Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Buzzer

What is factual is that a Russian transmitter site has been broadcasting a buzzing noise every other second for 40 years.

Reportedly, every couple of months, the buzzing cycle is interrupted with a voice that intones "U V B 7 6" followed by a series of numbers and what are believed to be coded words.

Experts and amateur theorists have come up with a number of explanations for this phenomenon over the years, ranging from a secret military communication system or even a countermeasure against nuclear war. It is the latter theory that David Mason uses as the basis for his novel.

Natalya Kovalski is a journalist who has decided to launch a research project on the mysterious shortwave Buzzer transmissions.

She teams up with computer programmer and shortwave radio enthusiast Stepan Litvin to try to get to the bottom of this mysterious transmission.

It is suspected that a deserted and abandoned former military base in Povarovo was, at one time, the host site for the transmission and so Natalya and Stepan decide to visit the site to see what they might be able to learn.

Their research work brings to their attention some mysterious links between a secret CCCP experiment, the Soviet Human Enhancement Project C-1, which was undertaken at the height of World War 2 and the city of Luga.

Are they correct in their suspicions that the transmissions and the C-1 Project were an experiment on the hapless population of the city of Luga?

They face something of a dilemma. Should they use Natalya's press contacts to expose the experiment on the people in order to save them and their city? Or would their attempts to do the right thing actually put the city into even more danger?

And what if Project C-1 was even more horrifying than anyone could have even anticipated? Would they be safe? For that matter, would anyone be safe, even again?

This is a truly terrifying thriller of a read. It's published by The Book Guild aat £8.99 and can be bought here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

Knowledge: The Root of All Happiness

Knowledge: The Root Of All Happiness is a philosophical book with a difference. It is written in order to make philosophy accessible to everyone.

Even so, it deals with some core concepts of philosophy. "What is the univer's nature?" "Who are we?" "Where are we from?" "What is the goal of life?" and "How Should we live?"

In this book author M. A. Risso explores several key concepts of philosophy, yet does so in a way that although it is designed to be read by everyone, it not in the least bit condescending.

It is concise and is deliberately not over-long, avoiding the temptation to go into too much detail of specific theories and philosophies.

In his introduction M. A. Risso makes a very compelling and highly pertinent point: " Science and religion are often at loggerheads, buy they do not need to be. With our limited senses, it is simply not possible for humans to understand everything in life and we should have the humility to admit this."

The book is an interesting primer for those intending to study philosophy or those who want to know the basics of philosophical thoughts and theories.

It is published by The Book Guild at £9.99 and can be ordered at https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

Clash

This is a first for me. It is the first time I have read a book based on the ancient Irish sport of Hurling.

Written by South African-based filmmaker and story teller Dermod Judge, it tells the story of what happens when an idiosyncratic and eccentric Irish millionaire gets a hold of Hurling and transforms it inot a dangerous gladiatorial style contest, with his own handpicked team "The Danann."

Into this sporting melee comes John-Joe Crosby a Kerryman who is a skilled hurler of the traditional kind.

John-Joe become embroiled in this new derivative of Hurling which seems dead set on eschewing the rules of safety because the lives of the players are deemed as not being as important as the viewing figures and the ratings.

However, he falls in love with the gorgeous Kitty and soon they find that their lives are both at risk when they inadvertently discover that far from being idiosyncratic and eccentric, the millionaire behind the new Hurling craze is nothing but a dangerous crook who is using graft, bribery and corruption in order to build a new sports complex and stadium in Dublin, Ireland's capital city.

John-Joe and Kitty are forced to flee for their lives.

However, John-Joe helps to bring together a Hurling team to battle the thuggish and brutal Danann team. But there is no intention of allowing John-Joe to survive the match. Nor to allow Kitty to take the evidence the two have amassed to the Irish authorities.

However, the match isn't over until it's over.

This is a rip roarer of a novel, powerful and as deadly as a Hurling stick.

It's the first of two novels in the series and is heartily recommended. 

It's published by The Book Guild at £8.99 and you can order it here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

The Happy Ending

Meet Harry. Harry is a widower who is only three years away from receiving his 100th birthday telegram from Her Majesty the Queen.  

So, what could Harry do? Take the morphine that his late wife had squirreled away to ease her passing, but had never taken?

Or would he while away his last remaining years in a nursing home, dozing in front of the telly with other people of his own age?

