Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone and the Clockwork Suitor, by L.C. Mawson - 3.5 Stars

Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone and the Clockwork Suitor is a work of young adult fiction, at just over one hundred pages, set in the Victorian era and written to introduce a long-running character for a greater series. It is firmly part of the antique yet gorgeous steampunk tradition, nuts and bolts, steam and empire, yet it additionally addresses a cultural wrangle of old – the emancipation of women. The protagonist is a capable yet humble aristocratic woman in a man’s world, trying to apply her mind to engineering problems and simultaneously working her delicate fingers through the seam to get around the social straightjacket she was born into. Just imagine someone nowadays saying “You are of an age to get married. You must get married because that’s the only thing you are on Earth to do. Oh, and see to the laundry”. I’ve got a better idea. Bog right off.

The language is stilted and takes some adjusting to, which is correct because the tight Victorians really did converse like that. The only problem I had with the use of language in this book was that the high-up characters sometimes used expressions which would have been considered dead common, blemishes which would have marked them out as appalling social climbers. Examples of this are the very middle class “Pleased to meet you” (How do you do), “Got me beat” (have me beaten) and, unbelievably, “Me neither” from the lips of Queen Victoria herself (Neither can I). That latter is more suited to the blimey gawdhelpus stonethecrows Queen Victoria pub in Eastenders. Three brief examples then, no more, otherwise fine.

Apart from a couple of words to trip over (recluse – reclusive / place the tray down – placed) the story is positive, imaginative, constructed well and flows from one arrangement of characters to another like the indoor scenes of a theatrical performance. It has good stage-craft, so that’s one sign of a good writer. It also shows the application of social pressure, now thankfully punctured in most the world. I stayed engaged and completed this story in two sessions, then wondered how the rest of the series would go. London’s been done, so will she pop along to India or Africa? Although, as a reviewer, I sadly don’t have time to read every book in every writer’s series, I can see that readers of Lady Ruth Chapelstone will stay engaged and probably want to keep reading her adventures, so the series should grow into a success. As the greatest inventor in England, the character deserves no less, surely?

Lady Ruth is a creation that’s breaking the mould of a mouldy old social system, representing the glimmer of hope that when an era changes and enough judgemental steel-haired greylips go to their graves, the formal rules will loosen up and young people will be allowed to breathe. Lady Ruth will then be a pioneer, an inspiration for those to come after her. I’m not sure that the book did enough to also break the mould of storytelling in the same way that the character does for women in industry but I guess that is according to plan because this is supposed to compliment the steampunk genre, not reinvent it. The first instalment, Clockwork Suitor, is a reasonable start which I expect will now be built on for years to come. The second book in the series plunges Lady R into a travelling adventure on behalf of the Crown, so be sure to check that out too as this series can only get better.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Reading and reviewing soon

Some of my book chatter will start to appear in the Indie Author Monthly Magazine September issue, so get it free on the Magster distribution service. I've finished The Wolfe Experiment, so have to write that review.

This is the rest of the review waiting list: Bitter Lemmings (one of Tom Holt's indies), Shrugg One Mile, The Twisted Galaxy, Special Agent Mauve 2, J.O.E. Just an Ordinary Earthling, Inevitable Ascension, The Outlaws of Kratzenfels, Race the Red Horizon, Terraforming Earth Phase 1, Perax Frontier, The Mirror in my Dorm Room, How to Remove a Brain, Temptation & Mozzarella, Matters Arising From the Identification of the Body, Lockheed Elite, Disconnected, Nasa's 1st Mission to Mars - why bother?, All These Worlds, Inevitable Ascension, Double Life, The Renewal, The University of Corporeal and Ethereal Studies, The Cosmic Bullet, Everything I need to Save my Friend and Doom the Universe, Girl From Above 1, Transmit, Philia, Helix; and The Optimist.

I add reviews in these places, so come bookmark me or add a comment if you're passing:


Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Happy Chip, by Dennis Meredith - 4 Stars

