Review: Gleam by Tom Fletcher

The Pyramid is the centre of Gleam, a colossal structure whose inhabitants have their blood drawn regularly and are constantly shifted through different jobs. The regime in the Pyramid is proscriptive to the point of tyrannical but the alternative is so much worse. Out in the Discard, the feral jungle of abandoned buildings and resurgent nature that claims the rest of the planet, awful things wait.

Or at least, that’s what the inhabitants of the Pyramid are told. Alan knows different. He grew up outside, before a Pyramid attack destroyed his village. Unable to contain his rage at the way his life is dominated, Alan rebels and is exiled. Now, he has a choice; find an intensely narcotic mushroom for the one contact he has left or never see his son again…

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Sunday Moment of Zen: Weegee At The Cinema

Weegee was a legendary, and controversial, crime scene photographer. This photo, pointed my way by the fantastic Anne Bilson, is the antithesis of everything he’s best known for. It’s magical, the cinema audience suspended beneath the luminous cable of imagery carrying them away to somewhere better, or at least further away from their own lives for a while. It’s a beautiful, graceful image that speaks to the same love of cinema as the clip from a few weeks ago and is this week’s Sunday Moment of Zen.

Review: The Boy With The Porcelain Blade

Lucien de Fontein wants for nothing. He has an education, a roof over his head and is well fed, healthy and safe. The only thing he’s missing, is hope. Lucien is an Orfano, a child born with a deformity. The Orfano are feted by the noble houses and the price for Lucien’s education is the expectations placed on him. Because the Orfano are hated as much as they are courted and Lucien is hated most of all…

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General Election 2015: Please Show Up

They say never open on a graph but I’m feeling rebellious today. This is from Statgeek and it’s a pie chart showing the voter turnout for the last General Election in the UK. You’ll notice the largest percentage there is marked DNV. That means Did Not Vote.

You’ll also notice DNV is significantly larger than all three of the primary political parties. Two of which have been in power for the last five years.

There is nothing about that which is good. But a lot that’s understandable.

British politics is a polite Gallifreyan nightmare, a dusty grandfather clock of privilege, institutionalized corruption and tradition that moves further away from any connection with the vast majority of the people whose lives it dominates day by day. The last government was not one that was elected on a majority but rather one cobbled together from the votes of those who did show up.

Worse still, the choice faced by voters in 2015 is even worse than it was in 2010. The Conservatives have doubled down on being the nasty party, braying about how we’re all in this together while ensuring their friends get massive payouts from privatizing the Post Office. The Liberal Democrats have sold their soul, not even for power, but for a badly drawn stick figure on a throne marked ‘King Nick’. Labour have fared a little better, buoyed by a party leader so socially awkward he seems to be a moderately genuine human being and the overwhelming belief that they might just be a better alternative than the PushMe/PullYou of the current government. The Greens have done good work, a good chunk of which has been undone by a glacially slow PR response to an astonishingly badly explained take on copyright. UKIP remain the party for racist uncles the country over.

Those are your choices; an upper class party who either actively hate everyone outside London or are doing a really good job of pretending to, a well meaning bunch of hippies burning in the fires of their own hypocrisy, a party struggling to find it’s feet, another well meaning bunch of hippies or Captain Bigot and the ‘I’m Not A Racist But’ Patrol.

This is a horrifyingly broken system and it’s one that’s been damaged even further by the campaign being dragged repeatedly onto immigration, a hot button topic pressed so many times by the far right it’s amazing, and disappointing, that the casing hasn’t cracked. As the fiance of an immigrant and someone who was not born on this landmass myself there have been few things more depressing, or frightening, than seeing that issue continually brought to the fore and facts steamrollered in the face of rhetoric so overused even the people saying it seem bored by the shapes their faces are making.

But there’s another issue, hidden in that one, that’s even more depressing. The fear of The Other is also the fear of engagement. We, as a species let alone a culture, grow by experiencing new things and interacting with new people. That process is vital, often painful, annoying and, on occasion, delicious. Trust me, I tried hot sauce for the first time this year and my tastebuds are both thanking me and demanding an apology for the 37 hot sauce-less years that have finally come to an end.

My point is this; the moment we look at The Other with fear is the moment we give up. The moment we stop engaging.

The moment we don’t vote.

The moment we do that, we abdicate responsibility for our lives for five years. Look at how well that turned out in 2010.

So, I have a favour to ask.  If you’ve registered to vote, then tomorrow, please vote. I know the choices are awful, I know you’re setting yourself up for disappointment but I also know that near inevitable disappointment can’t take away the small, vital victory of showing up and participating. So, tomorrow, please vote. Because if enough of us choose that small victory, then maybe our next government will be chosen by something other than apathy and, maybe, will do better than this one.

 

Review: Revision by Andrea Phillips

Mira is a barista. She’s also a trust fund baby, not really too sure what she’s supposed to be doing with her life and has just been dumped. Benji, her former boyfriend, has a tech startup. Called Verity, it’s a news aggregator site that includes searchable entries for everyone and everything in the news. Distraught, angry and worst of all bored, Mira decides to have a little fun. She changes Benji’s Verity entry to show the pair of them are engaged.

That night, she wakes up to find Benji back in the apartment.

Proposing.

Something is badly wrong at Verity. Something that hands the power of life and death to anyone with edit privileges. Reality is suddenly mutable and now, Mira must try and find out the truth from one of Benji’s old partners before her life is revised to a sudden, bloody stop.

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Review: The Lost Level by Brian Keene

Pastiche, parody, homage and self-indulgence are all easy countries to visit but difficult countries to leave. Done wrong, what plays to you as a witty, elegant celebration of a story type you happen to like can seem like an endless waltz to someone else’s music. Where you see knowing, affectionate nods they see smug jokes they don’t get. Where you see gentle parody of elements that are difficult to accept, they see a stolid, conservative celebration of irrelevancy. It’s tough, and many authors have tried and failed to do it successfully. Brian Keene isn’t one of them. The Lost Level wobbles in its opening chapters but as the book goes on it becomes clear that Keene has not only been here before but, unlike his lead, he knows the way out.

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Review: The Vagrant by Peter Newman

There’s a lyric that’s been rattling around my mind ever since I started reading The Vagrant. It’s from ‘Everybody Knows’ by Leonard Cohen but I first encountered it in the cover version Concrete Blonde did for Pump Up The Volume. The line is this:

Everybody knows that the war is over,

Everybody knows that the good guys lost

That idea is one of the foundation stones of The Vagrant. The other is whether or not that matters.

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