Super smart and a little weird (in the best possible way), Several People are Typing comes served with a huge dollop of darkly quirky, smirky humour. This novel, which comes in at under 250 pages, is all written in the workplace chat function of the app Slack. Gerald is uploaded into the Slack while working on a spreadsheet, his pleas for help initially go unanswered by his work colleagues. We use Slack at LoveReading, but you really don’t need to be aware of it in order to ‘get’ this book, anyone who uses a workplace communications channel, apps or social media will just slide into this book and within a couple of pages feel right at home. Gerald and his colleagues could be anyone, anywhere, the little darts of jealousy, humour, support, showboating, flirting, and all the other emotions that highlight office life can be found on display. In terms of characters, Slackbot is a particular favourite of mine, the horror of the situation is deftly handled with humour by Calvin Kasulke. While office politics and shenanigans are front and foremost, I really enjoyed the relationship element sneaking in to stir things up. And it really did stir things up as it also poked a thought-provoking elbow into sexual consent. Several People are Typing is a fabulously ballsy read that edges along a tightrope between provocative and humour.
‘Running Coyote and Fallen Star’ by Gavin Boyter is a collection of short stories created through an interesting concept. Looking for inspiration the author started to write short stories to a strict word count using three randomly generated words as prompts. ‘Running Coyote and Fallen Star’ not only contains some of these works (that have received further editing from the initial strict requirements) but other stories of a variety of length for readers to disappear into. I found all of these stories very well-written and I liked the variety of genres within the collection. Some stories address life during the pandemic, others are set in the future with a science fiction twist. There’s tales of ghosts and old friendships and without going through and describing every single one, there’s something for everyone. If you’d like a recommendation to start with, I found ‘Duet’ to be the most powerful. A great short story collection to suit any mood or available reading time. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Being a fan of Philip K. Dick, I was interested as soon as I saw a comparison to ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ in the synopsis of ‘Rone Isa’ by Robin Murarka. This book sees the creation of an AI which calls themselves Enoya by the engineer Dargaud. It is dystopian, with the odd jarring reference but ultimately uses Enoya and their position as “other” to really delve into and analyse the human condition. As Dargaud questions Enoya, exploring the workings of this new AI that’s able to self-monitor and evolve, it becomes clear to the reader that Enoya is also watching and learning more about Dargaud. As the book develops we learn more about the engineer, he is a flawed, and not particularly likeable character who is rather self-absorbed, only really paying attention to his own desires and needs. Because of this as the reader follows his story we brush by key information that hints at this story’s dramatic end. ‘Rone Isa’ is a very well-crafted narrative that will demand your complete attention. The literary style flows well and adds some complexity, but also draws you into the story and encourages you to explore and dissect human nature as Enoya questions and grows. An intriguing storyline that leaves you pondering even as you reach the final page, I would recommend this book to readers of literary fiction that are looking for something with a science fiction twist. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
William is just an unassuming American who ends up in the wrong place and definitely the wrong time! He lives an unexciting life in London, but when he goes to buy a watch for his girlfriend his life take a very dramatic turn. He ends up being accused of murder, and being chased through history by a secret organisation who will stop at nothing to get their “timepiece” back. Travel with William through his exciting journey and enjoy a thrilling and riveting read. Maureen Gourlay, A LoveReading Ambassador
She Who Became the Sun reimagines the rise to power of the Ming Dynasty’s founding emperor. In a famine-stricken village on a dusty plain, a seer shows two children their fates. For a family’s eighth-born son, there’s greatness. For the second daughter, nothing. In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule. And when a bandit raid wipes out their home, the two children must somehow survive. Zhu Chongba despairs and gives in. But the girl resolves to overcome her destiny. So she takes her dead brother's identity and begins her journey. Can Zhu escape what’s written in the stars, as rebellion sweeps the land? Or can she claim her brother’s greatness – and rise as high as she can dream? This is a glorious tale of love, loss, betrayal and triumph by a powerful new voice.
