

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I suppose the proudest moment has been having guest posts hosted on various sites. The biggest challenge has been to generate content for those posts. I have found it quite daunting. It has given me a lot of respect for bloggers like yourself who constantly have to deal with writing reviews on what I only imagine are tight schedules.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

I would like to be a panelist at MCM London Comic Con discussing the Terra Nova series.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

My favorite place has to be the south of France, mainly because of the food and the ambiance.

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I don’t have a bucket list. For me, it has always been more about the journey than the destination. Also, I suppose it’s because I think it means you can see the end somewhere on the horizon. I think I would find it a little depressing. Having said that, I live each day as if they are in short supply and approach everything with a sense of urgency.

The closest thing I would have to an item on a bucket list would be to be able to play the piano totally by ear (because fingers are so boring.) I’m almost there, but to be able to free myself from having to read music would be so liberating.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

When I was young, I used to take French at a convent in the neighbourhood where I grew up. There was a story that I had to translate in one of the lessons. I remember it was prefaced by a picture of a wolf who had experienced lean times and a well-fed dog. They met at the edge of a forest on opposite sides of a fence surrounding a farm and had an exchange about their current circumstances. The wolf complained about how hard his life was, constantly searching for food and braving the elements. The dog, on the other hand, was quite content. He led a comfortable life with plenty of food and shelter. Now, I’m paraphrasing…

“Gee, it would be great if I could live like that,” the wolf said.

“Well, let me speak to the farmer. Maybe, you can come live with me,” the dog replied.

“Would you?” Then, the wolf noticed the dog’s neck. “Why is your fur matted?”

“That’s from my collar when the farmer ties me up.”

The wolf smiled and returned to the forest.

Where safety and security are concerned, I am like the dog. However, there is one place where I am like the wolf, and that is my writing. I write the way I write, take it or leave it. It is probably the only place where I have true freedom.

I think Cyrano de Bergerac sums it up best: “To sing, to laugh, to dream, to walk in my own way, free with an eye to see things as they are, a voice that means manhood. To cock my hat where I choose. At a word, a yes, a no, to fight or write. But never to make a line I have not heard in my own heart. To travel any road under the sun, under the stars, nor care if fame or fortune lie beyond the bourne. Yet, with all modesty to say: ‘My soul, be satisfied with flowers, with weeds, with thorns even; but gather them in the one garden you may call your own.’ “

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t think you’d find the things I read very interesting since I rarely read fiction. However, I did recently depart from that when I did a one-off review of The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes. My three favourite books are: The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli, The Art of War by Sun Tzu and Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Taleb. Which one would be my must-read probably changes depending on where I am at the time. Right now, with all that is going on with COVID19, I am in an antifragile mood, so I would go with Taleb.

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Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.

In The Black Swan, Taleb showed us that highly improbable and unpredictable events underlie almost everything about our world. Here Taleb stands uncer­tainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary. The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resil­ient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better.

Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls antifragile are things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish.

Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world. Erudite, witty, and iconoclastic, Taleb’s message is revolutionary: the antifragile, and only the antifragile, will make it.

I love to read non-fiction, as well as fiction. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Being a non-drinker is my first line of defence. (I can nurse a drink an entire evening.) I also hear that staying hydrated is the best go to cure for a hangover.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

The question reminds me of the Big Bang Theory episode “The Intimacy Acceleration” where Sheldon and Penny participate in an experiment designed to see if two people could fall in love. It involves a series of questions they ask each other that are designed to promote intimacy. One of the questions was: Describe your perfect day. It gave me pause, and I turned to Natasha, and said, (and I’m paraphrasing), “Almost everyday is a perfect day. The only thing that would make it absolutely perfect is money.” She understood that what I meant by “money” was Bill Gates, George Soros or Andrew Lloyd Webber kind of money: MONEY!

She and I are sort of a recluse couple. To quote Elton John, “Looking for an island in our boat upon the sea.” We spend most days side by side either pursuing our literary endeavour with the Terra Nova series or our non-literary endeavour.

Being Saturday, I would probably spend the morning writing then reading to Natasha. Then, I would make lunch. (Yes, I do all the cooking.) A catnap après le déjeuner then on to some serious movie watching. Around 5:00 or 6:00, we would work out for about an hour or so followed by a light supper while watching Real Time with Bill Maher, closing with some CNN. Then, to bed to bed my sleepy head.

Pretty boring, no?

