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downloadMessiah: Love, Music and Malice at a Time of Handel, by Sheena Vernon

BOOK OVERVIEW:

 

Genre: Music, Stage & Screen, Composers & Musicians, Classical Music

 

Author: Sheena Vernon

 

Overall Review: 4/5 – Very Good

 

Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

 

 

Review

 

Published By: Top Hat Books

Dec 2014

281 Pages

 

For the most part I get to review science fiction, fantasy, slipstream novels and anthologies for Albedo One, this is one of those books that gets classed as different, and I have to say I liked it. I remember watching the movie Amadeus about the young Mozart and his brushes with influential people during his career, and this has a similar feel to it. There is more than a touch of Jean Renault with Vernon’s novels, and this one I liked for its use of the sort of clipped language one would expect back in that time period.

 

For a young man, Harry Walsh shows little promise in anything except music, which his father knows he excels in. His only hope is that he makes a success of himself despite his always getting into trouble with his teachers at his school. His teachers’ advice earlier to give Harry “a thorough beating” would nowadays leave readers in shock, yet back then, it would have served as a warning to do better. Doctor Walsh however dismisses this teachers’ view, deciding that prayer might be the right way he could learn to make something of his talents. Prayer, it seems is a better way of getting his son motivated, yet there is the intent of the teachers to throw him from the school where he is described as a nincompoop and a dunce. Harry thinks he can make a name for himself and also hopes his father will look on him favourably.

 

His interest in being a part of Handel’s opera circuit might not be as good an opportunity as he might first have thought. He had his passion to become a singer everyone knows, through his association with Handel he could become the singer his father could be proud of. The public however, are becoming tired of the once famous Italian maestro and are already starting to move onto other, more inventive ones. Other opera factions aren’t helping matters as these new performances could be loosely described as crude and almost obscene in their perversions. It does bring in the crowds, yet Handel is at this point left out, as is Harry. Throughout his younger years, Harry finds it magical to be caught up in Handel’s world of strange and unusual people, they might not have taken to him at first, but he makes the most of being around him and learning from him. This is all part of his quest to become a success, where the love he has for music might make a real man of him. Where love can be confusing and fleeting, the music is his passion and the malice very evident in the story from all angles. Harry’s growing up around Handel evokes the atmosphere of the times. His discovery of the brash sexuality of the people around him captivates him, but also causes problems with his own sexuality.

 

Sheena Vernon was a journalist, English teacher, an editor and management consultant. She later studied music and opera which she enjoyed and no doubt compelled her to write this novel. For those who like music in all its forms and have an interest in history, the settings and characters as well as the research Vernon has put into the story is a real marvel.

 

download (1)Eternal Life Inc. , by James Burkard

 

BOOK OVERVIEW

 

Genre: Science Fiction

 

Author: James Burkard

 

Overall Review: 4/5 – Very Good

 

Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

 

 

 

Review

 

Published By: Cosmic Egg Books

Jan, 2015

415 Pages

 

James Burkard is an American writer and professional artist who currently lives in Sweden. A man who has had a varied career around the world, thankfully for us he takes time out to be a science fiction writer. His early life meant he was surrounded by comic books and Mad magazines and it was this that got him into the kind of writing that could be seen as new, writing which makes the reader think what if? His previously being a professional artist also might have something to do with why he decided to become a writer.

 

In Eternal Life Inc. Harry Neuman is a man who has a contract in the movie scene where he has to die again and again. Once a movie star with the world at his feet, he is now an alcoholic who has had his fair share of women and chances to be a much better man – and failed. When an alien army threatens all he holds dear, he discovers he might be the only one who can stop them. The aliens intend to cross the astral planes of the quantum field, taking the dead souls and inhabiting the already living, and it is up to him to knock himself into some kind of shape to take them on. The idea of a once famous man who turns to drink and becomes a failure, then has to become some kind of hero is an overused cliché, but it is Burkard’s storytelling and character development that makes the book feel like it’s a refreshing read.

 

It is all cruel stuff, the stuff of future nightmares in a science fiction kind of way. As the first book in the King of the Dead trilogy, Burkard hooks the reader with his vivid descriptions of the setting and characters. Burkard is also working on his second book in the Dragon’s Egg trilogy, “The Witches of Revelation. Eternal Life Inc. was my first introduction to this particular writer and I am looking forward to reading his future novels .

 

Burkard is a new writer and as such deserves to be taken seriously as it is his first ever tale. His type of science fiction gives us hope for a new wave of talent we hope will spread around the country. Not one for keeping the readers waiting, Burkard uses this fast paced adventure to give us an idea of what the future might hold, however dark it might be, and it can’t get any darker than the concept of death and rebirth as this is the one thing humans fear most of all, and which Eternal Life Inc. thrives on.

