20 September 2017

An Exclusive FREEBIE and GIVEAWAY: Silent Fear by Lance and James Morcan

"When you can't hear... death comes suddenly."


So goes the tagline for the new suspense novel, Silent Fear by Lance Morcan and James Morcan - a father and son author team from New Zealand. Now all my awesome readers have a chance to get a free advanced readers copy of Silent Fear, and an opportunity to win a physical copy! 




Silent Fear is dedicated to the many millions of deaf people around the world. This novel was inspired by the murders of deaf students at Gallaudet University, one of the world’s most prestigious learning institutions for the deaf, between 1980 and the early 2000’s. The investigating authorities didn’t know if the killings were ‘inside jobs’ and for a time nearly everyone connected to Gallaudet was under suspicion. 


Synopsis


Scotland Yard detective Valerie Crowther is assigned to investigate the murder of a student at a university for the Deaf in London, England. The murder investigation coincides with a deadly flu virus outbreak, resulting in the university being quarantined from the outside world. 

When more Deaf students are murdered, it becomes clear there is a serial killer operating within the sealed-off university. A chilling cat-and-mouse game evolves as the unknown killer targets Valerie and the virus claims more lives. 

A stunning, claustrophobic, "whodunit" murder mystery with shades of horror, sci-fi and romance, Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes) is the eighth novel by the father-and-son writing team Lance & James Morcan. Included is a commentary by Deaf filmmaker Brent Macpherson on the unique aspects of Deaf culture the story covers. Together, the Morcans and Macpherson are currently developing a feature film adaptation of Silent Fear



Detective Valerie Crowther - concept art

The unique premise, and the early reviews make me very excited to read this novel myself.  

Silent Fear will be available on October 31, but you can pre-order it right now on Amazon: 


https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075HRYTVC/


Buzz about Silent Fear


In the meantime, you can read the early reviews of Silent Fear on Goodreads: 



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35626239-silent-fear

"What a great story! I didn't figure out who the killer was until the last chapter, and it still had a surprising twist! I had to read the book in one sitting!" - Beth. Goodreads reviewer 

"Very suspenseful from beginning to end. The characters are very well written. The story moves along very nicely. I've recommended this book to many of my friends already... it's a MUST-READ" 
-Troy, Goodreads reviewer  

You can also join the discussion group for Silent Fear on Goodreads: 




The best part is that you can sign up right now to get a FREE advanced readers copy of Silent Fear!  It's a gift to all of us book lovers from the authors of the novel. There's no catch. No string attached. Just submit your name and your e-mail address to receive your very own ARC of Silent Fear!  

NOTE that this book is COPYRIGHT protected, and cannot be shared. It's for private use only!




About the authors


Lance

New Zealand novelist, screenwriter and film producer Lance Morcan is a prolific writer with various published books and released movies to his credit. His novels include the international thriller series THE ORPHAN TRILOGY (The Ninth Orphan / The Orphan Factory / The Orphan Uprising) and the historical adventure series THE WORLD DUOLOGY (World Odyssey / Fiji: A Novel). All five novels were co-written with his son James Morcan and published by Sterling Gate Books. The Morcans' first non-fiction title, THE ORPHAN CONSPIRACIES, was published recently. Their production company, Morcan Motion Pictures, is developing The Ninth Orphan and Fiji into feature films. 


A former journalist and newspaper editor, Lance divides his time these days between novel writing, film producing and screenwriting. Numerous screenplays he has written are in active development as movies and as a producer his feature films have screened at cinemas in Australia, Italy and Cannes.

Lance is currently perfecting his solo-written 'New Zealand' - an epic adventure novel covering 500 years of South Pacific and Polynesian history. Including research, writing (and life's distractions!), this novel has been over a decade in the making.


James


New Zealand-born actor/writer/producer James Morcan resides in Sydney, Australia. His books include
the international thriller series THE ORPHAN TRILOGY (The Ninth Orphan / The Orphan Factory / The Orphan Uprising) and the historical adventure series THE WORLD DUOLOGY (World Odyssey / Fiji: A Novel) and the controversial non-fiction UNDERGROUND KNOWLEDGE SERIES (Genius Intelligence / Antigravity Propulsion etc). These books were all co-written with his father Lance Morcan and published by Sterling Gate Books. Their production company, Morcan Motion Pictures, is developing The Ninth Orphan and Fiji into feature films.