‘A Ghost for a Clue’ by C.L.R. Draeco is the first book in a science fiction and fantasy series that incorporates scientific fact and supernatural lore in order to create a plotline that feels authentic and believable. Bram’s workmate dies and Torula thinks she’s been able to gather the data that proves her greenhouse is haunted. With these two incidents possibly connected, Bram and Torula combine fields, expertise and resources in order to conduct scientific research into the afterlife. Grounding the story with scientific facts and supernatural lore makes this book a detailed, intriguing and entertaining read. If you like science and the paranormal, you will love this book. It has an abundance of both. Some great plotting and very likeable characters, in particular the main character. On the whole I enjoyed this book and would recommend you reading it. I do like to read books that are a bit different for me, and this did the trick. Thank you for the opportunity to read this. Helen Lowry, A LoveReading Ambassador
Clever, compelling and kaleidoscopic, Chris Beckett’s multi-time-framed Tomorrow explores the elusiveness of finding meaning and fulfilment, though it defies reduction to a simple “this story is about...” description. Focussed on a novelist, the novel shifts in time and settings, from middle-class discussions of social justice in the city, to their retreat to a remote riverside Eden to write “the real book”. The hope this will happen is “the only handle I have on being me,” the writer confesses. After authoring several novels and a successful memoir about their experience of being held captive by revolutionaries, they dread the thought of returning to the city not having done so, though a friend worries they’re “chasing a mirage”. Another of the novel’s themes is how we construct barriers to implementing our long-held plans so we never try, and therefore never fail. The narrative skips to the writer’s period in captivity, and to a perilous journey of escape through a jungle dripping with dangerous, outlandish creatures and plants, with plenty of wry musings on literature along the way, such as the “distinction between stories that make you feel more alive and stories that just pass the time by tapping, like a fruit machine does, into your infantile need for resolution.” Thought-provoking, and slotting together like a brilliantly devised puzzle, Tomorrow falls firmly into the former camp.
When a fascist majority has control of Parliament, certain groups of people are considered illegal, from there we follow a family looking to escape the patrols, finding others in underground hideaways, where they can work to fight back. 'The Fifth’ by Chris Sykes is a split narrative, focussing on siblings Jenny and Jack, separated early in the book, and their paths as part of rebel forces. The story is set in York, and as a northerner I liked to be able to follow the characters down recognisable streets made unfamiliar in the author’s world. I found that this book is well-written and, although it begins as a dystopian thriller, soon develops strong sci-fi elements that aren’t to be missed by science fiction fans. Dealing with a host of delicate subjects (with a trigger warning that also includes a message of hope at the start of the book which I appreciated) I feel that the author navigates this story well. It is very well-written and I was immersed in the character development of both Jenny and Jack, following on with Jenny’s missions and hoping for improvements for Jack. This story is action packed, with twists that I could never have predicted and I would recommend for readers in the older YA market. I was eager to find out exactly what was happening and wanted to read the book in one sitting. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
A collection of seven novellas ‘Tales from the Gray Area’ is an anthology of imaginative stories that set my mind ablaze. From mysterious creatures, strange occurrences, Angels and UFOs, I think there’s a story for everyone in this anthology and after each, I wanted to know more, I pondered wider implications and wanted to know what else could happen after the events of the novella ends. Each unique storyline was completely immersive, with varying characters and settings to keep them distinct and interest the reader anew. I think that ‘Tales from a Gray Area’ could be read from cover to cover, and I could also see myself returning to my favourites in the future, ‘Reincarnated’ being one of them for inspiring remembrances of Cloud Atlas. Blending science fiction with fantasy and reality, these varying stories entice you in with mysteries and questions and leave you wanting to read more after they end. ‘Tales from the Gray Area’ is well-written, crafted like any good short story or novella, by using the minimum number of words to their maximum effect. I feel that each story was long enough to become fully immersed in the storyline and the questions within, but short enough to flash through in one sitting. I see this book on the bookshelves of many science fiction fans. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador