Archive for March, 2020

Hypnos

Jon Biddle

What if the unthinkable became a reality? What if technology could be used against you? A software program has been stolen from the digital vaults of the CIA. It is capable of bridging the gap between A.I. and human consciousness, making a person do whatever the controller wants, creating a potentially terrifying new world. The organisation responsible has racist, right-wing views and a perverted desire to reduce population growth by culling it using the software. Only the rich and the powerful can be part of Asclepius. The software is uploaded to the brain via eye movement using a smartphone, leaving open the possibility for entire countries to be controlled remotely.
Alex Brown, newly-appointed to the B5 Intelligence cell of British intelligence while hunting for the serial killer Dale Broc who has kidnapped her daughter, has been assigned to the case and now has to choose. Will she save the country or her daughter? Hypnos is the second novel in the Alex Brown series. Author Jon Biddle brings extensive medical knowledge coupled with military and law enforcement experience that combines to produce an exciting sequel to The Harvester.


Extract

Jamal was thinking that if time could be reversed now, this would be the time to do it. His right hand was gripped in a vice in his dad’s old shed, with a lunatic screaming in his ear. He watched the South African reach for the lump hammer on the shed wall, leaving a white outline showing where it should always belong.
Like a golfer, Van Den Jong, or Jongy to his mates, took couple of dry swings to the tips of Jamal’s fingers. On the fourth swing it connected. The middle finger was the first to snap, followed immediately by the ring then the forefinger and finally the little one.
Jongy stood back. “Fuckin’ ’ell eh, look at that eh,” he said to Errol. “The little bastard pinky finger Errol, only bashed the top of it, eh.”
Errol shuffled on his feet. A small Zulu from Bulawayo peered at the hand trapped in the vice. Jamal was hang¬ing from said vice, trying to support his trapped arm. Screaming, the pain searing through the limb like a hot needle. He daren’t look at the vice, eyes fixed to the floor, sweat pouring down his face.
Errol reached for a pair of pliers that was marked out next to the lump hammer, felt the weight, like a plier connoisseur.
“What are you doing?” Jongy asked Errol, who looked at
him, showed him the pliers and then motioned to the little finger, still standing proudly next to the other smashed digits.
Jongy looked at Jamal. “Errol just wants to tidy up your hand, your little finger isn’t as smashed up as he would like, eh.”
Jamal looked up. “Fuck you! I’m connected you know, I know people.”
“Oooooo,” Jongy taunted, before tapping Errol who laughed as well.
Errol turned and Jamal screamed as the pliers came closer.
“Errol, the boy has been through enough eh, let’s see if he cooperates.”
Errol nodded and moved out of the way, Jongy crouched. He looked at the hand, which was turning dusky blue around the edges of the vice.
“Tut tut,” he said, he grabbed Jamal’s hair and pulled his head up with it.
“You only have to agree to our terms and I’ll let you go,” Jongy said.
He was well dressed, cropped hair, six foot three and made of what Jamal could only assume was human steel. There was a coldness to his attitude that was unnerving. Well turned out, he didn’t fit the usual reprobate he dealt with. His South African accent was menacing and threaten¬ing. Jamal fought a hard corner. He knew he had a winner, he just needed to hang on a bit longer.
The week previous, Jamal had been hacking American government files and had come across a file marked, ‘Gamma top secret.’
The details of the file were titled HYPNOS. After deep searches on the conventional web and the dark web, he finally made it to the locked vaults of the CIA in Langley. Within minutes, he had download the entire HYPNOS file including the software driver, still not knowing fully what he had. Files and software that had this much security often meant secrets that shouldn’t be made public, or access to software drivers that could be used to aide further his crim¬inal behavior.
When Jamal opened the file, it seemed unbelievable. A software program that could upload instructions to the receiver and the receiver could be made to do whatever the operator wanted. All the software needed was an app-based game, which used eye movement to control the game and soundtrack. This caused a triad of hypnosis to the user, opening the brain-waves for the software to be uploaded.
“Bollocks,” he said out loud.
He quickly found the game that fitted the parameters of the software on the app store, and invited his friends to play the game. Jamal had already hacked most of his friend’s phones, using their location signals to baffle the police for ongoing jobs he did for the criminal underworld. They agreed to play and when he knew they were playing the game, the software did everything else.
Rufus, Jamal’s longtime friend from school, was playing the game in the local pub. Watching him, he had access to the front camera, he could see the progress that he was making while playing it and uploaded the software. Jamal hacked into the security camera at the back of the bar.
With free text, Jamal typed, ‘Steal some beer from the beer tap, and drink it in front of the landlord.’ The software ran algorithms. A few seconds later, the information was being uploaded to the game.
Not more than five seconds later, Rufus put his phone down and walked off. He came into view of the CCTV camera and stopped. He turned almost robotically to the bar, took a step, picked up a half full pint of beer and tipped it on the floor.
The owner of the pint took a step back, demonstrating his anger at what Rufus had done, being quickly held back by the man’s friend.
Rufus didn’t even skip a beat. Leaned over the bar and pulled on the tap. The beer, clear in the footage, was filling up the glass. The beer drinker now incensed. Jamal stifled a laugh.
When the glass was almost full, Rufus took it and started to drink, leaving the tap on, spilling beer all over the floor. At this point, the landlord came into view and was remon-strating. Rufus stood back and drained the beer while stick¬ing his two fingers up at the bar. It was at this point Rufus was wrestled to the ground and dragged out of the bar by the bouncers.
A more sinister exercise – Jamal’s cousin Salma. She worked in the bank as a cashier. He instructed her to steal one thousand pounds secretly, in a way no one would ever know. Deliver it to one of his dead drops by 9 pm that night. Jamal went to the dead drop, scoped the area, then reached into the bush by the phone box. His fingers found the bundle of notes, his heart quickened as he touched them. Pulling them out, he didn’t need to count it. He knew he was on to a winner.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: March 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 334
Genre: Horror
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Tusker