James' most recent acting performance was a leading role in the post-Apocalyptic feature film 'After Armageddon' which he also wrote. The dystopian adventure film was shot in rural Australia in early 2015 and Morcan co-starred with Berynn Schwerdt ('Wyrmwood').


Other recent leading roles include the OZ-Bollywood productions 'My Cornerstone' and 'Love You Krishna'. Morcan also wrote the screenplays for both features which were filmed in Sydney and Mumbai and incorporated English and Hindi languages.


Additional productions he has performed in include a BBC TV series, several indie features and a live stadium production of Ben Hur headlined by Academy Award winner Russell Crowe. To date, his feature films have screened at cinemas in New Zealand, India, Australia, Italy and Cannes.



The exclusive giveaway


You think the ARC freebie is cool? Well, you can also win your very own physical copy of Silent Fear by filling out the form below. You contact info is private, and the winner will be chosen at random. 




Entry-Form


So enter now for a chance to win a copy of this exciting new thriller!




13 September 2017

Rainy TBR: Autumn Reading

Autumn is officially here. Wet, and grey, and wonderful. Autumn is the season of bad colds. It's the season of diving headfirst into a new school semester. And, most importantly, it's the season of books.

For me, autumn is the best reading season. It has the perfect weather conditions for staying inside, with a good book, and hot cup of coffee/tee/coco. The thing about this season, is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing your book. You can fully immerse yourself into the dark, and read a good old Stephen King horror. Or you can dream yourself away to a warmer and sunnier place like, say, Ray Bradbury's Green Town, or Mars.

In my anticipation for this reading season, I've been outlining my autumn TBR, and this is what I have come up with. Some of these books have followed me from the summer TBR. There are some re-reads, too. Nothing  is, of course, written in stone. The TBR is more of a guideline, than a fixed to-do list.





Currently reading

1. Among Others 

by Jo Walton 



2. It

by Stephen King 





NetGalley requests 

3. Glenn Miller Declassified

by Dennis M. Spragg




4. Charmed: A Thousand Deaths

by Erica Schultz 



Nanowrimo 2017

5. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft 

by Stephen King 




6. Zen in the Art of Writing

by Ray Bradbury




For fun 

7. Frankenstein

by Mary Shelley



8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

by Philip K. Dick




9. "Deny All Knowledge": Reading The X-Files

by David Lavery and Angela Hague (editors)



10. Leviathan Wakes

by James A. Corey 



11. Two Serpents Rise 

by Max Gladstone


In other news, I passed the re-exams (more relieved than happy), and now I'm doing something completely different, like studying dental anatomy, and making tooth models out of wax (it sounds more fun than it is). 

Nanowrimo is coming soon. I still haven't decided what project I'm going to tackle this year, Perhaps, I'm going to do something different altogether, and finish all my short stories. Or, maybe, I'll write a worldbuilding bible for a my new YA fantasy project.   

6 September 2017

Book Review: Cat's Cradle

Title: Cats' Cradle
Author: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
First published in 1963 by

I read the SF Masterworks edition by Orion Group Publishing.

Source: Malmö City Library


"Told with deadpan humour & bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut's cult tale of global destruction preys on our deepest fears of witnessing Armageddon &, worse still, surviving it ...

Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding 'fathers' of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he's the inventor of 'ice-nine', a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker's three eccentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness. Felix Hoenikker's Death Wish comes true when his last, fatal gift to humankind brings about the end, that for all of us, is nigh..." 




"
Don't be a fool! Close this book at once! It is nothing but foma!"

Cat's Cradle is a classic, and after hearing so much about it, I was expecting something in line with Nineteen Eighty Four, Fahrenheit 451, or The Man in the High Castle. You know, a grim look at a dystopian/apocalyptic world. Cat's Cradle is none of those things. It's apocalyptic alright, but not in the way I expected it to be.

