TBR Pile Review: Civilisations, by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor

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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 15th 2021 by Harvill Secker 
(first published August 14th 2019)
Original Title: Civilizations
ISBN: 1787302296 (ISBN13: 9781787302297)
Edition Language: English
Literary Awards: Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française (2019)

c.1000AD: Erik the Red’s daughter heads south from Greenland.
1492: Columbus does not discover America.
1531: the Incas invade Europe.

Freydis is the leader of a band of Viking warriors who get as far as Panama. Nobody knows what became of them…
Five hundred years later, Christopher Columbus is sailing for the Americas, dreaming of gold and conquest. Even when captured by Incas, his faith in his superiority and his mission is unshaken.

Thirty years after that, Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, arrives in Europe. What does he find? The Spanish Inquisition, the Reformation, capitalism, the miracle of the printing press, endless warmongering between the ruling monarchies, and constant threat from the Turks.

But most of all, downtrodden populations ready for revolution. Fortunately, he has a recent guidebook to acquiring power – Machiavelli’s The Prince. It turns out he is very good at it. So, the stage is set for a Europe ruled by Incas and, when the Aztecs arrive on the scene, for a great war that will change history forever.

Civilisations is a wildly entertaining counterfactual story about the modern world, colonisation, empire-building and the eternal human quest for domination. It is an electrifying novel by one of Europe’s most exciting writers. 

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Book Review: Screams From The Void, by Anne Tibbets

Fiction: FICTION / Science Fiction / Alien
Product format: Paperback
Price: £9.95; $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-78758-572-0

For two years in deep space, the freighter Demeter and a small crew have
collected botanical life from other planets. It’s a lesson in patience and hell. Mechanics Ensign Reina is ready to jump ship, if only because her abusive ex is also aboard, as well as her overbearing boss. It’s only after a foreign
biological creature sneaks aboard and wreaks havoc on the ship and crew
that Reina must find her grit – and maybe create a gadget or two – to
survive…that is, if the crew members don’t lose their sanity and turn on each other in the process.

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The BFS Awards 2020: My reviews of the books in the Best Anthology category

I’ve been keeping fairly quiet about this, even after the British Fantasy Society announced the shortlist and jurors; I’m one of the jurors for the Best Anthology category. The Awards ceremony was yesterday (Monday 22nd February 2021) and was streamed on YouTube and Facebook.


Originally the following were the shortlist:

·      New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction for People of Colour, ed. Nisi Shawl

·      Once Upon a Parsec: The Book of Alien Fairy Tales, ed. David Gullen

·      Wonderland, ed. Marie O’Regan & Paul Kane

·      The Woods, ed. Phil Sloman

Other jurors added:

  • A Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods, ed. by Jennifer Brozek
  • The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, ed. Jeff and Anne VanderMeer

You can find the short lists for the other categories here.

Now that the winners (add link to winners list)have been announced, I can safely share my thoughts on the books I read for the awards.

Continue reading “The BFS Awards 2020: My reviews of the books in the Best Anthology category”

Review: Chasing Solace, by Karl Drinkwater

Published: 7th July 2019
I.S.B.N.: 978-1-911278-14-6

Published: 15th April 2019
I.S.B.N.: 978-1-911278-13-9

The legendary Lost Ships exist, and they harbour nightmarish horrors. Opal knows. She barely survived her first encounter with one.

Despite escaping, she failed to find what she was looking for: her lost sister. Now Opal must board a second derelict Lost Ship to seek answers, and it’s even more monstrous, a sickening place of death and decay. To make things worse, the military government wants her, dead or alive. Considering their reputation, dead may be better.

To find her sister, Opal will risk everything: her life, her blood, her sanity. There’s always a price to pay. Armed with her wits, an experimental armoured suit, and an amazing AI companion, she might just stand a chance.

CHASING SOLACE by Karl Drinkwater, is now available. Sequel to the sci-fi horror Lost Solace, where a lone woman explores a strange and terrifying spaceship recently returned from somewhere else. Hints of Aliens, Event Horizon, and Pandorum add to the suspense.

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Review: ‘So I Might Be A Vampire’, by Rodney V. Smith

So I Might Be a Vampire Published By: Lost Bajan Publishing

Publication Date: 13th February 2018

I.S.B.N.: 9781775007210

Format: Paperback

Price: £13.99







Nobody expects to get turned into a vampire, especially a guy like Bob. Everybody hopes that if they somehow get transformed into a vampire, they will instantly become some kind of superhero vampire out of the movies. Bad news guys: not gonna happen. More likely than not, you’re gonna be one of the poor clueless bastards hanging out on Thursday nights with Bob in his vampire support group.