Well, it’s something I promised Natasha long ago, (and I mean years not decades). It probably is best incapsulated by a line from Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd: “And at home by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be — and whenever I look up, there will be you.”

Not boring at all, pretty romantic! I’m a huge fan of Real Time… myself. Thank you so much for joining me on the blog and being so open and detailed in your responses, I have enjoyed it very much.

D. E. Overttun is the author of the Terra Nova series of novels which are Universe:Awakening, Genesis: Vision of the New World and Prophecy: Vision of Darkness and you can buy them by following the links.

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You can find out more about D. E. Overttun’s writing via his wife, Natasha’s Twitter account.

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Desert Island Books: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham; Narrated by Graeme Malcolm

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David Strorm’s father doesn’t approve of Angus Morton’s unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realise that his own son, and his son’s cousin Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret abberation which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery, or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands. . .

The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear apocalypse story of genetic mutation in a devastated world and explores the lengths the intolerant will go to keep themselves pure.

I don’t know whether you are someone who likes to read dystopian fiction, especially in this current time of pandemic, but if you are, then John Wyndham is a writer you should know about and this novel is, in my humble opinion, his best. I have read all of his books and, although he is better know for The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos (which was made into a film called The Village of the Damned which did not in any way do the book justice), none of his other books have the emotional impact of The Chrysalids.

I was first introduced to the works of John Wyndham in my early teens by my excellent high school librarian. Along with Dorothy L. Sayers (one of whose novels will be featured as a Desert Island Book later in the year), John Wyndham was an author I would never have picked up without her encouragement, but who has since become a lifelong favourite. The first of his books I read was Chocky, and it (excuse my language) scared the crap out of me, but it was this book that really made me think and which continues to linger in my mind long after I finish reading it, even after multiple re-reads.

The book is set in a post-apocalyptic corner of Canada. The Earth has been blighted by a tragedy that the reader assumes is nuclear war, but this is never confirmed because the people living at this time don’t actually know what happened to make their world the way it is. Their reality is that vast tracts of the planet are uninhabitable, and the earth is so ravaged by radiation fallout that large proportions of everything are deformed and distorted from what they perceive to be the ‘true’ image. For comfort, the population have grasped on to religion with fervour to control their lives and they ruthlessly pursue what they consider to be gospel as regards how man should look and behave, to the extent that they destroy crops and animals they consider deformed or ‘Offences’ against God and inflict unspeakable horrors on humans that do not conform to their belief of the True Image of God, whom they label as Blasphemies.

The story follows the life of David Strorm, the son of one of the most rigid leaders of their  community, and his group of fellow telepaths, who have managed to say hidden from people as they are physically ‘normal’, but who fear persecution because their telepathic ability is not shared by the majority of people (the Norms).

This is basically a book about bigotry. About fear of people who do not look or act exactly the same as the majority, and who are persecuted for their differences, despite the fact they do not hurt anybody. When I listened to this book a few weeks ago to prepare for this piece, I had no idea just how relevant the story was going to feel when I came to post it.

The Audible version of this book is extremely well narrated and very easy to listen to and, as someone who loves and has read the book many times, I can attest that the story loses none of its impact when consumed as an audiobook.

You can buy a copy of The Chrysalids here.

About the Author

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John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Benyon Harris was born in 1903, the son of a barrister. He tried a number of careers including farming, law, commercial art and advertising, and started writing short stories, intended for sale, in 1925. From 1930 to 1939 he wrote stories of various kinds under different names, almost exclusively for American publications, while also writing detective novels. During the war he was in the Civil Service and then the Army.

In 1946 he went back to writing stories for publication in the USA and decided to try a modified form of science fiction, a form he called ‘logical fantasy’. As John Wyndham he wrote The Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes (both widely translated), The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as Village of the Damned), The Seeds of Time, Trouble with Lichen, The Outward Urge (with Lucas Parkes) and Chocky. He died in March 1969.

Desert Island Books: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; Narrated by Stephen Fry

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It’s an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace express route, and his best friend has just announced that he’s an alien. At this moment, they’re hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed, in large friendly letters, with the words: DON’T PANIC.

The weekend has only just begun . . .

Is there anyone who needs me to tell them why I would want to take Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a trilogy in five parts (Yes, I’m having all five books, I’ve got them in a version that is just one volume so it totally isn’t cheating) to my desert island with me? Presumably only someone who has never read it, because noone who has ever picked up these books could fail to fall in love with them.