Dennis Meredith really gets terrestrial sci-fi because, unlike so many others, he knows that the key is to look at what cutting edge technology can do now and then add a strong idea that’s going to skip it an extra stage into the future. In his other book Wormholes, he invented a new use for them which I think no one had thought of before. In this novel, he’s back in the groove with a credible advance in a practical world. That step ahead is like a stone flying into the pond that pushes out a complicated pattern of ripples, side effects and consequences that make up the novel. People react, business reacts, governments react and the hero can emerge. SCIENCE fiction, you see? It begins with a leap in science. Not fantasy. He gets it.
This novel explores the consequences of something small, just a flimsy, harmless little microchip. Not just an ordinary chip but one that parks in the bloodstream and monitors bodily chemistry, communicates with its parent company, exchanges information and can (in the latest version) whack you full of hormones. Ibiza beware. The sales pitch is quite attractive; “we’ll tell you if you like something or not and then quantify it”. Just imagine the scene: “I love you Benjy”, “Oh Daphne, how much though? How much do you love me?”, “14.26, it says here. I put out for anyone over 13.7”. Taste and emotions now have scores, so I guess that’s the death knell for critics and bad products. When corruption sets in and corporate malfeasance bites, the fun begins. Let’s go!
Would you let someone tamper with your body? (apart from whatever version of Benjy you keep at home). Well, it’s already started. Years ago a professor at Reading implanted a chip into his body so he could walk around his building and see all the doors open ahead of him without having to take his hands out of his pockets. Even in my own university, there’s a department of Hybrid Biodevices (Biology, Life Sciences, Optoelectronics). Most of that research is of real benefit to the human race, such as heart pumps, internal organ monitors and other internally implanted machines that help to keep people alive, broadcast alarm signals or dispense regular doses of medication. The other side of this research is super cool, but we should be nervous enough to hover our fingers over the stop button: Flies with backpacks! Titchy cameras, comms devices. Companies and governments will queue up to fund that kind of R&D because the shareholders and public all like it. Think about this though. What else would you want to deliver that’s as small as a drop of water, very high impact and would fit in that insect’s backpack do you think? Something radioactive? How about a neurotoxin? Forgive my paranoid speculation – I’m sure I’m the only one who’s ever, ever thought of that.
The point is that technology can be used for good or bad depending which set of hands it falls into. Nefarious uses pay more though and it you had to find a way around ethical boards to make the breakthrough, it’s easy to believe that some folk might go the whole hog, piglets, trough of swill and subscription to Farmers Monthly by chasing the gleam of gold. They have to really or it would be a damp squib of a novel. Therefore, to make a good narrative, you need a credibly evil, murderous and scheming baddie – and this story has one who probably took Tony Blair’s correspondence course.
The story is entertaining, of full value length and I found it credible in all but two places. The first is when a former electro-mechanical scientist is suffering at the hands of her implant but doesn’t know that it can be made inert by magnetism. She didn’t know that? I knew that in prep school. So there I was, reading this book and any lip reader could tell you silently mouthing “MRI, EMP, Physics dept. lab, rail gun, wind farm generator, electricity sub-station, tape on some rare Earth magnets even”. Then I thought this was probably the writer being clever and the character might have dropped the MRI solution because it wouldn’t just turn the chip off but it would also super-heat it and potentially pull it through the artery wall, through the soft tissue and out of the body. Gush, splurt, no thanks, yuck. An electromagnetic pulse would be best but hard to arrange, so a brief buzz in the MRI would surely be enough. She studied electronics, right? The second thing I wasn’t sure about was the role the Chinese played in the story and how they failed to retain a single chip to study. I suggest they might, on their own home ground, be better at managing situations that this. Having said all that, I have to grow up and accept that this it is a fictional entertainment story and it would not have worked as well if those two things were to have the boring brown wand of reality waved over them. There are all sorts of reasons why Jurassic Park couldn’t have dinosaurs, for example, but the book would be utterly pointless without them. Ignore this entire paragraph then as I withdraw the observations in deference to poetic license. If they’d told Aristophanes that a chorus of frogs sounds silly, there’d be no such thing now as satire.
The Happy Chip is a dependable sci-fi thriller that fulfils expectations, all the more worrying because it could happen soon and almost certainly will happen in this century. Think twice about the fashions you’re caught up in, please. Changing your mind about a tattoo could make you anxious, trusting a driverless bus is something you will eventually get used to and the fear of being filmed in the shower by a robot fly is pathetic but getting a chip put inside you that can control your body, sluice or withhold hormones and a complete stranger is holding the remote control… that’s where the fun isn’t funny anymore. Another story well told from the imagination of Dennis Meredith.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Perihelion, by D.M. Wozniak - 5 Stars

The Perihelion is a striking and uncommon conceit, mature in both style, form and characterisation but also with something wistful and hopeless about it, another long dark teatime of the soul. The writing is assertive, suggesting the author has been in this game for a while. I also don’t think it was written quickly as it reads like the work of years. The motifs within this multi-thread plot are tragic and very human, yet they’ve been spun out of a dystopian premise in a terrestrial future. Some are analogies (capitalist/socialist futures, genomic meddling, the meaning of self-worth) and some are speculations rolled out in plain sight (modern convenience vs closeness to your baby). These ideas are delivered in a variety of ways and the reader finds they’re dwelling on different motes in a swirl of things to think about. As with everyday existence, some of the worries will always be beyond our scope to control, so the philosophical would say “Why worry? Leave it in their hands”. Who’s they?