 

 

 

 

gullenOpen Waters

 

BOOK OVERVIEW

 

Genre: Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy

Publisher: the EXAGGERATED Press

Author: David Gullen

 

Overall Review: 3.5/5 – Good

Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

 

Review: Open Waters by David Gullen

 

 

 

Mind Seed was an anthology of science fiction co-edited by David Gullen that showcased the most unusual yet original writers in science fiction while Open Waters is an anthology solely written by David Gullen that has its own theme set around open waters: “open waters…At once beautiful and dangerous, a sun-dappled ever-shifting landscape, restless, impenetrable, capricious and heartless.” The general idea of the anthology is slightly different from his first novel Shopocalypse as it deals with “Sixteen tales of terrible beauty from the imagination of David Gullen.” Like the watercolour cover, readers are wandering into uncharted territory where anything can happen, and the characters could end up bumping into friend or foe.

 

In no particular order, these sixteen stories range from short to very short (about three pages) and longer and come with comments from the author at the end of each one. The themes differ from future tech support with a difference in “Sinthesis,” Gullen’s own version of the Arthurian Legend of Excalibur and where the sword originated in “Come the Hour.” A reviewer goes to an art installation on opening night and discovers something less than normal being played on the projector in “Instalation 72,” a trip to the supermarket in the pouring rain yields an interesting reaction in “Special Offers,” while a long-term space flight is the theme for “All Your Futures are Belong to Us,” and a post-apocalyptic situation where two groups of humans are hunting each other in “Fade.”

 

Gullen’s fiction in here is, I imagine only a small percentage of what he has already managed to do, but part of it has been previously published in magazines such as Albedo One, Catastrophia anthology, Midnight Street #8, Fishnet mag, Legends magazine, Art From Art, Roadworks magazine, Woman’s Journal, Arc 1.3 and the T Party Anthology. For many writers the art of writing is a hard process of writing, editing and reading it aloud to see if it reads right. Nine times out of ten what has been written at first never ends up like the finished piece and in a way it is this that makes the writer strongest. This is how writers evolve and this is the way Gullen has evolved too. As the evolution of Gullen as a writer can be seen as he has sound ideas with which to base his stories on; human vs human conflict, sexuality, successfully meeting challenges set by the T Party Writers’ Group, what art is in all its grotesqueness, the future and whether man (and woman) is made to last the generations.

 

In some of the stories Gullen tells his audience of whether they have been previously published and where, and some back story on what the editor though of that particular story. Gullen has done the clever thing of making the anthology a mixture of genres; fantasy, science fiction and horror, some of them can even be described as slipstream as they are filled with the weird and unexpected – the blood and gore feeling startlingly real. Open Waters is recommended for readers of newer writer’s works as this anthology shows that no writer should be underestimated for their talent.

 

 

Published in 2013 by the EXAGGERATED Press

 

 

Strangers, by David Moody

BOOK OVERVIEW

 

Genre: Science Fiction

Author: David Moody

Overall Review: 4/5 – Very Good

Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

 

Review

 

Published By: Infected Books

November, 2014

280 Pages

 

In this novel, the strangers are the Griffiths family who were the last ones to arrive in a small town, Thussock in Scotland. Their arrival also brings suspicion when several savage murders take place afterward. There is no explanation for why these killings took place though the fact that they are so brutal gives the other townspeople to form their own opinion of why they happened.

 

Scott Griffiths is the novel’s lead character who unlike other heroes in novels of this kind is a different character who no one likes. The very definition of a hero we have come to know is one who will risk his own life to help others, not only his own family. Scott isn’t someone readers can understand as he has no qualms about helping his family survive at the cost of others. His family are well aware of what kind of man their father is as his wife also tries to keep up the morale of her children while not angering her husband. She knows what Scott is capable of and the shady life he had before. Their move is supposed to be a fresh start with Scott hoping to put the past behind him. One thing to bear in mind while reading this is Scott is no real hero in the true sense. He is relentless, nasty and a bad father to his children and an even worse husband to Michelle. It doesn’t stop anyone from feeling for him, though, as they read about how he gets out of devastating situations.

 

Strangers is dark, brooding and haunts the reader with a real-world setting with unnatural deaths in every corner. It is the evil lurking in the mundane. David Moody is used to crafting his brand of horror around the undead with his many novels on zombies; Autumn being a particular choice and his short story anthology Autumn: The Human Condition. Joe & Me and his eBooks Isolation and The Cost of Living may be his final works on the zombie horror genre. Moody’s novels have attracted just as much attention as the more famous horror authors whose books seem to litter the shelves.

 

Strangers leaves readers with the thought of a dangerous evil in a small town being warded off by an even more dangerous man. Scott, some would say is the perfect man to deal with the evil as it takes the sort of person he is to destroy it. I found this a story different from most I had read before as it’s usually the pure of heart type of man who is left with the task of ridding the bad guys. As even though Scott is supposed to be the good guy, he’s more of an anti-hero who doesn’t care if he is disliked in the same way that he doesn’t want to be liked – it doesn’t interest him. If readers want a darker story with an anti-hero for a hero this is the first choice for them.