Look, I know that science fiction isn’t a genre that appeals to everyone; indeed, I myself am not a huge reader of sci-fi, but these books are so, so much more than a simple sci-fi series. They are hilarious and clever and astute and a damning commentary on the ridiculousness of human beings and the futility of existence and a celebration of those very same things. There has never, in my opinion, been anything quite like it before or since and the phenomenal popularity of the series (they’ve been translated into more than 30 languages) bears witness to this. They were a no brainer as an addition to my Desert Island books.

The basic story follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a rather boring man who is whisked away from Earth by his best friend, Ford Prefect,  moments before our planet is demolished by the Vogon constructor fleet to make way for a hyper-space bypass. It turns out Ford is not an out-of-work actor, as Arthur believed, but an alien from the plant Betelguise who is a field researcher for a kind of inter-planetary Lonely Planet handbook called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Arthur then accompanies Ford around the Universe, discovering all kinds of extraordinary things.

This sounds far from extraordinary, but the summary does not do justice to the wit and sharpness with which Adams imbues the text and the deft comedy and piercing observations that pepper the book. True fans absorb the comedic prose into their very beings and you will often find in-jokes from the books creeping in to all kinds of discussions and debates. A bunch of EU law experts were referencing the book (and in particular, the virtues, or lack thereof, of Vogon poetry) during a Twitter debate about Brexit last autumn and it made my soul sing. In fact, one of the category headings of my blog is a direct nod to the title of the third book in the series; this is how deeply the novel is woven in to my psyche.

I have recently inducted my fourteen-year-old daughter in to the joys of the book and was delighted to hear her laughing out loud during the same audio version I have just listened to. I must have been around the same age when I first discovered it, and I have been in love with the books ever since, and I will never get tired of them. They make me laugh, and their comedy fills me with joy. They are the perfect eternal companion on my desert island.

The audio version (of the reading of the book, not the original radio shows) is very well done. Stephen Fry is always a delight to listen to, although he is forever associated in my mind with Harry Potter now when I listen to him. I have only made it through the first audiobook so far, but I have The Restaurant at the End of the Universe ready to go and plan to get through them all again this year. These books make my heart happy, what more can I say?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Douglas Adams created all the various and contradictory manifestations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: radio, novels, TV, computer game, stage adaptations, comic book and bath towel. He lectured and broadcast around the world and was a patron of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and Save the Rhino International. Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge, UK and lived with his wife and daughter in Islington, London, before moving to Santa Barbara, California, where he died suddenly in 2001. After Douglas died the movie of Hitchhiker moved out of development hell into the clear uplands of production, using much of Douglas’ original script and ideas. Douglas shares the writing credit for the movie with Karey Kirkpatrick.

FCBC Reading Challenge 2020: Neon Empire by Drew Minh #BookReview

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In a state-of-the-art city where social media drives every aspect of the economy, a has-been Hollywood director and an investigative journalist race to uncover the relationship between a rising tide of violence and corporate corruption.

Bold, colorful, and dangerously seductive, Eutopia is a new breed of hi-tech city. Rising out of the American desert, it’s a real-world manifestation of a social media network where fame-hungry desperados compete for likes and followers. But in Eutopia, the bloodier and more daring posts pay off the most. As crime rises, no one stands to gain more than Eutopia’s architects—and, of course, the shareholders who make the place possible.

This multiple-POV novel follows three characters as they navigate the city’s underworld. Cedric Travers, a has-been Hollywood director, comes to Eutopia looking for clues into his estranged wife’s disappearance. What he finds instead is a new career directing—not movies, but experiences. The star of the show: A’rore, the city’s icon and lead social media influencer. She’s panicking as her popularity wanes, and she’ll do anything do avoid obscurity. Sacha Villanova, a tech and culture reporter, is on assignment to profile A’rore—but as she digs into Eutopia’s inner workings, she unearths a tangle of corporate corruption that threatens to sacrifice Cedric, A’rore, and even the city itself on the altar of stockholder greed.

This is Book 6 for the 2020 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The category was ‘A book which is a dystopian novel.’ The eagle-eyed amongst you will note that I have not reviewed book five in the challenge, ‘A book from my favourite genre.’ Unfortunately, the book I chose for this category was not to my tastes so, in line with my policy of not including negative reviews on the blog, I have decided I will not be reviewing it.

