1984 by George Orwell Review

This masterpiece is more relevant today then ever before

When I first read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (hence-forth referred to as 1984) I was in school, and it didn’t really hit me as anything brilliant. I found it a little dull and dreary, and the undertones didn’t mean much to me.

Now though Orwell’s dystopian vision of our future really hits home, and it scarily feels a little familiar. We live in a world where Big Brother exists and is always listening and watching, shout out to the NSA, MI6 and the CIA, also let’s not forget to say hi to your Alexa.

Orwell gave us a dark world of never ending wars, where xenophobia is the main weapon of the government, a world where refugees being shot at sea is used for movie inspirations and is cheered in cinemas across the nation. A world where the truth doesn’t truly exist, it is not “something objective, external, existing in its own right” — but instead it’s, “whatever the Party holds to be truth is truth.”

Our books hero though see’s it all a little bit differently than he should. Early on Winston Smith promises to reject the party line and instead promises to defend “the obvious” and “the true”. As he tells himself “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four,” even though his party will insist that “two and two make five”.

Within this novel Orwell gives us a dark dystopia called Oceania, a place where the government controls everything, even its own reality. Propaganda is ever present within people lives, where ridiculous tabloids and sex-filled movies are made to control them and keep their interests away from politics and history.

Books and news articles are regularly and routinely rewritten so that the past becomes a blurry mess where the truth is hidden and twisted into the parties version of reality.

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Unsurprisingly 1984 hits harder in this modern world of fake news and ‘post-truths’, a world where nationalism is on the rise and where ‘alternative facts’ are just as relevant to people than the objective truth.

This is a world not unlike Orwell’s hellish vision of 1984.

Perhaps we should all take after Winston a little more, take a look around ourselves and rebel a bit.

It is scary to see how easily our world could fall under the control of a twisted and cruel overlord, where the truth is not what we see but what we are told. A world where an ever present and omnipotent power can see and control our every waking thought and movement. A world where our very lives are in their hands.

That I think is the most frightening but power notion that Orwell presented to us in 1984. He gave a stark warning for the entirety of the human race, a warning to resist mass control and oppression, and not blindly allow it to take control.

Rating:

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope Review

Who’d have thought that Star Wars and Shakespeare go hand to hand perfectly?

Well it turns out that author Ian Doescher did and he hits it out the park with ‘Verily, A New Hope’ the first entry in his Star Wars/Shakespeare saga.

As it turns out, the story of Star Wars, with all of its drama, tragedy, romance, humour, and amazing characters fits brilliantly into Shakespeare literary world.

As a big Star Wars fan, and somewhat of a Shakespeare admirer I jumped at the chance to check this book out, and boy am I glad I did.

I love A New Hope, I know the story inside and out, but this was like experiencing it all over again for the first time. As soon as I opened the book and read a Shakespearian version of the famous opening scroll I knew I was in for one hell of an enjoyable experience.

For the most part the script here follows the events of A New Hope beat for beat. Every now and then though the author is able to take advantage of creative license and grants a character an aside or a soliloquy to convey their feelings to the audience, it’s very Shakespearian, and it’s very fun.

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What is strange reading this book though is seeing how the art of storytelling has evolved over time.

Today writers are told to show don’t tell, they have to show a characters thoughts and motivations, simply telling the reader about them is too easy, too simple for a modern audience. Yet Shakespeare is filled with character soliloquies where we are told in no uncertain terms about their emotions, thoughts, and desires.

Even though the story being told here is only 40ish years old it felt like reading something from hundreds of years ago, it felt utterly foreign.

I loved it though, no matter how strange it felt to read. Where it would really shine though is on the stage, as all of the great Bard’s works do. This is made for the theatre and boy would that be a treat.

Warehouse Dreams by Theresa Halvorsen Review

This is an interesting novel with complex moral issues at its core, and an interesting sci-fi plot to keep you engaged.

Like many good science-fiction novels Warehouse Dreams raises, and attempts to address, an interesting ethical dilemma. Should we, as a society, sacrifice the few in order to improve the lives of the many? Should we allow scientists to mess with our genes to create the ‘perfect’ human? And if so should we allow the rich to take advantage of that?

Theresa Halvorsen spares no time in getting this hypothetical situation going. She doesn’t bother with a slow build-up, or with a gentle introduction to the characters and setting, instead she throws us straight into the action and just gets on with telling her tale, and for the most part this works very well.

