After the warm reception my last two flash fiction pieces received I thought I’d dash off another for one of my upcoming collections; I couldn’t think of anything particularly poignant to write about this time (I’d had a few beers so please forgive me on that) so I decided on something a little more humorous. Enjoy …
It was two years before that news of asteroid XT237’s collision course with the earth became public knowledge. Knowing of the world’s soon to be demise had sent it into a downward spiral of self-destruction. The breakdown of law and order saw neighbour killing neighbour and the emergence of just about every base vice the mind could imagine.
Not surprisingly, all efforts at recycling and caring for the planet ceased. Anyone with a grudge or who merely enjoyed thumping or killing people didn’t hesitate in acting on impulse. And likewise with individual countries, every minor border dispute that had ever existed erupted overnight into full-scale war.
One small compensation was that the world halted its obsession with the UK’s Brexit vote, realising, at last, it wasn’t that important – all except Tony Blair of course, he was still insisting on another referendum before the ‘end of the world’ deadline.
The more sane members of the human race wondered if the asteroid wasn’t such a bad thing after all?
After numerous efforts to blast the asteroid to bits with every atomic weapon of mass destruction ever made had failed miserably, along with several attempts by certain entrepreneurs to sneak away in their private space rockets, President Trilp had to accept that his multi-billion dollar personal wealth wasn’t going to save him. After being informed by his advisors that nothing could be done to avert the impending disaster, the President unilaterally decided that if everyone was going to die anyway, he would deprive the enemy, i.e. everybody, of their last few hours of life just for good measure. President Trilp quite liked the idea of outliving everyone on the planet.
A short while before the coming end, President Trilp tweeted that he had ordered the launch of the country’s entire nuclear arsenal in a 360-degree spread. The world was used to his online rants though. And with the asteroid just hours away, no one really cared, except the inhabitants of Switzerland that is, whose government took this sort of thing very seriously.
Nasa had originally calculated that XT237 would destroy the earth at approximately 17:37 on January 9th, 2020. At 16:11 on that day, those few scientists who had elected to monitor the asteroid’s approach right up to and including impact noticed a slight veering off its course.
There had been a miscalculation. It was clear now it was going to be another one of those near-misses. After a brief collective sigh of relief that they had been wrong and that everything was going to turn out fine, the military turned their attention to the incoming salvo of missiles, launched in retaliation to the President’s premature first-strike. Life as we knew it came to an end at precisely 17:30.
Had anyone been left alive, other than the inhabitants of Switzerland, it would have been recorded that at 17:37, asteroid XT237 sailed harmlessly past the earth.
A hundred years later, tens of billions of cockroaches were thriving quite nicely. So too were the inhabitants of Switzerland whose government had wisely insisted that all new houses and public buildings included fall-out shelters. The Swiss being, well Swiss really, had taken the precaution of ordering its citizens to evacuate to them, if only to justify the expense of construction, thus protecting its population from the worst of President Trilp’s nuclear tantrum.
This is a work of fiction. Please don’t immediately all be booking flights to Switzerland.
Another book from within the ranks of my Indie Author Review Exchange Fb group.. The Inlooker, by Terry Tumbler.
Terry Tumbler, like myself, is one of our more ‘mature’ members, having taken up writing relatively late in life when time and circumstances made it possible. Now retired, Terry Tumbler currently lives in Spain with his wife. Prior to his current writing endeavours, he spent the greater part of his working career in the computer and I.T. industries. In addition to the Inlooker, Terry tumbler is the author of several other comic Sci-Fi novels, details of which can be found at both his website and Amazon Author page.
