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Zero Bomb by M.T. Hill – Book Review

Synopsis

Following the death of his daughter Martha, Remi flees the north of England for London. Here he tries to rebuild his life as a cycle courier, delivering subversive documents under the nose of an all-seeing state.

But when a driverless car attempts to run him over, Remi soon discovers that his old life will not let him move on so easily. Someone is leaving coded messages for Remi across the city, and they seem to suggest that Martha is not dead at all.

Unsure what to believe, and increasingly unable to trust his memory, Remi is slowly drawn into the web of a dangerous radical whose ‘70s sci-fi novel is now a manifesto for direct action against automation, technology, and England itself.

The deal? Remi can see Martha again – if he joins the cause.

Author

M.T. Hill was born in 1984 and grew up in Tameside, Greater Manchester. He is the author of two novels set in a collapsing future Britain: Dundee International Book Prize 2012 finalist The Folded Man, and 2016 Philip K. Dick award nominee Graft. He lives on the edge of the Peak District with his wife and son.

Zero Bomb was released on 19th March 2019 so is available now.

What I Thought

A clever speculative fiction/dystopia exploring the effects of automation on society. For me it felt almost like a cross between Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Terminator with shades of Station Eleven.

The book is told in 5 parts. Part 1 focuses on Remi and most closely follows the synopsis above, Part 2 is an abridged version of sci-fi novel The Cold Veil (Prologue, Ch 1, Ch 13 and Epilogue), Part 3 is one sided correspondence from a woman in the cause on how they target Remi, Part 4 focuses on Martha and Part 5 on THEMIS!!!

This actually worked fairly well although I would have liked to come back to Remi’s point of view towards the end. Part 4 allowed the reader more knowledge than Martha which ramped up the tension and curiosity. Part 5 perhaps leaves scope for follow up?

Most importantly I would really love to read a full version of The Cold Veil. This was the most Terminator like part of the story with a full robot takeover and part of it took place in Southampton and the New Forest – so not too far from me. Also I love when the power of stories is explored and the family relationships in this were so well described in such a short space of time.

In the main story Remi and Martha are both sympathetic characters in their own right and I did connect most with their aspects of the story although they actually have very little time together. The robotic fox Rupal was also a very dynamic character and perhaps not what she first seems.

There is a lot of social commentary in the early part of the book exploring automation, Brexit and referendums get a mention, increasing racial tensions and the mental health effects of the build up of bad news. I empathised so much with Remi’s need to switch off from the latter but also with the concern that the lack of engagement can also cause. It’s a real balancing act in today’s connected life.

How people are radicalised into committing terrorist acts even when they start off with positive intentions was also examined. The Zero Bomb of the title is the goal to switch off electricity and stop automation – how would we cope?

This book has left me with lots of questions and ponderings and I suspect I shall do a re-read in the future. I do wish that some aspects and relationships had been explored in a little more depth, especially how the sci-fi author moves from novelist to activist when the world isn’t quite as dire as in her imagined future (at least not yet).

I switched to this for the Care of Magical Creatures prompt for the #OWLsReadathon2019 because it had a land animal (Fox) on the front) and I really wasn’t enjoying my first pick. I made the right choice and read this in a day. It was really well paced and I could easily imagine the future London described.

I was gifted this copy by Lydia at Titan books for the purposes of this honest review.

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The Devil’s Poetry by Louise Cole – Blog Tour Book Review

Goodreads Link

Synopsis

Questions are dangerous but answers can be deadly.

Callie’s world will be lost to war – unless she can unlock the magic of an ancient manuscript. She and her friends will be sent to the front line. Many of them won’t come back. When a secret order tells her she can bring peace by reading from a book, it seems an easy solution – too easy. Callie soon finds herself hunted, trapped between desperate allies and diabolical enemies. The Order is every bit as ruthless as the paranormal Cadaveri.

Callie can only trust two people – her best friend and her ex-marine bodyguard. And they are on different sides. She must decide: how far will she go to stop a war?

Dare she read this book? What’s the price – and who pays it?

Commended in the Yeovil Prize 2016, this is an action-packed blend of adventure, fantasy and love story.

Author

Louise Cole has spent her life reading and writing. And very occasionally gardening. Sometimes she reads as she gardens. She can be seen walking her dogs around North Yorkshire – she’s the one with a couple of cocker spaniels and a Kindle. She read English at Oxford – read being the operative word – and hasn’t stopped reading since.

In her day-job she is an award-winning journalist, a former business magazine editor and director of a media agency. She writes about business but mainly the business of moving things around: transport, logistics, trucks, ships, and people.

Her fiction includes short stories, young adult thrillers, and other stuff which is still cooking.

Her YA and kids’ fiction is represented by Greenhouse Literary Agency and she is also published on Amazon as one of the Marisa Hayworth triumvirate.

What I thought

I loved the opening paragraph which was so evocative.

“I’d never realized war could be so quiet. The National Service letters had whispered through our doors that morning. It seemed such thin pages should have torn under the strain of such a heavy message.”

