All posts by Jayne Lockwood

04Jun/19

Ithani (The Oberon Cycle Book 3) by J. Scott Coatsworth

The third and final part of the Oberon Cycle trilogy, the first books being Skythane (Book 1) and Lander (Book 2) The books must be read in order, the first concentrating on building the world the author has created, and the second adding more characters to those already introduced.

The worlds of Oberon and Error have been lovingly crafted right from the get-go, so I felt I knew the characters and their surroundings, the curious alien foods they eat and the commodities they treasure. There is an excellent glossary in each book too, reminding the reader of what unusual words mean if they get stuck as I did on occasions. And the size of the glossary alone is testament to how meticulous the author has been in creating these worlds.

The writing was flawless in all three books, with colourful, almost cinematic set-pieces and rounded-out, diverse characters. As with a lot of fantasy/sci-fi novels, there were a LOT of characters, which is always risky as sometimes it can be hard to connect to them all. And yes, I did have a job remembering all of them, and what their dynamics were. There were places where I had to re-read to ensure I was following the plot correctly.

But in this world, the world of Oberon, everyone had their role, and there wasn’t one character that I felt didn’t really need to be there. They were an engaging lot as well, even the bad guys. I don’t want to give too much away, to be honest, fearful of letting a spoiler loose by accident.

What I can say is by the end of the trilogy, a lot of the characters, Jameson and Xander, Quince and Robin, almost felt like friends. Their dialogue was approachable and very natural. I love the mix of pronouns, the diverse genders and sexualities; it really was a rainbow cast, and with cool tech to boot.

Also I saw echoes of our own world and warnings for the future of what we stand to lose if we aren’t responsible for our planet (but not in a heavy-duty, worthy way) but in the end it was just a really good story from start to finish. I think I said in my review of Skythane that Scott’s writing made me fall in love with sci-fi again.

And at the end of this trilogy, I’m glad to say I’m more in love with it than ever.

BLURB

Time is running out.

After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson, and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani—the aliens who broke the world—have reawakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.

The ithani plans, laid a hundred thousand years before, are finally coming to pass, and they threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing friend and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin, and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.

Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny, and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the ability to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani rise….

04Jun/19

The Radicals by Marolyn Krasner

Marolyn Krasner was a very welcome recent guest on WROTE! To check out her interview and her work, follow Episode 209: Have To Have That Light and Dark!

It’s interesting to dive into a book with absolutely no idea what to expect. I confess I didn’t warm to D at first. She was too aggressive, too attracted to chaos and seemingly selfish, but as the story unfolded, I began to get why she was like that, and  understand her frustration and being propelled into a world of diapers, responsibilities to loved-ones and society in general. One can’t rage all the time. Sometimes you have to listen, to learn, and D found those dynamics very hard to adjust to.

And her refusal to compromise made her bloody difficult to like, if I’m honest, but in the end I really did warm to her her. Not because she manages to conform and make those around her more comfortable in her presence, but because she kept true to her beliefs, her spirit, making a brave decision not to be held down by choices someone else made for her, and still fighting for those who find it hard to fight for themselves. It really was a triumph, and I loved her by the end.

The author pulls no punches. She doesn’t attempt to make D accessible to readers, and by that I mean she isn’t afraid to make her protagonist unlikeable at times. But then, we are all unlikeable at times. She doesn’t try to feminise her, or make this a tale where everyone is happy at the end. It’s life, with compromises from everyone. It felt very real.

The writing is first-class, with sharp dialogue and great characters. D’s hideous alt-Right father is one, and so is Sally, the Pussy Power cofounder who I didn’t warm to at all. She seemed even more toxic than the bigoted dad, constantly undermining D who incomprehensibly (to me) went back for more every time, even though she knew how toxic the woman was. For me that was the only bum note. I hated Sally every time she was on the page, and her presence haunts D and her lovely femme girlfriend, as they try to do the right thing for their baby whilst holding on to their disintegrating relationship.

