Friday 29 June 2018

Review - Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Brave New WorldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wonder what Aldous Huxley would think of his books being read on a hand-held electronic device? At the time he wrote this he could not conceive of the technology that would arrive in less than a 100 years after he had written it. And although his descriptions of advancement in technology are out-dated and clearly based off what was available or popular in the early 1930s (like helicopters), the concepts he talks about are not. There are so many layers in this book.

I wonder why this book is not studied in schools rather than the likes of Lord of the Flies and The Handmaids Tale, which are not as well written or as philosophical about civilisation in their storylines - although Aldous Huxley's constant use of the word 'Pneumatic' might have something to do with it. A word that he seems to think covers a wide range of things, but is not really a word used in this day and age. This is one of the few down falls of this novel, along with its steampunk and old fashioned feel, which is common in Science-fiction from the turn of the century - it's dated. The same thing will happen in a 100 years with modern day sci-fi. The pictures authors paint of a modern future are tainted by the current state of technology and fashion.

It could also be the underline message in this novel that is so disturbing. The idea that to keep a world of genetically engineered people believing they are happy, they have to be conditioned through subliminal audio dictations while sleeping as children, and once they reach adulthood to give them access to a drug that they can take when they need to obliterate any emotion other than the pretense of being happy. They are conditioned that it is not normal to spend time alone and to always go out and socialise. And that everyone has sex with everyone else whenever they like - it's impolite not to. There is no risk of pregnancy or disease or aging. Their salary is the drug, to keep them under control and civilised, and at no time feeling anything negative. It's the ultimate horror novel - and why I enjoyed reading it so much. The ending is the other extreme of what happens when someone not raised in such conditioning tries to live and function there, and to some extent the outcome of such false living. I could say suppression but really, are they, with access to anything their hearts desire? Although that debate is in itself what makes this novel so intriguing.

I remember the film which doesn't really put across the depth of the novel, as movies of books often don't, and I think of movies like The Island which are influenced by this novel in the concepts of genetic engineering and cloning.

I understand why others might not enjoy this novel, with its outdated language and style, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to any science-fiction lovers.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 61

This week's prompt is a picture of a sculpture by Ivan Puig, a Mexico based artist. He calls this Drowning Art and has other objects in similar scenario.  You can see more on his website (click on his name) or this article.

I tried not to go with obvious and ended up with something much darker than intended. I liked how it ties in. It worked, although I am hoping no one will be triggered by it. Read at your own risk.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

The Chairs

Damon viewed the display and began to feel sick; something was wrong. It was the chairs. It took him a few minutes to make the connection but once he did, he couldn’t disconnect from it.

They had that rough texture he knew so well, where the paint had come off and you could get splinters, especially if you were forced to sit on them naked. And the colour added to the memory: it was the same green his mother had chosen when she decorated their kitchen - these could be the same chairs.

He laughed out loud at the absurdity of the thought, and then remembered he was in public and glanced round to see if others had noticed. They hadn’t; they were working their way through the displays, many with headphones on, oblivious to him.

This was a sculpture; they couldn’t be the chairs from his childhood. He looked at the information board for this exhibit. The artist had called this style ‘Drowning Art’, because it looked like they had been sucked into the ground. He read about the chairs, how they had been discarded in a skip. The artist came from his hometown. Something niggled at the back of his mind. No, they couldn’t be.  

The display was open so you could walk through the chairs. He walked up to a couple of them and looked closely at the top on the backs. He could see identical marks on either side. He knew those marks. A shot of adrenaline ran through him, and his stomach began to churn. He had spent years in therapy trying to work through the trauma he’d suffered in these chairs. His palms became sweaty and tears pricked his eyes.

He remembered the straps and how they would cut into his wrists, and how he would wriggle, trying to get free before his dad came home. That’s where the splinters in his bottom had come from. How he would start pleading the second the front door opened, his mother cold and harsh as she reminded him of the small infraction that she felt deserved this torture – anything from forgetting to flush the toilet to turning over the channel on the telly without permission. It had all depended on her mood; you could never predict what would trigger her. And his dad would just play along. Sometimes Damon thought he even relished it.