Neon Empire is a dystopian novel set in a not-too-distant future where the world’s increasing obsession with social media status has developed to the next level and a whole city has been constructed where popularity and social media influence are the sole currency and where flocks of people gather to pursue fame and fortune and hedonism. But the maintenance of status becomes all-consuming, and people’s desire to achieve or maintain their position drives them to further and further extremes and the corporations in control go to ever more desperate lengths to monetise experience to the last degree, regardless of the danger to human life. This all leads to a tautly-wound society that is only ever seconds away from violence and civil disobedience and it is only going to take one wrong move for the tinder-box to erupt.

The pace of the book is frenetic, and the story arc is spliced and jumbled and told by different voices and all angles, to reflect the fast, constantly-changing, crazy world of utopia, where things move and change from second to second and everyone is constantly reacting to changing stimuli and running to catch up. The world-building is detailed and evocative, in my mind Eutopia is a cross between Las Vegas on acid and Minority Report and, for some reason, a place where it is permanently night. Sometimes the text provides too much information to take in, and your brain is chasing the detail, unable to keep up, but again this is deliberate, to reflect the reality that the book presents, which makes for an exciting read, but it is not remotely relaxing!

This is an interesting exploration of where our society could go, given the trajectory we are on at the moment. Bearing in mind the scandals there have been with regard to data-mining and social media influencing of our decision-making in recent years, of how susceptible we all are to online marketing and rumour, how we know that the internet seems to predict our every move by monitoring our online interactions, the world portrayed here is no so far-fetched as to be unimaginable. It is not, however, a pretty or comfortable picture and should give us all pause for thought.

A future of online manipulation, superficiality and artifice is not a place I want to live, or for my children to grow up in. This book made me want to get out in the fresh air and touch something real.

Neon Empire is out now and you can buy a copy here.

 

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher #BookReview (@CharlieFletch_r) @orbitbooks @TheFictionCafe @dstackedshelves #FictionCafeBookClub #FictionCafeReadingChallenge2020 #challenges #readingrecommendations #TemptedBy #YoungAdult #ABoyAndHisDogAtTheEndOfTheWorld

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My name’s Griz. I’ve never been to school, I’ve never had friends, in my whole life I’ve not met enough people to play a game of football. My parents told me how crowded the world used to be, before all the people went away, but we were never lonely on our remote island. We had each other, and our dogs.  

Then the thief came.  

He told stories of the deserted towns and cities beyond our horizons. I liked him – until I woke to find he had stolen my dog. So I chased him out into the ruins of the world. 

I just want to get my dog back, but I found more than I ever imagined was possible. More about how the world ended. More about what my family’s real story is. More about what really matters.  

Book four for the 2020 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club is in the category ‘A book with an animal on the cover’ Well, I see a dog so I think this counts!

This post also represents a special edition of my Tempted by … feature, as I bought this book after reading this fabulous review by my friend Jill over at Double Stacked Shelves. Make sure you pop over and check out her blog.

This book lived up to all Jill promised. Although it is a young adult book, readers of all ages will take away something from it, and you’d need to be some kind of curmudgeon not to enjoy it just because the writing style is pitched at a young adult reader. This is a dystopian story, a tale of adventure, an exploration of human nature and frailty, a morality tale, and a treatise on the love than humans have for their pets, all rolled in to one great book.

We meet Griz & his family at the end of days, when the human population has all but died out and the few people who are left are scattered far and wide across a barren landscape. Everyone is living a hand to mouth existence, which makes them suspicious of strangers and protective of the things they have. So when a visitor to their remote home steals Griz’s dog, he sets off in pursuit. The rest of the book then follows Griz’s journey as he travels across an unknown land to find his lost companion.

The story is gripping from the first page as we try to understand what has happened to the world and what kind of devastation humans have wreaked on themselves and the planet. It is fascinating to look through the author’s imagination to see what someone who has never experienced life as we currently live it makes of our world through the decaying remnants left behind. What kind of things are still of value to humans on the edge of existence, and what has become worthless.

The book is full of emotion, as the bonds of family are tested, and the importance of relationships, trust, understanding, empathy and kindness are explored through Griz’s journey and the challenges he meets along the way. The book explores how we can change and grow in the face of adversity, confirming the old adage, ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger.’

I have been a huge fan of dystopian fiction since my old school librarian introduced me to the books of John Wyndham as a teenager, but I don’t remember there being any books like this specifically aimed at my age group. This book brought back echoes of those books to me, along with a sniff of Treasure Island for some reason. I was thoroughly invested in the story, and found it moving, melancholy and uplifting, all at the same time. I am also happy that I have found a book I can share with my teenage daughters and discuss and enjoy with them. A book to be passed along between generations, which makes it a great find.