Without any direct hooks to pin this feeling to, the echo moments of individual solitude and vulnerability in a large city space remind me of some of the established works of sci-fi, such as The Martian Chronicles and The Man Who Fell to Earth. I mean that in a complimentary rather than a critical way but this book could have been written a while ago and been a pillar of another era, so I hope it won’t be lost in the over-population we have now. Abandoned places, drifting sands, love among the ruins, yet it’s told from a functionally advanced city and that’s reconciled somehow. No matter how crowded your world is, or how advanced our society, remember when you close your eyes that everyone sleeps alone.

The 99ers programme is interesting because that could happen, or more accurately we can do that now (CRISPR) and only ethics prevents us, yet with 200 national authorities on Earth, it just takes one to conform to a different interpretation and the sequencing devices will be in business at street level. Wait and see. Would your child like a carapace? No problem. We’ll have to expand the definition of human. That’s the rub really. Change in what it is to be anatomically human has previously been an extremely gradual process – no homo erectus parent gave birth to a homo sapiens child because transition crept along in a granular way. Now we have the ability to apply significant change to the human form in one generation. A one percent change sounds like a reasonable risk but how do we control that getting into the shared gene pool permanently? The hybrids will have a 99pc case for human rights, which includes the right to reproduce, and most of them will be fully capable of saying so. Would you be on their side? Of course you would. It’s compassion. NB. The genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees is one percent.

For me, the best part of the book was the story of the photographer who has built his career on a single decision to take advantage of an unethical opportunity. This thread covers temptation, right and wrong, the ‘devil’ tempting, dishing out success and riches but then turning it to dust and that leaves the reader with the concern they might have done the same in the circumstances, with that shallow gloss of inner justification which unpleasantly reminds them they’re just as rotten as he is. How many inventions, thoughts and quotes through human history have we attributed to the wrong person because the real originator faded into oblivion before shouting their name? How many people have accepted a medal for someone else’s contribution? How many distributed the blame?

This is one of the leading indie narratives I’ve read in the last year and I recommend it. It’s a next step speculation of the future but with pockmarked grandeur and a sense of place. What I mean is, everyone’s childhood includes a baseline landscape that they then compare a changing world against to decide whether they like it. This book has an identity that seems to have grown from an extrapolation of our current baseline and moved humanity into a time more progressive but subtly less comfortable, degrading even, where anything organic and wild is an aberration, a nuisance to be controlled, designed out or killed and replaced. The “wilderness” of the Redlands waits outside the city and there’s hesitation, they’re scared of it, not because it is dangerous but because they fear what is not under control.

I was trying to find if there is a measurable mathematical definition of wilderness, an algorithm, as I've heard it said that genuine wilderness no longer exists (therefore we need to drop the word or evolve its practical meaning into something that's still relative to us). It turns out there actually is one. The modern and adapted definition of wilderness can be seen in real time by anyone with a phone as the output of a population density and wireless coverage calculation. Put simply: Anywhere they don't bother to put a Pokemon.

We can go to the world of Perihelion, if we choose this path, but we will no longer be fully human when we arrive. Humans are creatures of matter, with meat and genomes, just like other animals, but unlike other animals half of us exists in the air (thoughts, aspirations, philosophy, spirit and principles), so the neat accomplishment of this book is to show a future where we are becoming progressively less human in both arenas. Will that future population even notice, if their baseline is not far behind? Then, if they do, will humanity pull the plug and re-set how the species chooses to live or will it just wimp out and stay aboard a train that’s going somewhere they don’t want to be?

It's amazing how none of the reviewers of this book so far seem to have got the same things out of it or have agreed on anything else really... except for the 5 Star rating.