You may think you know what being a vampire is supposed to be like, but Bob is here to set you straight. He’s made it his personal mission to get answers about the reality of being a vampire. He’s been shot, stabbed, thrown off rooftops, survived bad coffee and endured crippling boredom – all in the name of answering the eternal question of what it means to be a vampire.

If you think you might be a vampire, this is the book for you.

Continue reading “Review: ‘So I Might Be A Vampire’, by Rodney V. Smith”

Review: ‘Zombie! Haunted Mansion: Memoir of Jesse Jamieson’, by Zombie Origin Media

I received this e-book from the authors after they saw my listing on http://www.indiereview.com.

Zombie! Haunted Mansion: Memoir of Jesse Jamieson by [ZOM]Published By: Independently Published

Publication Date: 29th May 2017

I.S.B.N.: 9781520352121

Format: E-book, also available as Paperback

Price: £2.33 (Paperback: £7.80)


Stranded in the middle of nowhere, an unlikely group of high school friends embark on a series of adventures and mishaps to survive a remote zombie outbreak. With bloodthirsty ghouls trailing close behind, Jesse and his friends stumble upon an eerie mansion offering refuge from the zombie infested woods. But the residents of Krakuz Manor may be hiding a sinister secret more dangerous than the undead threat outside, or they might just be complete lunatics. Either way, Jesse and his friends must prepare for the impending zombie horde if they hope to survive their trip to hell. With no communication to the outside world for help, can a mismatched group of teenagers defend Krakus Manor against the undead, or will they fall victim to a living dead nightmare

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Review: ‘Drip’, by Andrew Montlack


Published By: Rent-Controlled Films

Publication Date: April 2017

I.S.B.N.: 9781541102125

Price: £10.36

Format: Paperback


“A hand wearing a fancy watch parted the office blinds, and J.D. felt nauseous with despair: suddenly he knew—even though he could not explain how—that all of his mojo had been permanently taken away.”

J.D. and George: thick as thieves since the fourth grade. J.D., the troublemaker, the stud: the alpha. George, the sidekick, the misfit: the loser. Upon graduating college, J.D. has convinced the only job creator in rusty Middlestop to hire them. BrewCorp, the hot new coffee and retail chain, is offering a vice presidency to the employee with the boldest plan for growth, and J.D. is determined to be the guy. When not sleeping with co-workers, he hatches his pitch for a one-of-a kind data pipeline. He is unbeatable–until George grabs the promotion. Now J.D. wants answers. His quest to find them—and to deal with the monstrous truth—is the subject of indie filmmaker Andrew Montlack’s wry debut novel, which features the same biting satire that made his mockumentary, The Devil’s Filmmaker, a cult classic.

My Review

Took me a bit to get into, and at first I couldn’t understand the ‘gothic’ part of the title, but then, of course I got the reason.

It’s an unusual vampire tale, set in the corporate world, of two friends. George is hopeless, JD is charismatic. Where George trips and falls through life, JD dances and laughs and gets his own way. Friends from a young age, the pair finally graduate from university and get jobs at BrewCorp, the latest business to set up in their small, dying town.

When George wangles the job of junior executive, JD is jealous – HE was going to get that position. George starts to change, and much to his chagrin, JD loses his mojo. Secrets about BrewCorp and its real purpose start to leak though, as the project that got them their positions comes to fruition.

I liked this story, eventually. It took a bit of getting into and JD, the main character, was a bit of a prick. The writing felt pompous but as with JD’s character, that gets better as the novel goes on and I certainly enjoyed the second half as the ‘gothic’ part in the novel became clearer.

Could have done with a bit of editing for spelling towards the last few chapters, even allowing for dodgy US spelling conventions. Story instead of storey is just about acceptable, souls when the word is clearly meant to be soles is not.




Review: Zombie Nation book 1: Zombie Juice, by Samantha Warren


Publication Date: 5th October 2016

Available from Amazon: UK, US

Ebook received in return for an honest review. 

The Kin twins, Kinley and Kincaid have lived in White Willows all their lives, almost sixteen years. They can just about remember the time before the zombie apocalypse. They live with their grandmother and help her run the town diner around their schooling. Soon they’ll finish school and become adults with more responsibility.

Then a convoy comes to town, bringing with it a new and deadly drug. And and new future for the twins.
This is a short book, only 80 pages long, but it was very enjoyable and certainly more original than some of the zombie apocalypse books I’ve read in the last year or so. The Kin twins are likeable characters and well-written, plot is well thought out and easy to read, and I like where it’s going. This book is a prologue to the series and we must wait to see where the author takes her characters.
There were a few editing errors, in word choice or grammar, which I’m sure will be ironed out before publication, but other than that I liked this YA novel.