Damon’s legs felt weak as his mind was flooded with the sights and sounds of the recollection and the incredulous situation of finding the chairs here, on display, hundreds of miles from where the horrors had taken place. Here it was all laid out in front of him like this. He wished the chairs would drown and be buried forever, like his childhood.  

Friday 22 June 2018

Review - To Be A Cat, by Matt Haig

To Be A CatTo Be A Cat by Matt Haig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this to my 9yo, who also enjoyed it too. It led to debates about whether some people are cats or not - and for a while there we believed they might be!

A fast paced, well-written, suspense-filled story about a boy Barney whose wish to become a cat comes true, and he realises that it's not always a good thing to get what you wish for. The underline message in this book is an important one: it is about accepting yourself and enjoy being who you are, because you are unique. In today's world children really struggle to remain true to who they are, wanting to fit in and make friends, especially with technology making it more difficult to connect and socialise in person.

This book also tells the story of the bully - the truth about who they are and why they behave as they do. I really liked the characters, they were easy to engage with and to have an strong emotions about: the horrible Miss Whipmire, and Barney's lovely best friend Rissa. It was full of twists in the plot too, and the mystery of the identity of the Terrorcat. There was so much to enjoy.

I would highly recommend this book. And I am rapidly becoming a Matt Haig fan.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 60

This week's photo was taken by one of my great writer friends, Michael Wombat, when he was in Blackpool, November 2017. This is a sculpture of a giant sea shell by Stephen Broadbent called The Golden Shell (or Mary's Shell) and it was installed on Cleveleys Beach in October 2013. It is inspired by The Sea Swallow children's book and you can read more about it here.

I love the possibilities this object inspires. I seem to be in a bit of a sci-fi/alien phase at the moment and this picture just fed into that.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

Alien Objection

The report had said it was a piece from a satellite in orbit and it was nothing to worry about, although its lack of impact on the ground confused people. No one thought anything of it; it became a landmark, a natural sculpture of sorts, and being out in the tide line of the beach it didn’t bother anyone or get in the way. It was referred to as ‘The Shell’ and it drew visitors and helped the economy of the area.

Then the dead animals started to be discovered, all within a hundred metre radius. From small creatures like rabbits, hares, mice, to larger animals like badgers, foxes and even a deer. There was speculation that it was ritualistic: someone practicing the occult, but there was no defined lay out of the animals and no blood. The autopsies revealed they had all suffered some kind of brain bleed, along with ruptured ear drums.

People became a little scared. And then it happened: The first human body was found.

It was my neighbour’s son, little Jake. He was only 8 years old. He loved shells and stones, and could be found most evenings after school down by the edge of the sea, poking around in rock pools left behind by the high tide. His mum had made sure he had all his swimming certificates before he was allowed to go there alone, even so people still said he had drowned. But he hadn’t. He’d also had a brain bleed brought on by burst ear drums. And his body hadn’t been anywhere near the water when he was found.

It was enough to unnerve a few people and houses started going up for sale as families began to move away. And people stopped going to the beach. No one wanted to be near it. Except me.

I wanted to know more. I wanted to see it up close and touch it and try and understand if this thing really did have anything to do with it. Was I worried? A little, but I was born without ear drums so I didn’t consider myself at risk.

I went right up to it; I touched its smooth black surface. I tapped it and felt it vibrate under my fingers. The vibration went on a long time. I could feel it through my body and the ground.

I wondered fleetingly if it was a bomb – but if it was, surely it would have gone off by now? I walked all round it. I even climbed inside.

It was open, with coils that ran round like a spring. I could see everything outside: the sky, the sea. But it looked different: the colours were too vivid and it was out of focus, like I was looking at something projected. Then that vibration came again, and I felt the structure move beneath me. Then the view outside changed; I was no longer looking up at the sky, I was looking down at it, and around me was the blackness of space and the stars.  