In Cat's Cradle we follow a man named Jonah, who wants to write a book about what important Americans were doing on the day that Hiroshima was bombed. One of those important Americans is Dr. Felix Hoenikker, aka. one of the fathers of the atomic bomb.

Jonah's research eventually takes him to the impoverished republic of San Lorenzo, ruled by an ailing dictator, and where everybody practises Bokononism, a pseudo-religion named after its founder. 

It's on San Lorenzo that things start spinning out of control, and Jonah becomes less concerned with his writing project and more concerned with Ice-9 - a deadly substance created by Hoenikker, as well as Bokononism, and the leadership of San Lorenzo.

In short, Cat's Cradle is satire. Here, Vonnegut rips at religion, science, politics, and at mankind itself. The characters here are mostly caricatures. Parodies of... well, real life people.

The book is cynical, and it basically claims that life is meaningless. That nothing matters. That there is no grand scheme, no purpose to us being here. Things just happen. Take the main hero, Jonah, who starts out with a clear goal but is instead swept up in the events that lie outside of his control, and that eventually lead to him writing this story instead. Things happen to him, and he just reacts to them.

Then there's Bokononism, the bogus religion that Bokonon made up as an ironic joke. Or, foma, as he calls it, which means a "harmless untruth". This foma is nonetheless adapted by the entire population of San Lorenzo, and ultimately, by Jonah himself. But even though Bokonon explicitly states hat he just trolled everyone with his made-up religion, the people of San Lorenzo take it seriously, and practise it even under the threat of death. Bokonon's so-called teachings, which he commemorates in The Books of Bokonon, are one of the best parts of the book. 

But the most ironic thing about this pseudo-religion is that, when shit hits the fan, and the people of San Lorenzo are in dire need of comfort, and guidance, Bokononism offers them neither. Ultimately, The Books of Bokonon don't have anything of importance to say about anything, and this very elaborate prank has no pay-off. Which is, kind of, the point.

I posted a link to the complete Books of Bokonon at the end of this review, but I want to post a few verses here, just to give you a taste.

Upon discovering Bokononism, Jonah becomes convinced that some of the people he meets on his journey belong to his karass:

"If you find your life tangled up with somebody else's life for no very logical reasons that person may be a member of your karass."

And no karass is complete without a shared purpose, the so-called wampeter:

"No karass is without a wampeter, just as no wheel is without a hub."

And then there's the granfallon, which can be described the "false karass". For instance, in the story, Jonah, who is originally from Indiana, meets another Hosier couple. These people immediately assume that just because they all come from the same state, they share a special bond, and must be loyal to each other. That is the perfect example of a granfalloon.    

Or,

"If you wish to study a granfalloon,
Just remove the skin of a toy balloon."

Cat's Cradle goes further into committing to its claim about the randomness and absurdity of life by not having a coherent plot structure. Instead, it consists of separate, short vignettes. There is the main story with Jonah, San Lorenzo, and the Ice-9, but some of these vignettes don't have any direct ties to the main story, and are instead just random anecdotes about Felix Hoenikker, Bokonon, and the other characters. And the most amazing thing is that it all comes together almost seamlessly. At the very least, these anecdotes help us understand the characters, and the crazy hyper-reality that they inhabit. For instance, did I need to know that Dr. Hoenikker kept potted plants in his car? No, but that little factoid contributes so much to understanding what kind of man Dr. Hoenikker was, and why he developed Ice-9 in the first place that I'm glad it's there.

Let's talk about Dr. Hoenikker, as he is the engine that drives the story. In an interview (link below), Vonnegut said that he was once a firm believer in the technological and scientific progress but that he became very disillusioned with science, and with scientists in particular when Hiroshima was bombed.

And what Vonnegut wanted with Cat's Cradle was to write about the apathetic scientists who didn't care how they their research was being used. In fact, Dr. Hoenikker was based on a real scientist that Vonnegut had once worked with.

Hoenikker himself isn't portrayed as the "mad scientist", but as a man who is completely apathetic to anything that doesn't directly concern his research. Even his own family exists in the background, and in those rare instances when he does interact with his children, he ends up frightening them with his eccentric behaviour.