Not a chance of that! Because Harry decides that he was not going to do either of those things. He decided that, with the help of his late wife, he would do something completely and utterly different.

He becomes involved with a rich panoply of vibrant characters as he decides to join become a modern day William Wilberforce and join the campaign to help stamp out modern day slavery and people trafficking.

The author David Stokes draws Harry as a very sympathetic man who, though he would describe himself  as being a rather ordinary chap, turns out be be an extraordinary person, indeed.

Harry was thinking of ending it all, when his life suddenly took a dramatic new turn when an angel crashed into his house. Or rather, took his gate out with her car in a snowstorm.

This was how Harry met Bituin (it's Tagalog for "Star") and learns of Mr Sharma, his wealthy family and the modern slave trade.

This is the story of what Harry does, with the help of Betty and Bituin, to help bring justice to the modern slave traders.

It's a story that is both amusing, heartening and also a romantic tale, even though one of the loved ones is now in the cemetery over the road.

It's published by Matador at £9.99 and can be bought here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.


The Mirror of Pharos

In The Mirror of Pharos J S Landor brings us the magical story of Jack Tideswell.

Jack's parents were a couple of natural born adventurers, always exploring something or somewhere.

Sadly they lost their lives in a dive that went horrifically wrong whilst they were exploring the submarine ruins of the ancient lighthouse of Pharos.

As a consequence and quite understandably, their son Jack eschews any adventurous inclinations.

However, one day Jack's life is completely turned upside down when he is visited by a messenger seagull which is bearing the gift of an unusual looking disc. Which is addressed personally to Jack. But even more curiously he immediately recognises the handwriting. For it was written by himself.

The fact that Jack has, somehow, delivered a message to himself plunges Jack into a whirlwind of an adventure with all kinds of weird, magical powers at play.

Can Jack learn how to navigate the flow of time? Can he rescue the one person who can help him understand and solve the mystery of the disc that he, apparently, sent to himself?

But there is someone, or something, that is looking ast Jack and watching his every move. But why? And was their motives good, or not?

This is an excellent fantasy novel and will please fans of that genre.

It's published by Matador at £7.99 and you can purchase it here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

The author has a website at www.jslandor.com.

Mist The Path of a Killer

Mist The Path of a Killer is the first part of a new crime series from author Jason Instrell.

It features Detective Inspector John Miste of the Leicestershire Police force.

He is deeply affected by the disappearance of his brother as a child and as a result he decided to join the police force.

As a result of his dedication and his hard work John rises through the ranks and is regarded as a competent and well-respected detective.

He becomes enmeshed in the hunt for a highly dangerous and prolific murderer who is known by the name The Wolf.

The Wolf always seems to be one step ahead of Miste and his dedicated team of police officers.

But why? And who is The Wolf? What are his motives for his murderous spree?

Can John Miste and his team cage The Wolf or will he continue to elude them?

This is an extremely taught and well-written and chilling novel which I can highly recommend.

It is published by The Book Guild at £7.99 and can be purchased here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

You Must Be Jo King

This is a comic novel debut from author Moira Murphy.

It's about Joanne King who is recently divorced at age 39. Jo, as she is otherwise known, is well aware that she needs to make some changes in her life. And to this end she realises that she must set herself some goals.

Three goals! Yes, three goals should be more than enough.

The first goal is to ensure the future safety of her home and her furniture. Training her dog should achieve this.

Try not to be horrid about her husband's new woman, Fran. Well, especially in front of the children she shares with George, her ex-husband. And she hopes this will be for the sake of George, too.

Thirdly? Yes, her third goal is to get herself a new life all of her very own! And if his plan might include a little bit of some romance to lighten things up for her, so much the better!

However... however... her plans have to be bombproofed against the vagaries of her teenaged children, her mother who is 83 and also the puppy dog that was such a nice and thoughtful departing gift from George. And the thing was that the puppy was supposedly a present to the kids and not o!

Amidst all this internal, family-related chaos she has encounters with artists, a police officer (but not in a bad way!) and Nick King, who is a physiotherapist.

Plus there's the added and dubious pleasure of hostilities between Jo and her and the new love of her ex-husband George's life, his new 'soulmate', Fran.

But something seems to indicate that Jo will come out on top, ahead of the field, with Millie the dog in tow!

This is a gloriously written and very amusing book. It's fiction, but it's very, very truthful indeed!

