Outland Exile, W. Clark Boutwell

Outland Exile, W. Clark Boutwell

Outland Exile: Old Men and Infidels

Outland Exile: Old Men and Infidels opens in the Unity, a high-tech, totalitarian society where designer drugs are distributed by the government and computer-generated experiences and reality are interchangeable. W. Clark Boutwell’s protagonist is Malila, an up-and coming young lieutenant in the Democratic Unity Forces for Security, where specialised training begins at thirteen and forcible retirement from society comes at forty. When Malila’s attempt to end-run the system and deal with a recurring logistics problem in the Outlands falls foul of internal politicking, she’s sent beyond the borders of the Unity to clean up the mess – and face a reality she never dreamt existed.

W. Clark Boutwell posits a fascinating dystopia, with the United States split apart into political entities separated by wastelands as well as ideology, entire areas uninhabitable and extreme weather a fact of life. Malila is the young, polished product of a society where old people no longer exist, and personal ambition is everything. Coming from that background of power politics and casual cruelty, she comes face to face with a culture almost diametrically opposed to her own, in the Outlands where no civilisation is supposed to exist. Malila faces a crisis of belief and identity, as well as a struggle for personal survival in a world far beyond the reach of high-tech support. Outland Exile is packed with political and societal commentary, fast-paced action, and psychological conflict – a recommended read on many levels, and one that will keep you turning pages and thinking right through to the end.

Falling in Death and Love, Magnus Stanke

Falling in Death and Love, Magnus Stanke

Falling in Death and Love

Magnus Stanke’s Falling in Death and Love is set in the heat and dust of the Balearic Islands, a couple of years after the death of the Spanish dictator Franco. David is an itinerant sushi chef, by his results the first ever to set foot in Mallorca, because the restaurants and hotels aren’t buying. However, his unsuccessful job hunt leads him to cross paths with a beautiful Spaniard on holiday, and he realises that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to see more of her – although he expects that the most dangerous aspect to that resolution is that he’ll have to take up sky-diving.

Falling in Death and Love offers a good period thriller with a twist on the star-crossed lovers, embellished with period slang straight from the Summer of Love. Set hanging from parachutes, in hidden compartments under classic VW vans, and fleeing astride beat-up Vespas, David is chased by both the Spanish Mob and the vestiges of Franco’s special police, none of them with his good health in mind. On David’s side: peace and love, some sushi knives, and most of the population of Home, Mallorca’s resident hippie camp. Throughout, Magnus Stanke’s ability to capture the contrast in outlook between the special police and David really gives this novel a little something extra.

Five Seven Five, CE Wilson

Five Seven Five, CE Wilson

Five Seven Five: The Boy with Words

In Five Seven Five: The Boy with Words, C. E. Wilson has created a remarkable subterranean society, and the protagonist, White Frost, stands out in large part due to her curiosity about what lies beyond the boundaries of all she’s ever known. Her cousin, Shade Frost, is her link to all things mysterious, one of the few in the entire society permitted to go into the Unknown to collect the essentials the society needs. However, when Shade dies, White is left alone in a world that frustrates her, and her behaviour veers more and more towards the erratic … and the Unknown.

C E Wilson creates a very plausible society in the pages of Five Seven Five, peopling it with heroes who risk themselves for everyone’s gain, Creators, and all-powerful authority figures bent on maintaining the status quo. The tension in the plot is woven through from the beginning, with fear of discovery by the authorities, fear of the unknown, and fear of trusting others all threading in. White’s stubborn refusal to do what she’s supposed to, and her insistence on learning all that there is to know adeptly arouses the reader’s sympathy and makes her a compelling heroine, and her awkwardness with dating and romance will resonate with many. Definitely worth the read!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Angel’s Kiss, Melanie Tomlin

Angel’s Kiss, Melanie Tomlin

Angel’s Kiss

Melanie Tomlin’s Angel’s Kiss is the story of Helena, call-girl and ex-cocaine addict. Dying is her first clue that her night isn’t going to go as they usually do, and waking up with a guy squatting next to her and claiming to be an angel doesn’t really help. Danizriel’s statement that vampires, werewolves, and angels are all real, and that Helena is now most likely both angelic and a vampire, sets Helena on course for a new life; one filled with danger and peopled with myths.

Angel’s Kiss is a unique take on angel mythology, drawing on the stories of Satan’s fall and intertwining it with vampires, werewolves, and angelic power politics. Melanie Tomlin’s angels are psychologically similar to human men, subject to the same lusts, jealousies, and propensity for violence that is usually deemed to be the bastion of humanity, offering an ironic commentary on creation in a deity’s image. The story is peppered with action and drama, not least due to the flaring physical attraction between Danizriel and Helena. I did find that Helena came across as a little shallow as a character, but a little bit more character development would definitely make this book one to recommend.

Conversations with Larry Xenomorph, Jay Cole

Conversations with Larry Xenomorph, Jay Cole

Conversations with Larry Xenomorph

Jay Cole’s Conversations with Larry Xenomorph starts in a padded cell and a straitjacket. Tony Sterling, New York stock trader, committed the faux pas of appearing in the middle of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor after his lunch break stark naked and claiming that he’d been abducted by aliens. The New York legal and medical systems have a tried and tested procedure in place for that kind of behaviour, and Tony found himself admitted to Sunny Park hospital in short order. His admission to psychiatric care didn’t prevent the alien from beaming him up to orbit at frequent intervals, any more than his decision to tell his doctors the truth persuaded them that he wasn’t delusional. All in all, the only thing Tony had to look forwards to, in his involuntary professional reincarnation as a wise-ass, was feeding Larry as much inaccurate information as the alien would swallow…

Conversations with Larry Xenomorph is a devastatingly, hilariously accurate commentary on every aspect of current society from Facebook to political correctness to the reason for the CIA, as told by a stock broker to an alien from outer space. Jay Cole’s characters are brilliantly depicted and utterly convincing, bringing their own colour to the story, from the engineer who feathers his chess pieces to Nurse Mo’s complete incapacity to use full sentences faced with Nurse Tammy. Peppered with one-line knock-downs and edged with impeccably-timed satire, this book officially marks the first time I’ve ever cried with laughter on a bus. I can’t over-recommend it.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.