Further links to the author and his writing can be found at:
By Terry Tumbler
(Available from Amazon)
Although primarily a science fiction book with many traditional science fiction themes, there are all sorts of other elements thrown in the mix too: sharp political satire and intrigue, comic and dark humour, and a host of funny yet chillingly accurate observations of the world we live in. The main premise of the book is a man who has the ability to look into and subjugate the will or ‘soul’ of others – whilst not an entirely new concept in the world of science fiction, or indeed other genres, its treatment here is both funny and original, and at times, bordering on the comically distasteful; the central character, upon learning of his newfound abilities, does little to ingratiate himself with the reader, initially choosing to use his abilities to gratify some of his own baser instincts and sexual fantasies, along with inflicting his own unique brand of vigilante justice on several wrong-doers his abilities lead him to – In fact, Thomas Beckton actually comes across as quite dislikeable, and never truly progresses to the point where the reader can or might want to identify with him in the traditional ‘hero of the story’ sense, but neither is he one that the reader find it in their hearts to wholly reject either. In many respects, our central character is somewhat of an anti-hero; with his god-like abilities and power to shape world events, he is remarkably unassuming most of the time, quietly (and not so quietly on occasion) shaping and directing mankind’s future, quite ruthlessly when called for, and with a quite chilling disregard at times for those he is manipulating, yet still retaining a semblance of humanity about him.
The narrative is well written, and although written in the third person, perfectly matches the tone and feel of the central character, giving much of the book a sort of first person feel to it, but without any of the restrictions that come with such a perspective. Likewise with the dialogue – sharp, witty, and often quite caustic in its observations, but always complementary and wholly in tune with, and effortlessly interwoven into the narrative. This is definitely a book where the author’s voice and I suspect much of his own character, really shines through on every page and in every word and idea within the book.
If I had but one minor criticism it would be the author’s use of an explanatory introduction to each part of the three parts of the book, sign-posting as it were what’s to follow – I know this is a popular and often effective writing technique but personally I feel it to be unnecessary here, that the strength and clarity of the author’s writing allows the story to unfold quite naturally without the need for any such artificial pointers.
My overall rating for this book would be on the plus side of 4.5 stars, the slight deduction being on account of the unnecessary introductions as already referred to, but apart from that, I found this to be a highly original and indeed funny take on some traditional science fiction themes; the author’s treatment of aliens and their technology, spacecraft, and extra ordinary abilities and powers, was reminiscent of say Douglas Adam’s Hitch Hiker’s Guide or Grant Naylor’s Red Dwarf writing, but without trying to imitate in any way, creating its own unique and refreshing comic sci-fi style with added touches of Jonathan Swift’s political satirical style thrown in. If you like your science fiction a little zany with a touch of sharp humour, definitely worth a look!
Further works by Terry Tumbler:
This is an author I came across by way of reading his own excellent review of a book I had previously reviewed, ‘Johnny Nothing’ by Ian Probert.
Andrew Updegrove is a prolific blogger, primarily writing about the self-publishing industry and related topics, providing an excellent resource for any aspiring writer. As well as being a prolific blogger and writer, Andrew Updegrove has a successful background in law, business, and cyber security, making him eminently qualified to write this excellent book.’
Further links and contact details for Andrew Updegrove are:
The Alexandria Project, by Andrew Updegrove
Tom Sharpe meets Michael Crichton… What we have here is a real rollercoaster of a thriller, combining home grown and international cyber terrorism, the threat of nuclear war and destruction, and not to mention, some of the funniest and satirical writing it’s been my pleasure to read in a very long time.
It begins with an excellent prologue, detailing the cyber theft of national security files from a highly secure Govt. Dept. thus providing the reader with an early glimpse of the wider picture. What follows is the gripping story of an emerging threat to national and international cyber security, and the frantic efforts of both the CIA, the FBI, and one man in particular, Frank Adversego Jr, a brilliant IT security expert and innovator, to track down and counter the threat and to avert catastrophic consequences that no one could have imagined at the start, culminating in a genuinely nail biting finish.