The focus in Warehouse Dreams is very much on the characters, the action, and the rapid exploration of her story.

Warehouse Dreams tells the story of Kendle, assistant to the administrator of the Warehouse, the only school for children with Wild psychic abilities. Unlike the scientifically perfect ‘Bred’ children (those scientifically created), the Wilds are unpredictable and ostracizes by society, leaving them with nowhere to go, nowhere but the Warehouse anyway.

Soon a handsome new teacher called Stephen begins working at the school to teach telepathic control to the children. It doesn’t take long for a relationship to bloom between him and Kendle.

This is a sci-fi adventure novel with an underlying pseudo-romance that is both intriguing and unique.

I’m not going to say anything else about the story here because quite frankly you need to experience this book for yourself. So I’ll move on to my commentary.

A notable weakness of the novel, at least for me, was the lack of description. The action and the characters take precedent here over language, and while that helps move the plot along with a brisk pace, I did feel that at times a little poetic prose would be nice. Though that’s a personal preference and doesn’t really take away from the overall experience.

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Warehouse Dreams is a character driven story, its primary focus is on their emotions, their thoughts, and on their development. So it’s a great thing that Kendle, Stephen, and many of the students are well realised creations that fully inhabit the world Halvorsen has crafted for them.

While this may sound like a simple formulaic YA novel on the face of it, it is actually far more than that. This is really an allegory of societies treatment of minorities and the differently abled. This book poses questions about how we live, the level of scientific intrusion we are willing to endure for a better life, and the way in which we treat people different from ourselves.

This is a well crafted novel with complex moral issues at its core, and an interesting sci-fi plot to keep you engaged, no easy feat all told.

There are still many questions and aspects of this universe to explore so I sincerely hope there are more installments coming.

Rating

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

You can get yourself a copy of Warehouse Dreams from Amazon.

If you have a book you’d like us to review you can get in contact with us at submitbooklytical@gmail.com

Authors condemn Saudi Arabia’s bid to host World Science Fiction Convention

Controversy is abound in the science-fiction writing circle after Saudi Arabia bids to host the World Science Fiction Convention

More than 80 science-fiction and fantasy authors are currently protesting at the possibility that one of the ‘genres’ biggest conventions may be held in Saudi Arabia in 2022, they say that, “the Saudi regime is antithetical to everything SFF stands for.”

The group is led by fantasy author Anna Smith Spark and includes writers Charlies Stross, Stan Nicholls, Catriona Ward, and Juliet McKenna. They have all signed an open letter objecting to Jeddah’s bid to host the World Science Fiction Convention in two years’ time.

The authors point to the fact that homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, it’s crackdown on free speech, and the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. They argue that these issue make the country an unacceptable stage for an international event.

“On a personal level, we note that many of us would ourselves not be able to write or to live freely under Saudi law. We refuse to attend an event if those staffing it cannot have the same basic freedoms,” they say in the letter addressed to the board of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS). “We express deep concern that many members of the SFF community would be excluded.”

While the writers acknowledge that holding the convention in Jeddah would, “open up a new world to fans who may otherwise never have an opportunity to travel there, and show solidarity with creative communities within Saudi Arabia and other Arab states”, they state that “the Saudi regime is antithetical to everything SFF stands for”.

“We stand in solidarity with those who seek change in the country. And we write in protest but also in hope – that by raising awareness of the political situation in Saudi Arabia a WorldCon SA will one day be possible,” their statement reads.

One of the authors behind the Saudi bid, Yasser Bahjatt,released his own statement that says he was “deeply concerned” by the letter.

“We believe in their right to express concerns or even distaste for a WorldCon in Saudi Arabia, but demanding that we should not be allowed to even request hosting it is absurd and unhealthy for the WorldCon in the long run,” he said. “The WorldCon already is limited in its spread as it is mainly focused on western culture countries, and as long as it is the WorldCon, it must accept all of the world.”

“This does not mean that the community should not try to make the world a better place, but merely that there is a difference between advocating for change that you believe would make the world a better place, and demanding that the world adheres to your own moral code. When such a tone is used, it is no different than the radicals on the other side,” he added.

