Tuesday 9 April 2024

Review: The Poison Balance by Lucy Ghose

 The Book:

‘When the rains fell, the world burned…’

After a childhood spent in the foster care system, failed PhD student Amy Weston attracts trouble wherever she goes. Acid rain is destroying London’s trees, brain lesions are turning once-harmless pets into killer dogs, and her new work colleague, Professor Joel Harket, is the most infuriating man she has ever met.

But when the media continue to insist that autumn has simply come early, and humans begin to experience the same symptoms as the killer dogs, Amy must work alongside Joel in order to convince the world of the seriousness of the situation, before it is too late.

From the UN Air Health summit in Beijing to the abandoned tunnels beneath the city of London, Amy and Joel search for answers to prevent the end of the world, and as Nelson’s Column crumbles and zombie-like ‘howlers’ wreak havoc worldwide, they discover that the only way to survive the apocalypse is to set aside their differences… and learn to trust each other.


My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book immensely. It was a really good and entertaining romp. The novel starts off very much as a technothriller. We meet Amy and Joel, two very different people who at first appear mis-matched. The concern is the sudden increase in acid rain which is having all sorts of unexpected effects and Amy and Joel team up to try to investigate this phenomenon.

The story thus far feels very much as I would expect from its billed genre of eco thriller and I was quickly hooked as this sort of thing is right up my street.

But things rapidly shift. The acid rain causes anyone it touches to turn into a howler. These are effectively zombies and before long we are caught up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse which Amy and Joel are trying to survive, find a cure and save the world. All the while their feelings for one another are growing and these two polar opposites are inevitable drawn together.

The acid rain is a really original method of zombification and the book is a lot of fun.

If you like a good zombie apocalypse with a good dollop of romance thrown in them this is the book for you.


Tuesday 26 March 2024

The Arid Lands themes: Zanclean Flood

About 5.3 million years ago, after years of sustained evaporation had resulted in the landlocked Mediterranean Sea almost completely evaporating, the waters returned when the Straits of Gibraltar was breached. This, possibly the largest flood in known Earth’s history, is known as the Zanclean Flood.

Details of the rapidity and nature of this flood remain up for debate but recent studies of deep gully like incisions in the seabed near the Straits of Gibraltar and extending out into the Mediterranean Sea itself, suggest that this could have been a catastrophic event.

Although initially discharge was low, and this may have continued for thousands of years, about 90% of the water returned in as little as a few months to two years. Such an abrupt flood would have seen sea levels in the Mediterranean rising by as much as 10 metres per day.

So how does this fascinating event influence Inez’s story? You will have to read The Arid Lands to find out.

The Arid Lands is available from Amazon in both kindle and print format.

UK Link

US Link

Thursday 14 March 2024

Review: Kenai by Dave Dobson

The Book

A planet steeped in mystery...

Jess Amiko is long past her days as a space marine, with all the glory of that time tarnished beyond repair by what came after. Trying to rebuild from the ashes, she's taken a job as a security guard on Kenai, a lonely world far from the Council systems. It's supposed to be easy duty - quiet and peaceful, on a docile world with no real threats, watching over an archaeological dig at a site built by a race long vanished.

Betrayed and attacked by forces unknown, and finding that nothing on Kenai makes sense, Jess is plunged into a desperate fight for survival that leads her deep into the mysteries of Kenai's past, and deep into the hardship and paradox the planet imposes on all who call it home.


My Thoughts

This blurb had me instantly intrigued. I love a good archaeological mystery, blended into Science Fiction, so this book was right up my street.

And what a good read it was! It’s written with a very clear military SF vibe. The female narrator is well drawn and compelling and I was immediately drawn into her world, empathising with her past and her predicament.

The worldbuilding is also one of the best things about this story. The universe that has been created here has great depth and history, but all this is fed naturally into the narrative. The pacing is spot on and the mystery unravels.

There’s not much I can say about the plot without giving away spoilers, but what I will say is that the underlying concept is both clever and original, but also the author executes it with great skill. It’s mind-bending and fascinating. And aliens? Should I mention the aliens?

I’ll say no more, other than this is an excellent book which I strongly recommend.


