Category Archives: near future

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of HARDBACK Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock #Brainfluffbookreview #Novacenebookreview

Standard

My lovely mother sent this one to me as a gift after hearing Lovelock’s fascinating interview on Radio Four…

James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia hypothesis and the greatest environmental thinker of our time, has produced an astounding new theory about future of life on Earth. He argues that the anthropocene – the age in which humans acquired planetary-scale technologies – is, after 300 years, coming to an end. A new age – the novacene – has already begun.

And that’s as much of the atrocious blurb that I’m willing to share. This isn’t a long book, but it posits some fascinating views – which are aptly summed up in the most blurting blurb I’ve read in a long time. Unfortunately, I had the bad luck to read it before I was aware I would be gifted the book.

However, I did my best to put the back cover matter out of my head, because as I read the book, I was aware that Lovelock is a one-off. His ideas are genuinely original and while I’m not convinced about all of them – I don’t agree with his stance regarding the existence of aliens, for instance – I did feel that his summary about the crisis surrounding climate change and our treatment of Earth is worth the book alone. To the extent that I am now converted to supporting the nuclear industry as a stopgap before discovering less toxic ways of generating energy, instead of continuing to use fossil fuels in any form.

I found his ideas about the future direction of our species and how hyperintelligence will continue to develop to be fascinating. I hope that governments around the world will listen to his warnings about keeping machine intelligence away from military applications, though I somehow doubt it – these days many major powers seem to led by braindead donkeys…

If I’ve given you the impression that this book is a doom-laden litany of impending disasters, then I need to correct that mistake. At 100 years old, Lovelock is not only still mentally pin-sharp, he is also largely optimistic about humanity’s future, believing that both machine and organic intelligence will need to unite to head off the threat of global warming endangering all life on the planet. Overall, I found this a readable, cogent analysis on the major issues confronting us as a species and Lovelock’s take on how that will probably pan out worth considering. After all, this is the man who explained that our environment worked as a highly complex, interrelated whole, at a time when other experts mocked the idea. We ignore him again at our peril.

Highly recommended.
10/10

Advertisements

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of NETGALLEY arc The Warehouse by Rob Hart #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWarehousebookreview

Standard

I found this a really, really uncomfortable read – and have been thinking about it a lot since I finished this one. Those of us who have increasingly got into the habit of shopping online in the comfort of our own homes need to think long and hard about the ongoing consequences on not just our local High Street – but the power we are ceding to powerful multi-national companies. This cautionary tale brought that home to me…

Paxton never thought he’d be working for Cloud, the giant tech company that’s eaten much of the American economy. Much less that he’d be moving into one of the company’s sprawling live-work facilities. But compared to what’s left outside, Cloud’s bland chainstore life of gleaming entertainment halls, open-plan offices, and vast warehouses…well, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s more than anyone else is offering. Zinnia never thought she’d be infiltrating Cloud. But now she’s undercover, inside the walls, risking it all to ferret out the company’s darkest secrets. And Paxton, with his ordinary little hopes and fears? He just might make the perfect pawn. If she can bear to sacrifice him.

In this dystopian world, there has been a widespread collapse of the economy, taking all Government services and a lot of jobs with it. Cloud is still thriving, however – so its employees are hugely grateful for the accommodation, medical services and meals that go with the job. Surely working hard in return makes it a reasonable bargain…

Hart uses three protagonists to demonstrate just how the system works – Paxton, whose own small firm was squeezed out of existence by Cloud, who also took over his own nifty invention for a pittance; Zinnia, who has been employed as an undercover agent; and Gibson, founder and figurehead of Cloud, who has his own reasons for reflecting upon his life’s work.

As I continued to read, I felt a chilly recognition. I happen to be a historian by training and one of my study areas had been the early Industrial Revolution when runaway capitalism stripped workers of any rights and turned them into foundry-fodder. It took years of grinding poverty and degradation before workers in this country were able to band together and win back the dignity of a fair day’s wage in return for a fair day’s work.

Without any kind of political spin or widening the scope of this story, Hart skilfully depicts what happens when there aren’t any checks and balances on any large conglomerate where the profit margin is the sole goal. I couldn’t put this one down as the plausible chain of events led to a state of affairs that seems unstoppably to be just over the horizon. And neither can I forget it. I find myself less enthusiastic about online shopping, these days. The ebook arc copy of The Warehouse was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Scavenger Blood – Book 2 of the Scavenger Exodus series by Janet Edwards #Brainfluffbookreview #ScavengerBloodbookreview

Standard

I received an arc from the author as I read and thoroughly enjoyed Scavenger Alliance – see my review here – and my firm advice is to track down this first book in the series, before embarking on this sequel.