Bernie and the Wizards, by Steve LeBel - 4 Stars

Bernie and the Wizards is an amiable tale that lets us know what it is like to build and run the ultimate train set – a planet and its native forms of life. This enticing idea is shown to us through the eyes of the space-faring race that creates and operates the architecture, then pops down and interacts with it; the gods. If suitably advanced technology becomes indivisible from magic (Arthur C Clarke), then an entity with suitably unlimited power becomes effectively a god when seen from a less capable perspective. It’s a place on the scale from amoeba to goldfish to our race to them, the world builders of this novel. Could we get closer to their end of the scale one day? Incrementally? Do goldfish mistake us for gods, all positions on the ability scale being relative?

There's another scale though, the scale of decency, fairness and good manners. Perhaps most of us have overtaken the old gods on that one. Being able to do anything you want with no consequences can turn a god into a louse.

Power is proportionate, in the context of other power, just as a heavy weight crossing an event horizon loses even its information, so it is also revealed to us that gods within a domestic community of gods behave just like ordinary people. They go to school, do jobs they get stressed from, are impressed by fashion and hang out with friends. All good so far. They also carry out commercial enterprises (why bother?), are very vain and get in a huff when one of their planets doesn’t work properly or fails to produce whatever commodity they need from it. Elder gods leave the community behind and set forth on their own indefatigable odysseys, probably because when you reach a high enough vantage point most of the other gods’ activity looks immature. Are gods herd animals or antisocial loners? Or both, depending on their exposure to endless boredom.

When a planet managed by his employer goes offline, in the product supply sense, that’s where Bernie comes in as a kind of toga-wearing corporate trouble shooter who then has to infiltrate the native species of the client’s world and find out whatever went wrong. It’s like the landlord’s rental agent checking out the state of the cooker in a student share. To do that, he needs to talk to people on the ground and absolutely not do what gods always do, which is to treat mortals like disposable dots on the landscape. Bernie is a pleasant god who doesn’t think mortal lives are meaningless and, therefore, he becomes the humanitarian hero of the piece. This attitude appears to be a generational change, so the young will see in this metaphor their own chance to feel superior to their parents and enlightened. Then again, I’ve felt like that since the age of seven.

I’m unconvinced by the cover, which looks like the kind of thing they stick on the windows of shops selling Warhammer. I know it represents the disruptive types that have stirred things up in the story but it doesn’t sum up the feeling I had from this book, which included a lot of adorable creative growth and beauty. Luminous plants with floating seeds are cooler than this. It wasn’t just about anger and metal hats or I wouldn’t have read it.

This is a good book suitable for all the family and it is based on an attractive fantasy of inoffensive divinity (as it isn’t Earth) and, hey, it’s fun. Although the plot does venture into frailty, it doesn’t explore the human condition as much as it could (see Hamlet), so it’s as if the author set up a vehicle to tell us something meaningful about ourselves and our treatment of lower life forms but then doesn’t push the message through. The fantasy is sweet though. It makes the reader dream of what it would be like if their own family were gods with the power of life and death over other species, squabbling, childish, spiteful, needy, polluting, bearing grudges, breaking up and being as selfish as hell. Hang hubris, we’re farther up the scale to godhood that we thought! Lucky us. Okay, okay, don't smite me, I'm done.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Sex Demon, by Kat Cotton - 3.5 Stars

If you step aside from the deliberately provocative title, as nothing suggested is described, this is a book about a twenty-something street kid hunting down demons for a living, clearly aimed at the market once served by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In fact, I don’t think it is possible to review this without mentioning that previous title. The differences are: The slayer doesn’t have a gang of friends, she works and talks in the style of an early NY detective, she gets paid and the supernatural entities aren’t quite so teenagey.

I do need to say something about the plot to help explain the title. In the context of a set of demon hunter books, the demon being hunted in this one takes on the form of people’s previously deceased (or lost) husbands and infiltrates their homes, in this case the happy home of Mr & Mrs Duffy (sic). Queue the slayer, who looks for ways to make the demon reveal itself. The demon slides into their victim’s dreams and then gets lewd, although that’s all we hear about that, and the resourceful nemesis does her homework around town, learns new things and takes him on with her bag of tricks.

Some women will buy this because they have a demon lover fantasy, which is perhaps where this ancient incubus (male) idea came from. The ancient female equivalent was a succubus, which gave lads wet dreams (don’t blame me) but neither of those are discussed in this short book because the classification used isn’t a name I haven’t heard of before. Apparently it’s a Hungarian ghoulie. Sufferers of sleep apnoea are the real victims of night time demons, so check out William Blake’s painting called The Nightmare. Generally, the supernatural entity in this book is not romantic (like Angel in Buffy) and just wants the exercise, so I might be wrong but if that series is what it’s modelled on, I wonder if this functional line ticks the Buffy audience’s box? Maybe he should have taken Mrs Duffy to the pictures a few times.