In the end though, this is a coming-of-age story, not just for D, but for Sally and those around them, and the ending is oddly uplifting. This is a book I’ll remember for a very long time.

BLURB

After twenty-five years of extremist feminist activism, D is on probation for assaulting homophobes and she is becoming something she never wanted to be: respectable. D’s mom and girlfriend hope her life as leader of the feminist collective Pussy Power is over, but D feels like a failure. When she finds out her estranged father has jumped on the white power bandwagon and is sharing the personal details of marginalized people on his badly designed website, she reconnects with her toxic Pussy Power cofounder and triggers a chain of events that causes her new life to implode, which is very bad, but is also exactly what she wants.

09May/19

Chasing The Dragon: Are You Chem-Friendly? By Cameron Yorke

Cameron Yorke was recently on WROTE! To find out more about him and his work, check out Episode 210: The New Normal!

Very briefly, Cameron Yorke was a successful journalist who accidentally became a drugs kingpin, providing liquid pleasure to eager punters wanting to get “High and Horny.” Then it all went wrong, ending in the death of a young man and a prison sentence for Yorke.

That’s the short version. The long version is told over a trilogy of books, the first two being Chasing The Dragon and Candy Flipping. I certainly learned a lot about this underground industry and the drug-fuelled parties, the wide variety of people involved, the lengths many go to in order to achieve sexual pleasure, and the hunger for as much as possible.

I worried for the author and everyone else involved long before it all went horribly wrong. There was an inevitability about it, almost from the first page. For me it was deeply disturbing that people would willingly do that to themselves, and the peer pressure involved. More than once I wondered what drives a person to seek out this kind of thing?

But I’m not and will never be part of that world, so I would not understand truly how it feels, or what the allure is. I get that, which is why I hope my review as someone new to this topic helps.

There is a lot to unpick here, and an incredible story that needed to be told. However, I thought both books were let down by the editing, and an overuse of exclamation marks, which had the effect of sensationalising all the activities. Someone did die, we have to remember that, and others were left with mental health problems and zero self-esteem.

The size of the paragraphs was also an issue, with stonking great chunks of prose that left one a little breathless by the time I had read through it. Again, this lessened the impact of the words, which was a shame. The books could have been more concise, and therefore powerful, if it had been edited more judiciously.

One thing that came across well; Yorke’s life became a drug-fuelled hot mess, a sort of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas but in Belsize Park. There are times when it was hard to read because of the relentless pleasure-grasping, but I did because I wanted to understand even just a bit of why he embarked on what seemed like a wanton journey of self-destruction.

I’m not squeamish by any means, but in the end I was reeling at the shocking salaciousness of it all. A little less lurid detail might have had a stronger impact. I came away with the message, “you’ll be fine! It’s fun! Until you get caught!” Were you breathless after reading that? Well, that is what the books are like.

There isn’t much more I can say. Both books will stay with me, that’s for sure. I probably sound like a dowager aunt clutching her pearls, but although it was a fascinating insight into a shadowy underworld, I’ll stay on this side of the table, thank you very much.

When you’re finished, I’ll make some tea…

BLURB

Everyone is into Chemsex – everyone wants to get ‘High and Horny’ and PnP is a normal weekend pastime. At least that’s what it seems when you log onto one of the many gay apps now available, And if it’s not your bag, be prepared to be bullied, ridiculed, scorned and demeaned, such is the attitude towards the few chemsex virgins still left. Chemsex, for the uninitiated, refers to sex parties lasting three or more days, fuelled by recreational drugs such as crystal Methamphetamine or Gamma-Butylactose (GBL), where up to 100 men will gather for indiscriminate sex, in fact, gay middle-class men of almost any professional background are spurning relationships to inject, or ‘slam’ class A narcotics every weekend all over the world, turning to chems as a substitute for love.

Chasing the Dragon is a brutally honest portrayal of this phenomenon, and demonstrates how quickly seemingly successful, civilised men get sucked into a downward vortex, where judgement becomes impaired, and the bizarre becomes the new norm, with disastrous consequences.