Interspaced amid the storyline are some fascinating insights into the world of I.T and the net, written in such a way as to be informative and entertaining, yet never requiring the reader to have anything but the most basic understanding of the net to follow and enjoy the story. There are some truly funny and yet very pertinent accounts of the original dot com bubble, venture capital, and the sheer absurdity and madness of the early days of the net and the overnight millionaires it created; mentions of Netscape et al give the explanations real credibility. The author uses these examples to lampoon much of the internet, using such phrases as “spear phishing venture capitalists,” and gives an account of “virtual kittens” that really has to be read to enjoy its sheer absurdity. There are many other examples too of the author’s humour, such as when the principal character, Frank, describes one of his neighbours as looking like the North Korean president… but with hair curlers. One of the funniest satirical examples is when the cyber security breaches are said to be undermining the very foundations of culture and society, namely when the computer systems of American Idol, the Home shopping channel, and Disney World are compromised. Running alongside the cyber investigations, across the ocean, events are rapidly unfolding to instigate a violent change of leadership in North Korea whilst dragging America into a war of literal self-destruction.
There are some very clever twists too, mainly concerning a number of the characters who turn out to be not quite they seem; even Lily, the overweight corgi that Frank has to look after, plays its part in the grand scheme of things!
With just the right balance of dialogue, action, flashback, and explanation, the author develops both the storyline and the characters with equal interest and believability: Frank Adversego, the middle aged I.T expert, whose geeky talents and early promise somehow never reached their full potential, his daughter, the confident and self assured Marla, loyal to her dad, but despairing of his faults at times, and his Boss, Frank Marchand, equally despairing of Frank’s failure at times to live up to his potential, yet ultimately confident in his ability to do his job, and of course the mysterious retired FBI agent and the enigmatic, wait for it… Yoda!
A funny, satirical, pacey thriller combining the murky world of the cyber terrorist with that of the political machinations of high office, tyrannical military dictatorships, and the threat of nuclear war. A cracking good read that will have you laughing and biting your nails in anticipation in equal measure.
Available from Amazon in eBook format, and from several other outlets in both eBook and print formats.. See the author’s blog for details.
This particular review is an exception to my rule of only reviewing books that are either self-published or those of aspiring writers published by the smaller independent publishing houses. Chris Wilson, the author of Mischief, is a long established and successful author of several highly regards books. The reason for including him in my reviews is partly because he has been an immense help and encouragement to me in developing my own writing, but mainly because it is such a wickedly funny and well written book.
By far one of the wittiest and wickedly funny explorations of the human condition I’ve read in a long time. It begins with what may (or not) be a simple act of kindness, namely the adoption of an abandoned child in the Amazonian rain-forest by a British zoologist, but quickly develops into a brutal but nonetheless side-splittingly funny analysis of human nature.
Brought to England to be raised and educated, Charlie, the principal character and narrator, suffers an unparalleled crisis of identity. Due to his somewhat unusual appearance i.e. bright orange skin, yellow eyes, virtually bald from head to toe, eventually growing to be over seven feet tall, not to mention other peculiarities of his anatomy, Charlie believes himself to be some sort of ape, and not of the human species. Despite completing his education, getting a job, enjoying a number of relationships, and being obviously intelligent and articulate, this last trait being unique to humans, this is a question that is intentionally never truly resolved. Although not believing himself to be human, Charlie desperately wants to be accepted as such, or at least be accepted into human society. The problem facing Charlie is that he possesses none of the human character vices such as greed, anger, intolerance, aggression, and deceitfulness to name but a few, whilst at the same time being over endowed with an abundance of redeeming qualities such as empathy, kindness, and a distaste for violence of any kind. In his struggle to be human, Charlie tries to understand and embrace the former. It is hard for the reader not be sympathetic to his plight, whilst at the sane time secretly hoping that he fails, and retains everything that is good about himself.
The book itself has a very literary and academic feel to it yet still retains an easy to read style. If I had to express just one criticism it would be that perhaps the author’s account of humanity is just a tad too pessimistic, but overall, a brilliant satire much in the vein of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, though with Swift it is more of a political satire; both comic and sad in equal measure, occasionally graphic though not obscenely so, this is a book that cleverly dissects human nature, and to a lesser extent, the academic world environment about him. Thoroughly enjoyable.