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Charlie’s a screenwriter and a novelist and he lives on the edge of Edinburgh. He’s been lots of other things too – temperamentally unsuitable bar staff (grumpy, not talkative), temporary laundry manager in a big London hotel, detail-shop car-wash jockey in Reno, Nevada, despatch runner for a film company in Soho,  food critic (not a very good one, basically never met a meal he didn’t like. Or at least eat too much of), national newspaper columnist (Scotland’s a nation, right?) and a film editor at the BBC. He studied Literature at St Andrews University, and later took a grad degree in Screenwriting at USC.

He swims a lot, keeps thinking of taking up cycling, likes forgotten books, summers on the Outer Hebrides, terriers, his wife and his children – not necessarily in that order.

Connect with Charlie:

Website: http://www.charliefletcher.com

Twitter: @CharlieFletch_r

Tales of What The F*ck by D. A. Watson #BookReview #BlogTour (@davewatsonbooks) @WildWolfPublish @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #TalesOfWhatTheF*ck

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I’m happy to be taking part in the blog tour today for Tales of What The F*ck by D. A. Watson. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for the blog tour invitation and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Billionaire terminal cancer patient John Longmire’s going to die today, and he’s going out in style in the classiest euthanasia clinic in the world. But the strange nurse with the clipboard and the look of a goddess is spoiling the mood, with all her irksome questions about how he’s lived his life.

Recent retiree Gerald loves his wife Barbara and he loves his garden, but Barbara hates the garden. Because the garden’s taking Gerald over, and Barbara says he has to stop before he has another ‘incident’.

Bullied, ridiculed and unloved, moustachioed schoolgirl “Hairy” Mhairi Barry has never had any friends but the ones she finds on the shelves of the library where she’s spent most of her lonely childhood. But tonight, she’s going to a party with all the cool kids, to show them what she’s learned in all those books.

A suspicious smelling smorgasbord of lovelorn psychopaths, vengeful mugging victims, pawn shop philosophers and rhyming Glaswegian alien abduction, Tales of the What the Fuck is a dark, touching, horrific and hilarious collection of short stories, flash fiction and epic poetry from People’s Book Prize nominated author D.A. Watson. Things are about to get weird.

Well, I stepped well outside my comfort zone with this book, but that is always one of the pleasures of book blogging, reading things you would not normally pick up. This is definitely a book that would not usually find its way in to my reading schedule, and I’m still not 100% sure what I just read, but it certainly shook me out of any reading complacency I may have found myself in!

This book is extremely hard to categorise, such a random mix of flash fiction, poetry and short stories across a very diverse bunch of genres, with not much to link them except the perverse mind that wrote them all. And I think that the mind which came up with all of these may be something we don’t want to dwell on too much, because a lot of the stories are very dark and twisted!

Any one of a squeamish disposition should steer well clear, along with anyone offended by swearing. However, readers of a more robust and curious nature may wish to dip a toe in and explore this unique compendium of dark tales. If you do, you will encounter the unexpected at every turn, come face to face with criminals, psychopaths, aliens and much, much more around every corner, and wonder how you ended up where you find yourself.

The big draw for this book is that parts of it are very funny, if your sense of humour takes a turn towards the black side, and there are a lot of wry observations on the vagaries of modern life and relationships. This book will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is certainly different, and the author is obviously talented, lending a hand to a lot of different styles. One for those times when you fancy stretching the boundaries of your experience and opening your mind a little.

Tales of What The F*ck is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for the reactions of other bloggers to this book.

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About the Author

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D.A. Watson was halfway through a music and media degree at the University of Glasgow and planning on being a teacher when he discovered he was actually a better writer than musician. He unleashed his debut novel In the Devil’s Name on an unsuspecting public in the summer of 2012, and plans of a stable career in education left firmly in the dust, later gained his masters in Creative Writing from the University of Stirling.

He has since published two more novels; The Wolves of Langabhat and Cuttin’ Heads, a collection of short fiction and poetry, Tales of the What the F*ck, and several acclaimed articles, poems and stories, including Durty Diana, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the US in 2016, and the Burns parody Tam O’ Shatner, prizewinner at the Falkirk Storytelling Festival and Dunedin Burns Poetry Competition, and nominated for the People’s Book Prize in 2018.