According to Smith Spark the WSFS has been dismissive of the authors’ concerns so far, she also says that the response from readers, writers and publishers though had been “astonishingly positive”.

Smith Spark also said she is shocked she had had to take a stand on the issue. “Our community has expressed deep solidarity with the people of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and disgust that the UK and US governments have such long and deep links with the regime. It’s the Saudi regime that is the antithesis of everything SFF should stand for, absolutely not Islam or Arabic culture to which both science and literature are hugely indebted,” she said. “Many in the community have also expressed outrage that a convention could be considered that would by default exclude many of the most exciting voices in the genre.”

Cell Review

Clayton Riddell was practically skipping down the street in Boston when the event that would come to be known as the PULSE took place.

As is the norm with horror fiction Clayton starts the novel feeling good, very good in fact. He’s just sold his first graphic novel and was heading back to Maine to reconcile with his estranged wife Sharon.

A lady lifts a cell phone to her ear and suddenly sinks her teeth into her friend’s neck. Blood erupts like a geyser. Further along the street a man bites the head off a dog, a plane comes plummeting from the sky and the streets ran red with freshly spilled blood.

Clay seeks safety in his hotel, here he finds another man, Tom, and a fifteen year old girl who’s being attacked by her own mother. Our hero grabs a metal spike and rams it into the crazed woman’s carotid artery.

Our three heroes head out of the city in the cover of darkness and head north, passing countless unspeakable horrors in their way, all of which Stwphen King is more than happy to describe in vivid detail.

The adventure continues with drastic fatalities along the way and a conclusion left up to the readers mind, suffice to say this is not King at his very best.

If you’ve read a bunch of other King novels you’ll see a lot of recycled ideas as you make your way through Cells small scale quest also makes for a tiring read, though I think that’s King’s intention as he paints us a possible future of two wildly different outcomes.

Cell is about survival but it’s also about a war, a war with two sides that will give no mercy or quarter to the other, a war that will decide the fate of humanity.

I liked the storyline of Cell and its action was visceral and had an emotional punch like few others, but they were few and far between. This is a slow book and one that needed an extra edit to take away the unnecessary fat. It could also have done with a rewrite to make some of the characters less annoying.

Overall it’s a decent introduction into King’s writing, it was after all what first got me into the horror genius, but you must remember he’s written far better than this. Then again he’s written far worse too.

Sorcerer’s Duel Review

Before you read this review I’d suggest checking out my thoughts on the first book in the series.

W H Cann brings back Grogaan and his friends to take us on a brand new adventure into the heart of the inky darkness of space.

This time Grogaan and his soul-mate Ellarna learn to harness their magic and train to become Guardians. This is not a straightforward business however and the heroes are soon back to undertaking another dangerous mission where they will tempt fate more than once and attempt to deal a painful strike to the Empire.

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For me personally the first novel in the series lacked the emotional punch that could have made it a standout classic, I just didn’t really care about the characters who what would happen to them. Thankfully in Sorcerer’s Duel the emotional investment is much better.

For the first time I actually feel like I care about Grogaan and am willing him to succeed where so many others have failed. In Path to Vengeance I wouldn’t have minded if Cann had killed him off, at least that would have been unexpected, but in Sorcerer’s Duel he’s a different character and I hoped with each new page that he’d still be breathing.

But its not just the characters that are better in this second outing, everything is damn well better.

The story line is also a lot more fun, it’s more action packed and has a much quicker sense of pace than the original. Even Cann himself seems more comfortable with the futuristic fantasy world he has created, from reading this story I get the sense that the writing has been easier this time, I bet the characters are slightly clearer and the universe more colourful and vivid in his mind.

From reading this novel and comparing it with the first one it is as though I am looking literary evolution in the face. I have witnessed not only the evolution of a fantasy world but also the evolution of the author behind it. Cann has come on leaps and bounds since the first novel and has created a much more exciting read for all his hard work.

I look forward to future adventures.

Rating

Rating: 9 out of 10.

You can check out Sorcerer’s Duel for yourself on Amazon.

Path to Vengeance Review

With his father, brother and fiancée lying dead at the hands of Krelathan raiders, Grogaan’s life is ripped apart, he is consumed with grief, anger and rage. He vows to himself that he will have his revenge and he sets out on his ‘path to vengeance’ by purchasing four starfighters for him and his friends, which they extensively modify to give them the advantage in battle.