2408. Humanity has travelled to the stars through interstellar portals, but the rebels and criminals were left behind on a ruined Earth. Eighteen-year-old Blaze is one of the last seven hundred people scavenging a living in an increasingly lethal New York infested by alien predators. Forced to step into the spotlight to help her father defeat a leadership challenge by her old enemy Cage, she’s now adjusting to being deputy leader of the uneasy alliance between the remnants of the Earth Resistance and the old criminal gangs.

Scavenger Blood is the second book in the Scavenger Exodus series. This is set in the same future timeline as the Earth Girl trilogy, but takes place several centuries earlier, and one of the protagonists featured is an ancestor of the trilogy’s main character, Jarra.

Edwards writes young women learning to cope in difficult situations very well. I thoroughly enjoyed the excellent Earth Girl series featuring young Jarra, as the scenario of portal travel off-world leaving Earth virtually uninhabited works really well. While reading the Earth Girl series may give you the historical backstory, this spinoff series effectively stands alone as Edwards gives an insight into the outlaw remnants scratching a living amongst the ruins of New York. A terrible fate awaits them if they continue to stay in the city – but while a vengeful killer is on the loose with a hidden gang of supporters within the community, they cannot consider safely moving everyone out of the city, either…

I was soon fully back in the world and alongside Blaze as she has to negotiate the tensions within competing factions, in addition to coping with everyday danger such as nasty aliens who have developed a taste for the humans hiding amongst the ruins. The pace and tension steadily ramped up in this dangerous world where death is a daily occurrence. Blaze is a sympathetic protagonist, who struggles to overcome insecurities caused by a tough upbringing. This progression is really well handled by Edwards, leaving Blaze in quite a different place at the end from where she was at the start of the book.

The only major grizzle I have is that now I’ve finished this one, I would love to find out what happens next – right now! I’m looking forward to the next phase of this story, as there are bound to be all sorts of adventures in store for these embattled people, many of whom are only guilty of having been born to folks on the wrong side of the law. This series is highly recommended for science fiction fans who enjoy a well-written dystopian scenario featuring a feisty young female protagonist.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 11th June, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

The Warehouse by Rob Hart
21% Zinnia’s foot slipped and her stomach lurched. She managed to grab the side of the shelving unit before she fell backward and cracked her head on the floor.

It hadn’t taken long to stop using the carabiner. The clip took precious seconds to engage and disengage, which weren’t worth spending. She was less concerned with falling and more concerned with the yellow line.

BLURB: Gun violence, climate change and unemployment have ravaged the United States beyond recognition.

Amidst the wreckage, an online retail giant named Cloud reigns supreme. Cloud brands itself not just as an online storefront, but as a global saviour. Yet, beneath the sunny exterior, lurks something far more sinister.

Paxton never thought he’d be working Security for the company that ruined his life, much less that he’d be moving into one of their sprawling live-work facilities. But compared to what’s left outside, perhaps Cloud isn’t so bad. Better still, through his work he meets Zinnia, who fills him with hope for their shared future.

Except that Zinnia is not what she seems. And Paxton, with his all-access security credentials, might just be her meal ticket.
As Paxton and Zinnia’s agendas place them on a collision course, they’re about to learn just how far the Cloud will go to make the world a better place.

This Netgalley arc is a somewhat uncomfortable read, given that I do a fair amount of shopping online with another, real-life retail giant… So far, I am finding this an engrossing near-future story. Review to follow in August when the book is being released.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Across the Void by S.K. Vaughn #Brainfluffbookreview #AcrosstheVoidbookreview

Standard

I was so excited about this one – the premise looked amazing and the opening scene absolutely hooked me. What a fabulous beginning…

Commander Maryam “May” Knox awakes from a medically induced coma alone, adrift in space on a rapidly failing ship, with little to no memory of who she is or why she’s there. Slowly, she pieces together that she’s the captain of the ship, Hawking II; that she was bound for Europa—one of Jupiter’s moons—on a research mission; and that she’s the only survivor of either an accident—or worse, a deliberate massacre—that has decimated her entire crew. With resources running low, and her physical strength severely compromised, May must rely on someone back home to help her. The problem is: everyone thinks she’s dead.