It's published by The Book Guild at £7.99 and copies will be available here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

A Corner of My Heart

A Corner of My Heart is a debut novel from award winning playwright Mark Seaman.

Originally conceived as a play, the author took the decision to re-work it as a novel.

It tells the story of Mary. At under two months of age in 1949, she is adopted by a married couple,. James and Carol Rowland, who found Mary in a home for unmarried mothers.

Mary has a happy and fulfilled life with her adopted parents and she accepts with equimenity the fact that her birth mother, Ruth, gave her up for adoption.

However, when Mary is 28, and a mother in her own right, old, unasked questions come to the fore. Why was her mother unmarried? Why was Mary, apparently,  so easily given up for adoption?

The focus of the story then shifts to that of Ruth. We see the horrific childhood that blighted Ruth and so many people of her generation, torn from the life she knew and transported to the Nazi death camp, Birkenau, where she knew real suffering and horrendous deprivation.

After the liberation of Birkenau and the end of the war she attempts to make a new life for herself in the austerity of postwar Europe. But the shock discovery of her pregnancy breaks her, forcing to give her child up for adoption. 

However, when Ruth receives a letter from her long-lost daughter, Mary, it is decided to arrange a meeting between them, a meeting that will life changing for the both of them.

This is a thoughtful and very moving debut novel from an author who it is to be hoped will have many more books to bring forward in the future.

It's published by The Book Guild at £9.99 and is available for purchase here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

Righteous Correction

Righteous Correction is the first of a new series of crime novel from author Simon J. Stephens.

It concerns a man called Zipoly, so named because his parents used a bag of Scrabble tiles to create his name. As the alternative had been Waduut, Zipoly, or Zip as he was more commonly known, realised that it could have been worse, as he was known to everyone as Zip.

Zip gets married to Francesca, they have two children and then his family is taken away from hm during a horrendous and utterly unnecessary road crash.

He avenges the calamity that took his family away from him but he then becomes drawn into the ambit of a very secret and ancient order, for whom he becomes involved in the fight against crime and injustice. 

His cover is that of a lonely, widowed man who travels the length and breadth of the country, just cruising on the canals of England on a narrow boat.

It turns out that Zip, who previously was a highly successful sanitaryware sales manager, was also highly successful in his new role as a very unconventional crimefighter.

All was going well for Zip -as well as it could, under the circumstances- when he was faced with a dilemma.

Exactly what would happen to Zip should his controllers and superiors demand that he undertake a task that he found to be morally repugnant, to cross a very distinct line?

Zip is about to finds out.

This is a very interesting book, because not only is it a thriller it is also very thought-provoking, raising a great many questions about the human condition, forgiveness, vengeance, love and moral relativity.

It costs £9.99 form Matador and copies may be bought here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

An Oxford Scandal

An Oxford Scandal is a real treat for fans of the historical crime novels of author Norman Russell and for newcomers to his work.

In An Oxford Scandal the reader is taken back to the city of Oxford in the latter part of the Victorian era.

We meet up with Anthony Jardine who is an Oxford tutor who has managed the feat of being both success and popular.

He finds that there are some strains on his life, split as his time is between his working life, his devoted wife Dora and his equally devoted lover, Rachel.

However, the situation is more complex than he could have known as Dora is, what modern society would describe as a junkie, as she is in the terrible grip of an addiction to cocaine. Her behaviour (as a result of her addiction?) is becoming a source of increasing angst for Arthur..

In fact, he retreats, somewhat, into the world of academia as concentrates on the discovery of what appear to be the remains of St Thomas a Becket which were, apparently, hidden in a secret vault at the college.

Then the corpse of Dora is found (murdered in a tram) and, unfortunately for Arthur, as he was in the area, meeting his mistress, he falls under the suspicion of having killed his wife.

Onto the scene comes Inspector James Antrobus who is ably assisted by his friend Sophia Jex-Blake, the pioneering woman doctor and feminist.

The investigation proves to be somewhat complicated, even more so when Rachel, Anthony's  mistress, is also murdered.

Who is the real killer? What on earth could their motives be? And what is the link between, murders and Anthony Jardine and London?

This is an exciting detective knowledge, yet it is also cerebral and very well researched. The inclusion of historical figures like Dr Sophia Jex-Blake is an added element of interest.