Watson’s writing has appeared in several anthologies and collections including 404 Ink, Dark Eclipse, Speculative Books, Haunted Voices and The Flexible Persona, and he is also a regular spoken word performer, with past gigs at Bloody Scotland, Tamfest, Sonnet Youth, Express Yourself, Clusterf*ck Circus, and the Burnsfest festival in 2018, where he appeared on the main stage as the warm up act for the one and only Chesney Hawkes, a personal milestone and career highlight.

His fourth novel Adonias Low will be released by Stirling Pubishing in 2021. He lives with his family in a witch infested village on the west coast of Scotland, and continues to write some seriously weird sh*t.

Connect with Dave:

Facebook: Dave Watson Books

Twitter: @davewatsonbooks

Battle Beyond the Dolestars by Chris McCrudden #BookReview (@cmccrudden) @farragobooks @NetGalley #PublicationDay #BattlestarSuburbia #NetGalley

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Time for the Machine Republic to Kurl Up and Dye

It’s a year since the Battlestar Suburbia broke free from Earth and the human rebellion is hiding out in the asteroid belt. Their leader, Admiral Janice, is assembling a fleet she hopes can topple robot rule – except on Wednesday afternoons when she can do you a half head of highlights for 30 quid.

Janice has given Darren, now the reluctant captain of the teenage starship Polari, a critical mission, to open up a path back to Earth by bombing the Martian Gap Services. But when it goes wrong and Darren and his crew are chased deep into the solar system, Janice has only one hope left, back on Earth.

Here, sentient breadmaker Pamasonic Teffal is resisting the human–machine war the best way she knows how: by running for office. Until a distress signal from Janice persuades her to get her turbo-charged alter ego Pam Van Damme out of mothballs, that is…

Can Pam save the solar system and rescue Kelly from the clutches of her nemesis, the crazed smartphone-turned-cyborg, Sonny Erikzon?

Anyone who follows the blog will know the Battlestar Suburbia was one of my Top Ten Books of 2018 (you can read my review of the book here), so I am extra excited to be reviewing the sequel, Battle Beyond the Dolestars, on the blog today, which is its publication day. Happy publication day, Chris, and my thanks to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

There is always a risk with a sequel to a book that you have loved as much as I loved Battlestar Suburbia that it isn’t going to live up to expectations. The ‘difficult second book’ syndrome. I am delighted to report that any such fears are unfounded with this book, it was every bit as mad, funny and clever as the first one and I enjoyed every minute of revisiting the Battlestar Suburbia-iverse (NB. must think of a snappier reference.)

The first book was a such a hit with me because it blended together my love of the works of Douglas Adams, a nostalgic nod to Red Dwarf and really, really bad puns. I absolutely love a really, really bad pun. This book has all of that, plus a great interweaving of subtle, and less subtle, references to the total shambles that is our current political situation. I’m not quite sure how Chris does it, but all these things which should probably end up being a huge soupy mess actually blend together really well and flow like a well-oiled machine to make a book that it sharp, funny, clever and thought-provoking, all at the same time. Did I mention the truly terrible puns?

I really, really love the characters in these books and it was fascinating to see how they have all developed in the year since the last story ended. Janice, the reluctant leader of the resistance is finding that the demands of leadership weigh heavily on the shoulders of a hairdresser who hasn’t really had dealings with people for decades, except three ancient cyborgs formed from the bodies of cantankerous, elderly customers. She’s much rather be left alone in her salon, instead of being forced to try and out spies using ingenious hairdressing techniques.

Darren also hasn’t quite worked out how to fit comfortably into his new role as space hero, particularly the costuming part, but he’s doing his best. Pamasonic Teffal continued to be my favourite character, although she actually ends up being more than one, due to her schizophrenic approach to the resistance movement. Her escapades in the world of the social hostess particularly made me laugh. There were also some great new characters to get to grips with and the whole thing was just a joyous smorgasbord of silliness and science. Honestly, there hasn’t been anything quite like this available for a ,long time, it is such a clever blend of madness and brilliance, I really can’t sing the praises of the series enough.

I’m really hoping that this is not the last we see of the Battlestar Suburbia-iverse (damn, failed to improve on it), because I have really grown very fond of its quirkiness. Maybe Chris will do an Adams and give us a trilogy in five parts as an homage to a writer who has to have been an influence. But, even if this is the end, I really look forward to seeing what he produces next because he has a very unique way of looking at things that I am keen to see more of.

Battle Beyond the Dolestars is published today and you can buy a copy here.  The book is the sequel to Battlestar Suburbia, and you can get a copy of this first book in the series here.

About the Author

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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.

 

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

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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:

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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.