18Apr/19

Empire Of Light (Voyance #1) by Alex Harrow

Alex Harrow was recently on WROTE! To hear their interview and check out their work, you can find them on Episode 200: Wait Wait This Is A Thing!

Empire of Light has a lot of warnings, including for for graphic violence and explicit sex. The danger with trigger warnings is that the reader will then read the book and think, so where was that violence then? Or where was the sex?

For the former, the author wasn’t kidding. From the get-go, this book has crunchy action scenes, lots of blood and flailing fists from our tough-talking main character, Damian, hitman and mercenary. 

On paper, he doesn’t sound too promising, but I sort of liked him by the end. If Quentin Tarantino had made a sci-fi, it might be something quite similar to this, shot in monochrome with flashes of blood and fire. Turns out Damian has a soft and squishy side, although he does his best to hide it. I would like to take him out for a beer and tell him how to keep in touch with his emotions.

I really enjoyed this book, despite the dizzying pace. It’s well-written, though I would have appreciated a few more calm moments to get to know the characters more.  It has balls-to-the-wall fight scenes, and a man torn between saving his lover and lusting after the man (Raeyn) who has threatened to kill him if he doesn’t do what he wants. There isn’t much in the way of complicated emotion, but we get the picture. Damian is a bit of blunt instrument. In fact, most of the characters are, apart from the blind woman, who I would have liked to get to know a bit. I loved Raeyn’s sense of style, and slinky Aris who seemed to oscillate from good to bad to good again. 

I wouldn’t say the sex is hugely explicit (though it depends what kind of books you usually read I guess) but the language can be coarse (it would be odd if it wasn’t, TBH) and there is an aura of blood-drenched lust running throughout the whole book. 

Good world-building, and a fast-paced, visceral plot. My one quibble would be the last few pages, where a LOT seemed to happen, and it felt as if there were at least one climax too many (if that’s possible.) I felt a bit breathless reading it; not in a sexy way, but in a “please make this stop” way. I fear some subtleties might have been lost in translations, but all in all, a wild ride, and a huge amount of “fist-in-the-face” fun.

BLURB

Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As the revolution gains traction, Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one moment and kiss him the next. But Aris slips further away from Damian, and as Aris’ control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

18Apr/19

Credence by Delphia Baisden

Delphia Baisden was a recent guest on WROTE! To listen to her interview and find out more about her work, check out Episode 208 – A New Jewel In My Crown!

I approached this book with some wariness, and I recently read another book dealing with a rock band, mental health issues, and non-con sex, which I found unbelievably upsetting. However, there ARE trigger warnings in this book, so anyone choosing to read Credence will be warned right from the start.

So I tiptoed in, and yes, the first chapters are hard to read, but they are extremely well-written, and 100% necessary to the plot of the book. The author has trodden lightly, not shying away from the pain of sexual abuse but dealing with it in a sensitive way. I knew I would be able to read the rest of it within a few pages. Trust had been gained, and Credence was a really good read, even enjoyable, given the gruelling premise. 

The blurb sums up the plot pretty well, so I won’t rehash it, but I loved James’s best friend Phil, and the supportiveness of the other members of the band (Eden) once they realise what has happened to their friend. This is a book about fighting back from a traumatic past, about letting go and finding love, both with another person and for oneself, about healing, and the struggles of mental illness. It’s all dealt with deftly and not too reverently, and I applaud the author wholeheartedly for that.

I loved Keiran, the love interest and femme lead vocalist for a less successful band, Lost and Found, who initially resents James for walking away from the the tour they were heading, thus denying Lost and Found crucial exposure to potential new fans. But as James’ band picks up the pieces and forms a new outfit, and Keiran is given the chance to show them how good he is, love begins to blossom undercover, as James is not out and is nervous about his bandmates finding out.

