Review: Machines Like Me – Ian McEwan

Machines Like Me

Ian McEwan

Penguin Random House Australia

Jonathan Cape

ISBN: 9781787331679

Description:

Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding.

 

Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control.

 

 

 

 

My View:

A novel set in an alternative 1980’s but not too alternative; Ian McEwan presents a viewpoint that is credible and relatable. I found it particularly interesting that he reminds us of the dialogue that surrounded the introduction of computers in the workplace back in the early 80’s; the question of what will we do with all the spare time computers have freed up for us? Sound familiar? Where is that time?

 

Sci – fi is not a genre that I usually find myself drawn to (unless you count my delight with early Stephen King short stories) however this book reads smoothly, is engaging and presents a few moral dilemmas relating to the meaning of life and leading an life of integrity. I enjoyed looking through a lens of “what ifs” and possibilities that artificial intelligence offers the human race. The big question for the reader, what does it means to be human?

 

An enjoyable and thought provoking read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

The Psychology of Time Travel

The Psychology of Time Travel

Kate Mascarenhas

Harper Collins

Head of Zeus

ISBN: 9781788540117

 

Description:

1967: Four female scientists invent a time-travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril.

 

2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future–a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady.

 

2018: When Odette discovered the body, she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when the inquest fails to answer any of her questions, Odette is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

 

 

My View:

This is a really difficult book to review because it is unique; the cover might look soft and fuzzy but the content is complex, at times brutal and always interesting. It is a mash up of genres- time travel, romance and a family orientated, murder mystery with a serious feminist bent that uses the framework of time travel to reflect on issues relating to power, control, bullying, hazing, racism, workplace harassment, mental health, the justice system and sexual equality (my list is not exhaustive).

 

The characters are all very strong, intelligent, talented, resourceful women. It is so unusual to find a narrative where intelligent women in control of their own futures, shape and dictate the narrative; this is feminism that doesn’t preach its message, it doesn’t “tell” just “shows” without anger or recriminations; it just “is”. And in doing so, is such a refreshing read. Bravo!

 

 

 

Review: Beneath The Mother Tree – D M Cameron

Beneath The Mother Tree by D M Cameron

Beneath The Mother Tree

D M Cameron

MidnightSun Publishing

ISBN: 9781925227390

 

Description:

A spine-chilling mystery and contemporary love story, Beneath the Mother Tree plays out in a unique and wild Australian setting, interweaving Indigenous history and Irish mythology.

 

On a small island, something sinister is at play. Resident alcoholic Grappa believes it’s the Far Dorocha, dark servant of the Faery queen, whose seductive music lures you into their abyss. His granddaughter Ayla has other ideas, especially once she meets the mysterious flute player she heard on the beach.

 

Riley and his mother have moved to the island to escape their grief. But when the tight-knit community is beset by a series of strange deaths, the enigmatic newcomers quickly garner the ire of the locals. Can Ayla uncover the mystery at the heart of the island’s darkness before it is too late?

 

Wrought with sensuousness and lyricism, D.M. Cameron’s debut novel Beneath the Mother Tree is a thrilling journey, rhythmically fierce and eagerly awaited.

 

 

My View:

This is a unique read. An amazing debut that is sensitively written, evocative, and dreamy, at times with a childlike innocence that beguiles the reader.  There is a wonderful mix of Indigenous and Irish traditional/folk stories that support a strong narrative that focusses on family, family ties and love.  There is a sinister touch as historical and present day crimes intersect where blood has been shed and an evil miasma lurks.

 

This is a powerful story unlike any other I have read. How do you define this read, speculative fiction, love story, historical fiction, faery tale…so many styles create this engaging read.  Maybe we shouldn’t try to define this, we should just read and enjoy.

Welcome AK Alliss to My Blog

 

frame

Frame

AK Alliss

Atlas Productions Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9780995377615

Last year I was privileged to read the unpublished manuscript of AK ( Adam) Alliss’s contemporary novel, Frame.

AK Alliss introduces himself, talks about his writing and discusses Frame in this short video.  My review will follow shortly.

Thanks so much for sharing you story with us Adam.

New and Old Friends – Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival Day 3

Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival

This years festival has been outstanding! I have been privileged to hear some great authors share stories about their latest releases and writing in general. Some are “old friends” (authors I have read previously to the festival), some are “newly discovered friends”.   Thank  you Sulari Gentill, Sara Foster (and hello to Sara’s charming parents), Dr Liz Byrski, Rosemary SayerBernice Barry, Ann Turner, Madelaine Dickie, Josh Langley, Ian Andrew (always a delight to meet a fellow blogger who just happens to be a best selling crime fiction writer)  What generous people you all are!  Sadly I could not attend every session or the External/parallel events… so much talent so little time 🙂

 

I will wind up my spotlight on the festival with a few images from day 3.

 

day 3 MRRWF 005

Short Story Panel

 

Michael Cathcart interviews Ann Turner

Michael Cathcart interviews Ann Turner

 

 

 

And

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2015

completed challenge

 

Congrats! You have read 200 books of a goal of 200!

Now that wasn’t so hard was it? It is the reviewing 200 books that is the hard work.

 

Post Script: Clade – James Bradley

Cover Clade James Bradley

Clade

James Bradley

Penguin

Hamish Hamilton

ISBN: 9781926428659

 

Description:

On a beach in Antarctica, scientist Adam Leith marks the passage of the summer solstice. Back in Sydney his partner Ellie waits for the results of her latest round of IVF treatment.

 

That result, when it comes, will change both their lives and propel them into a future neither could have predicted. In a collapsing England Adam will battle to survive an apocalyptic storm. Against a backdrop of growing civil unrest at home, Ellie will discover a strange affinity with beekeeping. In the aftermath of a pandemic, a young man finds solace in building virtual recreations of the dead. And new connections will be formed from the most unlikely beginnings.

 

Clade is the story of one family in a radically changing world, a place of loss and wonder where the extraordinary mingles with the everyday. Haunting, lyrical and unexpectedly hopeful, it is the work of a writer in command of the major themes of our time.

 

My View:

A book with many angles and connections – a narrative that will make you pause to consider the world we live in and the world we will leave behind us. I was quite surprised by the direction this narrative took – first we are introduced to the topic of IVF; this issue was sensitively and powerfully told and I thought that this is what the central story was about – infertility, but I was mistaken, this is just an introduction to the overarching thread about family, connections, the primal response to protect ones family and the bigger picture issue of climate change.

 

This narrative takes us on a tumultuous ride through the three generations of one family all living in rapidly changing environments. For me I found the potential of this work of fiction to plausibly suggest the way our changing planet is heading to be slightly depressing though I think the overall message is a glimpse of what could come, a message tinged with optimism that we are adaptable and that there is hope… Clade is a very literary, not too distant, example of science fiction. It is very powerfully written.

 

**A clade is a grouping that includes a common ancestor and all the descendants (living and extinct) of that ancestor. (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/search/imagedetail.php?id=260&topic_id=&keywords )