"Sometimes I wonder if he wasn't born dead. I never met a man who was less interested in the living. Sometimes I think that's the trouble with the world: too many people in high places who are stone-cold dead." 


And this is why the "absent-minded, apathetic scientist" is a much more interesting character than the classic frizzle-haired, bug-eyed "mad scientist" (I'm not sure if the latter was ever interesting). Hoenikker is apathetic to the world around him, but he isn't evil. What makes him dangerous is not that he's ambitious, or that he's only "doing science for the sake of science", not caring if his inventions will fall into the wrong hands. He's dangerous because he lacks empathy. Because he's so oblivious to the people around him, he doesn't stop to think that his work can potentially hurt billions of people. Hence, the atom bomb and the much more terrifying Ice-9.


So, nothing matters. Life is meaningless, and the Universe is indifferent to the plight of the human race. Irresponsible science leads to disastrous consequences, and religion offers no answers. In other words: life's a bitch, and then you die. 

When you put it like that, Cat's Cradle seems like a real downer of a book. And maybe there is some truth to that. This isn't an optimistic book. And yet, this is one of the funniest books I have ever read, ever. I was laughing hard almost the whole time I was reading it. And that doesn't happen often. 

Cat's Cradle's cynicism is hard to miss, and I can't say that this book has a heart. In fact, I don't think that any book where the cat and the dog get killed can have a heart, even if the deaths are only mentioned. But it definitely has the humour. This humour many not be for everybody. The thing with Cat's Cradle is that you either buy Vonnegut's absurdity or you don't. I personally like the absurd humour, and the non-traditional storytelling, so Cat's Cradle was an easy sell to me. 

And yet, with all the jokes, and all the goofiness, you can still read Vonnegut's disappointment between the lines. Especially towards the end, when he drops all the pretences, and all the forced optimism (if there was any to begin with), and just gives up on the human race. And even though for the most part, I don't agree with his ideas in this book, I certainly understand where he's coming from.

Well, this was my review of Cat's Cradle. It's a book that really appeals to my cynical, darker side, and it's definitely one of those books that demands at least one re-read. It's funny how such a short book can have so many layers, and hidden messages to be discovered.  

My rating

Plot: 5 stars
Story: 5 stars
Characters: 4 stars
Language: 5 stars 

Average: 4,75 stars

Minus 1 star for killing both the cat and the dog.

Final rating: 3.75 stars. 


Here are the links that I promised:

The Kurt Vonnegut Interview


In other news, I'm still listening to Stephen King's It, because I really want to see the movie. Oh, and because the book is very interesting. So now, I bid you adieu because, as Bokonon says, 

"It's never a mistake to say goodbye." 

27 August 2017

Farewell Summer: a Wrap-up

Who else is going back to school next week?

Yep, the summer is almost over, and I can barely recall what I have been doing these past three months. I've been studying, and listening to Stephen King's It. I've been going to the gym... oh, and I binge-watched Marvel's The Defenders. That's quite an accomplishment, wouldn't you say?

Most importantly, I've been reading a lot. I read a total of eleven books. I wrote six book reviews, and one movie review. I'll get to the list very soon, but first, an announcement.

I officially have a Bookstagram account now! It's called Books on Fire, and it's basically my personal Instagram account that I made public. I also deleted all the selfies, and other private stuff. I'm posting almost every day. Book hauls, pretty pictures of books and Star Wars coffee mugs, it's all there. You can follow me there on @dinaratengri.

And now to the wrap-up!

Book summer 2017

The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons - 5 stars

The Prestige  by Christopher Priest - 5 stars

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine - 5 stars

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury - 5 stars
I haven't reviewed this book yet, but it's a must read for every up-and-coming writer.  

The X-Files: Cold Cases - 5 stars

DC Essential Graphic Novels 2017 - 4 stars
I got this guide on Netgalley, and it's a really good way start your DC comic book obsession.

Artemis by Andy Weir - 3,5 stars

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone - 3 stars

The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus - 3 stars
I didn't review this book because, honestly, I don't have anything intelligent to say about it.

