Sarah has studied English language and literature, and history, with delight since her early teens. She is a qualified adult literacy tutor and has written short stories, in addition to other resources, for her students. Her published articles have been in magazines dedicated to wildlife and dogs. The Royal Command series, her debut into full-length fiction, has been well received. Book One, Dangerous Liaisons, is a Romance Finalist in the Independent Author Network Book Awards 2015 and the first version of this book, now lightly edited, gained a five-star rating from Readers’ Favorite within weeks of publication.
Sarah’s hope is that readers will enjoy her novels as an escape from reality, but be left understanding that fame and fortune often comes at a high personal cost. Also, an increased perception of the threat to animals: those shot in the name of sport for trophy heads, endangered species, many poached for their fur and ivory, and tragically discarded pets.
In addition to the above, Sarah Stuart is a prolific reader and is a Readers’ Favourite official book reviewer, and a valued member of and contributor to the IASD indie author support and discussion site …
Further links to the author’s social media are listed below:
Romance and melodrama don’t normally feature high in my reading preferences but I was in the mood to read something different, and this looked like it would fit the bill.
After the day from hell, to say that Richard’s life and those closest to him will never be the same again would be the mother of all understatements. I’m tempted to say that some elements are at first reading a tad implausible, but Sarah Stuart weaves them into the story with such seemingly effortless writing that you accept and believe them from start to finish.
The same qualities and compassion that led Richard Carpenter to adopt a problematic and previously abused little stray dog are the same ones that would make him the perfect father and husband. After his ex-wife, Naomi, turns up on his doorstep with a teenage girl, Maria, declaring her to be his daughter, Richard Carpenter is facing life-changing choices and dilemmas. Being the sort of man he is, Richard doesn’t hesitate in accepting responsibility for Maria, determined from the start to be the best father he can be. What emerges is a story of domestic and personal drama, filled with twists and turns at every juncture as his life lurches from one tribulation to the next while trying to build a home and future for his new family.
Some of the characters, male and female alike are as delightfully loathsome as ever graced the page of any book: an ex-wife who thinks nothing of dumping her teenage daughter with a complete stranger to her simply because the girl would get in the way of her new and extravagant lifestyle, a gold-digging fiancée that makes Cruella De Vil look like Mother Theresa, who calls off the wedding the moment her would-be future husband’s fortunes take a turn for the worse and who then strands Maria with a non-existent aunt just to get him back, and an utterly vile teenage lad who would threaten anything and anyone to hide and keep quiet what he’s done to name but three.
Amid all the turmoil going on in his life and a string of failed relationships with totally unsuitable women, indeed narrow escapes in some cases, Richard is lonely and desperately wants to settle down with a woman he truly loves, one who loves him in return and in the same way.
Starved of the love she never got as a child, Maria too wants love and the man of her dreams, and in one final twist of fate, both Richard and Maria might just find the happiness they both crave.
The first book I’ve read by this author but certainly won’t be the last. One of the easiest five stars I’ve given all year, so thoroughly looking forward to the sequel and other books by Sarah Stuart!
For details of all the author’s work, see HERE for Sarah’s Amazon author page:
Anne Francis Scott is a Readers’ Favorite award finalist author in paranormal fiction. She has a fascination for haunted houses, ancient cemeteries, and ghostly mysteries with a twist–passions that fuel her writing, giving her the chance to take readers to an otherworldly place and leave them there for a while. She hopes that journey is a good one…
To read more about why Anne travels down the haunted trail, see link below:
At the bottom of that page, you’ll find the recording of her interview with Real Paranormal Activity – The Podcast, where she talks (okay, maybe rambles a little) about some of her personal paranormal experiences.
For news on upcoming releases, cover reveals, and more:
Subscribe to Anne’s newsletter: newsletter.annefrancisscott.com
You can reach out to Anne with any questions or comments here:
Lost Girl captures perfectly the sense of eeriness of a big old and deserted house stuck out in the backwoods of nowhere. The central character, Alison, has had a troubled past and is still fragile from personal loss and recent events, and has moved there from the city for a fresh start and to find solitude and peace and quiet for her work as a sculptor.
I’m not totally swayed by notions of the paranormal and was therefore glad not to have had to suspend my disbelief right from the offset. The story starts off quite sedately, giving the reader some insights into Alison’s character and situation. From then on though, the author slowly builds the tension and sense of unease with lots of little-unexplained things, some of which she tries to write off as her imagination. There are too many pieces to the puzzle for it all to be coincidence though and she soon suspects there’s a lot of history in her new house, much of it connected directly to her, but how or why is a mystery.
I also enjoyed that the paranormal aspects of the story were intertwined with living people and more earthly bound motives, events, and mystery, which for me, made this chilling story all the more credible, allowing me to put aside any initial scepticism I have about the paranormal. Although there was an element of horror too, it wasn’t overdone; the strength and quality of Lost Girl come more from the sense of atmosphere and genuine fear it creates as the story progresses rather than adding unnecessary blood and gore, though what there was of that blended seamlessly into the overall story. Writing-wise, there was good dialogue and characterisation throughout but without padding out the peripheral characters, all of which played their part in adding to the overall picture.
Lost Girl is an excellent stand-alone story but clearly leaves enough doubt and speculation at the end to provide a solid foundation for book two in what will eventually be a trilogy. Book Two has now been added to my reading list, and if its anywhere near as good as the first, then I’ll definitely be adding book three when it comes out.
See HERE for Anne Francis Amazon author page
Gordon Bickerstaff was born and raised in Glasgow, spending his student years in Edinburgh. On summer vacations, he learned plumbing, garden maintenance, and cut the grass in the Meadows.
*If he ran the lawnmower over your toes, he says … “sorry.”
He learned some biochemistry and taught it for a while before retiring to write fiction. He lives with his wife in Scotland, where in his own words … “corrupt academics, mystery, murder and intrigue exists mostly in my mind.”
Gordon Bickerstaff writes the Gavin Shawlens series of thrillers: Deadly Secrets, Everything To Lose, The Black Fox, Toxic Minds and Tabula Rasa. They feature special investigators Zoe and Gavin. More will come in due course.
In addition to the above, Gordon is a valued member and contributor to the IASD writing group and an avid supporter of other authors.
Gordon’s social media:
Deadly Secrets is the first in an ongoing book series numbering five to date. It’s a fast-paced thriller that blends lots of blood and gory violence with an intriguing story. It kicks off with the central character, Gavin Shawlens, being called to the suspicious death of a dog being housed at some kennels. The case is a mystery to him, and the story quickly takes a different direction before he makes the connection
I won’t give any of the plot away but will say it has all the elements that, say, a Michael Crichton fan would expect in a book: a secret government investigatory organisation, the accidental discovery of a ‘flawed’ process for a revolutionary new food ingredient, various international parties willing to stop at nothing to get their hands on, and political and corporate intrigue. Alongside the main story, there’s also some gruesome nasty side-lines of a corporate mogul’s business that could almost warrant a whole new book in their own right. There’s a fair sprinkling of science and biochemistry littered throughout to give the main story credibility, but not so much as to leave the average reader overwhelmed or baffled by it all, with lots of easy to read analogies to clarify things.