First, the good news. The first half of the book is riveting – that opening sequence where May surfaces on a failing ship, struggling to work out what is going on with a badly glitched AI and memory issues, worked extremely well. The science aspect was entirely believable and the character development and backstory were effective and well written. I was drawn into her life, despite not liking her very much.

I also liked the fact that May was black, with a successful black mother who had helped and supported her. So it was a real shame that I never really warmed to May – in fact as the story wore on, I found myself disliking her selfish behaviour more and more. For me, the dealbreaker was the disgraceful manner in which she neglected her mother as she became old and ill – and then made a huge scene on her death, where we’re all supposed to feel very sorry for her grief. Hm – not me. By this point, I was sick and tired of May’s self absorbed behaviour, just hoping that poor old Stephen would see the light and run away in the opposite direction from her as fast as possible.

Because if you’re sensing a BUT, you’re right… this is a book of two halves. The first half drew me in and absolutely had me hooked, but about the halfway stage, I had a ‘Whoa!’ moment. The storyline lurched into the utterly unbelievable – setting up camp in Fantasyland, where it firmly stayed. I continued reading, hoping that somehow, at some stage, this would stop reading like the script of a really silly sci fi movie, and dial back to what started out as a thoroughly engrossing, strong story. It didn’t. The silliness wore on into the outright ridiculous.

It’s a shame. The characters were well depicted, so that even if I hated the main protagonist, it didn’t stop her being well portrayed, warts and all. The story could so easily have continued to be a gripping, well written thriller with plenty of heft, instead of lapsing into lazy Hollywoodesque clichés that I saw coming on encountering the opening sequences. Frequent comparisons with The Martian demean both the film (which did get a tad daft at the end) and certainly the book, which is far better crafted and more realistic than this effort.

Apparently, the tortured romantic element is being touted as sci-cry – and it’s certainly a crying shame that a better editor didn’t rein in the author(s) in this promising, yet horribly flawed effort. Not recommended for anyone who enjoys believable sci fi.

While I obtained an arc of Across the Void from the author via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
4/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton #Brainfluffbookreview #EmilyEternalbookreview

Standard

Meet Emily – she can solve advanced mathematical problems, unlock the mind’s deepest secrets and even fix your truck’s air con, but unfortunately, she can’t restart the Sun.

She’s an artificial consciousness, designed in a lab to help humans process trauma, which is particularly helpful when the sun begins to die 5 billion years before scientists agreed it was supposed to.

I really liked Emily, an artificial consciousness (not an A.I.) designed to assist humans overcome traumatic situations. Emily is in huge demand right at the start of the book, when humanity is grappling with the knowledge that the sun is going to die in a matter of weeks – and so are they. Interestingly, the book is told from Emily’s viewpoint in first person pov, so we get a ringside seat to Emily’s thoughts. To be honest – while I consciously suspended my disbelief while reading the book, I wasn’t completely convinced by her to the extent that I could simply relax into the storyline without considering whether she actually worked. It wasn’t a dealbreaker and there is a lot about the book that I thoroughly enjoyed – but it would have been a 5 star rating from me if I’d been able to accept the whole premise.

That said, Emily is very likeable – smart, empathetic and clearly concerned about the humans she has grown up around in her 5-year-old life at the university lab where she works alongside a dedicated team of scientists and students. One of the things I love about this book is the pacing. I didn’t read the blurb, so found the initial plight – Sunmaggedon, as it’s called – both riveting and enjoyable. Just as I was settling down to discover how the university are going to use Emily to help with the desperate situation, it all turns into something else as another agenda forces itself onto the scene. The horror and violence was well done – sufficiently engrossing to keep the pace up and the pages turning, but not too much so that Emily is completely overwhelmed, thus slowing everything down.

The next plot twist – which I won’t reveal because it takes us into Spoiler territory – again, caught me unawares with a development I thoroughly enjoyed. However I found the romance between Emily and Jason annoying, to the extent that I was a tad disappointed when I discovered that he hadn’t died during a major incident near the beginning of the book.