The book is published by Matador at a remarkably reasonable £8.99 and it can be purchased here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

What is Science fiction? And who wrote the first Science Fiction story?

In their book “Science Fiction, an historical anthology” Eric S. Rabkin and Robert Scholes explore the historical cannon of Science Fiction literature.

They cover in Part one “The Emergence of Modern Science” and include Cyrano de Bergerac’s “From Other Worlds” (1657), Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, (1726) and François Marie Arouet (Voltaire) Micromegas (1752)

In Part 2, Nineteenth Century they cover E. T. A. Hoffman’s The Sandman (1816) Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus (1818)
Edgar Allan Poe A Decent into the Maelstrom (1841)
Nathanial Hawthorne Rappaccini’s Daughter (1844)
Edward Bellamy Looking Backward 2000-1887 (1888)

In the section Early Twentieth Century they include The Star by H. G. Wells (even though this story was published in 1889, thus part of the previous century) and Hugo Gernsback’s novel Ralph 124C 41+ (1911.)

They would appear to argue, or at least, suggest that Science Fiction began as early as the 17th century.

However, they omit Swift’s bitter and biting satire “A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick”. One might argue that the theme of commodifying people as a potential food source was taken up in the film “Soylent Green” which has corpses being turned into a foodstuff called Soylent Green. (Incidentally this theme was not in the Harry Harrison novel upon which the film was based, Make Room, Make Room.

(Note: They also failed to mention Jules Verne, a leading exponent of scientific fiction.)

However, if one undertakes further research it becomes clear that Science Fiction stories predate the eighteenth century.

In an article in The Daily Telegraph published 7th November 2013 arts editor Charlotte Runcie wrote an article that reported during the 2013 Cambridge Festival of Ideas, senior lecturer Dr Justin Meggitt posited “the first ever work of science fiction was in fact written by a Greek-speaking Syrian author, in Ancient Rome.”

Runcie added: “True History by Lucian of Samosata is ostensibly a parody of Ancient Roman travel writing. But with characters venturing to distant realms including the moon, the sun, and strange planets and islands, it has a surprising amount in common with modern sci-fi novels and films.”

Runcie also points out the following ancient writings should be considered as Science Fiction:  “The Ramayana - attributed to Valmiki, between the fifth and fourth centuries BC, Urashima Tarō - Japanese legend dating from around the eighth century AD, The Republic - Plato, around 380 BC and the Book of Revelation - John of Patmos, around 90 AD.”

However, some scholars would question that list because some of them involve “magic, not science.
Runcie also cites author and scholar Margaret Attwood “But some question whether it is really the first ever example of the genre. Last year, Margaret Atwood published a book of essays exploring her own theories on the origins of sci-fi, citing Plato's Republic and even the Book of Revelation as possible contenders for the title.”

In general it is acknowledged Science Fiction as we understand the term began at the turn of the 19th century, with novels like H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898).

Mention must go to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
In the USA Science Fiction novels can arguably be said to have begun with Edgar Rice Burroughs, with his serialised story Under the Moons of Mars (1912; novelised as A Princess of Mars, 1917.
In 1926 Hugo Gernsback began publishing Amazing Stories.

The magazine spawned many imitators and Gernsback added other Science Fiction titles to his stable; Science Wonder Stories, Air Wonder Stories, and Scientific Detective Monthly, later renamed Amazing Detective Tales.

In 1934 the clamour of readers demanding Science Fiction stories was so high it was decided to launch the Science Fiction League, sponsored by Gernsback himself.

The Science Fiction League had branches throughout the USA and with branches in the UK and Australia. It began holding conventions, still a staple for fans today.

An early, long-serving influence on Science Fiction was the editor of Astounding Science Fiction from 1937 until 1971. With his scientific background (he had a BSc) he was rigorous in ensuring the science was accurate.

Under Campbell the magazine published stories by authors who were to become Literary Lions of the Science Fiction world, like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, A.E. Van Vogt, Theodore Sturgeon, Arthur C. Clarke (another ‘proper’ scientist like Isaac Asimov.)

There have been a number of protagonists of satirical Science Fiction, like British author Michael Moorcock and fellow British author J. G. Ballard whose satirical novels include his 1973 novel Crash, which is about people who get sexual kicks from car crashes. Possibly the first Science Fiction novel to feature symphorophilia as the main theme.