James is sweet, talented and modest, a lovely guy who adores his music. All the members of Eden have their demons, but are basically decent people who just want the best for each other. What a refreshing change to the endless drug and alcohol-fuelled sex parties which usually go hand in hand with “rock star” genre.

This is a hugely satisfying read, dealing with issues so relevant in today’s #metoo climate, and a really strong debut novel by this author. I will definitely be looking out to see what else she does.

BLURB

James Morgan, lead guitarist for the rock band Eden, seems to have it all. That is, until Theo, Eden’s lead singer and James’s secret lover, violently betrays him, sending James into a deep depression and cutting their current tour and the band’s life short.

Kieran Jackson, the lead vocalist for the less successful band Lost and Found, is at his wits’ end. At thirty-three, he never dreamed he’d still be opening for bands comprised of twentysomethings. When Eden pulls out of the last few shows of their summer tour, Kieran returns home burned out and heartbroken.

Over a year later, James, Phil, and David of Eden decide to reform under a different name with Kieran as their new vocalist. James, never having forgotten his single interaction with Kieran, nor the only time he ever listened to him perform, knows Kieran’s the best choice.

James is still closeted—and skittish after his last relationship—and one fumbling, drunken kiss threatens to undo everything he’s worked so hard to rebuild, as well as the cover he’s fought to maintain.

Can James overcome his past, confront his demons, and reclaim his former fame? Or will he and the newly formed True North remain in Eden’s shadow forever? Can he finally find comfort in who he is, accept his past, and reopen his heart? Or will the memories of Theo’s betrayal and the subsequent fallout dash any hope of finding—and trusting—love again?

Trigger warning: this book contains explicit rape, as well as one failed suicide attempt by a main character.

21Mar/19

Imminent Dawn by R. R. Campbell

Imminent Dawn (Empathy Book 1) is a complex and involved debut sci-fi novel, first in a series, with a large cast of characters and several different POV’s. There’s no doubt it is well-written and evenly-paced, with great world-building and realistic dialogue.

For me, the number of POV’s were a bit of a stumbling block. I’ve read a lot of books, the the ones I’ve enjoyed most have been the ones with a single or double POV. Once it gets to more than that, with equally important characters, It has to work harder to keep my attention. 

I found this with Imminent Dawn, which at times seemed over-complicated for what it was. Essentially, one woman is used as pawn by a powerful corporation, whilst an investigative journalist and a company employee, each with their own agendas, try to outdo each other in order to achieve their ambitions.

It took a while to unpick all of this, and because of that, I found it difficult to engage with the characters. For me to want to read about a character, I need to care about them or hate them. It was a shame that I didn’t find a particular character to root for in this book, as I was too busy trying to figure out what exactly was going on.

I believe this is down to personal taste though, rather than a fault of the author. Others will find much to enjoy in the characterisations of the enigmatic and ruthless tech magnate, and will relate to Chandra and her predicament. They will enjoy unpicking the complexities of the plot, and will rejoice in subtleties that I may well have missed. In short, I think this novel has far more to it than I was able to glean from it, but I only have a finite amount of time to figure things out before I have to move on. It’s a shame, but as a book reviewer, it’s life.

Finally, this is a solid sci-fi novel, confidently written, with plenty for avid sci-fi readers to enjoy. I really hope they take it on board and run with it.  

BLURB

Four people. One study. The internet-access brain implant to bind or destroy them all.

Art-school dropout Chandra would do anything to apologize for her role in her wife’s coma—including enroll in the first round of human trials for an internet-access brain implant.

At first, the secretive research compound is paradise, the perfect place to distract Chandra from her grief. But as she soon learns, the facility is more prison than resort, with its doctors, support staff, and her fellow patients all bent on hatching plots of their own, no matter how invested they might seem in helping her communicate with her wife.

Making matters worse, a dark wave of uncertainty crashes down on the compound, forcing Chandra to become an unlikely but pivotal player in conspiracies stretching from the highest levels of the North American Union government to the lowest dredges of its shadowy hacking collectives.