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Finished this book two days ago, and I'm working on that review!


Movie Summer 2017 

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 - 10/10 stars

Wonder Woman - 8/10 stars

War for the Planet of the Apes - 7/10 stars


Summer Book and Movie Haul

So, I actually only bought two physical books this summer:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

and

The Grand Design by Sephen Hawking


I did buy a bunch of DVD:s, though:

Deadpool

Home Alone

Iron Man

The Terminator 

The Theory of Everything

Well, this sums up my summer of 2017. How did you spend yours?

23 August 2017

E-book Review: Artemis

Title: Artemis
Author: Andy Weir
Expected publication date: November 14, 2017 
Publisher: Del Rey

Source: I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 


Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.


And, I'm back! I think this was the longest I went without posting anything ever. So sorry about that. Life got in the way, and I had to put all my free time stuff on hold. Even the reading. But, I'm back with a new review, that took me a good two weeks to write, so let's get down to business.

First, I want to thank Netgalley and the publisher for the chance to be one of the first to read this book. And, of course, my review will be one hundred percent honest, and spoiler free.

Artemis has been one of the toughest book to review, which is surprising since it's been one of the easiest and most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. I wrote three separate drafts before finally settling on this one, because I couldn't put my thoughts into writing in a coherent way. There was one part of me that really liked the book, and another part that couldn't get over some of the stuff I found problematic. It was real Jekyll and Hyde situation in terms of forming an opinion about one book.

And this has nothing to do with the fact that I wanted a story about a girl astronaut who got stranded on the Moon, and had to science the crap out of it to stay alive. I know that this isn't The Martian. I accept that.

So, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to talk about all the stuff that make Artemis a great and fun book. Then, I'm going to rant about the parts that I didn't like. And finally, I'm going to wrap up the review by once again bringing up the positives and telling you why you should definitely add Artemis to your autumn TBR. I think this method is called a "compliment sandwich". 

Also, I've been in a very weird mood lately. Mostly because I've been studying the whole summer, and I have a cold, so I'm tired, and cranky. And that's why this review is going to have this stream of consciousness kind of outline, instead of the well-structured, and sophisticated style that I'm known for.  

The praise

Artemis is a very entertaining book. It's has a heist, a murder mystery, and some political games thrown into the mix. It's definitely a story that we've seen and/or read many times before. What makes Artemis unique is that it takes place on the Moon. It's the setting (imagine a metal box on the surface of a barren satellite) that immediately raises the stakes for the heroes, and gives you a nice little feeling of claustrophobia and urgency.

Without a doubt, the best part of Artemis is Artemis. The only city outside of the Earth's gravitational pull, it's a multicultural beehive that lives by its own rules, and where the harshest punishment for any crime is deportation back to Earth. Artemis is the mother of all technological achievements, made conceivable by the author's fantastic grasp of physics, and all things science. But it's the smugglers, the greedy businessmen, and the corrupt leadership that make Artemis feel like a real city.

Artemis feels more like a movie than a novel. Partially so, because the style is very visual, making it very easy to envision the city, and to follow the story. But also because it's written very much like a sci fi action flick. The dialogue is also very movie-like. No spoilers, of course, but the last few paragraphs, especially, feel like the last scene in a big blockbuster, right before the end credits roll.

Another thing that I like about Artemis is the pacing. As our main heroine, Jasmine, is constantly on the move, so is the story. The story feels like a smooth train ride: it goes fast, but you can still appreciate the view, and reflect upon the journey.

This is a very straightforward, "what you see is what you get" kind of book. It isn't bogged down by deep philosophical discussions or abstract symbolism, because the story doesn't need any of that. It's a story about a young space smuggler who's rebelling against an evil organisation.


I want to talk some more about Jasmine Bashara, because she's the protagonist, the narrator, and the backbone of the whole book. I ended up having a weird love/hate relationship with her. On the one hand, she's supersmart but totally relatable, down-to-Earth, and funny, while on the other hand, I found her attitude, and her constant swearing very annoying.