Wednesday 21 February 2024

The Arid Lands themes: A vast engineering project

In the 1920s the German architect Herman Sorgel came up with the concept for a vast Engineering project to build a hydroelectric dam across the Straits of Gibraltar. This project was known as Atlantropa and was promoted by Germany until Sorgel’s death in 1952.

The construction of this dam, along with several others at strategic locations, would have the effect of controlling the inflow into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic. It would have generated vast amounts of electricity as well as causing the Mediterranean Sea level to drop by 200m, so freeing up large areas of land for colonisation.

Sorgel saw this project as a gateway to forming a peaceful Pan-European utopia, although critics found many faults with his proposals, including the detrimental effects on coastal communities who would become stranded as the seas retreated, as well as the problem of finding agreement amongst all the counties which border the Mediterranean.

The project was largely forgotten after Sorgel’s death.

But what if it really had happened? What if the dams really were built? Of course, in The Arid Lands the capacity for generating hydroelectric power was never realised, for reasons you’ll have to read the book to find out. This resulted in the Mediterranean inflow being completely cut off, and as a result, some 600 years of evaporation later, the world of The Arid Lands where Inez and her people struggle to survive, has come into being.

The Arid Lands is available from Amazon in both kindle and print format.

UK Link

US Link

Monday 12 February 2024

Review: Not By Sea by Paul Weston

The Book

The brief respite of the Peace of Amiens is over, and Britain is once again at war with France. Napoléon knows that if he is to win the war, he must invade England, but the Armée d’Angleterre is blockaded in Boulogne by the Royal Navy. Frustrated by British sea power, Napoléon entrusts an alternative scheme to the brilliant Captain Morlaix which if successful, could lead to the subjugation of Britain.

During the Peace, English visitors had flocked to France, among them Midshipmen Stone and Snowden. At a soiree in Paris, they attracted the attention of Fouché, the feared minister of police, who believed that Jack Stone was a civilian when he fought the French in Normandy, and is therefore a criminal.

In the subsequent war, Lieutenant Snowden leads a raid to disrupt France's invasion plans.

My Thoughts 

I read Paul’s previous book Weymouth Bound, some years ago and enjoyed it very much, so when I saw that I could reacquaint myself with the hero of that story, Jack Stone, I jumped at the opportunity.

Paul knows how to tell a good story, but what sets these books apart is the authenticity. The books are incredibly well researched and Paul draws on his own maritime and historical knowledge when he writes, resulting in something totally immersive. The sequences set at sea are simply wonderful. I could almost feel the deck rolling beneath my feet as I read.

But more than this Not by Sea is a cracking story, set during a fascinating period of history. I came away feeling I’d experienced something special and learned a few things along the way.

If you love all things historical and maritime then this book if for you.


Monday 5 February 2024

Guest Post by Lydia Baker: Writing an apocalyptic world and the theme of family

 Writing an apocalyptic world and the theme of family

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Kate. My sci-fi novel, AVA, takes place in a futuristic city that mirrors London but could be any big city. Ava and her fellow humans have been trapped under an electrical barrier that appeared fourteen years ago when Ava was a child visiting the city with her father and brother. As a young adult, her determination to escape the barrier and discover if her family has survived drives her. But the things that wait for her on the outside are beyond anything she could have imagined. The novel follows the themes of family, self-sacrifice and self-discovery. 

One of the beauties of writing an apocalyptic world is that you can create a plethora of problems for your main characters so you can explore many different themes. Ava is separated from her mother and twin sister, something that her father struggles to deal with and eventually the grief of the loss and not knowing overcomes him. The loss of her father is detrimental to Ava. He was her protector and without him, Ava is left with her brother, who was adopted but is resentful of his sisters that are his parent's biological children. This theme of family plays out in the relationship between Ava and her brother with the distrust and betrayal that clouds their friendship and the abuse her brother deals out to her. 

Without giving too much away, Ava faces the ultimate betrayal from her brother when she escapes the barrier. On the other side, she is faced with the family she lost and struggles to work out her place with those she thought she had lost, as it had been fourteen years since they saw each other. 