It was good to have a central character/hero type character that wasn’t the stereotypical action man, but one with all the more usual frailties and fears that most of us might feel in the same situation. There were lots of unexpected twists and turns in the characters’ personal lives that fitted the story perfectly but all totally believable.
The ending is clearly designed to intrigue the reader as to future stories, leaving hints of unfinished business which I’ll be reading up on in the near future. Great book!
See here for Gordon Bickerstaff’s Amazon author page and other books …
Damascus Redemption is Welsh author Richard Pendry’s debut novel, though he has previously written and published an excellent short story, The Last Patrol, in aid of the Semper Fi Fund U.S. military charity. I discovered this author quite by chance via Twitter.
Richard is an ex-member of the Parachute Regiment who became involved in the secretive world of the private security industry in post-Gulf War II, Iraq. Since then, he has worked in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and many other hostile environments, continually at the tip of the spear as the intelligence services fight the Global War on Terror. In addition to his past and post-military careers, Richard C. Pendry is forging a new additional career in writing.
(462 print pages) – Mason has lost his family, his friends and his reputation, but can he find his redemption? Unable to cope with the loss of his family, Mason turns his back on his life in the SAS. Years later, he is enticed into the cut-throat security industry in Iraq by an old comrade. He soon finds himself under fire. His team is attacked – most are killed and two are taken hostage. Mason takes the fall.
In this Middle East based military action thriller, Richard Pendry has created an array of characters that really does include the good, the bad, and the ugly, along with a rich and colourful mix in between. Behind the macho image of ex SAS and another assorted military, the author portrays each with all the faults and traits of people who have lived real lives, haunted by their various pasts.
Likewise with the non-military characters, each tells his own tale, contributing to the overall story rather than simply filling a role essential to some plot. Central to them all though is Mason, an ex SAS man who resigned from the job and life he loved following the tragic death of his wife and daughter. But life goes on, bills need to be paid, and so he’s eventually tempted by a lucrative security training job in the Middle East. Needless to say, events don’t follow the neat path they’re meant to, and in an effort to prevent the deaths of the men he was meant to train, instead, he leads them in what is practically a hastily and an ill-conceived suicide mission.
Amid the drama and military and political tensions following the Gulf Wars and the efforts of the oil companies and the security companies they employ to restore Iraqi oil production, intertwined is a completely different story being told; an eminent historian’s quest to solve a centuries-old historical and religious secret reaching back to the time of the Crusades and even far beyond helps bring to life the ancient and bloody history of the cradle of civilisation and Christianity, along with treating the reader to a tale worthy and reminiscent of a Dan Brown novel.
Just as it did in his previous story, Richard Pendry’s own military background and first-hand experience of the Middle East shines through in his writing; experiences aside though, once again the author also demonstrates a real talent for crafting an imaginative and well-told multi-stranded story, along with meticulous research and attention to detail.
For those who are already fans of the military genre or may have served in the armed forces, this is a highly enjoyable and captivating read, and I would say an intelligently written one too. For others who may be reading a military adventure thriller for the first time, I would be hard-pressed to think of a better introduction to the genre.
Not only is the military action authentic and exciting, the author creates a genuine sense of place and atmosphere from beginning to end. Unlike many other writers in this genre, the author here writes equally well and authentically when portraying Arabic and non-military characters, real people the reader can easily identify with. In any such book as this, there will always be some degree of military terminology, but the author skillfully allows the context and wider story to make their meanings obvious. There are a few occasions when some of the ‘army speak’ isn’t immediately apparent to the non-military reader, but this in no way detracts from the overall enjoyment of the story any more than perhaps any of us might not recall the exact meaning of a particular word when reading – a more than acceptable trade-off against lots of contrived and unnatural explanatory prose in my opinion.
If you’ve ever read and enjoyed, say, a Chris Ryan, Andy McNab novel, or even the likes of Dan Brown, I can highly recommend Richard Pendry as a welcome addition to those lofty ranks. Overall, a fantastic story from beginning to end, with an absolute cracker of a conclusion. An easy and well-deserved five stars!
Click Here for Amazon Link to Damascus Redemption
See Here for Richard C. Pendry’s Amazon Author page:
It is with great pleasure I present my review of Salby Evolution, the second book in the Salby Eco/Zombie thriller series/trilogy. In addition to this latest review, I’ve also included my review of the first book in the series towards the end of this post for those readers intrigued enough to want to read book 1 first (highly recommended, you won’t be disappointed!). First though, a little about the author himself …
Ian D Moore, as well as being a fellow author, blogger, and book reviewer is also an Admin and one of the founding members of the IASD Indie Author Support and Discussion group and website:
As well as this, his second novel in the Salby Eco/Zombie thriller series, Ian D. Moore was also the instrumental force in bringing together a multitude of Indie Authors from around the world when back in 2015 he put the call out for submissions for his highly acclaimed anthology ‘You’re Not Alone’ in aid of the Macmillan cancer charity, in which I feel honoured to have had one of my own short stories included, and to again be contributing a story for the 2018 edition in aid of Macmillan.
Click Here for Amazon link to You’re Not Alone
Prior to embarking on his writing career, Ian D Moore previously served as a soldier and engineer in the British army, worked as a self-employed truck driver, and still works in commercial and domestic transport in addition to running a small online writing services business.
Ian D Moore is a UK based author and family man, and someone I greatly admire and respect both as a writer and as a person.
Salby Evolution (Salby Trilogy – Book2)
Although intertwined with the first book of this ongoing series, Salby Evolution reads extremely well as a stand-alone instalment, though in all honesty, personally, I would still highly recommend reading Salby Damned first to enjoy this one to the full.
In book one the story was very much a localised one, concentrating on how the authorities would deal with a combined ecological stroke biological ‘accident.’ In this second instalment, the story naturally expands to the international repercussions of what could easily have escalated into the sort of zombie apocalypse only previously imagined in wild speculation.
The action switches from the UK to Russia, where characters who were central to dealing with the first Salby virus outbreak have been drafted in to help deal with a possible new outbreak.
This new chapter starts with two main storylines, one which quite seamlessly follows on from just a few months after the first book finishes, but with sufficient references to the past to bring new readers up to speed while providing a subtle recap for those who read book 1 first. As the story progresses, the original characters diverge to cover different aspects of the story i.e. determining if the virus has spread, has it changed, tracking down possible new carriers of it, as well as dealing with other parties equally interested in the Salby virus. Secondly, we have what I would regard as the main thrust of the story, an offshoot from the original outbreak but threatening a future one, initially running parallel to the original Salby virus outbreak of the first book but gradually catching up and converging with other threads of the ongoing story here.
I did think a little way into the book that perhaps the author had been slightly over-ambitious in the scope of the sequel with everything that was going on, the switching of perspectives and slightly different timelines but he skillfully drew all the different elements into a complex but extremely well-constructed story.
I was impressed by the way the author handled the varying stories and sub-plots, some featuring several characters from the first book and written from a third person point of view, consistent with the writing style of that book. In another, the reader is introduced to a couple of new characters but from the first-person perspective of leading man Simon, a stark contrast to Nathan, the leading man, and hero of the first book; Simon in comparison is a bit of an anti-hero, older, not the same sort of macho character and having many more flaws and personal demons of his own to contend with but still proving his worth nonetheless.