Initially because of this I thought this was going to be an historical novel – I’d read the synopsis ages before so went into it blind, but then the horror dawned. It was set now. In the days of Facebook and terrorism: National Service – Involuntary Conscription for those eighteen and above was back.

Callie is seventeen so it’s not her time yet but instead she has another battle to face. One night she is handed a book and told not to read it but keep it safe. Then the ‘men’ start coming for her. The Cadavari with haunted eyes.

This reminded me a little of Buffy which I love. There is definitely a chosen one vibe. The book switches between first person POV from Callie and third person exploring other character’s points of view from the Cadaveri to Jace Portman the man who mysteriously gave her the book, saved her life, disappeared, and then turned up at her school as a supply teacher. Callie has two close friends Amber and Gavin who are quickly pulled into the action and her ex Alec who she’d prefer to be far from it.

I really enjoyed Louise’s writing style and the book is quite fast paced. We get into the action quickly. I liked the mix of an almost dystopian near future with the threat of war and National Service with the Supernatural elements. As I said before fans of Buffy, and of Cassandra Clare should enjoy this. And it is great to see a UK based fantasy too.

Thank you to Louise and Faye for the e-copy for review. Opinions are my own. The follow up book ‘On Holy Ground’ will be going up on KDP Select shortly, I’ll definitely be ‘Reading’ it. I just hope the Cadavari don’t show up for me 😜.

Do check out the rest of the tour stops to see what everyone else thought.

Global Blog Tour – Flawed by Cecilia Ahern #PerfectlyFlawed – Review and Exclusive Content

Flawed is Cecilia Ahern’s first foray into Young Adult fiction and the first book of hers that I have read. I will definitely be reading the follow up.

Check out the book trailer below and have a read of the official synopsis on Goodreads.

My Review/Plot Summary

Genre – Dystopian

How are the ills of society managed? – Government, laws and a police force all still exist to punish illegal activity but another organisation, The Guild, monitor moral and ethical “errors”. They employ Whistleblowers to bring in people to face trial through The Courts to determine if they are Flawed in one of five ways. Each type of Flaw carries with it a brand – as in literally a part of your body, including your tongue is branded with a hot poker with a giant F on it, and you have to wear an armband to signify if you are branded (some brands just can’t be displayed permanently). Flawed people have a curfew, a specific diet to follow, their own segregated seats on buses, they can’t progress to jobs where they might have influence. In fact, being found Flawed could be considered worse than being sent to jail – it’s a life sentence.

What type of things can get you branded? – Corrrupt bankers would be in trouble, celebrities flogging a miracle body transformation fitness video whose plastic surgery comes to light, adultery…helping someone travel to a country where euthanasia is legal, helping a Flawed person who might be dying. Can you see the flaw in the system yet?

You can find out how you might be branded here – http://www.maximumpop.co.uk/quiz-how-flawed-are-you/

Protagonist – Celestine North – the perfect student, girlfriend of the Guild head’s son.

I am a girl of definitions, of logic, of black and white.

Remember this.

Perfect girl, perfect life – perfection is a myth.

FLAWED-square-quote4EXCLUSIVE CONTENT

My thoughts – I love a good dystopia and this was a good dystopia. It reminded me a little of Delirium which I also loved. Society outlawing what are essentially human traits, things we can’t always control. Morality is not as simple as Good/Bad. People criticise the likelihood of whether something like this would come to pass, I think if we look closely at what is happening around us it’s sadly not too hard to believe that this could happen – similar does happen elsewhere (hands being chopped off for stealing, proposals for people to wear identifying tags).

Flawed is a perfect coming of age story, Celestine starts the story with her black and white thinking, blindly following what she is told to do. But then the Whistleblowers come for someone she knows and the whole world becomes full of shades of grey and she finds herself questioning what she knows, including herself. She moves from trying to blend in to standing out and speaking up and she isn’t the only character to find her voice when it is trying to be silenced.

The branding process is barbaric and you will find yourself wincing during some of the scenes. Without the harsh injustice though would people have been driven to action?

As with any dystopia it makes you question your current society and this book is uncomfortably relevant. There is a question about people being all talk and no action and this is something I battle with. I’m sure there are times we have all taken a step back from intervening in a situation that we should have to protect ourselves.

For me the short chapters keep the story whipping along and I managed to read it in around 5 hours or so. There were characters that I would like to get to know a bit more but hopefully they will get their say in the second book. This is very much Celestine’s story, and one well worth reading.

Giveaway

I am very excited to be able to offer a giveaway of a copy of the book as well as some Flawed ‘branded’ surprises.

To be in with a chance of winning, on twitter share how you have come to realise you are #PerfectlyFlawed (using this hashtag) and link me to the URL of your tweet in the comments below. I will pick my favourite after the Closing time/date – 13:13 Wed 13th April (a #PerfectlyFlawed date). Can only ship to UK addresses.

*The publisher provided me with an e-copy of the book and I will receive a goodie pack myself but my review has not been influenced by this. I seriously pouted because I can’t read the sequel Perfect right now, this second. Be warned this is the first of an addictive series – oh yeah, my flaw might be my book addiction! Well, one of many.

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