Jasmine is a strong protagonist, and she carries her story well. The story depends not only on her skills and smarts (which she has to spare), but also on her ability to grow as a character, which she totally does. She has a good arc; a redemption story, if you will. As a native of Artemis, Jasmine embodies all the qualities of this unique city: she's an outlaw with a heart of gold, who lives by her own code, and who will stop at nothing to protect her city (I just realised that I basically described Batman).


The rant

And now to the parts of Artemis that didn't sit so well with me. I almost didn't want to bring them up, because I didn't want to be petty. But these grievances are what kept me from really loving this book.

The dialogue. I already mentioned that it's very movie-like, which I think is great. If anything, it's going to make the job easier when they write the screenplay for the movie version. What I personally don't like is when almost every character is being a quippy, and sarcastic. 

I'm sure there are people who like this particular style, but it's way too quippy for my taste. The characters are wisecracking, and roasting each other left and right, and they put so many pop culture and sci fi references in their conversations, you'd think that Artemis is just one big Lunar Comic Con. And if it was, I can only imagine the cost of tickets.

The sci fi lingo didn't bother me. I mean, why would it? What did bother me was how awkward and juvenile these characters sound. At some point, I was wondering if the Artemisians have spent too much time on the Moon, and have developed their own way of expressing themselves. Which, now that I think about it, isn't that far-fetched.

It's one thing for the main protagonist to be a wise-ass (it worked for Mark Whatney), but when every character is talking like a sarcastic space pirate, it takes away from the characters' individuality, and it doesn't fit in a story this strong.


The verdict

And Artemis is strong. The science is great. Weir explains the complicated parts so well that even I, with my rusty high school physics can follow, but he doesn't dumb it down. He doesn't sell the science short. The plot may not be the most original, but it's tight, and the location makes the mystery exciting. The city of Artemis is a gleaming gem, but I wouldn't want to live there. Not until they work out all the kinks (you'll know what I mean once you've read the book).

Finally, this book comes with a great underlying message. Artemis is a multicultural melting pot, but not only do all the residents get along without falling into the usual "us versus them" routine we have here on Earth, but they all see themselves and each other as Artemisians.

There's the "us versus them" mentality between the residents of Artemis, and the tourists, which is understandable, because Artemis is such a tightly knit community, where the residents feel a kinship regardless of where they originally come from. Probably because they all come from the same planet. The fact that they manage to co-exist without any major conflicts makes sense, because order and peace are essential to the city's survival. That, and nobody wants to get deported back to Earth and face gravitational sickness. 

There seems to be an "all of for one, and one for all" theme both in The Martian, and in Artemis. In The Martian, the whole world came together to save one man, and in Artemis, this one girl will do anything to save her entire world. I like this theme. It gives me hope for our species.

So, go and read Artemis. It comes out on November 14th this year, so save the date. It will be worth your wait. Especially if you like sci fi, nerding out, and cool science.
  

My rating
Plot: 4 stars
Story: 4 stars
Characters: 3 stars
Language: 3 stars

Average: 3,5 stars

7 August 2017

Before They Were Blockbusters: The Prestige

Edit: This review has been updated on August 8, 2017.

Welcome to the first episode of Before They Were Blockbusters, a whole new series where I review books that became the basis for popular movies and movie franchises. My goal with this series is not to compare the books with their big screen adaptations, but to discover the books behind some of my favourite movies.

First book in this series is The Prestige by Christopher Priest. The book was adapted to the big screen in 2005 by Christopher Nolan. I liked the movie quite a bit, even though I found it a little melodramatic. When I found out that the movie was based on a book, I immediately wanted to read that book. 


So, without further any ado, here's The Prestige

Note, that is a spoiler free review, so if you haven't read the book (nor seen the movie) you have nothing to worry about. 



Title: The Prestige 
Author: Christopher Priest
First published in 1995
I read the 2011 edition by Gollanz
Language: English
Source: I purchased it.

In 1878, two young stage magicians clash in the dark during the course of a fraudulent seance. From this moment on, their lives become webs of deceit and revelation as they vie to outwit and expose one another. 
Their rivalry will take them to the peaks of their careers, but with terrible consequences. In the course of pursuing each other's ruin, they will deploy all the deception their magicians' craft can command--the highest misdirection and the darkest science. 
Blood will be spilled, but it will not be enough. In the end, their legacy will pass on for generations...to descendants who must, for their sanity's sake, untangle the puzzle left to them.