The switching back and forth between these different threads worked surprisingly well, especially the way in which the different timelines and stories converged in their relevance to the overall picture.
I was pleased that this sequel also paid homage to book 1 in that we were treated to a few more encounters with victims of the virus i.e. the ‘Deadheads’ – they served as a timely reminder of the surreal and terrifying consequences of the Salby outbreak – but the author didn’t try to rehash them for any sort of dramatic effect but instead took the story forward, and in new directions; what started as a surprisingly intelligent and believable zombie outbreak in book 1 (but with a small ‘z’ I’d say), has moved slightly away from that concept and evolved instead into an equally intelligent but more complex thriller, again throwing together some of the same elements – cutting-edge bio-engineering, viral infection, and a military interest in the virus, but this time adding manevolent scientists, political ambition, and the threat of world threatening consequences – and like any good thriller, some nice twists along the way (particularly relating to Simon but some other good ones too).
Not only does this sequel expand upon the first instalment, the quality of writing itself has evolved and improved too – I gave the first book in this series a five-star rating but with the proviso that I thought it fell just short of that at maybe a 4.7 to 4.8 on account of a slight over-emphasis on military terminology that might slightly confuse a non-military reader. In this book though I think the author has got the balance exactly right.
A first-rate book both in its own right and as a sequel, and indeed as a prequel to some as yet unknown conclusion, a very easy and solid five stars for me!
For those of you sufficiently intrigued, my review of Book 1 in this superb series …
Salby Damned (Salby Trilogy – Book1)
Although a fan of the film and televised Zombie efforts this is the first time I’ve actually read anything in the genre, having previously been skeptical as to whether it would transfer well to the written word.
Whilst I’ve always had to totally suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the Zombie genre in the past, with Salby Damned I was presented with a chillingly realistic and believable scenario that had me hooked right from the start. This isn’t the story of a world-wide fantastical epidemic but a more likely and localised disaster borne out of the merging of two highly topical issues, namely biological warfare and the more recent and controversial gas shale fracking.
The book cover put me in mind of the TV series The Walking Dead, but whereas that concentrated on the individual survival of a specific and isolated group of people, Salby Damned, although it largely concentrates on a few individuals, it also deals with how the authorities tackle the problem of a zombie-like plague, and how inevitably the military would play a large part in that. The author pays great attention to military detail, creating a very real and authentic feel to how a military base would house and protect survivors; I don’t just mean in terms of military accuracy, I would expect that from the author given his background, but by the way in which he conveys his expertise to the written word. As anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of the British military will know, it is filled with innumerable acronyms that can be very confusing to civilians, but the author explains and accounts for them very simply in the narrative without resorting to all sorts of contrived dialogue. My only concern here is that there might have been a tad too much emphasis on the military detail for those with no knowledge or real interest in that side of things, but for me personally, it worked very well. Speaking of the military, it was refreshing that the central hero as it were was a just a regular ex-soldier rather than ex-special forces as it made him more believable as a character – far too often, unless being ex-special forces is central to the story, such characters are made to appear almost super-human in their abilities, whereas here, Nathan’s vulnerability and frailties are just as evident as his strengths.
If I had to categorise this book, I’d say it was more a thriller than Science fiction or horror, though there are indeed elements of the latter. The story itself unsurprisingly concerns an apparent accident that results in a zombie-like plague, and then, Nathan an ex-soldier and a beautiful doctor, and the part they play in the search for a cure. Amid the subplots, we have courage and heroism, political and industrial intrigue, a touch of romance, and action wise, plenty of deadly encounters with the undead victims of the plague. In fact, some of the subplots were a real bonus to this story and definitely added to the overall enjoyment rather than simply being there to flesh out the page numbers. What was also refreshing about this book though is that unlike the film and TV ventures, it didn’t rely at all on sensational blood and gore for its impact.
If I had but one small criticism to make, apart from the ‘possible’ over-emphasis of the military and weaponry detail, it would be the lack of any anger and resentment towards those responsible for creating the circumstances in which the plague occurred, but apart from that the story was clever and well written, with a good balance of superficial though very credible science to add authenticity to the wider story. I was also extremely impressed with the way the author concluded the story, i.e. in not leaving lots of annoying loose ends that demand a sequel just for its own sake, but nonetheless surprising the reader with a few unexpected twists that leave the door open to one. If I had to give an exact rating for this debut novel I would say 4.7 to 4.8, but since I don’t I can quite happily give it a five. Would I read a sequel? Absolutely yes!
On Fb – OneStopAuthorServices
See Ian D. Moore’s Amazon Author page for his full catalog of work:
Following on from the success of his debut novel, this post is to introduce Ian D. Moore’s forthcoming book, Salby Evolution. First though, a little about Ian himself: Ex-soldier in the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers, internet entrepreneur, and truck driver, Ian D. Moore has a vast and varied array of life experience to draw on in his writing. Regular readers of my blog and book reviews will remember my first mention of him when I reviewed Salby Damned back in August 2015. Since then he has become an established and well-respected figure in the world of Indie writing and publishing, having been the driving force behind You’re Not Alone, an anthology of short stories by Indie Authors from around the world who graciously and freely contributed stories in aid of the cancer support charity Macmillan Nurses. In addition to the Salby series of books, Ian D. Moore has had a short story featured in Eric Lahti’s Holes: An Indie author Anthology. He is also an avid reader and book reviewer, an admin for a popular Fb author group and a founding member and admin of its accompanying website at: www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com
Salby Evolution is the eagerly awaited soon to be published sequel to Salby Damned. Salby Damned was a fresh and innovative take on the Zombie genre, combining elements of science fiction, big business, and the controversial topic of ‘fracking’ to produce an intelligently written eco-thriller with a zombie (with a small ‘z’) themed backdrop. It has been well received, accumulating impressive reviews on both sides of the atlantic, and on Goodreads …
In Salby Evolution, the second book in the Salby series, the devastating virus that gave rise to the zombie deadheads of the first book is once again sweeping the country… In the author’s own words…
One man holds the key to our future. One man holds the key to our extinction.
The merciless Salby viral strain, sweeping across the country, spawns a new breed of predator.
Simon Lloyd, borderline alcoholic, must vanquish the demons of his past and change his single-minded ways.
Filled with resentment, he enters a world far removed from his own. He must choose to take a stand or risk losing his estranged wife and children forever.
Against overwhelming odds, unethical science and the prospect of eternal exile, the decisions he makes will shape the future of mankind.
Intrigued so far? If so then read further the exclusive preview …
Available August 1st(kindle) / (paperback TBA ): for pre-order at: Click here:
Chapter 1 – Rude Awakening
Salby, North Yorkshire, 0100 hours, three hours before the viral outbreak.
