Friday, 17 November 2017

Book Review: 2048

Edited by George Sandison
Published by Unsung Stories
Available in paperback

Short story anthologies can be a mixed bag and I know that I have found myself in the past skipping over stories to get to the good stuff. Well, 2048 isn't one of those anthologies - ever story is a gem.

This anthology of stories depicts possible futures of what life could be like in 2048, one hundred years after George Orwell's 1984. These are warnings - is this the future we want to head towards?

I was expecting all of these stories to explore variations of big brother and the surveillance world but I was wrong. This anthology is more than just being influenced by Orwell's 1984. The stories springboard from that initial idea and each author has created a powerful, enjoyable and mostly unsettling possible future.

Within these pages are stories about walls wrapped around Europe stopping people from fleeing war-torn countries, social media choking real life and warping the minds of millions and leaving people isolated, the extinction of animals and the way people barter for fur and animal body parts, fashion has turned into a religion. Each story pulls the reader into this compact world and clings on even after reading the story. I've already gone back and read some of these stories again.

Babylon by Dave Hutchinson is a strong opening story with its depiction of an oppressive Europe with its immigration policy allowing only the rich into Europe. This small story packs the punches with the mistreatment of people, the ways people will do to survive and the extremes they will take for a better life. The protagonist in this story changes his DNA to be accepted in Europe.

Malcolm Devlin's March, April, May tells the story of the paranoid world of social media and the way it controls our worldviews and social circles. This sinister story shows a group of friends and the way they interact with a friend who wants to play devil's advocate and try to break the social network's algorithm but it seems to backfire as her account disappears. Users only care about the information presented to them rather than questioning the world through their computers. In a world where fake news and post-truths seem to spread very quickly through social media this possible future feels like it's already starting to take shape.

The anthology finishes with a unsettling story, Shooting an Episode by Christopher Priest, telling the story of reality TV moderator who has become jaded with his job and wants to leave. However, his employer has one more job for him, putting him in the clutches of the 'super' fans who watch the show and want to interact with the actors. Priest explores the foggy area between reality and TV and they way people perceive these truths. 

Within this fantastic collection are stories from Christopher Priest, James Smythe, Jeff Noon, Aliya Whiteley to name just a few. Trust me on this, buy this book even if you don't really like reading short stories. 2048 is an excellent collection which leave you thinking for days about your own version of 2048You can buy 2048 from your favourite book retailer.

List of stories contained in 2048:

Babylon - Dave Hutchinson
Here Comes the Flood - Desirina Boskovich
Fly Away, Peter - Ian Hocking
A Good Citizen - Anne Charnock
The Endling Market - E. J. Swift
Glitterati - Oliver Langmead
Room 149 - Jeff Noon
Percepi - Courttia Newland
Degrees of Ellision - Cassandra Khaw
The Infinite Eye - JP Smythe
Saudade Minus One (S-1=) - Irenosen Okojie
March, April, May - Malcolm Devlin
2084 Satoshi AD - Lavie Tidhar
Uniquo - Aliya Whiteley
Shooting an Episode - Christopher Priest

The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

October's Reading

Just three books read in October - I really am slacking... 

But I've been enjoying theatre trips, going to the Royal Albert Hall to see Jaws with an orchestra accompaniment, and basically being a slower reader.

So, here are the books I read this month. I'm aiming to read more than three in November!

Western Fringes - Amer Anwar
Winner of the CWA Debut Dagger award, Western Fringes is a gritty, hard-hitting crime thriller full of violence, family feuds and revenge. Twisty turns in this gritty crime thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat. You can read my review here.

How to be Champion - Sarah Millican
Part autobiography, part self-help, part confession, Sarah Millican, that comedian off the telly, shares her normal life with laugh out loud stories and snippets on how to deal with those crap times in your life. Sarah comes up with a fool-proof way to come up top after a divorce (why wasn't this chapter available when I needed advice like this), how to deal with crap jobs and those embarrassing IBS moments. This book is really funny and will definitely cheer you up with the colder nights.

Men Explain Things To Me - Rebecca Solnit
This important set of essays looks at the way women have to still struggle in society to have their voices and actions heard. This book will make you think about your position in society and is thought-provoking. Even though this is a serious book it is still entertaining!

What did you read in October?

Monday, 30 October 2017

Book Review: Western Fringes by Amer Anwar

Western Fringes
Amer Anwar
Published by Edurus Books
Available in paperback & ebook

Winner of the CWA Debut Dagger award, Western Fringes is a gritty, hard-hitting crime thriller full of violence, family feuds and revenge.

Zaq Khan, recently released from prison, is working a dead-end job in a builder's yard, trying to make enough money to survive and keep out of trouble. However his boss has other ideas, and those involve looking for his missing daughter, Rita, with one requirement: no police.

Gritty and gripping, Zaq's assignment seems simple until he realises that a girl on the run from an arranged marriage isn't what it seems. Her brothers seem to be dealing drugs from a warehouse and they seem to be very keen on their sister being returned.

Zaq plants himself right in the middle of a family argument, full of deceit, jealousy and murder. He not only needs to keep himself alive but also keep Rita from the clutches of her brothers. He is pulled further and further into a world where he could end up back in prison. Fights, car chases, and stakeouts, Zaq turns detective to find out why this family are ripping each other and the local community apart.

Western Fringes is a tough Asian crime thriller full of sharp dialogue, enough punches to make you flinch and a plot that will having you gripping the edge of your seat. Anwar explores the things people will do to survive not only within their local community (not going to the police), within their own culture (running away from an arranged marriage) but also for themselves. Anwar looks at the way traditions and cultures impact people's lives and the way some generations will do their best to void their heritage.

Amer Anwar's debut novel is a fast paced thriller, and will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page. This book will make you very tense so make sure you run yourself a relaxing bath after reaching the last page.

You can buy Western Fringes from your favourite bookshop.

Thank you to the author for sending me a copy.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

September's Reading

Not many books read in September...

But I finished redrafting my novel, and I've sent it to a few agents (cross your fingers and toes for me), and I've finally cracked the shell of short story that has been driving me around the bend for two years. Yes, two bloody years - the structure and the voice was wrong but I think I'm now on the right path.

I'm now having a crisis of 'what if I can never write another novel again' - it's really fun. The same thoughts go around in my head, one minute saying that I can still write and then there's the other side telling me that I'm done and I should stick to reading. Tell me you all have inner voices and that I haven't cracked? Please?

Anyway, books read in September....

Madame Bovary of the Suburbs - Sophie Divry (translated by Alison Anderson)
Sophie Divry, author of the fantastic The Library of Unrequited Love, tackles Madame Bovary with a modern retelling of a woman who moves through life, successful with a job, family, children and friends but is frustrated and bored told in the second-person narrative. Divry uses this narrative to pull the reader into the story, implicating them into the affairs of the narrator. This is a book full of dark humour and compelling.

Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson
On the surface this is a courtroom drama, telling the story of the trial of Kabuo Miyamoto who has been accused of the murder of Carl Heine on the small island of San Piedro, Puget Sound, Washington but this is more than a who done it. This is a book about a the conflicts in a small, close-knit island community, tenses between the Japan and America post WWII. This book is full of rich details and characterisation.

The Little Book of Hygge - Meik Wiking
I've been dipping in and out of this book for several months, and I've finally finished it and it turns out hygge was 'so last season' - must read faster. This stylish little book is full of ways to live a happy life just like the Danish. Blankets, cosy nights, candles, comfort food - all of the things I already enjoy. Turns out I've been 'hygge' for years and I think I'm going to celebrate this fact with buying yet another candle.