Dougie Arnold

The sudden and violent increase of elephant poaching in the remote Kenya game reserve of Uwingoni threatens its very existence. Those who have devoted themselves to the protection of its precious wildlife seem ill equipped to deal with this new menace.
However, the arrival of two young people with no experience of Africa might just prove a turning point. For the first time in his life Harry feels he has found somewhere he really belongs and something he can fight for and believe in. Ana, a journalist escaping the horrors of a different war, brings a fresh insight into the battle against poaching as she struggles with her own internal demons.
They soon realise they are up against forces far more powerful and brutal than they could ever have imagined. Foreign investors driven by greed, corrupt government officials and religious fanatics with no boundaries, draw them deeper into a web of evil.
Half of all the net profits due to the author will be used to help organisations committed to elephant conservation.


Author Interview

What is your favourite thing about writing books?
I become so engrossed in the characters I am writing about that they become totally real in my head. Their strengths and vulnerabilities in many ways mirror those of a mixture of people I have known in life and of course there is some of me in there too. I like them to be able to behave in ways that allow them dig deep and believe in themselves. So often in our own lives those we know who have real talents or ability don’t have enough self belief to become the person they really are. Combining that with writing about a subject I am really passionate about, in the case of Tusker, elephant poaching, is a strong combination and makes writing itself such a powerful experience.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
My favourite character is Ana. She really feels for the world around her. As a young journalist in a war zone she wants to tell the stories of ordinary people that so often get forgotten. Yet despite her inner strength, her experiences get close to breaking her. How living in a remote Kenyan game reserve helps her to overcome her fears and find herself again is a particularly powerful thread running through the book.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Ginger herbal tea.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
I write in the north facing side of the house as the garden and sunshine on the other side distract me. However, people are often walking by, frequently the same ones at around the same time each day and I start to wonder about their lives. My mind is transported to imaginary homes and places of work and if they seem interesting individuals I find it quite hard to refocus on my writing.

How did you research your book?
The fifteen years I spent living in Kenya gave me a great insight into many sides of the country. However, I read up all sorts of additional information on elephants themselves as well as many in depth reports on elephant poaching and its devastating effects.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Definitely a pantser. I find that plays a vital part in my enjoyment of writing. I love not really knowing where my imagination is going to take me until I sit in front of the computer. Of course my head is endlessly full of ideas but the outline of the story is on a single sheet of A4 paper.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
I would live in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. You can almost feel and breath it once you get drawn in. Although it is fantasy it has a remarkable knack of making us believe we are actually a part of it as we read. Who wouldn’t want to pass some time chatting contentedly in the Shire, marvel at the magic of Rivendell, overcome the darkness of Mirkwood and ultimately join the band of those fighting to overthrow the powers of evil. I believe Tolkien fell in love with his own mythology and showed the most amazing self belief to create new worlds, creatures and even languages which through books or films have been enjoyed by millions the world over.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
When I first read Winnie the Pooh as a young boy I thought he was the most wonderful, happy, fun creation and all these years later he remains the fictional character I would most enjoy as a friend. There is a simplicity and innocence about him that is sorely missed in the stresses of today’s world. There is so much joy in his adventures and to be one of his friends and to share in them would be utterly magical. We all know Tiggers, Rabbits or Kangas in our daily lives but Pooh was the glue that held them all together. He said simple, profound things but this is probably my favourite, “Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.” Who wouldn’t want Winnie the Pooh as a special friend?

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: March 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 298
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Sully’s Glow

Simi Godagama

Harpi the eagle discovers her inner voice that guides her to Sully, a boy with a glow. Sully is unaware of his glow until he discovers he has the capacity to help someone in need. After he meets Harpi, together they meet more friends who each in turn have their own issues that heal and transform through their encounters with one another. Eventually with their combined energy, they transform the world they live in. Sad Sully becomes Smiling Sully, Hopeless Harp becomes Hopeful Harpi, Perfect Parrot becomes Pitch Perfect Parrot, Greedy Giraffe becomes Grateful Giraffe and Cranky Croc turns into Courageous Croc.


Sully’s Glow is a charming little story about how four different animals and a human, who are struggling with inner demons, work together to find each other’s worth and to help each other become happier. It has a good rhyming feel to the book that allows it to be easy to be read aloud to children as well. I really enjoyed the moral story at the centre of this book and I know that my niece would really enjoy this book. It’s also got some amazing illustrations as well that really bring the story to life.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially to those children aged 5-8 who are struggling to find friends. Perhaps they feel like they don’t belong anywhere, or that they are too ugly, or too bored or simply too angry. This book shows that if you open your heart and help one person that you will feel better yourself and it may just lead to a wonderful friendship. It’s just got a lovely feel to the book that I really enjoyed.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: March 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 88
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Children
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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