The medicinal bottle, positioned in the middle of the table, beckoned me once more. The glass, my favourite crystal tumbler, specifically set aside for such occurrences, called to me. I couldn’t though, not before work. I wiped the back of my hand across two days of growth—satisfying the itch—removed my glasses and pinched the bridge of my nose. My routine, unchanged since the split, trudged onwards in an endless cycle of work, eat, drink, and sleep. The sorrows simply refused to drown, no matter how deep the liquid I immersed them in. After five years, you’d think I’d have snapped out of it by now, and yet as I sat here contemplating those very thoughts, the burden remained.
My bag contained an unappetising sandwich, a limp, soggy ham and cheese, a flask of tea that usually carried an undertone of the contents before it mingled with plastic, and a book for the long nights spent waiting.
For the last few years, I’d done little but walk the moors, aimlessly looking for something, only to return ‘home’ empty-handed. This wasn’t home, at least, not the home I recalled.
In effect, my sentence was to serve the mundane, the flame inside me thwarted, extinguished to monotony with only the barest glimmer of hope in retirement for the future.
This would do no good—it never did. I hauled my self-pitying bones from the chair, pushed it neatly back under the table and grabbed the workbag. I winked at the bottle.
“I’ll be back for you, later.” I muttered.
My day started normally—as mundane as the rest of the week, really. It wasn’t until the early hours that things began to get a little strange. I worked the graveyard shift as a railway junction box operator and signalman for a major rail freight company. While a lot of the signal boxes and crossings were being made electronic, controlled by computers and machines, the company still had certain places that required the presence of an actual body. Me.
I was on shift at a rural, local signal box, one I’d done many, many times before, one that was usually just a two-operation night. The 2159 from Salby came out of the power station, across the junction heading south for more coal, and then it returned from Leeds railhead at 0509 the following morning with a full load. That would pretty much be it as far as the actual traffic was concerned.
Last night, it hadn’t happened that way—at least not entirely. Sure, the 2159 rumbled through with a honked horn from the driver as it passed. The locomotive ambled its way from the power station terminus to pick up the mainline route south, pulling the usual fifty behind it.
I counted each and every one, just as I always do.
The phone rang five minutes before; the railhead operator at Leeds Central let me know the train was on the way through, a safety procedure just in case any of the mainline trains had been diverted for any reason. That would allow me time to stop the train until I was given the all clear. There were no such concerns last night, and the train passed as usual, without incident.
After it had gone, I settled back down in the worn, threadbare easy chair to watch a little TV. I’d maybe finish another chapter of the current book I was into, an indie author novel from an unknown writer, werewolves of all things. To be fair though, the book was very good.
As usual, my mind wandered back to the break-up of my marriage. This ritual became my nightly, futile attempt to figure out what went wrong, who was to blame, and what the future held. There hadn’t been much contact with my ex-wife since the split; what dialogue there had been, usually ended in bitter arguments. The filing of divorce papers hadn’t helped matters much either, let alone what I thought were vastly over-calculated maintenance payments for our two children.
Although I visited my son when he was little a few times, lately there hadn’t been much in the way of quality time with either him, or his sister, whom I had yet to meet. This was something I planned to resolve, and I’d reached a point where rationality dawned. It told me that no matter what, it could never be the fault of the children for the break-up. I was, and would always be, their father.
Now, marginally calmer having reached this conclusion, I pulled the plug on the TV and turned on the small radio to listen to the news bulletin. It was usually all doom and gloom, but there were some uplifting stories, sometimes. The music they played was a little more to my taste, too, given the hour. I sipped at the tepid tea from the stainless wrapped plastic of the flask lid.
At 0400, the radio presenter announced that an additional “breaking news flash” would interrupt the usual programming. I turned up the volume a little, listening intently as the newsreader reported an explosion, close to my home on the outskirts of the town. It wasn’t a million miles away from where my wife—stupid—ex-wife and children still lived.
I thought nothing of it. The report was pretty vague: people missing, presumed dead at some sort of gas drilling site. From the beginning, it was vehemently opposed by the residents of Salby anyway. Hell, I signed the petition against it myself.
When the 0509 to Salby failed to arrive, that was breaking news, at least as far as my job was concerned. It never failed to turn up, nor, if I remembered correctly, had there never been a phone call from the main rail office to let me know that it wasn’t coming. Very strange. The procedure was simple from here on in. Dial the number to the rail office, which was only a small control centre on the tracks that passed Salby town, inform the controller, and log the call. No response. The phone rang and then rang some more. I dialled again, this time, the central rail control office in Leeds.
The fact that the train hadn’t been seen would have to be reported; then it could be left in the hands of people who got paid a whole heap more than I did to worry about such things. Today, of all days, this had to happen. Why, oh why can’t people do their jobs properly?
If there’s one thing that really gets on my nerves, it’s slackers.
The merciless, nicotine-stained clock on the wall jeered on— it must have been there for years, the same uncaring, unknowing regulatory professor of time. Tick, tick, tick, tick!
At 0600, I would be turning the points back over to remote control at Leeds. The power station line only operated during the night hours, due to the length of the trains. I began to pack my night bag ready for the sedate ride home.
It was only a few miles, usually no more than twenty minutes. All of the roads were national speed limit, 60 mph stretches, and at that hour, I usually missed the first of the early commuters heading in. Despite trying to call for half an hour without response, I transferred the signal box back to the main signalling offices at Leeds.
With a last look to the grimy interior, I closed the door to the raised cabin and locked it with the master key—just in case there should be any curious kids playing near the lines later in the day.
Once the proud owner of a shiny 4×4 with a whopping 2.8 litre V6 in the front, I found its days were numbered after the separation. It had cost me a pretty penny to get new furniture, not to mention the sizeable deposit on the rented house, now called home. The badass, gas-guzzling monster had to go, replaced with a more efficient, but slightly-the-worse-for-wear Vauxhall.
That was another of the niggling grievances in my mind. Every time I drove it, I always felt that it wasn’t supposed to be like this, that it wasn’t fair, and more to the point, that it wasn’t my fault.
I got behind the wheel and slammed the driver’s door a little too hard, forcing the ignition and revving the engine a little too much as the car rattled into life. The dust and gravel track road leading to the points’ office proved no match for the tyres as they kicked up plumes of chippings. I vented my angst on the accelerator, and took out my frustrations on the car itself, before mounting the blacktop main road with a distinct squeal as the traction changed.
“Screw it, and screw you for leaving me!” I snarled at the windscreen. The stressed, furrowed face glared back without compromise. I fumbled in my jacket for the crushed pack of smokes. With a well-rehearsed tap on the centre console, the filter rose just enough for me to get a hold with my lips and pull the cigarette clear. I dropped the pack as the car lighter clicked its indication of readiness, pulled out the glowing red-hot implement, and seared the tip of my fix.
That first long, slow, deep drag was always the best one, and it calmed me down a little. The familiar tingle as the toxins hit the back of my throat, despite the constant angel at my shoulder, which waggled an ethereal finger along with the words: ‘You really should quit,’ felt comforting. The wisps of smoke curled up around my face as I blew out through my nose, slowly, revelling in the moment and in utter defiance of my impromptu celestial saviour.