However, renowned Science Fiction author Harry Harrison was able to prove in the multiple Stainless Steel Rat novels featuring his character James Bolivar diGriz , also known by the sobriquets Slippery Jim and The Stainless Steel Rat, that it is possible to write Science Fiction novels that are both satirical and highly amusing.

If one reads the Douglas Adams Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy novels and the Stainless Steel Rat novels, one might be forgiven for noticing a similarity if not in the subject matter a certain similarity in the joy de vivre that both authors brought to their published works.


References
Rabkin, E., Scholes, R, 1983. Science Fiction, an historical anthology. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Charlotte Runcie, arts editor. 2013. Daily Telegraph. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10432784/Is-this-the-first-ever-sci-fi-novel.html.
Encyclopedia Britannica. 2018. The 19th and early 20th centuries Proto-science fiction. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/science-fiction/The-19th-and-early-20th-centuries.
Psychology Dictionary. 2018. symphorophilia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://psychologydictionary.org/symphorophilia/.
Famous People. 2018. John W. Campbell. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/john-w-campbell-4901.php.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Night Shelter

Former lawyer and nine book novelist Gil Hogg has brought in Night Shelter a harrowing tail of drugs, prostitution, homelessness, murder and corruption in both high and low places.

Jimmy Morton is a supervisor at the Night Shelter which is at the heart of this story. It provides some respite for the homeless people of central London.

Jimmy finds himself inadvertently involved in the murder of a local prostitute called Eva, who was found dead in a tenement in Butcher's Row,

The Night Shelter's director and a guest of his, one Arnold Catesby decided to have a bit of a boys' night out. Of the kind of boys' night out that involves a booze and drug-fuelled sex party at an adjacent pub, which, coincidentally (or not?) took place not very far from where Eva's body was discovered.

Onto the scene comes Chief Inspector Dan Hamish from Scotland Yard. He's out to look after his own back and he is perhaps a little too cynical.

He learns that Eva was also at the party, but it's his belief that Catesby and his ilk are too well protected to touch.

However, he interrogates the members of the group individually and they all reassure CI Hamish that they all have solid insurance.

What do they mean by the terms "solid" and "insurance"?

And what might happen when the policy comes due?

This is a very intelligently written and very believable gritty thriller which can be bought here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

The Reaper Calls Time

This is the final installment in the boxing-inspired crime series by former boxer and boxing trainer Gary Tulley.

Again, we meet Ronnie Callaghan, a retired professional boxer who runs a boxing gym and who also has a sideline in market trading.

He lives a pretty good, comfortable life, but all of this is put in jeopardy when an unwelcome blast from the past threatens everything.

For Paul Rossetti, a "plastic gangster" has returned and he is demanding to take over the rights to his father's criminal empire.

And he also wants to take out Ronnie to put right the wrong that he believes Ronnie did to his family.

But exactly who can Ronnie Trust? And who, for that matter, can Rossetti trust?

And who will win out in this gritty, no holds barred thriller of a novel?

It's published by Matador at £8.99 and can be purchased here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.

The Legacy of Crystal Island

The Legacy of Crystal Island is a new fantasy novel from Colleen O'Flaherty-Hilder.

It's set during the next century and it follows the story of Orla, a princess who is 14 years old. Orla has undergone a special seven-year initiation process.

This has taken place on an island that is enchanted and protected by a magical crystal fortress. The rest of the world is in a bad way, it is decaying rapidly, ruined by greedy rulers who are set on amassing great wealth for themselves whilst perpetuating an aura of fear for their unwilling subjects.

Orla is a descendant of the Crystalanders, who were the Guardians of Eternal Wisdom. It is their task to ensure that balance is maintained throughout the entirety of the cosmos.

In the very early days of the story of mankind, they were able to besow the Gifts of Creation upon mankind, thus helping to transform the primal fear that is within  all humans, tempering it with Crystaland Wisdom.

But after thousands of years the primal fear beings to reassert itself, causing a degeneration within mankind.

It is the destiny of Orla to work with mankind to reawaken the Crystaland Wisdom that it deep within the body of all people, to help transform the hatred and conflict that bedevils humankind.

Orla must undergo rigorous training before she is equipped for her role.

It is an interesting novel and draws on the author's deep knowledge and understanding of physics, spirituality and emotional programming.

It is published by Matador at £8.99.

It can be purchased here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.