Grogaan battle against the trauma of his immense personal loss but no matter how much he tries he suffers from recurring bouts of severe depression.

No matter what he suffers through personally though he will find his vengeance.

Path to Vengeance was a rather entertaining read for me. As a lover of almost anything science-fiction I have read any book I can my hands on this genre and while Path to Vengeance may not be a standout classic it is an above average read and well worth a look if you have some free time on your hands.

Fair warning though the books opening is a bit of an uphill battle. There’s little emotion to be found in the opening scenes and it’s not until we explore Grogaans backstory that we have any feelings at all for his plight, though it’s not in ample supply.

When we do have that little more substance to his character though Grogaan is a somewhat likeable hero, he may not be a fun loving guy but after what he’s been through that is more than understandable.

There’s a handy surprise in store for our hero however as he soon discovers that he is in fact a wizard. Yes you heard me correctly, he is a WIZARD. Now like me you may immediately think of a Jedi and in a manner of speaking I guess the Jedi’s may have been the inspiration behind this development.

But after finishing the novel I think it is something different. This is a fantasy novel filled with magic but set in the future. Take any fantasy novel and move it forward a few thousands years and this is it. But Star Wars is fantasy over science-fiction so that’s still kind of the same thing, but this same concept is portrayed very differently.

Not only does this novel have magic wielding Wizards but there is enough tech in here to make an apple fan boy salivate with jealousy. From laser cannons and light-speed engines this novel has any creatively imaginable tech a sci-fi geek like me could wish for.

The only thing I could want to make this novel that all important must read is another edit or two. Some paragraphs, and even some entire scenes, simply aren’t necessary and it would really make the novel much easier to read if they were wiped out or drastically streamlined.

At some points the novel seems to drag on needlessly and the slog of reading it threatened to halt my progress altogether. Soldiering through though and the prize was well worth it. Beneath some points of poorly edited text this novel is a shining gem and it was an enjoyable read.

I am looking forward to the next novels in the series and I’m confident that the more W H Cann writes about this universe the better and easier it will become to read.

Rating

Rating: 7 out of 10.

You can check out Path to Vengeance for yourself on Amazon.

You can also check out my review of the second novel in the series, Sorcerer’s Duel.

The Phoenix Conspiracy Review

The Phoenix Conspiracy by Richard Sanders is a science-fiction novel set in a future Universe where mankind has managed to create a sprawling Empire stretching across a huge swath of the galaxy. Opposing them are two rival alien Empires.

On the face of it the Human Empire seems to be largely peaceful. However, a rogue captain attacks an innocent alien civilian convoy and quickly plunges the galaxy to the brink of war.

The hero (I guess I have to call him that), is Lieutenant Commander Calvin, Captain of an Intel Wing ship, which seems to be a sort of futuristic equivalent of the C.I.A. Calvin is tasked with finding this rogue Captain and bringing him to justice.

This he manages to do right at the beginning of the story, but when the Captain is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death everything goes tits up for Calvin. The captain is inexplicably able to take control of his transport ship and makes off into the inky blackness of space.

Calvin is sent off in pursuit. On board his ship though is a brand new XO, and I dont think there has ever been a more hateful character put to paper.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the books good points.

So here are the good points…erm….

It’s free. That’s always a big bonus if you’re looking to try something new.

The first 20-25% of the novel are actually quite good, at more than one point the plot dipped and twisted quite well giving me more than a few surprises. It is also well placed for the most part and never got boring, and to give him his due Calvin has his moments as a compelling well formed hero.

So ye that’s the good stuff. Sadly it’s not exactly a long list.

So anyway down to the bad bits, this part is a little longer I’m afraid.

First I’ll begin with the setting. This novel has a very Star Trek type feel to the Universe, sadly it feels even cheaper than Star Trek the Original series does in retrospect, which is no mean feat considering.

One of the novels weakest points for me was the technology available to our hero. Apparently even though humans have built large lumbering star-ship that blunder their way through the endless darkness of space, they also still rely on basic rifles, this in a universe where force-fields and shields exist. So primitive.

If technology has advance advanced enough to create force-fields why in hell are the marines and Special Forces still shooting piddly little pieces of shrapnel down corridors at alien enemies armed with superior weaponry?