There were some nasty turns as you got out towards Salby—if you didn’t know they were there, they could take you by surprise. With a certain sense of ‘I told you so’, I noticed a car at the side of the road, the front end embedded in the drainage ditch. Skyward tail lights created a luminescent beacon in the surrounding mist. The driver, not used to the road, must have lost control. I slowed the car to a crawl as I passed the stranded vehicle, which didn’t look like it had been there for very long. Curled smoke from the tailpipe suggested that it had only recently come to an abrupt stop. No sign of the driver; perhaps they had gone for help to the small-holding nearby, in the hope that the farmer might tow them out to continue their journey.
Given the weird night I’d had and the dark mood I was in, I decided to carry on home and pushed down on the accelerator once more. The front end of the car rose slightly as the power surged through the front wheels.
My focus shifted back to the road, just in time to round a sweeping bend, but too late to avoid the sickening thump as something bounced off the bonnet. In my wing mirror, I saw it catapulted to the roadside by the impact of my car, nudging 60 mph. Unsure of what I’d hit, I slowed and pulled over, the engine still running as I sat for a few seconds just staring into the rear-view mirror, hoping it was just an animal that had run out of luck.
The undulating mist obscured my vision as I peered into the murky half-light. The sun began to warm the morning dew from the grassy fields on both sides of the main drag, which sent ethereal, spectral formations floating up and over the hedges. I looked back over my shoulder towards the car, the gesture more to reassure myself it was still there, rather than anything else. An odd, uneasy, churning sensation in the pit of my stomach urged me to turn tail, return to the car, and flee—but I couldn’t though, it wouldn’t be right would it? I mean, what if they, or it, were still alive, lying there injured? I had to know. I had to find out. I popped the door and walked back towards the location of the body.
“Uh—hello, is anyone there?” I called out sheepishly. I prayed for a clear window through the rising vapour or any chance of an unhindered view.
“H—hello. Are you hurt? I have a phone. Do you need an ambulance?” I was conscious of the waver to my voice.
A shape forming in the swirling maelstrom just up ahead made me stare first in disbelief, and then in horror, as a gap in the mist shifted between us. No more than thirty feet in front of me, the grey, boiler-suited form of a man, but that wasn’t what made me tremble.
The impact of the car had caught the victim at his right knee-joint, literally spinning the man’s leg and foot around 180 degrees. His left foot faced forwards, and his right foot faced directly behind him, yet the man still attempted to stand and miraculously, made it to his feet. He began to limp towards me. His twisted leg dragged behind him as he drew closer.
I could see the expression on his face, which sent a cold chill running through my whole body. It pushed the boundaries of my resistance to the fear welling inside me to the absolute limit.
“Jesus Christ! Your leg, mate! How can you possibly stand?”
The wounded man staggered towards me. His face appeared distorted by a grimace that I could only put down to the agonising pain of his injury, enhanced by a low, guttural growl that came from between his tightly clenched teeth. When he was less than ten feet away, the piece of wood protruding from his chest registered in my brain. It was all I could do not to double over, instead gasping in a lungful of air in amazement as my gaze locked onto it, clearly able to see that it passed right through his body.
When my car hit him, he must have been flung into the air and landed upon the wooden fencing which ran alongside the fields, shrouded by the hedgerows. I deduced that the impact must have sheared off part of the fence which he had become impaled by, piercing him a fraction below the breastbone, which surely must have missed his heart by mere millimetres. Yet here he is, limping ever closer.
“Stop! Get away from me, dammit. How the hell are you still alive?” The question, I knew, was utterly ludicrous.
No response from the approaching figure, no cries of pain, and no visible blood trail either despite the horrific wounds to his chest and leg. His right foot dragged uselessly across the ground every time he moved forwards, the sound chilling me to the core.
He struggled to maintain balance, which caused him to veer off farther into the centre of the wet, misty road. I kept my eyes fixed upon him, unable to break my compulsive stare towards the fence stake, which rose and fell as he advanced. I had the good sense to take slow and measured steps backwards and to the side, in an attempt to get to the relative safety of the grass verge. This road had a reputation for high-speed at the best of times, an accident blackspot, in fact.
I heard the rumbling diesel engine a matter of seconds before two bright, white eyes pierced the mire. The bulk grain wagon ploughed through the swirling mist. It hit the staggering, overall-covered man full on. The impact caused his body to fly past my position, held by the inertia of the truck before the driver punched the brakes. In a surreal moment, my head instinctively turned to follow as the truck screeched past me, missing my car by a hair’s breadth. My eyes followed the grain wagon; I cringed when I saw the sickening sway of the chassis as the wheels passed over the body. The truck lurched forwards as the brakes finally brought it to rest. Several haunting hisses, followed by one long exhale, saw the truck roll no farther.
The driver’s door opened and I could just make out the figure of a burly looking trucker. He rubbed his eyes and forehead with a bit of rag in disbelief at what had just happened, stuffing the torn piece of cloth into his back pocket, where it dangled as he walked. Both of us stared at the crumpled pile in the wake of the truck, the mangled mess almost indistinguishable as ever being human.
The embedded fence post stood vertical, akin to a stunted flagpole, which marked the spot where the body lay. Roadkill.
The truck belched hot steam from its punctured radiator, merely adding to the swirling mist.
“Don’t go any closer if you know what’s good for you. Just get back in your cab and drive. I’m out of here! There’s some weird shit going on,” I barked, as the man began to edge closer.
“I had no chance to avoid him, did you see? He was in the middle of the road, I had no chance to miss him. You … you must have seen,” the flustered trucker babbled.
“I saw everything, graphically. Get back in your truck, light a cigarette to calm yourself, and then get the hell out of here. I gotta go, this is some freaky shit,” I reiterated, already moving towards the car and fishing in my empty pockets for my cigarettes.
“Here, buddy, take one of mine,” the trucker offered—his hand shaking as he held the pack. “What the hell should I do? I mean, I killed him, right? He’s gotta be dead. I need to call someone, the police, ambulance—someone.”
“Just hold on there—um—” I began.
“Oh, Jack—the name’s Jack.”
“Well, Jack, just hold on there before you do that. You see, I hit him first. Just like you, he came from nowhere, in the middle of the road. He should have been dead, his leg was—and he’d been impaled through the chest, a piece of wood musta gone clean through him.”
It poured out of me, to this trucker I’d only just met, in as big a mess as I was. I took a deep breath in, matched Jack’s earlier brow wiping pose and offered up a solution. “Okay, we need to see if he’s still alive, though I don’t know how he could possibly be. I thought I was having a bad day but—I’ll get my phone from the car first,” I resolved, as my senses began to return.
I flopped into the driver’s seat. What made me check the rear-view mirror just then, I’ll never know, but I did. The mist began to rise slightly, and I could see the crumpled pile just behind and to the side of the large truck. I noticed the fence post, which should have been vertical, was now horizontal. The impact had pushed the post back through the body of the man, so it stuck out even farther from the front of him.
“Shit, no way, man. No way! Screw that, it can’t be—there’s no way.”
The sight sent me into panic overload. My hands fumbled with the ignition keys as I yelled over my shoulder through the open window.
“Jack, get in your truck and drive—now!”
I didn’t hang around to witness more as the car spluttered into life. I rammed it into first before I popped the handbrake, revving the engine enough to make the tyres deposit a layer of burnt rubber as they fought for traction. I slammed the car into second and my foot to the floor. I was heading for the centre of town. I had to pass through it to get home.