What really made me look twice at this title was the cover because I keep seeing this model everywhere and feel that if this is a stock photo, it’s being over-used. Just yesterday I saw her three times, so she’s on Kat Cotton’s cover for this series as character “Clem Starr, Demon Fighter”, she’s shown dressed up in a camouflage jacket on a probably military sci-fi book by a different author on Instafreebie (they’ve changed the page overnight and I can’t find it again, grrr) and she’s on the cover of at least six Diana Rowland books as yet another character. If you’re going to have a character model to run through a long series, it would seem better to have exclusive rights. That might mean paying a bit more but there are a lot of people who’d want to be your cover girl and build their portfolio.

I did like this book and would read the series if I had time, so I’m especially noting the innovation (not solved with bang-off guns) and the use of humour, so it’s really a 3.5 star novella. I think it was a smidge too short, the main character was a little isolated and the demon should have been more seductive, in a show not tell sense, having presumably thousands of years’ worth of knowledge about how to manipulate female victims. Psychopaths are known to be extremely charming and manipulative and they’ve learned that skill in a few years, so imagine what a demon could do. What traits would seduce you? What would you fall for and invite into your home even when your conscious mind knows something wrong is happening? Bright thoughts and cheeky laughter melt through my defences quicker than I’d like to admit. For everyone else, it’s insincerity and chocolate.

Clem Starr, Demon Hunter, Part 5. Not bad. The insatiable and manipulative character of the demon could have been brought out a bit more though, to make him a dangerous challenge, worth overcoming and to show he can’t get anywhere without the victim’s personal consent. Details please - how does he do it? What does he say? It’s all in the words. Then it would be a riff on the modern pick up artist, a four star book and a satisfyingly deeper and longer run through. This was supposed to be about the sub-conscious, wasn’t it?

Shady business in the depths of the Amazon

This is a polite version of an earlier post in which I was swearing a lot.

Let me introduce myself. I’m the main writer on the Having Faith Book Blog, which is where I put my reviews of newly published indie science fiction books, with a few novels from other genres. I’ve read and reviewed 58 books so far in 2017, for which I am not paid and I’m not related to or seeing any of the novelists. I also review on Goodreads, Amazon, Librarything, Medium and Indie Authors Monthly magazine. In short, I’m a prolific independent book reviewer and a student who’s gaining experience for, hopefully, a long career in publishing.

The problem is that, in July, Amazon deleted 53 of my book reviews (including 26 on verified purchases) just like that. Zap. That’s over 90,000 words of assessment gone, with an average rating of around 3.9 stars, including a couple of 2s. I’ve protested to the behemoth but they said it was policy. I canvassed views around the indie book reviewing community, only to find that not only can nothing be done but also that the same thing has happened to a whole host of other amateur book reviewers. They’ve told me that even if you stick to Amazon’s policies, all it takes is for one author from all the ones you’ve reviewed to purchase a review or review themselves and then everyone who has spoken about that author’s book (which may be a hundred reviewers) will be subject to wipeout.

Coincidentally, Amazon have launched a paid-for book reviewing service called Vine. They want small time independent authors to pay them about a thousand dollars or more to go and find someone (not specialising in their genre) to give them a review. Amazon keeps most of that money. The thing is, the business model doesn’t work if amateurs are providing the same service as Vine on Amazon’s own website for free. Therefore, people like me are not in favour. Think about that next time you read a single paragraph, banal and uninformed review from one of Amazon’s stooges that just regurgitates the synopsis of a book and fails to provide any critical literary analysis. Alternatively, you could read what the subject-specialist bloggers have to say and then do your shopping elsewhere.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Monkeyboy, by S. Shane Thomas - 4 Stars

Monkeyboy is set within the League of Atlantis Reborn Colonies (LARC), the narrative universe that Shane built. I read this book because I’d previously read The LARC Transmissions, which I thought was very imaginative and worthwhile. That prior title also introduced the character of Hanuman, a minor character who shows heroic tendencies at the end and who then takes the lead role in this follow-on story. I sense that if you hadn’t read any of the previous stories, you might find it harder to buy into the fantasy of this latest book and wonder what the talking monkey is all about.

In explanation, Hanuman (previously) ate a magic stone which gave him anthropomorphic characteristics, improved intelligence and vocal cords. He carried over his natural primate characteristics of loyalty, bravery and family. In this book, the baddies (Rakshsha) on the planet of Nibiru want to capture all of the magic stones and over-run their world with enhanced warriors, as a prelude to restoring the ancient and very alien Anki Empire. Hanuman and his friends set out to stop all that, but betrayal is right around the corner.