To save herself and her wife, Chandra and her newfound friends from the study will have to overcome the scheming of a ruthless tech magnate, the naïveté of an advancement-hungry administrative assistant, and the relentless pursuits of an investigative journalist, all of whom are determined to outpace the others in their own quests to resurrect lost love, cover their tracks, and uncover the truth.

A twistedly delightful clockwork of intrigue and suspense, EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn is an electrifying sci-fi debut from author r. r. campbell. 

06Mar/19

The Dragon Princess by Hans M Hirschi

This is something different to the usual books I review on WROTE. Recent guest, Hans M Hirschi, has written a children’s fable, a magical tale for bedtime reading with young children.

I felt it was important to review it here, because people aren’t just just genders and sexualities, they’re also parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and people like me looking for diverse and inclusive fiction to share with our children or those of friends.

How I wish I had something like this to read to mine when they were small. This is a delightful tale, with hints of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, beautifully illustrated by Felicity Swann, and just long enough for a good bedtime story. Basically, it questions the concepts of evil, and love meaning a prince has to have a princess in order to find their Happy Ever After. And I’m pleased to see this is Book 1 of the Valerius and Evander story, which means there is more to come for these two engaging characters.

The writing isn’t patronising and not too simple, striking just the right balance. And there is no heavy-handed preaching either. It’s just a lovely story which is pitched just right for the audience it was intended for, no doubt prompting discussion from curious youngsters, but also normalising the whole concept of same sex relationships, which is just as it should be.

BLURB

Love is love
and dragons are evil
or are they really?

The Dragon Princess is a story about love
and how it holds the power to transform
even the coldest of hearts.

A classic bedtime story for children of all ages
written by bestselling author Hans M Hirschi
and beautifully illustrated by Felicity Swan.

 

10Feb/19

Contact (A New World, Book One) by M. D. Neu

There were a lot of expectations I had heaped on this book, mainly because my favourite sci-fi of all time (even trumping Close Encounters) is Contact, with Jodie Foster. And I KNOW that is really unfair, but once lodged, it couldn’t be shifted, so I turned my gimlet gaze on this book thinking “this has better be good.”

Well, reader, I was not disappointed. It was a bold move to start with the alien POV, but it turns out they aren’t all that different from us, with similar thoughts and emotions, and cute pets to cuddle when they are feeling down. But don’t let that put you off. Their rituals, expectations, way of talking and manners are very alien, as are their names and clothing. The author has taken a lot of trouble to build their world from the tiniest details (drinking tuma, and the name for the pet as a youngster) to the major issues. There IS a glossary at the back, and usually I wish the author had drawn attention to it earlier, but actually, I didn’t need it. The writing makes it clear enough, without long drawn-out explanations, but the Glossary is a good reference.

Then we have the humans, Todd and his husband Jerry, and their uber-camp friend, Dan. I found Dan a bit irritating at first but I really warmed to him when disaster strikes. Todd has a heads-up that alien craft are approaching the planet but he can’t tell anyone. Even his husband, Jerry, doesn’t believe him. The author captures how they deal with having to keep quiet, as well as their everyday existence as a gay couple, brilliantly.

So with the characters established, the author sets about telling the story from the human and the alien point of view. Humans are dealing with their own problems: rising bigotry and world unrest, environmental issues, overpopulation. And the Nentraee, who are homeless due to the destruction of their world and running out of resources, need somewhere to settle their remaining population. Naturally, the humans have something to say about that when the Nentraee make tentative contact with

To the Nentraee, humans are an odd race who don’t appreciate the beauty of the world they live in. And to the humans, the Nentraee are patronising, preachy and want to wipe them all out. There is mutual distrust as both sides slowly learn about each other, but after a terrible event, Todd is the one who ends up being the link between the two races, a role he feels unprepared for.

This was a very human story as well as an alien one. Todd and Jerry have to deal with homophobia on a daily basis. It even gets in the way of negotiations with the Nentraee, something the aliens find incomprehensible. The aliens also have complex and close family units and social delicacies. I hope we find out more about how they became such an itinerant race and what happened to their original planet.