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One of the primary reasons I enjoy science-fiction is the creative worlds and technology that adorn their pages. Massive battleships firing highly charged laser beams across countless kilometres of space to crash into invisible shields and dissipate into nothing. Men armoured in huge battle suits and laser guns firing down numerous insectile enemies in narrow corridors filled with smoke and flickering lights. They are the sort of things many people expect from science-fiction, not bullet firing guns that wouldn’t look out of place now, a time where space flight is still in its infancy.

One of the biggest things to do when you write a sci-fi novel is think big, think monumental and go for it, sometimes the more insane the better, we want to see an exciting future full of new and exciting prospects and objects to discover and enjoy.

They even use paper. PAPER! Come on Richard give them an iPad or something. Hell what about giving Calvin a touch sensitive desk that doubles as a computer or a voice activated central computer and holographs. I’m reading about a futuristic human Empire battling for control of the Universe, give them some fun toys to do it with. Not paper. Who wants an intelligence officer buried under paper. I’d stake my life on the fact that the real C.I.A is light years ahead of the technology at the disposal of Calvin and his friends.

Always remember if your writing a science-fiction novel about great galactic wars make it big and make it exciting. Use your creativity.

But I can over-look the lack of any advanced technology, it is the characters that really make me want to pull my hair out.

2 dimensional doesn’t even begin to describe the characters that inhabit the pages of this book. Everyone is a clichéd stereotype, except for Calvin anyway. The women are beautiful and the men can’t help but lose their self-control in their presence. Even when the man and woman are at loggerheads the man will suddenly loses all of his self-control and fall under the spell of the woman.

Let’s look more closely at the two primary characters. Commander Calvin is supposedly a gifted young intelligence officer and brilliant captain. Yet he’s an habitual drug user who is regularly comatose in a drugged stupor when he should be on the bridge.

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Path to Vengeance Review

With his father, brother and fiancée lying dead at the hands of Krelathan raiders, Grogaan’s life is ripped apart, he is consumed with grief, anger and rage. He vows to himself that he will have his revenge and he sets out on his ‘path to vengeance’ by purchasing four starfighters for him and his friends, … Continue reading “Path to Vengeance Review”

The first time I read this I couldn’t help but think; “Hold on a second…Why the hell should I care about him then?” And from then on I didn’t like him, I couldn’t have cared less what happened to him, and when the ship was taken from his control I couldn’t help but think he deserved it. And if you lose your readers belief and love for your character, especially your antagonist, then you have lost the reader.

But it was his second in command that really made me want to scream in frustration. Commander `bloody’ Presley, the most tight arsed officer who ever lived. Presley is from the Navy and as such is a stickler for the rules and discipline of the battleships, rules and discipline that Calvin has demolished on his more informal vessel.

Now on the one hand Calvin is an idiot and is unfit for military command, all his officers are friends and feel free to question his decisions, on this count Presley is right on the money, the ship is a shambles and really should be replaced with a better crew.

Yet Presley is such a two dimensional cardboard cut-out it is insanely infuriating and you’ll find yourself disagreeing with her just so you don’t agree with her. You will spend most of your time trying to work out how the author ever thought she was a viable addition to the story. At one point in the story the author actually writes this for her:

“She knew he was right, but didn’t want him to be.”

While that may not seem all that irregular, humans after all are very egocentric, its indicative of Presley’s entire character. She has to be right all the time no matter what, and no matter how much evidence to the contrary she has smashed into her face.

Any military commander will tell you to listen to the advice given to you and to act in the best interests of the unit not your ego, and sadly Presley is so damned egotistical she would sacrifice the whole galaxy so no one else could say she was wrong.

At one point she annoyed me so much it actually made me want to break my Kindle in half.

I think I’ve ranted on long enough and I apologise for chewing your ear off, I just struggle to understand the point of this novel. The story doesn’t really go anywhere and the story just ends abruptly, meaning you have to buy the sequels to learn anything. And those sequels are costly, especially for independently published novels.

Overall I’d say if you enjoy sci-fi books by all means give it a go, its free so you have nothing to lose, but don’t expect it to be a particularly fun read and don’t expect it to make any sense unless your then willing to pay for the next novel. I for one will never pay for the next books and don’t think I will ever lose any sleep not knowing the outcome of Calvin or Presley.

You can try the book for yourself over on Amazon.

Rating

Rating: 4 out of 10.