Monday 23 March 2020

HIGHWAY TWENTY by Michael J Moore

3.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Contemporary creature horror, small-town America

I enjoyed reading this—I like books set in small-town America, and this had a rather B-movie, pulp fiction feel to it, suitable for the genre.

The townspeople of Sedrow Woolley, Washington State, are disappearing—then they come back and they're ... different.  The book starts off with a man abducting a small boy, and finding that he has bitten off more than he can chew; a most compelling, if shocking, beginning.  The main characters are a mechanic called Conor and a homeless man, Percly, who sleeps in a disused train, and the story alternates between their chapters, written in third person point of view.

The great strength of this story is the characterisation and dialogue, which was spot on and totally convincing, particularly the highly likeable Conor, his wild and boozy girlfriend, Shelby, and his colleague, John.  It's a very easy read, a page-turner, and flowed well; Mr Moore can certainly spin a yarn, and the suspense was delivered well, too, with the story unravelling at a good pace.

My only complaint is that it did feel a bit too pulp fiction at times; I could imagine it being a slim volume that one might pick up in a 'dime store' in 1950s Sedrow Woolley, with a picture of a cartoon damsel in distress running away from a monster, on the front—it does need a better proofreader/copy editor, as I found more errors than I would expect, with issues like backwards apostrophes at the beginning of words, and the odd wrongly assigned dependent clause.  But it's good, and basically well-written.  If you enjoy these sort of stories and aren't too picky about minor errors, I think you'll love it.

Tuesday 10 March 2020

SUBJECT A36 by Teri Polen @tpolen6

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads 

How I discovered this book: I have 'met' the writer through Twitter; she was asking if anyone would like an ARC.  The subject matter interested me, so I said yes please!

In a Nutshell: YA Dystopian, genetic engineering.

I admit that I didn't realise this book was YA when I went for it—my fault!  It's about some time in the future when the fortunate (the rich) of an unnamed place in the US live in 'The Colony', and where they can pay for genetic engineering to ensure their families have the best health and looks.  The book starts with Asher, as a boy, having to flee from an army after him and his sisters to harvest their genes.  In chapter two, he is seventeen, and an operative with the insurgents, who free children captured for gene harvesting, aiming to reunite them with their families where possible.  

The other main character, who has his own POV chapter, is Oz; a bit of a misfit, humourous; I liked him.  

Asher and his people discover that The Colony is searching for a certain person, known as Subject A36—and the fight is on.

This is a very 'easy read', and the writing flows very well indeed.  I am not the ideal person to review it as I am over 45 years older than the audience for which it was intended, but I am sure that if I was between 11 and 14 it would be right up my street!  It's a good story, imaginative, and far from entirely unfeasible.

Friday 6 March 2020


4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.  I chose it after enjoying the first in the series, Chimera Catalyst.

In a Nutshell: Dark technological goings-on in a dystopian world, post climate change.  Set in California.

'Finder' is back, complete with dog/bird chimera The Parrott, and human/baboon Altima, as he uncovers a venture capitalist's plan to rule the world by AI, making humans compliant by means of a nutritional energy drink.  The idea that AI could eventually overtake humans is one I've read a fair bit about, also that its integration with humans (Numans, in this book) could be the next stage in our evolution.  I find this hellish in the extreme, and it makes me glad I was born when I was.

We don't know exactly when the book is set, but I imagine it is probably in about a hundred years' time; Finder mentions helicopters being used in the wars of 'the last century'.  The state of the planet (the Big Change) is revealed to be not only down to the slow deterioration of climate change, but another disaster.  I enjoyed the plot, but what I liked reading about most about is Finder himself, a most engaging character, and the world-building elements.  Although the story paints a grim picture of human life in the future, it is not without a certain light touch that I wouldn't exactly call humour; it's more pathos mixed with astute observations, and off-the-wall characters.

In this book we find out a bit more about Finder's life when he was younger, including his real name; I like the way his character is slowly building, and I'd love to read more about what has happened between now and the time in which the book is set - more background.

Having read the notes at the back, I know Ms Kuchinskas is well-informed about her subject matter, and this is evident; it is imaginative, clever and extremely well-written.  I'd definitely recommend it to fans of 'cli-fi', but you should read Chimera Catalyst first.  I liked this more than the first book, and hope there will be more!