There are also self-serving politicians, an indictment of American society at the moment and a study of how we would look to extraterrestrial visitors. It isn’t any surprise they view us with some suspicion.

So a great start to the New World Series, with solid character development, appealing characters on both the human and Nentraee sides, and the potential for things to get really messy in the future. I’m looking forward to the next one!

BLURB

A little blue world, the third planet from the sun. It’s home to 7 billion people with all manner of faiths, beliefs and customs, divided by bigotry and misunderstanding, who will soon be told they are not alone in the universe. Anyone watching from the outside would pass by this fractured and tumultuous world, unless they had no other choice. Todd Landon is one of these people, living and working in a section of the world called the United States of America. His life is similar to those around him: home, family, work, friends and a husband. 

On the cusp of the greatest announcement humankind has ever witnessed, Todd’s personal world is thrown into turmoil when his estranged brother shows up on his front porch with news of ships heading for Earth’s orbit. The ships are holding the Nentraee, a humanoid race who have come to Earth in need of help after fleeing the destruction of their homeworld. How will one man bridge the gap for both the Humans and Nentraee, amongst mistrust, terrorist attacks and personal loss? Will this be the start of a new age of man or will bigotry and miscommunication bring this small world to its knees and final end? 

28Jan/19

Power Surge by Sara Codair

Sara Codair was one of our lovely guests recently on WROTE. To find out more about them and find links to their work, check out Episode 194: Yeah That Happens!

Power Surge is Part 1 of the Evanstar Chronicles. Erin has a lot on their plate. Having recently come off meds for ADHD, they they think the visions they are experiencing are due to mental health problems. From being stalked by a sinister demon, to seeing fairies and pixies flitting in front of them, it isn’t surprising they think they are slowly going insane. Added to that, they are dealing with unfamiliar feelings for Jose, a childhood friend who has now become more than just a good friend, and at night they are haunted by nightmares. Also, there is the issue of being non-binary in a college full of jocks and prom queens, most of whom dismiss Erin as an ugly nobody, and family issues as well, as their previously close-knit family seems to be falling apart.

So it’s a lot to take in. Understandably, there’s a lot of description as at first, as we need to see inside Erin’s head to understand what they are going through. The balance of dialogue and prose is a little uneven, giving the story a slightly confusing start and this did mean my attention strayed a little, trying to grasp all these different conundrums and elements of Erin’s character. Having said that, the writing was incredibly good, and I really felt Erin’s dilemma as a young person trying to deal with the real world as well as what they assume is incipient madness.

The scene where they find out they are not alone, and Jose is right there with them, also seeing visions, is the best in the book in my opinion. I really felt their relief and joy. Until then, they had been keeping Jose at arm’s length, not wanting to inflict their problems onto him. They had been dealing with the bitchy girls in their social group, and feelings of isolation, so that scene was a wonderful moment.

There were also some gorgeous warm scenes with Erin’s family, and some really terrifying ones when the demons reveal themselves. Power Surge is a melting pot of young people’s issues, dealing with mental health, bullying, gender identity, family crises, superheroes who cannot fly and saving the world from imminent disaster.

Okay, so I didn’t connect with the book as much as I wanted to, mainly due to trying to process all these aspects whilst my brain was fried from dealing with Christmas, but that isn’t the author’s fault. This is a solid story of good v. evil, told by a narrator with vary real issues in a strange, creepy and sometimes beautiful world.

Finally, two things. First, the way they deal with mental health, not demonising it, but acknowledging it can really ruin a persons’ life, is brilliant and unafraid to say “look, this is just how it is sometimes, and it sucks.”

And second, the pronouns weren’t even an issue. Erin is non-binary, and the them/their pronouns sounded as natural as she/her or he/him do in 99.9 percent of fiction, This is an #ownvoices author who deserves recognition from readers of all genders.

