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An interesting and challenging speculative science fiction novel that begins in 2066. Covering a number of years and several time frames, Ben Holden is on the run after being targeted for his scientific research. It really does feel as though this world could be our future, enough is relatable and touchable to allow you to easily slip into what could be. Author Steve Holloway has a degree in Aquatic Biology and has worked around the world in marine science, it means that the scientific and oceanic world Ben finds himself in teems with possibilities and I particularly enjoyed these sections. The frequent moves in time and locations are clearly marked, which allowed me to flick between the different timelines in the plot with ease. Faith plays a part here, in terms of what is on offer in the future, and the main character’s transformation. I’m not in the slightest bit religious and found that this element, rather than overpowering proceedings, slotted into the story with ease. There is also enough action to keep the plot moving along at a good pace. Pelagia: Between the Stars and the Abyss makes for a refreshing and thought-provoking read.
‘The Sparks in My Skull’ by I D Atkinson is a science fiction based Young Adult novel. An interesting concept, where young adults suffering from migraines develop additional cognitive abilities called aether varying from precognition to psychokinesis. The downside of these additional abilities are their time-bomb brain, that could suddenly develop a fatal brain bleed. In this dystopian story, where society lashes out in fear towards things and people that they don’t fully understand, we meet Echo and Flynn, who flee to a sanctuary for others with aether, but are they really safe there? ‘The Sparks in My Skull’ is an interesting storyline and each of the characters are infused with personality. The book introduces you slowly to each character and to the different forms and abilities that aether can take. I found the speech a little contrived and the initial incident at the party with Echo personally a bit frustratingly unbelievable. I feel a younger audience may like this book more and this book made me consider that maybe I am now a bit too old for Young Adult fiction. The plotline is interesting and entertaining, and I wanted to read more to learn about aether, and what would happen to Echo and Flynn. I would say ‘The Sparks in My Skull’ is an easy to read story that would be a great recommendation for fans of YA dystopian fiction and fantasy. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
I met Tochi on a panel right before the pandemic hit and he was so delightful and engaging that I took a copy of his book home with me. Post #MeToo, a depressingly predictable number of male writers have suddenly turned away from tough guy narrators to writing women protagonist who are feisty and kick ass and love to give blow jobs. Tochi isn’t like that. He has a kindness and curiosity that imbues his characters with respect and believable complications. His young women are trying to find a place in the world that seeks to stifle them. That they are able to find ways through the many obstacles thrown in their paths speaks to Tochi’s sensitivities and I dare say his own family’s immigrant experience. Selected by our Early Summer 2021 Guest Editor Karin Slaughter
‘22 Stories Falling Up: A Novel’ by David Lawrence is a mystery steeped in technology and science fiction. In a world where technology is now able to merge with human consciousness, Emily and co-worker Phillip are on a quest to discover what happened in a secret project they were involved in. Left with few memories and feelings of distance and concern with no cause, the pair are eager to learn what happened in the Virtual Design project they signed up for, and why it was stopped. There’s lots of science fiction themes throughout this book. The advancement of technology, the AIs and interactions between people and technology are incredibly inventive and detailed, but not so detailed as to go over my head as I read. I like the idea of the party and Phillips and Emily’s journey taking place in a tower block, and their progression through the building almost like layers of encryption, requiring passing through before the truth and their memories are revealed. Aside from the technical aspects of Virtual Design, and the secret project, there’s other subtle science-fiction nods such as Emily’s apparent psychic abilities. These are referenced at the start and towards the end but I wonder whether these could be utilised a little more. The plot gets into full swing fairly quickly and the reader learns more about Phillip and Emily, their work, their relationship and the project as the story progresses. I did find at the start however that I would have liked a little bit more exposition, or something to help me form more of a connection with the main characters before the part got underway. I understand that more is meant to be revealed as the plot opens up but I personally feel I was missing an initial connection that made me care about finding the information out. I also still have questions about Phillip and Emily’s perspective. I felt I needed a bit more of an explanation about why they each perceived certain characters as different sexes, for example. This is a surreal story, which plays on the flaws we have as humans while presenting a technologically advanced quest for truth. Even though I was left with questions, it is a story I enjoyed and pondered over while I wasn’t reading. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
I think the synopsis of ‘Anna’ describes this book perfectly. It is a “chilling” dystopian story. Many times throughout the story I felt chills and shudders of revulsion. Set in a near future where women can be captured, branded chained up and led around like an animal we meet Anna. Captured as she makes her way through the unlands we see her disturbing treatment at the hands of her captor. This is a dark and gritty story focused on domestic abuse, survival and a road to healing and recovery. It’s by no means a comfortable read and at times it reminded me of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I always think there’s something expressly sinister about dystopian fiction in which characters remember “before”. There’s an initial atmosphere of loss that can be found in ‘Anna’; then not only have her loved ones been taken away, but to have her dignity and humanity stripped from her too is heartbreaking and painful at times to witness. As with ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, what Anna experiences is at times traumatic, and it’s not fun for the reader to watch it unfold, but we do. I carried on reading in the hopes that there would be revenge, redemption or freedom of some form at the end. This is a brutal story about a woman’s survival. This is an immersive read about finding hope in a dreary landscape, and that even idylls have dark corners. There are tempo changes and moments of hope, twists, reveals and times of real darkness too. The characters in this book are well-written and complex. The style of narration is interesting, we learn as Anna does and I was compelled to keep reading to discover what happens to her. The first part of the story made me uncomfortable but, although it sounds daft, I didn’t want to leave her there. A gritty, intense and powerful read. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