 

 

Virtual Vengeance, by Thomas JJ Starr

BOOK OVERVIEW

Virtual Vengeance

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Author: Thomas JJ Starr

 

Overall Review:

4/5 – Very Good

 

Reviewed by: Sandra Scholes

 

Review

 

Thomas JJ Starr is a knowledgeable gent who graduated with honors from the University of Illinois in computer engineering (a bachelor’s of science) and computer science (Masters of Science).  He has recently got an award for the Distinguished Alumni for his work in the field. You will find him working as a senior telecommunications network engineer holding the position of chairman in a United Nations technical committee on telecommunications technology and in the Broadband Forum, an international industry association of telecommunications companies. He has been named one of the hundred most powerful people in telecommunications by Global Telecoms Business magazine in 2010.

 

Virtual Vengeance is Thomas JJ Starr’s debut novel and as we know, a debut can mean whether a writer is able to grip their readership or not. In this novel’s case it means there is a lot of promise in what bears the tag-line of “A journey from man to machine.” it analyses the advanced telecommunications technology Starr has become known for. In his book, evolution has so far advanced to the level where human brains have been surpassed by machine ones, though this book approves of advancing in that way, it also questions the motives of the machines if they ever acquire artificial intelligence. Starr’s main character is Yuri Petrov who is one of the last teachers in the U.S. where computerised teachers are the majority in schools. Petrov finds out that these teaching machines are used to transmit subliminal advertising to overthrow the U.S. government. Kent Fechner is the leader of Selico, the advertising company in question who wants to silence him once he discovers the plot. At this point you would think that the story would change for the worst when Kent intends to kill him off, but when Petrov takes all he knows and puts it into a machine representation of the professor/teacher, trying to kill him could be a bit of a problem.

 

For those wanting to know about the ghost in the machine, Virtual Vengeance is a book that takes a good hard look at what it means to be human and what it would mean to be a machine/android. Petrov might come across as an eccentric professor, but he isn’t a fool when it comes to someone trying to kill him. In the story we see who has the highest intelligence when Petrov’s android goes up against the might of Fechner’s company. Although Starr takes a good chunk of the book to explain the characters and plot, it can come across as over explaining in some ways when he might not have had to. This aside, Petrov is a strong, if cynical person and the only one around who thinks the teaching machines are a part of Fechner’s sinister plot. To be honest, he hasn’t liked their presence from the beginning, thinking that humans can only understand and learn properly from other humans, and that learning from machines when young can cause the children to grow up dysfunctional. All the explanations and the character data lead up to Petrov’s death and his intelligence being put into the machine. The machine then acts as Petrov through the entire book until its conclusion.

 

I like to read novels by newcomers to the science fiction genre, and after reading this book, I will be waiting to get my hands on his next novel. There are strong characters, strong scenes and a lot of soul searching and asking questions of yourself as a human that will leave you rooting for the good guy.

 

The Rabbit Back Literature Society, by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinencontent

 

BOOK OVERVIEW

 

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary

 

Author: Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

 

 

Overall Review: 4/5 – Very Good

 

Reviewed By: Sandra Scholes

 

 

Review

 

Published By: Pushkin Press

November 2013

320 Pages

 

Today, reader’s groups form a great part of society who keeps the idea of reading alive. Rabbit Back is a town where Laura White, regarded as the keeper of the literature society has got together nine children she shaped into authors who have since gained fame. Laura is already a famous children’s author who wants to give something back to society and this is how she does it. Rabbit Back, however is not a normal town, it has many strange happenings that could actually be the stuff of fairy tales, but also could be very real. These tales can also be seen as urban myths made up for pleasure but Rabbit Back has become notorious for its tales of a virus taking over the Rabbit Back library and changing the plots of famous novels, gnomes that play a small part in one man’s life and a bigger one in his wife’s and wolves that roam around together for no apparent reason.

 

 

When a woman, Ella returns to the town she is at once ushered into the Rabbit Back Literature Society as its 10th member, but is constantly victimised by the other members, yet pretending that what they are doing to her is normal. What the other members hardly realise is that Ella is also investigating them and their motives. She wants to find out the real mystery surrounding the society, and maybe the answers to the mysterious occurrences in the town. Though Laura tries to justify being invasive and generally nosy about hers and the other members personal lives, it is the reader who gets to see all the different personalities that make up this amazing mix of what successful authors are supposed to be like. In this way, part of the novel feels like opening a door into these lives and seeing their different sides. The real twist is in knowing that Ella is doing the same to the others, including Laura and they don’t realise it.

 

What will strike those who read it will be the fact Jääskeläinen has only provided the events and subtle clues, and as Ella tries to find the answers, the readers have to go thought the book bit by bit trying to place the clues and find the answers, sometimes going back and re-reading parts or chapters. Hailed as a new Sleepy Hollow and Twin Peaks mystery in the realms of fantasy, Rabbit Back is a story in dire need of a chronicler in the book, and someone who can decode the book and its clues. Half the fun is in trying to do this but only if fantasy mystery stories really take your fancy.

 

For some, the novel might not come up to their expectations as it is strange and doesn’t explain itself very well, but it is true that some novels can only appeal to certain people who are prepared to go along with the plot whatever happens, and this is one of those novels. This one is as obscure as it sounds with odd tales that may or may not be truth, and the enigmatic yet possibly dangerous Laura White who everyone wants to know about.

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