BLURB

Erin has just realized that for the entirety of their life, their family has lied to them. Their Sight has been masked for years, so Erin thought the Pixies and Mermaids were hallucinations. Not only are the supernatural creatures they see daily real, but their grandmother is an Elf, meaning Erin isn’t fully human. On top of that, the dreams Erin thought were nightmares are actually prophecies.

While dealing with the anger they have over all of the lies, they are getting used to their new boyfriend, their boyfriend’s bullying ex, and the fact that they come from a family of Demon Hunters. As Erin struggles through everything weighing on them, they uncover a Demon plot to take over the world.

Erin just wants some time to work through it all on their own terms, but that’s going to have to wait until after they help save the world.


24Jan/19

I Am The Storm by Tash McAdam

Tash McAdam was with us very recently on WROTE. To find out more about them and their work, check out Episode 197: Cassius Is Screaming!

This book is a rewrite of a previous book, SLAM, but as there is 60% new material, it really is a fresh start. I Am The Storm is Part 1 of the The Psionics series.

Part 1, I Am The Storm, is a tense game of cat and mouse as Sam, a Psionic who can control technology with his mind, has to go on the run to avoid being captured by the Institute, who want to harness his skill. He is also being chased by a resistance soldier, Serena, who needs him to help overthrow the Institute’s monopoly over the city.

When they finally meet and realise they are on the same side, we begin to see the human side of the characters, and that was when I really began to connect with them. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it beforehand. The book is extremely well-written, and the author knows how to play the tension and choreograph incredibly plausible and fast-paced action scenes.

But it isn’t all about the action. There are also some searing scenes of heartbreaking intimacy too, but I can’t say more than that without adding spoilers. The scenes at the Wall were incredible. I was sitting in a coffee shop reading this and honestly, every sound was drowned because I was so involved in the book. That’s an awesome talent, and those scenes alone were enough for me to decide this is definitely a YA author worth watching. It bodes well for the next book in the series. The ending is satisfying, with enough of a cliff-hanger to lead the story on but not so much that you want to scream for more straight away.

Only a few quibbles, the main one being I wasn’t fully engaged in the beginning and I’m still not sure why. I think it was because of the amount of tell rather than show, which can get in the way when a character is running for their life. Another was the slightly odd way the characters used the word “Google” in the way we would usually say “God.” Ie., Thank Google for that. I get that Google is the new God in this rain-drenched, Dystopian world (isn’t it already?) but it just took me out of the scene for a nano-second each time. I think that’s a personal preference though, and shouldn’t reflect badly on the quality of the writing.

Finally, the world-building is great, convincing and bleak, and the plot doesn’t flinch from difficult issues (death, mainly) and crucially, doesn’t try to be “down with the kids.” This is an intelligent novel, and a really strong start to a fast-paced YA sci-fi series.

BLURB

Keep your head down. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Never even think about technology if one of those ghostly, grey cars is sliding silently down the road. They’ll see the thoughts inside you, if you let them. 

Sam’s a technopath, able to control electronic signals and manipulate technology with his mind. And so, ever since childhood, his life has been a carefully constructed web of lies, meant to keep his Talent hidden, his powers a secret. But the Institute wants those unusual powers, and will do anything to get a hold of him and turn him into one of their mindless slaves. 

Sam slips up once. Just once, but that’s enough. Now the Institute is after him in full force. Soldiers, telekinetics and mind readers, all gunning just for him. 

Newly qualified rebel soldier, Serena, doesn’t even know she’s chasing a person, all she knows is that she has to find whatever the Institute is after before they do. But, tracking an unknown entity through an unfamiliar city, with inaccurate intelligence, unexpected storms, and the Watch on the prowl, will she even survive? Will she get to Sam before the Institute does? His special skills could provide the resistance with an incredible advantage, but not if they can’t get out of the city, and over the huge wall that stands between them and freedom. 

I AM THE STORM is the action-packed rewrite of SLAM, with 60% new material and a brand new ending. Don’t miss Book One in what is now a four part series, due in 2018.