The Prestige tells the story of two stage magicians in Victorian England - Alfred Borden, and Rupert Angier, and of their life-long feud with each other. The feud begins when Borden - a young and naïve illusionist, is trying to expose Angier during a seance he is conducting with a bereaved family. From then on, the two equally brilliant, and equally obsessive men will stop at nothing to ruin each others careers. Their feud does not end with their deaths, and is instead perpetuated by their children and grandchildren, surviving way into the present-day.


It is in the present-day England that we meet a young journalist by the name of Andrew Westley, as well as Katherine Angier, one of the last descendants of Rupert Angier. One of the first things we learn about Andrew is that he's adopted, and that the name of his biological family is Borden. We follow Andrew and Katherine as they are trying to uncover the truth about the feud by reading the journals of their respective ancestors. By finding the truth, the two of them hope to shed some light on the traumatic event Katherine experienced in her own childhood, as wells as answering the questions that have been plaguing Andrew his entire life.   


The Prestige is one of the most finely crafted, and cleverly constructed stories I have ever read. In order to fully appreciate the complexity of this story, one needs to try and understand how it is told. I know, I have been thinking about it for a good two weeks now, and I'm still trying to figure it out. A thorough re-read is not that far away. 


The story centres around the three stages of a magic trick - the setup, the performance, and the prestige, or the effect. In fact, once you break the book down into its essential parts, it is constructed like a magic trick. The last chapter is literally titled, The Prestige.

   
"Let me then first consider and describe the method of writing this account. The very act of describing my secrets might indeed be construed as a betrayal of myself, except of course that as I am an illusionist I can make sure you only see what I wish you to see. A puzzle is implicitly involved." 

So begins Alfred Borden's own journal. And much like Borden, Priest constructs his story so that we as the audience only see what he wants us to see at a given moment. The story is riddled with twists, and shocking revelations but there are clues and foreshadowings placed discreetly and strategically throughout the book. Priest plays a great game of deception by hiding clues in plain sight, and by making you think about what the characters are really saying. 



This is achieved, in part, by having Borden and Angier each tell the story in their journals. As illusionists, there are some things that they cannot reveal, and they end up writing around these secrets, explaining just enough so that the reader won't get lost in their stories. But they also actively deceive their readers - and each other - by withholding simple but crucial facts.
 
Because we get to read Borden's journal first, and Angier's second, there is a great element of surprise. At first, you're thinking "Wow, that Angier fellow is a really bad guy!", but once you learn his side of the story, you get a more accurate, if not an entirely clear picture of the situation. Also, because their accounts are told in consecutive order, the story reads like a puzzle, and you can't have the complete image, until you have collected all of the pieces. 


One of Angier's many obsessions regarding Borden is the stage trick that Borden performs, called The New Transported Man. Angier becomes obsessed with this trick, as he can't figure out how Borden does it. His quest takes him to America, where he meets with Nikola Tesla in hopes that the genius inventor will build a device that will enable him to create his own version of The New Transported Man by using electricity. 


This is something that I didn't expect, but the part with Tesla is my least favourite in the whole book. This is where the story slows down, as Angier and Tesla are literally stuck in one place for several weeks as they are trying to make the device work. However, this is also the part where we are introduced to the science fiction element of this story. And I love the way the sci fi fits in this world, and how realistic it seems. Let me explain: 


The story takes place in the late 19th century. It's the beginning of the modern era, and electricity is taking the Western world by storm. When Angier goes to the US, he is amazed by how far this country has come in terms of technology. On his way to see Tesla, he meets a salesman, who tells Angier about his vision of the future: 


"He confirms that as we move towards the 20th century there is no limit, no bound, to what we might expect electricity to do for our lives.  He predicts that men will sail the seas in electric ships, sleep in electric beds, fly in heavier-than-air machines, eat electrically cooked food... even shave our beards with electric razor blades! (...) I believe that in this enthralling country, as a new century dawns, anything really is possible, or it can be made possible. My present quest into the unknown heart of this land will give me the secrets for which I hunger."  