14th December 2015 general rambling

Evening all, how are you all? I have a cold, I also have Netflix now. That will become relevant later.


Writing Update

I’m working on my novel again, or trying to write every day. The dogs don’t like it, my knee is for their heads to rest on and my hands are for stroking them, according to the Hell Hounds, not for tapping away at my laptop trying to get a novel finished this year. I’m still studying my writing course, but I haven’t been well so I haven’t been working on the current assignment for a few months. The assignment is to write a piece for a travel magazine and to outline another on the same subject from a different angle. I haven’t travelled much so I’ll have to write something about Lincolnshire.

From http://ukga.org/images/maps/Lincoln.jpg
From http://ukga.org/images/maps/Lincoln.jpg


‘Netflix’ and other televisual things

Now I have ‘Netflix’ I can watch a few things that I like or wanted to see. I’ve been working on my ‘A Christmas Carol’ watching mission – how many versions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ can I see in December; I’ve managed two so far. I started watching ‘Jessica Jones’ and a few episodes of ‘Grimm’. I’ve also started watching ‘From Dusk ’til Dawn’, the series. I saw the film that the series is based on years ago, and while the story was good, the character played by Quentin Tarantino squicked me out with his sick rape fantasies. I thought the character of Richie Gecko was going to be the same in the series. Luckily, Zane Holt’s ‘Richie’ is a lot less vile (I honestly think that has to do with the actor rather than the character), and the longer format of a series rather than a film allows for better character and plot development. I’ve just finished watching series one, and am moving on to series two this evening.

I’ve been watching ‘The Last Kingdom’, the BBC series based on Bernard Cornwall’s Uhtred of Bebbanberg books. I really enjoyed it, and luckily so did my dad, so I had someone to discuss it with yesterday now that we’ve both seen all eight episodes. We’ve both read the first half dozen books too. I’ve tried to find my copy of ‘The Last Kingdom’ so that I can compare the books with the series, but I can’t find it. It has to be around somewhere but I still haven’t got all my books shelved and organised after moving more than 15 months ago. I still need at least one more set of book shelves; when I get them I’ll be able to arrange my books by author and series the way I want to. As it is I’m wracking my brains trying to remember the plot and characters. I like Brida much better in the series than in the books, as far as I remember, and Alfred is still as sanctimonious as ever. I really can’t stand Odda the Younger, but then I couldn’t stand him in the books either. If I remember correctly he was the same age as Uhtred in the books, and a large man. Seeing him played by a younger, smaller man who looks barely out of his teens grated slightly. It was nice to see him finally die though, the little scum bag traitor. I don’t like Asser either, but then I didn’t like him in the books either. Leofric was also one of my favourite characters in the series. Uhtred is a really good character and I think Alexander Dreymon is a really good actor.

From http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/3kHCJqslLy0wDsBMg57lWMZ/uhtred
From http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/3kHCJqslLy0wDsBMg57lWMZ/uhtred

The series is based on books, which mix history and fiction, and the series does the same thing. The distinctive styles of English and Danish dress and hairstyles, the tattoos and make-up, are deliberate constructs designed to separate the two visually. It’s something I noticed in ‘Vikings’ as well. There’s a distinct preference for the Danes in both series; they get all the best storylines, character (Brida vs. Mildreth), clothes and make up. Both also suggest the English didn’t know how to fight until some Dane came along and taught them too. Clearly neither production team know anything about early Anglo-Saxon history. Shields, contrary to ‘The Last Kingdom’ were circular, wooden and covered in leather, sometimes with decorative fittings. They were fairly successful in warfare if the available sources are to be believed. I do wish television and films would stop messing with history; if you’re going to make a film set in a specific period at least get the details right.

If they make a second series I hope they don’t screw up Æthelflæd, Alfred’s daughter, known as Lady of the Mercians (seriously, look her up, she’s cool. The Danes were going to surrender to her, but she died in the early tenth century just a few weeks two soon). Bernard Cornwall admitted in his books that he made the character of her husband, Athelred of Mercia, in to a much nastier character than he was in reality (again if the sources can be trusted).

Mental Health

It has been a funny month so far. I haven’t been great, to be honest. My brain has been more than a little bit scrambled. When someone says they’ll do something for me then backs out it makes me feel worthless and unwanted, like I’m a massive inconvenience to everyone. Rationally, I know that isn’t the case, but my brain isn’t being rational at that point. It took a few days to get over and I’ve had the odd off day since, but I’m not too bad at the minute. I keep getting tired and need to go to bed really early. But if I go to bed too soon I end up waking up at stupid o’clock in the morning. At which point I get up, wander round the house for a while, maybe do some cleaning then go back to bed and sleep until mid-morning. It’s really messing with my reading/writing/sewing schedule.