I came across only one other vehicle for the remainder of the journey, a sporty-looking Ford parked up in the lay-by, opposite Salby’s one and only pub on the main drag. It wasn’t easy to see in the early morning light as I approached. The hazy, halo hue faded to reveal the car more clearly. My gaze on the road ahead faltered, drawn to the vehicle, and I peered through the driver’s window. Empty.
“Stuff stopping again. Wherever you are, you’re on your own.” I stated, resolutely.
The town centre, eerily quiet as I drove through and minus the usual steady trickle of cars city-bound, was also a little strange. Was it a national holiday? Did I miss something? I didn’t know and couldn’t focus. My mind raced over the imprinted images, trying to figure out what could possibly have allowed that man, that thing, to live after so much damage. He/it was either very lucky, or very unlucky, whichever way the coin landed. I drew too hard on the fresh fix. The hot ash fell from the tip, landed between my legs, and onto the seat. My eyes followed the rolling ember as it disappeared under my crotch, and I frantically tried to get to it before it could burn a nice, round hole in the cloth covering.
The first thing to hit me was a pungent, singed material smell; the next was the bee-sting pain on the inside of my leg. In what can only be described as borderline panic and unable to see clearly, I anchored on, pushed open the driver’s door, and practically fell from the vehicle. As a matter of instinct, my hands shot to my burnt inner thigh, swatting and patting even though the heat had gone. Anyone watching would have thought I’d finally flipped out. Content that I wasn’t actually on fire, annoyed, and in shock, I resumed my journey, cursing the tobacco angel.
I pulled up outside my rented property, scanned through the windows, and half-expected to see the mashed body of the man crawling towards me as I surveyed the street. I could almost hear the scrape of the wooden fence post on the ground as he moved closer—but there was no such thing, only my mind playing more vivid tricks.
Could it have been a weird dream? I’d been doing a lot of overtime hours lately; could I have imagined the whole thing? Being a thinker didn’t help matters. That was a personality trait of mine—as well as being analytical, logical, and direct, just like my father was. He was a draughtsman in his day, precise and reasoned.
‘Everything in its place, a place for everything,’ he’d said.
I remember his forefinger, stressing the importance of his imparted wisdom, waggled inches from my adolescent, acne-rife face.
I locked the car before walking around to the front. The shallow dent to the corner of the wing provided visual confirmation. On balance, I resolved to deal with it after some sleep. It was just too much to think about right now, and the prospect of trying to explain it to a desk sergeant at the police station didn’t seem too appealing. Besides, I had twenty-four hours to report an accident and I wasn’t the last person to run over the guy.
After a good few minutes of mental debate on my way into my second-floor apartment, I’d argued myself into a plausible plan, and finally, at 0730 as the sun broke through the veil, I pulled the blinds and fell to my bed.
It took over an hour of tossing and turning before my mind committed to rest, and then only for a couple of hours of short, fitful sleep.
For further links to Ian D. Moore and his writing see:
Blog: The Quill Pen Writes
Amazon: Author profile
Goodreads: Author profile
A Life of Choice by Tom Benson is the first part of a five part series about a young recruit to the Royal Corps of Signals of the British Army. There are many authors who have drawn on their past military experience to write both fictional and non-fiction accounts of their military careers and quite a few who have relied purely on research and their imagination. Quite often, though by no means always, such books will either lack the authenticity of genuine military experience or be steeped in realism and authenticity yet be let down by the execution of the writing. A Life of Choice falls into neither category having been written by a man with not only over twenty years experience as a soldier but who has also been perfecting his writing skills for nearly the past ten years, having read and written in multiple genres. Regular readers of my blog will know from past posts that as well as being a prolific writer, book reviewer in his own right, and contributor to a number of online writing groups but is now an Admin for the Indie Author Support & Discussion site, highlighting and supporting new and established Indie authors. In addition to his own short story collections, Tom Benson has had short stories published in a number of other author’s collections too:
Further links to Tom Benson’s writing:
A teenager feels there must be more to life than a dead-end office job and no social life. During his lunch-break one day in 1969, while walking the city streets, he stops to look at the pictures in an Army Careers Information Office window. How far might he go?
A Life of choice: Part One
By Tom Benson
(Available from Amazon in eBook format)
From what I understand this is the first of several parts to an ongoing saga of the life of a young serviceman. When Jim Falkner joins the Royal Corps of Signals he does so as a shy and quiet teenager with little experience of the world beyond his native Glasgow. Through this story the reader is immersed in the young would-be soldier’s training and those first tentative friendships formed, many of which would last a lifetime. It’s often claimed by those who served that joining the army is what made a man of them, and for many that’s true but what the author shows with equal emphasis is that it can just as easily lead to ruination; just as the young Jim Falkner grows in confidence and into the man and soldier he wants to be, we also see the him being drawn into the services drinking culture and hints at the problems that might bring with it in later years. There is also an excellent preface and first chapter that proceeds the start of our young character’s military career portraying a family background and life that might well have played a part in Jim Falkner’s decision to join the British Army, a background that was indeed shared at least in parts my many of the young recruits of the day.
Written in the first person, the story has very personal feel to it, enabling the reader to get to know Jim as a real flesh and blood person rather simply as a well-constructed character. The dialogue is entirely natural and the chronological way in which it’s portrayed and divided into twelve easily digestible chapters makes the story fluid and easy to read. There are many good things about being in the army as the author clearly shows but he doesn’t shy away from the negatives and hardships along the way. Another thing that impressed me was the author’s honesty in the events he portrays; he doesn’t exaggerate or sensationalise in pursuit of a more exciting or gripping story or try to give the impression that Jim is on course to be another Andy McCabe or other such well known military figure.
Although this is a fictional portrayal of Jim Falkner’s early military training and experiences, the author has drawn heavily on both his own life and those of his immediate comrades of the time, making ‘A Life of Choice’ as authentic as any entirely factual biography. I was pleased to discover when reading this that it wasn’t just another ‘pull up a sandbag’ type account relying on the legendary squaddie humour and colourful language for it entertainment but actually a thoughtful and well-written account of those times; yes those elements are present but they are not exaggerated or over-emphasised, though when they are alluded to it’s done to perfection…
“… The creases in his green denim trousers were sharper than the razor I’d used only the day before for the first time…”
“… Where I came from a steam iron was used to settle domestic disagreements…”
Anyone who has served as a regular in the army, or even one of the other services will from the beginning see familiar elements of themselves and their own experiences and might well read this like a trip down memory lane, bringing back happy and sometimes not so happy times. For others, particularly those who may have had or have friends or family who served, this book provides an honest and, true to military life, humorous insight into army training and life and just a few of the many colourful characters. Beyond that though this is also a compelling coming of age story, of the journey from boy to man, accelerated by intense military training along with all the usual landmark experiences of a young man growing up fast – being away from home for the first time, the pain of first love and its loss, learning to drive (in a land rover as opposed to the usual little bubble type cars that most people learn to drive in), and trying to fit in with his peers and all the pitfalls that entails. The heart of this story commences from 1969 through to 1971 when the army then was a very different thing to what it is today, and again, Tom Benson portrays that here to perfection. By the end of this first instalment, Jim Falkner has long since completed his basic training and is now a fully-fledged Signalman en-route to his first overseas posting to Germany. I look forward to reading of his further training and adventures…
Further works from Tom Benson: For further information on any of these books please click on the link to the author’s Amazon Author page:
Short story collections:
The Fifth Seed is the sequel to Senan Gil Senan’s superb debut Sci-fi novel, Beyond the Pale. Science Fiction is a genre that allows the writer’s imagination to run wild, possibly more so than in any other and Senan Gil does not waste that opportunity. The prequel to this took me completely by surprise, being very different to what I had expected but one that I nonetheless enjoyed from start to finish. This time I wasn’t quite so surprised but I was no less intrigued and entertained.
