Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Stratosphere by Brian Cox @BrianCoxWrites #bynr #scifi #bookreview

The Stratosphere - The Birth of Nostradamus

GBU Review: 3/5
Amazon.UK |

I wasn’t too keen on the cover. I wasn’t sure what the symbolic silhouette of the people represented. First glance, it looked like one of those traffic crossing signs you see outside schools. The author name wasn’t prominent enough and as a thumb nail, hard to see.
The title was spot on, though. I liked the way the name ‘The Stratosphere’ seemed to be written in blood or that was my impression anyway. The blurb was bold and strong but the last lines: And it certainly is not an alien invasion or zombies. The threat is imminent, and it lies waiting where you least expect… I’d have liked to have shortened it to: It’s is not an alien invasion or zombies. The threat is imminent, and it’s waiting (or coming) … but that’s me being picky. Overall, it’s a strong blurb.

Look inside is the next most important thing about a book, and this book has a prologue. Again, it’s strong and draws me in straight away. It asks the question: If freedom is the power to exercise choice, what would happen in a world where everyone is free? And I’m left wanting to know what does it mean by ‘everyone is free’? Free to do whatever they like?

Chapter one opens with a girl called Nancy and her ‘gaggle’ friends waiting to attend a lecture, and the authors draws me a picture of a bolshy schoolgirl that’s hard to shake off as the story suggests, further in, that she's older. And as Nancy becomes the unlikely hero, I still can't shake her nastiness. There is a little bit of back story in the first chapter but it’s not overdone.

But still in chapter one, I’m suddenly in another POV of Gus. Gus has motor neuron, and given that the book is set in the far future I’m surprised the author chose this disease instead of making one up, because surely, medical advances would have cured this illness? (This is explained further in the book, and the story needs Gus to have some kind of disability).

Bearing in mind that I’m still reading the ‘look inside’ I’m overwhelmed with many names and their corresponding POVs. It’s a lot to take in, and I’m struggling to keep my interest in the story (it’s the intriguing blurb and prologue that keeps me going) as all the characters are introduced at once.

We’ll, I’m glad I persevered because the concept does push boundaries and make you think about humankind. It’s a ‘sad’ book; showing the bad side of human nature, I’d even go as far to say that it’s a horror story.

It shows the advances of virtual reality where humans can exist in The Stratosphere, living their dreams, while the world collapses around them. The book, as aforementioned, is set in the very far future with today’s verging technology firmly being used, debunked or discarded ie 3D printers, robots.

Affection, love and even sex between real people is rare as is pregnancy, because people are doing as little as possible to stay alive just to exist inside the ‘Strat.’  The Professor who created the Stratosphere has realised his mistake and tries to right his wrongs, but it seems he’s one person against the rest.

Brian Cox writes a very good, very thrilling, post-apocalyptic book and once through the boring (and confusing) opening it became extremely exciting. It tells us of a possible future for human kind if we allow virtual reality to dominate us.

Cox tells me the book has been edited, but editing is not all about typos or grammar, sometimes you need an editor to rein in the writer’s flow.

Over all, the storyline is very well researched, thought provoking and downright scary. And I do think it's a possible future for us all if we allow technology to take us over.

Big Brother is dead.
The real threat is not government.
It is not big business.
It is not artificial intelligence.
It is not your friends, your colleges or your neighbors.
It is not climate change, a comet, or a supernova.
It is not an EMP, WWIII, terrorism or a nuclear accident.
And it certainly is not an alien invasion or zombies.
The threat is imminent, and it lies waiting where you least expect…

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

B.P. Smythe #macabra #shortstories #bookreview


From a Poison Pen


At first glance, I'd have overlooked this little pocket of (gory) fun. The cover didn't reveal anything of its contents other than a title and author's name. I wouldn't have known if the book was a collection of shorts (which it is), a novelette or a full blown novel. The title does suggest a horror or a thriller of some kind.

In the look inside we have the usual copyright page, an author dedication and the TOC, then it's straight in with the first story called Constricted Love. It opens with a belly-dancing scene which becomes a little dramatic as the snake attacks the belly-dancer. Then the scene is over and seemingly forgotten, but the story does catch my attention and I'm drawn into Julian's world of greed and self-gratification, and the story is all tied up at the end.

There are ten stories in total and all in verifying lengths (the first probably the longest). They all had the same horror/story with a twist theme. Some are set in the modern day while others are set in times gone by, and the characters are all carefully drawn with their own set of flaws, likes and dislikes and with their own story to tell.

There were some editing issues such as missing speech tags but nothing to take the reader from the enjoyment of the stories. The stories were written in a mixed POV but I felt this was quite skilfully done.

From a Poison Pen is described as a collection of 'dark, humorous and macabre tales' that 'explores the disturbing side of human nature', and I think that sums it up accurately. They aren't 'safe' stories where the hero gets his just desserts, they are dark, and sometimes disturbing stories of the dark side of human nature.

My favourite was Girls of BDM which I thought was some kind of new erotica but in fact was a story set in the concentration camps during the WW2. There were a few formatting issues in this story with live links where, I think, the author had researched something and copy and pasted a name or a slogan to place in the book and forgot to unlink the text.

I summed up the book as 'pocket of gory fun' and it was.

The Blurb

What happens when a member of the Hitler youth ends up in a concentration camp?

How does a beach side cocktail get in the way the way of one woman’s scheming?

What leads a teenage girl to rain down fire and brimstone?

This collection of dark, humorous and macabre tales explores the disturbing side of human nature. 

From a Poison Pen is the first book in a trilogy of collected short stories by B.P. Smythe.