This book talks about the Solar System, but I think that's a micro-error as it should only ever refer to the system around the star Sol, our sun. Someone else's system would be named after their local star, e.g. the Dagobah System in Star Wars or the Vogsphere in Hitchhiker's. If the author was talking about the planets around our sun, then that's my lack of attention and ignore me.

It’s easy to get confused and think this is a re-write of Hanuman’s tale in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, where the devoted monkey god trails along behind Rama and helps a young priest bring Budhism to India. Indeed, the money god Hanuman is part of not just Buddhist but also Hindu, Sikh and Jain mythology. Despite keeping an eye out for references to those famous quests, I didn’t see any beyond his similar character traits and the fact they’re both simple souls magically elevated from monkeyhood to do good deeds – and prove useful. Please don’t expect religious wisdom. This seems then to be a transplant of that ancient character into an unrelated setting to try him out in a completely new tale. When Salman Rushdie tried this, they gave him a Fatwah, but this is just a harmless take that shouldn’t upset any believers. In reality, the monkey god existed in scripture for about one thousand years before anyone added him to the pantheon that anyone actually worships. He was a character but not a headline deity. He also stole fruit.

The LARC universe seems to have changed in style from imaginative science fiction engineering and biology fantasy (with a bit of magical transformation) in The LARC Transmissions to a magical young adult fantasy in this latest story. Originally full of colonial theory and exploring strange new worlds there’s been a shift into a status-quo disrupted by conflict. Is this change over time or had the author exhausted the sci-fi angle? I prefer sci-fi, personally, but I acknowledge that I’m outnumbered by YA magic readers (about 1/100), so I should shut up. I’ll give this the same star rating as the previous book but I disagree that it is stand-alone. Specifically, Monkeyboy is a barely a 4 star and Transmissions is a high 4 star. Then again, kids will love it, eat more fruit and fall out of trees.

The Other, by Marilyn Peake (29 pg preview) - 3 Stars

I received the first two chapters of Marilyn Peake’s new science fiction adventure after requesting it through Instafreebie. I really liked the cover as it had that sort of Independence Day vibe and the author’s introduction to the book sounded good too: “People begin seeing UFOs and strange, alien-looking creatures with humanoid shapes, green skin and large black eyes. In places where this is happening, doctors report the spread of a mysterious virus that scrambles people’s thoughts and causes hallucinations.” That sounds like a rollercoaster action movie too, so checking it out seemed obvious.

As I say, I’ve only read the first two chapters as only a teaser has been revealed so far. The pace is fast, as it jacks into the plot without delay and very soon there are UFOs escorting 747s and buzzing interesting bits of our planet. The protagonist appears to be a female scientist with a morally flawed thug of a brother and she’s racing past Roswell through a sky full of foo-fighters when the teaser chapters abruptly end. So, is there any point reviewing two chapters, totalling 29 pages? Can anyone get a proper feel for the book? Is it even fair to give it a star rating? I’ll try to give my impressions but I can’t review what I haven’t had access to.

It seems to be a fast paced ride, which encourages people to keep reading. The protagonist is resourceful and compassionate, so might be a plausible heroine or could be a disappointing G.I. Jane – who can say at this stage? The brother obviously deserves to die but I expect she’ll try to redeem him because most of these stories show characters changing for the better as a result of the experience, being tested and forged in fire. The aliens seem to be invading, so that might mean it’s a survival story rather than a UN negotiation. I very much like the imagery of the 747 passengers looking out of the window as the silver UFOs draw alongside the windows. That would be cool. Worth dying for.

The aspect I didn’t tune into was the use of language, as I thought the sentences could be extended to paint in more description and feeling. It’s less like a poet eulogising a flower and more like a mechanic going through the functionality of tools. Maybe the character we have been given sight of is practical, pragmatic and doesn’t have time to put words into colour but there’s also a good chance the storytelling is all like this. Really though, are the first two chapters the best material in most books? The author can’t impress you with their art if they have to dedicate the opening to context setting and character introduction, so is it possible this preview isn’t representative of the whole? This will be a bull-ride of an adventure novel, so don’t expect lyrical exposition because you are unlikely to get it, but I haven’t seen enough of the story’s development to comment on the quality of imagination, originality and surprise. It might get better but I can only rate what I've seen.