The final plot development wasn’t one that wholly convinced me, though at no stage was I tempted to walk away. If you enjoy science fiction at the quirkier end, with a strong non-human protagonist, give this adventure a go. You may find Emily more believable than I did, but even if you have reservations, this is a brave book aiming high with an ambitious concept that I mostly enjoyed. The ebook arc copy of Emily Eternal was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

Teaser Tuesday – 16th April, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman

35% Nothing has changed in the bedroom. His body is still there, which jars me. In zero-gore games it would have faded out by now. I study his face, wondering if I knew him a long time ago and have forgotten him, but he seems just as much a stranger. Surely there is a statement in that fact? In a game populated purely by people I have known – or even just seen regularly – in my life on Earth, the fact that he is the only exception feels important.

BLURB: Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who ordered the nuclear strike that destroyed the world. She’s trying to find those responsible, and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone.

A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time…

This is a fabulous series – After Atlas was my outstanding read of 2017 – so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read an arc copy of this one. Many, many thanks to Lynn of Lynn’s Book Blog for talking me through how to negotiate the Netgalley thicket to make this possible😊. So far, I’m loving this one – though I have no idea where it’s going…

Review of PAPERBACK Satellite by Nick Lake #Brainfluffbookreview #Satellitebookreview

Standard

This is another book I hauled last summer with my birthday money – and yes… I can’t lie, it was allll about that stunning cover.

He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.

That’s part of the blurb. But what is interesting is that if blurbs are supposed to be a taster for what is inside the book, then this back-book matter should be written in text-speak because Lake has taken the brave decision to write this near-future adventure in this format, complete with no capitals except for names. It took me a couple of pages to get comfortable with this format, but I’ve read a string of reviews from indignant readers who simply couldn’t cope. That’s a real shame, because they missed a cracking story as a result. And to be honest, I’m not sure this step was worth it, given it certainly posed an additional barrier to accessing the story.

Leo is a rather self-contained character, who is always an outsider – he’s bound to be given he is raised in a space station alongside a set of twins. When he sees his mother, which is infrequently, she never shows him any affection – not so much as a hug, let alone playing games and reading to him like Orion and Libra’s mother during her visits. At fifteen, Leo tells himself that he has become used to her attitude, while readying himself for his return to Earth. I loved his personality, which is important as this tale is told in first person viewpoint. Lake managed to denote his emotions, while we are also aware he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. Given the nature of his upbringing, he is wary of people and their motives, which stands him in good stead once he finds himself back on Earth.

Leo’s wonder at the beauty he encounters is wonderfully conveyed as he begins to acclimatise to gravity while living on his grandfather’s cattle ranch. But all too soon, his life there becomes disrupted. Earth is in trouble. Water and food are running out as global warming is drying up farmland and turning swathes of the landmass into desert. There are dangerous factions abroad who would like to get their hands on one of the famous space-born children…

As events stack up and the story turns a whole lot darker, I found it hard to put this one down. The scenario portrayed is chillingly plausible, which sharpened the sense of distress at the children’s plight. However, after carefully building up a realistic sense of the near-future, this adventure suddenly takes a sharp left-turn into a plotpoint more suited to Hollywood silliness. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but I could easily visualise an alternative scenario that wouldn’t have entailed all that nonsense and still given more or less the same ending.

So while I coped with the text-prose, I have marked this down from a five-star rating to a four-star novel, because I strongly felt that one final action scene at the end was entirely unnecessary and distracted from some of the hard ethical questions this thoughtful story raises. But don’t that discourage you from reading this one – it’s a gripping story with a hard-hitting message and left me with a lump in my throat, notwithstanding that final act.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Survivor in Death – Book 20 of the In Death series by R.D. Robb #Brainfluffbookreview #SurvivorinDeathbookreview

Standard

I’ve tried one of these near-future murder mysteries written by the very successful Nora Roberts under her pen name J.D. Robb, but it didn’t really do it for me. I decided to give the series another go and this time asked Himself for one of the best books – and he recommended this one…

The only thing that kept young Nixie Swisher from suffering the same fate as her parents, brother, housekeeper, and young sleepover companion was the impulsive nine-year-old’s desire for an illicit orange fizzy at 2 a.m. Taking the bereft girl under her wing, Eve is determined to make sure the killers don’t get the chance to finish their lethal job. From the first, however, the investigation is baffling. The Swishers were a nice family, living on the Upper West Side in a house with an excellent security system. Ordinary almost to a fault, they seemed unlikely victims for this carefully planned and executed crime. Valuables at the scene were left untouched, there was no sign of vandalism — just the corpses of five people murdered in their sleep.