Senan Gil Senan is another author I discovered via my Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group, and his own writing has proved every bit as good and insightful as his reviews of many other authors. In the spirit of science fiction and the new and exciting ways of presenting supplementary material, further information about the author, and some fascinating background to both this and his debut novel can be found at his blog:
In addition to this review, there is also a link below to the author’s recent interview by fellow blogger and book reviewer Andrew Updegrove, author of the highly acclaimed Sci-Fi thriller The Alexandria Project.
Further links to Senan Gil Senan’s writing:
Amazon.com: Senan Gil Senan – Author page:
A young outlander begins a spirit quest, which is not expected to exceed a handful of days. In this coming of age ritual, he must spend time alone in the wilderness and forego food, water and shelter. He has to learn to place trust in his inner spirit and intuition, and follow wherever it leads him. It leads him to New Denver, a somewhat dystopian metropolis that is a showcase for a transhumanist future society. The young truth seeker expects personal revelation, and change. What he encounters instead is an adventure that brings change to all around him. Unfortunately, it also brings danger to the people he loves, and threatens the existence of the outlander community that supports him. A chain of events follows one another in a synchronistic fashion, which introduces action, romance and intrigue. These events are also the catalyst to a Machiavellian struggle between three major protagonists. One is an emerging sentient artificial Intelligence born out of the surveillance culture. Another is a controlling ancient subterranean race, and then there is the spirit-questor himself. His human physiology is so special that it represents an evolutionary leap forward for humankind. All three, potentially provide a blueprint for the future of humanity. Set in a future landscape of the American mid west, this story is as much about a father’s determination to find his son. The Fifth Seed also has some strong female leading characters, and is a feel-good inspirational story, as much as it is a thought experiment into a potential future. Set in a future landscape of the American mid west, this story is as much about a father’s determination to find his son. The Fifth Seed also has some strong female leading characters, and is a feel-good inspirational story, as much as it is a thought experiment into a potential future.
The Fifth Seed: Volume 2 (Beyond the Pale)
By Senan Gil Senan
(Available from Amazon in both print & eBook formats)
A skillfully crafted blend of traditional sci-fi and the esoteric… 22 March 2016
Set in a not too distant dystopian future, The Fifth Seed leaps slightly forward in time from where its prequel ends not long after the birth of Ethan, the central character’s son. Ethan is now a young man and largely replaces River, his father, as the central character here. I won’t reiterate too much of the plot from the previous book or the amazon description for this one. What I can say is that this book is every bit as entertaining and thought-provoking as its predecessor. Although a sequel, this also reads very well as a stand-alone book; there are plenty of flashbacks and references to the past that ensure the reader isn’t at a disadvantage not having read the prequel, though I would still recommend reading Beyond the Pale first to make for a more complete reading experience.
In addition to the divided society of the first book, namely the technologically advanced walled-in cities surrounded by the more spiritually motivated tribes that inhabit the world outside, the author introduces some more good solid science fiction concepts here in the shape of sentient artificial and non-human intelligence, mental and physical enhancements, both technologically advanced and tribal dystopian societies. In contrast though the author skilfully blends these concepts with the past into a wider story, encompassing man’s physical, mental, and spiritual evolution. Apart from such classics as 1984, Logan’s Run, and The shape of thing to Come, the author draws on many less obvious different sources for inspiration that have echoes of Ron L. Hubbard and to lesser extent a more coherent putting together of some of some of David Icke’s theories of Reptilian races. As in the first book, much of the science has its roots firmly in the science of today. Likewise with the more esoteric aspects of the book, i.e. the spirituality and the alien reptilian races are rooted in Native American spirituality and folklore as well many of the fringe theories of past civilisations, so even without a detailed knowledge of these things, there is still a believable familiarity in the writing and elements of the story.
On a slightly negative note the author does occasionally over explain some of the science and spiritual aspects of the book, though having said that, I prefer direct explanation over that of trying to show things by overly long and contrived dialogue. Explanations aside, the dialogue and writing flows easily and naturally. The story is divided into a large number of chapters, the lengths of which are dictated by their content rather than the author trying to maintain an artificial consistency.
This is an excellent sequel to Beyond the Pale, different enough to read as a separate story entirely yet sufficiently tied into the prequel to make for a more complete story. Towards the end it’s easy to see parallels between Ethan and the inhabitants of the dystopian New Denver and that of Moses leading his people out of Egypt, and the way in which the author portrays this is nothing short of story telling at its near best. Although firmly placed in the sci-fi genre, The Fifth Seed is as much a story of human beings of any time or setting and the problems they and society face as it is of a sci-fi defined dystopian future. The blend of hard science, spirituality, religion, along with the all too human concepts of love, greed, power struggles, and a host of other familiar themes create an enthralling story that will have sci-fi fans coming back for more. As I’ve said, a superbly entertaining stand-alone book, but an ongoing story that will be all the more enhanced by reading the prequel first, especially given the likelihood of more to follow in this excellent series.
See Amazon link below for my review of Beyond the Pale
The author was named Senan, by his father Patrick Gilsenan who thought that the name would look good on the cover of a book. He was an Irish printer who yearned to see his own prose and poetry appear in print. Sadly he died before achieving either ambition. Senan left behind the beauty of Sligo in Ireland to set off for London and oblique strategy of career choices. These included working fourteen years as a computer systems engineer. He has also worked as a self-employed financial trader, a writer, an employment adviser, and as a bar manager. He still lives in South London with his wife and family.
Tom Julian is another member from the IASD stable of authors, writers, reviewers, and bloggers. In this, his debut novel, he has created a welcome addition to the amazing genre that is Sci-fi. In his own words: … is a military science fiction story influenced by Aliens, Battlestar Galactica, and Apocalypse Now…
Away from writing, Tom Julian works days at an Insurance comapany, and is a husband and the father of two children.
Look out too for his soon to be released latest book, Breacher, available January 7th (available now for pre-order).
Find Tom Julian on:
Humanity has expanded beyond the borders of Earth into the far reaches of space. Human ingenuity has also expanded—as well as its theology.
On one side of an interplanetary war: a new religious order, dedicated to the expansion of human enlightenment. On another side, loosely connected to the order but hardly on the same page: the military, dedicated to the expansion of human influence.
And then there are the aliens. Worlds beyond understanding. Planets beyond comprehension. Forces which represent threats that cannot be calculated, and so must be eliminated.