Growing up inside the barrier, oppressed and hiding her gender to save it, has changed and warped Ava's character. Her loyalty is skewed and she struggles to accept that her family has moved on or to trust others. The family she left behind, that she has risked everything to find, isn't the one she has been imagining. Eventually, she comes to realise that the world is bigger than her, it is more than just her pain and she can make a difference—the most important difference.

Ava grows considerably during the novel. She goes from a somewhat immature young woman, only thinking of herself, to someone who knows that though it means giving up everything she can save those who mean the world to her, those she loves. I wanted to show the development of character through the growth of Ava and the shedding of her naivety. Something we all have to do as we grow and experience the world. I also wanted to explore how the world can shape us through Ava. There are some stark differences between her and the family she finds on the outside, who weren't oppressed by MTech (the controlling government) yet have still had to face equally terrifying dangers. Their attitudes are very different. 

As well as the more serious themes, AVA is full of twists and thrills, fighting and exploring. If you like a fast-paced, dystopian, sci-fi novel with a determined yet flawed female protagonist then please check out AVA! Thanks again, Kate, for having me on your blog. 

Lydia Baker is an author of science-fiction and fantasy, she loves to write novels you can escape into.

Her novel ‘The Return of the Queen’ won the Pink Heart Society Reviewers Choice Award for Best Paranormal/Fantasy Romance in 2019 and ‘Ava’ was Shortlisted for the Agora Books - Work in Progress Prize in 2019. Her short story A.R.C is featured in the Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Alliance Anthology, 2023.

When she’s not writing she loves to read, run and crochet (not all at the same time though!). She lives in Crawley with her husband and four children.

AVA by Lydia Baker:

First, they came for the city, and we allowed it. They put up the Barrier and we stayed quiet, silenced by the fear of what was beyond. Our elderly were next and still, we didn’t cry out; then they came for the women, removed their fertility and stole our future, so I hid. I became Alec and I turned my back on my true self, Ava.

Ava can’t live as Alec any longer, the lie is killing her, destroying all that she is.

The world beyond MTech’s Barrier calls to her and she can’t ignore it. She has to know what, if anything, survived the terrible day that tore her family apart fourteen years ago.

But what if the Outside is far more dangerous than anything Ava has ever faced on the Inside?

Ava is set in a dystopian future, where individual rights are being eroded and the population live under a dome barrier that they have been told is for their protection. But, what is outside? Is escape possible? Even if it is, will it be a death sentence?

Thursday 25 January 2024

The Arid Lands themes: Climate effects of a dried up sea.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, 6 million years ago (Ma) the Mediterranean Sea entered a phase of desiccation when it became cut off from the Atlantic, and almost completely dried up. This is the same scenario I have envisioned for the alternate future world of The Arid Lands, where Inez and her people struggle to survive, not knowing that everything is about to change.

The desiccation of the Mediterranean Sea would have a number of knock-on effects for the climate of the surrounding lands as well as creating a unique environment in the basin itself.

The climate of the basin can only be speculated for no equivalent environment exists on Earth today. But it is likely that as the depth of the basins increased so did the temperatures, possibly reaching summer midday highs of as much as 80C at its deepest points. This would not allow the existence of permanent life and it is likely that temperatures were nowhere near this extreme. But they would have been elevated enough to make life there extremely uncomfortable and difficult.

The surrounding areas would also experience climatic changes. Currently evaporation from the Mediterranean Sea provides moisture to the atmosphere which drives rainfall across much of the surrounding areas. With the Sea drying up there would be no input of moisture to the atmosphere and these rains would fail, resulting in a significantly drier climate over most of the central and eastern mediterranean belt.

In fact, the Mediterranean climate that we associate with Greece, Italy and the Levant would exist only in the Iberian Peninsula and NW Africa.

The desiccation would result in the extinction of much of the marine flora and fauna native to the basins, but the fusing of the two land masses would allow dispersal of terrestrial animals across the region.

Inez’s people survive by fishing for shrimp in the brine pools. In truth such a hypersaline environment would be hostile to life, but life is adaptable and my poor basin dwelling people have to eat something. Hence the shrimp. But apart from that I’ve tried to keep the environment in which they live as plausible as possible.

So how did this scenario arise in the world I have created? That will be the subject of a future post on this blog.

The Arid Lands is available from Amazon in both kindle and print format.

UK Link

US Link