Firstly, don’t worry about crashing midway into this series. I didn’t need to break a sweat to figure out who was doing what to whom – and Robb provides plenty of information about Eve Dallas and her backstory, given this particular crime also resonates unpleasantly with her. I really liked Eve, who is a typical, gritty cop wedded to restoring some kind of order onto the street of 2059 New York. I also liked the fact that she is very happily married to bad-boy-turned-good Roarke – do be warned that this isn’t one to leave around for the younger teens to read as there are a couple of steamy sex scenes and the language is somewhat salty at times.

That said, while the home invasion is horrible, Robb is careful not to tip into gratuitous violence – or sentimentality. I was impressed that the little girl’s plight is also depicted with restraint and some understanding of how children cope with trauma.

There had to be some suspension of belief over the fact that Eve scoops the little mite up and takes her home – but Robb manages to just about bring it off, I think. In amongst the investigation to discover who perpetrated this terrible crime and why, there is a steady stream of cop humour which I found very welcome. This book had me hooked right to the end, also believing that Nixie would eventually find happiness again – which mattered. And I now understand why this series is a firm favourite with so many folks, Himself included…
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePsychologyofTimeTravelbookreview

Standard

I’ve been eyeing this one with enthusiasm and was delighted to be able to get hold of it via Netgalley. Apart from anything else – that cover is to die for…

In 1967, four female scientists worked together to build the world’s first time machine. But just as they are about to debut their creation, one of them suffers a breakdown, putting the whole project—and future of time travel—in jeopardy. To protect their invention, one member is exiled from the team—erasing her contributions from history. Fifty years later, time travel is a big business. Twenty-something Ruby Rebello knows her beloved grandmother, Granny Bee, was one of the pioneers, though no one will tell her more. But when Bee receives a mysterious newspaper clipping from the future reporting the murder of an unidentified woman, Ruby becomes obsessed: could it be Bee? Who would want her dead? And most importantly of all: can her murder be stopped?

Firstly, if you are in the habit of diving in and skimming your way through a story – that reading tactic won’t work here. This is a densely written, tightly crafted book with a non-linear timeline that means you need to slow down and pay attention when reading this one. And if you approached this one, thinking that you would be in for the kind of adventurous mayhem offered by Jodi Taylor in her Chronicles of St Mary’s series – again, you’d be wrong. It’s nothing of the sort. So now we’ve got the two fundamental mistakes I committed when first approaching this one out of the way – let’s address what it is.

For once, the title is spot on – this book addresses what regular time travelling does to the travellers. Unlike most time-travelling books, this one doesn’t take us on forays into the past or future, but concentrates on a small handful of people who are profoundly affected by time travelling and follows their story. I was intrigued that some didn’t even time travel themselves – Ginger, for instance – but were connected in some way to people who did. Told in multiple viewpoint, the story weaves around a tightly-knit group for whom the ordinary rules of the universe no longer apply. Led by someone innately arrogant and entitled, Grace’s viewpoint pervades the group and anyone who disagrees with her viewpoint is forced to leave. Apparently driven by a fear that the project will be shut down on the grounds that time travel causes mental illness, Grace institutes rigorous checks, including nasty games designed to foster an indifference towards death in the travellers.

How can an outsider find a way into this group to discover details about a mysterious death? As the story jumps between the characters and different timelines, we gain an insight into the motivations and lives of a handful of women all somehow involved in the particular death, or time travelling. It is an engrossing, clever read packed with telling character details that have had me mulling over this one ever since I put it down. And, exceptionally, I’m tempted to go back and reread it – something I hardly ever do. Partly, because while I thoroughly enjoyed it and am in awe of the writing talent that is Mascarenhas – I didn’t love it. Being a rather simple soul, I need to be able to bond with at least one of the main characters and other than poor Bee – I didn’t.

I’m really sorry about that, because the other outstanding aspect of this book is that the only male characters who appear are incidental. For once, I’m reading a book where every single person who has agency and matters is a woman – I can’t tell you after growing up in the 60s and 70s what an amazing feeling that is. I just wished I cared more about at least one of these brave, powerful females. However, that doesn’t diminish the book’s importance or lessen my appreciation of the writing skill on display and I shall definitely be looking out for more by this immensely talented author. While I obtained an arc of The Psychology of Time Travel from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10