Timberwolf is a soldier with too many voices in his head. Gray is a bishop with grander ambitions than his church. Highland is a planet run entirely by artificial intelligence—all of these factors point to the same conclusion: God has a story for everyone—or so the scripture of the day says.
This story is just beginning.
By Tom Julian
(Available from Amazon in ebook & Print)
Traditional Sci-fi combining steampunk and space opera… Great debut novel!, January 2, 2016
As in common with many of the very best titles that Sci-fi has to offer, this is a story that incorporates many traditional elements of the genre; interstellar travel, alien species, and advanced technology to name just a few but amid all that, the real strength of the story is how those elements are used to draw the reader into what is a multi-layered roller coaster of excitement and intrigue. The story starts off exceptionally well, introducing Wraith, a bio engineered killing alien machine in the service of its human masters. Alongside Wraith we have several other equally engaging characters: first and foremost we have Timberwolf himself, a sort of cross between Stan Lee’s Ironman and Arnie’s Exterminator, and the only one capable of taking on Wraith. Opposite Timberwolf we have Emanuel Gray, the antagonist to Timberwolf’s protagonist, a former military man now using his supposed religious beliefs as vehicle for his own militaristic ambitions and agenda of seizing control of an A.I. controlled facility that would give him unprecedented military power.
Set as it is some 250 years in the future, there have not surprisingly been incredible advances in technology, enabling mankind to venture out among the stars, but not so far into the future as to have to change society and its technology beyond all recognition; artificial intelligence, nano-technology, and advanced battle armour, all with their roots in the science of today, give the sci-fi elements a topical and therefore believable feel to them. What hasn’t advanced though sadly in this vision of the future are some of the less than noble traits of mankind’s nature – greed, treachery, religious bigotry, and war feature most prominently in this story; just as the religious Crusades of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries resulted in some horrific conflicts so too has mankind’s contact with other species resulting in most being virtually exterminated. The one race to still pose a threat to mankind’s dominance is the Arnock, a spider-like race with mind invasive abilities that make it a formidable enemy, a fact that Timberwolf has painful and personal experience of.
Although this is primarily what I would call hard or traditional sci-fi, some of the themes and terminology give the story a steampunk feel to it; the use of terms such as galley, cargo holds, and gangplanks when referring to some aspects of one of the spaceships puts the reader in mind of rebellious space pirates or crusaders. The many different worlds and species also put me in mind of Peter F Hamilton’s highly imaginative and entertaining space opera type stories. This was an exciting and enjoyable story that kept me enthralled from beginning to end. I would have preferred a more comprehensive ending but overall this a first rate Sci-fi story, well-written and with all the requisite elements to please most fans of the genre.
JT Blythe is another author I discovered in the IASD Fb group. He’s not a prolific writer, reviewer or blogger but simply an ex serviceman who wanted to tell a story that was close to his heart, about one of the most horrific periods of our time when millions of men were sacrificed in a war of unimaginable horror and suffering. In his book The Diehards 1914-16 he has done just that. I look forward to reading more from this author should he decide to turn his writing talents elsewhere…
In 1914 the ‘Diehards’ the 4th Battalion The Middlesex Regiment went to fight on the Western Front in a war that was supposed to be the war to end all wars.
The horror of the trenches with lice, rats, mud, cold, gas and flame throwers. Men lying dead and dying in no-man’s land some whose bodies would not be recovered until after the war ended.
This account gives an insight into the bravery, courage and dedication shown by those men. Although the characters are fictitious the events are real as are the facts and figures. Author JT Blythe puts together a story woven round the actual battles the Battalion took part in over the period 1914-1915 giving an insight not only to the horrors of the Western Front but also to the realities of the Home Front and the efforts made by many patriotic women who kept the country working in the absence of their menfolk.
The Diehards 1914-16
By JT Blythe
(Available from Amazon as an eBook & in paperback)
First off let me begin by saying that this is a book written from the heart with real feeling and compassion; an account of the first world war, blending fact and fiction to not only show the horror and reality of the time but to tell the human and personal side of it for those young men fighting at the front amid the artillery fire and mustard gas, and just what life was like living in the trenches along the edges of that no-man’s land between life and death. Through the fictional stories of a small group of friends and comrades serving at the front we get as close to eye-witness accounts of many of the battles as is possible given that barely a handful of people survive who would even be able to remember the tail end of the war let alone have served through it. Interspaced among the acounts of the constant artillery bombardments, troop movements, and the triumps and losses of those fighting we hear of the their personal lives too, their loved ones back home, and their hopes for the future should they survive the war.
Much of the story is narrated from the third person perspective of four young men serving with the 4th Middlesex Regiment, better known as the Diehards on account of their battle cry of ‘Die Hard’ when going into battle. Billy, Matt, John, and Tommy all believed as did many others at the time that the war would be a brief affair and that they would all be home for Christmas. Had that been the case it’s possible the four of them might have remained lifelong friends but it was not to be, not all the of them would return and even those that did would carry their injuries and battle scars with them. Through their letters home and conversations we learn that Billy was married to Nancy and they had a one year old son, Billy Jnr. After the war he had promised his wife he would leave the regiment and work with is father in the dockyards. Matt was 4 years younger than Billy, and had a girlfriend, Sarah. She was hopeful of marrying Matt after the war, and the two of them settling down on a farm, but Matt had other ideas. Tommy was the youngest of the four, and indeed the youngest in their platoon for which reason most of the older men sort of took him under their wing. He was an only child and his parents were fearful for him fighting at the front. And lastly there was John – Sergeant John Michael Dunn. He was single, and though only 24, the oldest and most experienced of them. He had lied about his age, telling the army he was 19 when in fact he was only 17 when he first enlisted. Though fictional, these touching and sometimes heart-breaking accounts and background stories would have been all too representative of the real lives of so many thousands of young men like them, of so many lives and dreams cut short.
As well as the fighting at the front, those back home had their own battles to fight too. With so many men away fighting in France and Belgium and elsewhere, many women had to work the land, do the dangerous job of making shells in the munitions factories, and all the other jobs previously done by the men folk. Not only did they have to do the men’s jobs, they had to face the prejudice and resentment and often deal with the ‘unwanted attentions’ of those men left behind. JT Blythe clearly shows without their contribution to the war effort back home the fighting at the front would have all been in vain.
There were a few formatting issues, and the book would have benefitted with another round or two of editing and proof reading. There was also some repetition and over emphasis of the descriptive accounts of the Jack Johnson artillery shells, though having served in the artillery myself and already being quite familiar with these elements of the book it’s quite possible I’ve perhaps picked up on that more than most would. But these minor editorial concerns aside, they are more than eclipsed by the passion and feeling that has gone into the writing of this book; overall the writing was of a high standard and the author has given a good account of the Western Front and those serving there without it reading like a text-book history lesson or succession of historical facts and figures. Some of the narrative has echoes of Wilfred Owen, particularly the descriptions of the battles, the deprivation and living conditions of the trenches through the personal stories of four young men, serving their country and indeed the women too back home, JT Blythe has given us a human face to the conflict, bringing to life in some small part both the reality of the time, and amid the horror, some of the courage and compassion too.