While electricity is still considered a gimmick by a lot of people, there are visionaries who foresee a great future with this technology, and Angier's idea fits well within this mindset. This is the time, when people are still discovering the possibilities that come from harnessing electricity, so what Tesla ends up creating doesn't seem that fantastical at all. 



Even though the book is supposed to be science fiction, to me it feels more like a Gothic horror story with science fiction elements in it. Ironically, it is the present-day parts that breathe this chilling Gothic air. The atmosphere here is creepy, and unsettling. The mood oscillates between disorienting, and genuinely scary. It is infused with a sense of unease, as if you're being watched. There are some Gothic horror tropes here, too: the big creepy house with a sole female occupant, a scientific experiment gone horrifically wrong, and the metaphorical ghost of Borden and Angier's feud haunting innocent people. 

The ending itself is very abrupt. There is no real conclusion. We get the final revelation, and then it cuts to black, leaving us with our own imagination to fill in the blanks, and to draw the logical conclusions. It makes you think about what the ending says about the feud and the devastating effects it has for everyone involved.

Both Borden and Angier make terrible life choices; they hurt the people they love, and in a lesser book it would have been very difficult to empathise with them. They're selfish, and vindictive, driven by their obsession with each other. However, by letting us read their journals, they allow us to get an intimate look at the people they really are. It's ironic that they go to great lengths to keep their professional secrets, but they end up revealing so much of their feelings, and insecurities. 


They're obsessive, but their obsession is the dark side of the love and the passion they have for their art. They're also funny, naïve, and painfully vulnerable. These characters ended up growing on me, and when I finished the book I felt like I got to know two very complex people. I felt protective of them, despite all their vices and shortcomings. Most of the time, they mean well, and both eventually admit to themselves how fruitless, and mutually destructive their feud has been. Of course, they never admit it to each other, even though they want to. Their relationship is as complex as they themselves are, and had The Prestige been a hit TV-show, I could easily imagine some fans shipping these characters.




I don't often say that a book floored me, but The Prestige came close to doing just that. This is a beautifully written, masterfully constructed, challenging book, that is full of surprises. 



My rating
Plot: 4 stars
Story: 5 stars
Characters: 5 stars
Language: 5 stars

Average: 5 stars


Well, this has been the first episode of Before They Were Blockbusters.  

You can also read this interview with Christopher Priest, where he talks about The Prestige, and the art of deception in fiction. Or you can follow this link, and learn more about some of the Gothic horror tropes I've mentioned.

For my next review, I have a new book. In fact, this book hasn't been released yet. I had the opportunity to read the advanced readers copy, and it's very... interesting. 

1 August 2017

July Wrap-up and a New Series

And another month has just flown by. July is now officially over, so let's review this month, shall we?

Book Reviews 

Last month, I reviewed a total of four books, with an average rating of 4,5 stars.

The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons - 5 stars

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone - 3 stars

The X-Files: Cold Cases by Joe Harris - 5 stars

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine - 5 stars

All I can say is that it has been a good month for reading.


Movies

I also went to see two new movies:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which was a blast. This movie was everything I wanted in a summer blockbuster. Plus, I'm positive that Kurt Russel will finally get people to stop saying that Marvel doesn't have good villains.


I apologise for the fangirl moment.




War for the Planet of the Apes, which was good. I liked it. It was trying too hard to be this epic drama, but it was the perfect conclusion to the new POTA series, and I had a lot of fun counting the easter eggs and callbacks to the original movie.





What to look forward to 

Well, I'm still listening to Stephen King's It. Four hours done, forty more to go! Expect a review in a month or so.

I also got an ARC of Andy Weir's new book, Artemis on Netgalley, and I'm reading it right now. It's a lot of fun, but more on that later.

And, finally, I'm starting my new series of book reviews, titled Before They Were Blockbusters, where I'll be reviewing books that were adapted into popular movies. First on the list is The Prestige by Christopher Priest.