But before I had a chance to react, I was back on the ground, although a ground that I don’t recognize. The sand has a strange purple hue and what looks like sea is a thick black syrupy liquid. The sky is blue and I don’t have problems breathing, but I haven’t yet dared to venture off the beach. I’m frightened what I’ll find there. Plus I keep hanging out inside the shell in the hope that it will take me back. But since my arrival it seems to be dormant, more like the sculpture it had became viewed as originally. No amount of tapping elicits a vibration. I don’t know what to do. I just want to go home. 

Friday 15 June 2018

5 signed copies of Mostly Dark in aid of National Flash Fiction Day #NFFD #BookGiveaway

To coincide with, and celebrate National Flash Fiction Day on the 16th of June, I am running a Giveaway for my book Mostly Dark. I'll be giving away 5 signed copies of the Pocket Edition. 

It is a collection of 30 flash tales, the majority of which fall into the Horror genre. They are collected in such a way that they are divided by the phases of the moon: Full dark, Waxing, Full Moon, Waning, back to Full Dark again.

The back page blurb is: 

“Like the phases of the moon, Mostly Dark waxes and wanes with thirty tales of darkness and light. An intriguing maelstrom of broken minds and broken hearts, from revenge to desire, from new found love to soulmates, herein lies a tale for everyone. Prepare your senses for an emotional and sometimes terrifying ride. 

I will be running the Giveaway for 4 weeks – from Saturday 16th of June to Saturday 14th of July. All entrants need to do is sign up to my newsletter (click on the image below), and on 15th of July I will randomly select five names.

There is no restriction on countries. It is a global giveaway.

The Kindle Edition is only 99p at the moment on Amazon too!


Wednesday 13 June 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 59

This week's picture is one of my own, taken at Dutch Comic Con in November 2017. They were displayed on a Steampunk stall. I thought it was time we had some steampunk. Not that I am much good at writing it! 

I'm not great at writing in steampunk genre, although I do love it. I am not good with historical fiction, and as I am reading sci-fi and about to publish a book in sci-fi, I ended up going in that direction. Not sure if it works, but it was fun trying.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

Subtle Masking

Gangwin fondled the mask. The feel of the metal under his fingers was strange to him, as were the objects, but Hubrid had told him they were necessary for their attendance. Apparently these things would make their identities invisible to the people there. People. The word was full of strange mouth movements he’d found tricky to master.

Hubrid had told him the masks suited the occasion too, the launch of some kind of flying machine. It was a new concept to people, the idea of flying; they were excited and full of possibilities imagining all sorts. Gangwin had learnt not to react to the bizarre predictions they envisaged it bringing in the future.

Stifling laughter was hard for him, particularly trussed up with all the stiff materials wrapped round his body. When the diaphragm fluctuated he struggled to stop the sound coming out of his mouth. People didn’t like it. It shocked them and some turned their noses up when it happened. They deemed it inappropriate behaviour. He had never known a species so rigid and false.

But his job here was not to judge them, it was only to observe and report and divert. This was one of the key moments in their history. It was a step towards a future that would lead them in the wrong direction, or so the amalgam believed. Hubrid and Gangwin were here to see how they could alter it, or sway the people onto another path. They hoped to be subtle – hence the masks.

When they entered the building, their masks made them believable to the crowd gathered there. People were socializing while the craft languished at the back of the hangar. It was perfect for what they intended. Hubrid went off to do what he needed to the mechanics, and Gangwin found himself surrounded by a crowd, mostly females. It seemed people liked to talk, especially about each other, and he’d been a prize topic. He was new, unattached and had intelligence, which seemed to make him desirable. It was helpful in that it gave him influence and he started to spin the words, interjecting them with those in his own tongue that would start the process.

By the time the launch was due to take place the people’s thoughts had been infected, and when the craft failed to lift off the ground skepticism swept through them sending them in a new direction. They started to converse about the technology employed and its lack of refinement; how they needed to find a less disruptive system, one that blended better with the native planet. It seemed to spark discussion in other quarters too, and several months later Hubrid and Gangwin knew that their project was over and they could depart, returning to higher level of functioning.

But Gangwin insisted on taking the mask home with them, and it's now held in a place of reverence as a memorial to the efforts made to divert an unbecoming species.