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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.

New Suns – Speculative Fiction by POC collection – Blog Tour Book Review

Synopsis

“There’s nothing new under the sun, but there are new Suns,” proclaimed Octavia E. Butler.

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Colour showcases emerging and seasoned writers of many races telling stories filled with shocking delights, powerful visions of the familiar made strange. Between this book’s covers burn tales of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their indefinable overlapping. These are authors aware of our many possible pasts and futures, authors freed of stereotypes and clichés, ready to dazzle you with their daring genius.

Unexpected brilliance shines forth from every page.

What I Thought

As with any short story collection there will be stories that you love, many that you like and a couple that just don’t quite hit the spot (at the time of initial reading at least). When the former two outweigh the latter you are onto a winner and that was the case here.

Speculative fiction is always as much about the here and now as it is about visions of the future. A number of the stories provide such good political commentary that Trump will want their authors federally investigated! Three Variations on a Theme of Imperial Attire (E. Lily Yu) – a take on the Emperors New Clothes conjured up scary naked visions I didn’t really want but provided brilliant political satire.

The stories were an eclectic mix which is what you hope to get with mixed representation. Here we also had mixed presentation. From an euthanasia tourist holiday infomercial script to fairytales, ghost stories, gang warfare – there is something to suit everyone. I guess I was expecting a little more straight science fiction but enjoyed the variety of fantasy and slightly more contemporary feeling pieces. Even the couple of stories that didn’t quite hit the spot for me were lyrically written and just because the meaning was not immediately apparent to me doesn’t mean they won’t jump out at someone else. As readers we bring so much to what we read and current preoccupations jump out more readily.

My two favourite stories were:

The Freedom of the Shifting Sea (Jaymee Goh). With echoes The Shape of Water this is a f/f love story with feminist themes.

The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations (Minsoo Kang) is written as an historical paper on a peace treaty orchestrated by two translators who don’t quite translate what is being said by the violent rulers going head to head. I particularly liked the add on commentary about not looking enough at the female perspective and I’d actually really want to read the translators story in real time.

Do you like reading short stories about the macabre and unusual? Then pick up New Suns and step into the unknown.

Check out the rest of the blog tour and see which stories other people highlighted.

I was gifted my copy of New Suns for the purposes of providing an honest review. All opinions are, as ever, my own

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