An enchanting, nostalgic tale of music, friendships, betrayal and determination. The author writes with a beautiful flowing style that carries the reader with them on short journeys back in time whilst combining present day life. Jon a university lecturer and Caroline, an artist, live in London. Jon has discovered a passion for inventing and after a day's work loves nothing more than going downstairs in the basement of their home which he has converted into an inventing room. It’s during these retreats that his plans and ideas take shape. And it’s from this very workshop that Jon and Caroline’s magical mystery tours begin. Jon’s timepen invention means the world is their oyster when it comes to what concerts to go back in time to see. They decide they prefer the ones just before the artist hits the big time as it gives a better atmosphere and smaller club setting. There’s just one problem; they can’t tell anyone about this unusual ability, not even their closest group of friends. After many successful trips using the timepen, disaster strikes following one concert in the past. A life-changing event, a new life and attempts to heal old wounds, but will a visitor offer an opportunity for everything to go back to how it was? A wonderful read and the subject would appeal to a wide scope of readers. Highly recommended! Caroline Highy, A LoveReadig Ambassador
An exquisitely unsettling and fabulous blast of speculative fiction awaits in this provocative, hard-hitting debut novel. An unknown virus that only kills men hits Glasgow in 2025, as it spreads, confusion, lies, and heartbreak follows. As Christina Sweeney-Baird explains in her author’s note, she wrote The End of Men before Covid 19 affected the world. While the current pandemic remained tucked away in my thoughts as I read, this is very much a work of fiction and the focus lies with a female lead society coping with life during and after a pandemic. This is told on a world scale over five years and is set as a gathering of memories, as though this event has already come to pass and you are reading a piercing slice of history. This novel contains a huge number of characters, and I felt as though I was observing them at a distance. Having said that, some characters return throughout the book, and I formed more of a bond, felt more of a connection with them. Short chapters, headed by the day after the outbreak and name of the character ensured my focus remained sharp and on point. There are bubbles of humour to be found along the way, as well as the more obvious emotions. Yes this is so very close to what is happening right now, but it is different enough to make this novel more readable as a result. Joining our LoveReading Star Book collection, The End of Men is a powerful, thought-provoking read that is both epic in scale and intimate in memories. The LoveReading LitFest invited Christina to the festival to talk about The End of Men. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Christina in conversation with and find out why everyone should read this book. Check out a preview of the event here
Meet eleven fabulous short stories by China’s number one science fiction writer. This is the first time they have been published in English, originally written between 1999 and 2017, a number of different translators have ensured that an exquisite reading feast awaits. Cixin Liu’s foreword ensured a few raised eyebrows and smiles on my part. It is absolutely fascinating to read these stories, that: “inevitably have a strong Chinese flavour, imbued with the culture, history, and present reality of China” as well as explore the universe beyond our understanding. These are stories that are set on an epic scale, yet focus on the intimate and essential meaning of being human. I particularly enjoyed The Village Teacher, a story that pivots on an apparently small, individually brave act. This would be the perfect introduction to science fiction for anyone who has not yet dipped a toe. For lovers of sci-fi, there is plenty here to fall into and enjoy. Hold Up The Sky is a cracking collection of stories that allows your mind to look within as well as well as travel into the unknown.
If you’re looking for a unique, transportive, immensely satisfying read then I’ll wave frantically and recommend you stop right here. Laura agrees to assess Will to establish if he is still capable of living on his own, she begins to suspect that Will isn't suffering from dementia and that his strange story may actually be true. Keith Stuart is the author of the truly beautiful Days of Wonder and A Boy Made of Blocks, books that touch emotions, encourage thoughts, and cast a spellbinding atmosphere. I was hugely excited to read his latest and it effortlessly joins the others as particular favourites of mine. Each of his novels have been completely different, yet there is a thread of connection. He opens a door to a side of being human that you might not have seen and encourages emotions to flood your heart and soul. The Frequency of Us takes a step outside of what is known, edging into fantastical and I joined the story with trust and belief. Laura and Will formed a connection with each other and in turn with me. Two time frames allow access to the past, creating intrigue and a mystery that just begs to be solved. The ending really spoke to me and set my feelings free to soar. The Frequency of Us is a mesmerising read full of love and hope, and I’m thrilled to recommend it as one of our LoveReading Star Books.
‘Beyond Oblivion’ is a collection of science fiction short stories. Each story looks at an aspect of life that we may recognise, with a futuristic twist. In ‘The Mortgage’ I liked that nostalgia and romanticisation of the past doesn’t change even in the author’s futuristic world, It made me smile although I did quite see the twists of this story coming. The emotions of ‘The Year of the Pig’ resonate strongly with me considering our pandemic present. The themes of vaccinations and the health risks connected with low immunity and immune systems, although given an environmental and sci-fi twist, appeared pertinent. There’s also the subtle inclusion of social media posts replacing “real” news. Each of the seven stories vary in length and there’s plenty of elements from our present-day world critiqued within each I found ‘Beyond Oblivion’ an interesting collection and I can see how it could pave the way for different discussions about how we live now. As I read I was eager to see what happened within each mini-universe while also wanting to know which part of our world would be the focus next.