Review: SP4RX

sp4rxHaving read How to Survive in the North, I’ve got a 100% success rate with graphic novels – read one, loved one. Wren McDonald’s SP4RX, a cyber punk novel set in a dystopian future, maintains my winning streak – read two, loved two. It’s a riveting, thriller of a read – and one to make you think.

SP4RX, a not-to-be-messed-with computer hacker, becomes involved in a do-or-die struggle with Structus Industries who are using technology to control the impoverished people on the ‘lower levels’, while the ‘upper levels’ flourish and live a life of indulgence. Desperate and alone, his only hope is a mysterious band of insurgents who plan to bring the system crashing down around them – but can they be trusted?

This is a worthy companion (or more likely a worthy introduction) to 1984 or Brave New World, classic stories of a class system gone horribly wrong (it also reminded me of a recent film – High Rise – based on a novel by JG Ballard). It serves as a warning against inequality and the relentless corporate mantra which means ‘efficiency’ is used as a justification for any number of evils. SP4RX also serves as a warning about technology and how, in the wrong hands, it brings control rather than freedom. Continue reading

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Review: Animal Babies

animalbabiesAs any parent of young children will know, there comes a moment when it’s time for a clear out. It’s when the floor is no longer visible beneath a carpet of plastic cars, colouring books and various devices which bleep, glow or flash at unpredictable moments. It’s when you no longer tidy the mess but simply bend the knees, stoop low, drive the shoulders into the mass of tat, and shove it piled-high into a corner.

It’s also well-known that clear outs have to be clandestine affairs, carried out stealthily when the kids are in bed. Do this with said children and you’re doomed. Untouched board games suddenly become precious treasures. Fluff-covered superhero figures, left alone for months in some dark recess, are suddenly clutched lovingly to chests. Despite lacking critical parts and despite generating next to no prior interest, jigsaws become vital, as essential as oxygen.

In a recent after hours clear out, and with that unique, stomach-flipping feeling of discovering your children have moved imperceptibly from one stage of life to the next, we filled a bag of board books. My children are babies no more. So many favourites, like Millie Moo, Rainbow Rob, I Like it When – reminders of those special days when books weren’t just read, they were licked and chewed and salivated upon. Books that established a bond between adult and child, before words are understood – when the neurons in the brain are firing in a way that is almost perceptible. Continue reading

Review: Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief

talismanAlfie Bloom is the sort of book that gets children hooked on reading. The narrative zips along – it’s chock-full of magic, mystery, time travel and more evil elves than you can shake a stick at.

The main character, Alfie, and his buddies are easy-going and likeable, and the baddies are of the pantomime kind, inviting a boo-hiss and a wild cheer when they get their comeuppance.

This book, the Talisman Thief, leads on nicely from the first in the series and points enticingly towards the third. It’s a fun, moreish read – you can well imagine this book being devoured, feasted on by fans of Charlie Bone and Harry Potter.