Book Review – The Lafayette Campaign
This is an author I first 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, marketing, 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 cybersecurity, making him eminently qualified to write this excellent book.’
Further links and contact details for Andrew Updegrove are:
Author site: www.andrew-updegrove.com
The Lafayette Campaign
A TALE OF DECEPTION AND ELECTIONS
A brilliant and cleverly funny political satire, a sort ‘House of Cards,’ but better.
Having already read an enjoyed the first in Andrew Updegrove’s cybersecurity/thriller series, I thought I’d give this one a try. This time the story revolves around an upcoming US Presidential election, but one where all the poll predictions are completely at odds with what everyone expects, raising questions about who may be trying to manipulate and influence the outcome? Once again, the US authorities call on the geeky middle-aged, I.T. cybersecurity expert, Frank Adversego, to look into things. Amid his investigations, Frank is also working on the book he’s been contracted to write warning of the dangers around hacking, cybersecurity, and so.
As in Book One, this is a superbly written cybersecurity themed thriller, but again, riddled with lots of clever and subtle humour, like where the author refers to a security thug as being ‘evolutionally challenged,’ and when he laments about being glad he’s not writing a political satire instead of a serious non-fiction book, the humour of which becomes even more apparent later on. In many ways, readers from any country will be able to identify with the part money and big business plays in politics all around the world, and not just the US.
Although this reads perfectly well as a stand-alone book, I was pleased to see some indirect references to Book One, The Alexandria Project, ironically the basis of the book the main character, Frank, is working on during the unfolding story here, and the inclusion of some of the characters from the first book, ie, his daughter, Marla, and boss, George Marchand. Again though, there are plenty of new characters to further engage the reader’s interest.
Not only is this well-written book, but also a well-researched one too. It does, however, convey a lot of US political workings and cyber-tech explanation though that some readers might get a tad lost in if they don’t already have some interest in them. As a UK reader, I must admit had I read this book when it first came out back in 2015, I might well have got a bit lost in some of the American election procedures and terminology, and quite frankly, found it a little too fantastical and far-fetched. Since then of course, there’s been the improbable election of Donald Trump and all that’s followed to take care of the ‘far-fetched,’ aspect. Also, with all the media coverage that event attracted worldwide combined with innumerable hours of Youtube American news footage of the 2016 US Presidential election, most people now have a better understanding of US electoral workings, so again, this really has become a book that is not only more ‘understandable’ to non-US readers, but a highly topical one too.
Another super cybersecurity offering; a satire for sure, but given what’s happened in US politics since its publication, really not so far off the mark … loved it!
Click HERE to read my review of Book One in the series, The Alexandria Project
Available from Amazon in eBook format, and from several other outlets in both eBook and print formats … See the author’s blog for details.
For links to all five books to date in the author’s cybersecurity/thriller series, please see HERE for Andrew Updegrove’s US Amazon author page
A bit of September Silliness – another flash fiction short story – Flat Earth
Welcome to another report from SNNC, the Silly Nonsense News Channel, your reporter as always, P. A. Ruddock
The Flat Earth society had already gotten plenty of flak for their latest conference, claiming members from all around the world were attending.
A number of ‘experts’ had been assembled from among the farthest fringes of the crackpot science and conspiracy theory communities. The attendees were to be treated to the very cream of implausible nonsense to explain away such inconvenient concepts as gravity in a two-dimensional world and photographs of the earth from space
‘– they’re all fakes, just like the moon landings, it’s all big conspiracy by the global – err, sorry, I meant big-business corporations,’ a flat-earth spokesman told SNNC.
There was even to be a weird and wonderful explanation as to why people should end up back where they started if they kept travelling in the same direction – apparently, the closer you got to the edge of the world, it would increasingly tilt so you sort of rolled back to the middle, I kid you not – It’s still under discussion, we’ll keep you posted.
Also on the agenda was to be a debate on the general consensus that giant impenetrable and unclimbable mountains, a great wall of ice, or Antarctica surrounds the edges of the world as we Round Earthers call it. It was these mountains that, apparently, stop us all from falling over the edge like we would a cliff, and of course the oceans doing the same. This last aspect was also to be an urgent topic of discussion: not all flat-earthers are utterly bereft of common sense or indifferent to the wider scientific community, and climate change was troubling many of the society’s saner members.
They worry that all the ice mountains are going to melt. Others were less concerned, claiming the situation is all under control – Donald Trump’s plans to build a giant wall to keep out all those awful Mexicans is really just a clever ruse to disguise the wall’s real purpose – it was to be much bigger, all around, oops, sorry, along the circular perimeter of the earth, and that would be our new sea barrier
– yes, that’s right, Donald Trump is going to save the world! Hmm? Hillary Clinton was asked for her comments on that last bit … probably best not to repeat her reply.
Needless to say, the broader public has some difficulty getting their head around the idea of the earth being a giant pudding bowl, attracting ridicule from all around the world, especially from among their equally deluded arch rivals, the Hollow Earth believers.
But getting back to the conference – the original proposal was to hold it in Australia, but they eventually agreed on Birmingham instead after the Flat Earth central committee decided that said continent didn’t really exist and that it was actually a huge compound at a secret location somewhere in South America, filled with American actors.
When approached, Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, stars of the Australian telly super-soap, Neighbours, appeared amused at the Flat Earthers’ claims but were otherwise unavailable for comment. On the other hand, Australian authoress, the lovely Patricia Puddle, while initially dismissive, has admitted, albeit amid fits of giggles, she intends to learn Spanish – “ Just in case.”
It seems too that all the world’s airlines, pilots, and astronauts are also all in on the giant hoax, but nonetheless, oversees Flat-Earthers were not deterred from hopping aboard budget flights to Birmingham, especially after their membership being offered generous flat-rate discounts from local hoteliers.
Unsurprisingly, Australian membership of the Flat Earth society has somewhat flatlined since. On the plus side, the people of Birmingham can sleep secure knowing that their city really does exist, and by default, the rest of the UK too.
To attract more believers to their cause, the Flat-Earthers have taken a leaf out of Scientology and its dodgy Hollywood advocates. They cite several celebrities who also question the ‘global’ view of the earth – there’s Lofty Whatshisname, the well-known American basket-case, sorry, basketball player, along with British celebrity and former cricketer, Freddie Flintoff who has also admitted to coming round to their beliefs after asking several deep and meaningful questions …
“… If you’re in a helicopter and you hover why does the earth not come to you if it’s spinning around?
“Why if we’re hurtling through space, why would water stay still? Why is it not wobbling?
“The middle is the North Pole, around the outside is the South Pole which is like a big wall of ice. This is why all governments now have bases on the South Pole.”
(All true, we’re really not making this up!)
SNNC did approach several leading scientists for answers to these probing conundrums, but unfortunately, they all claimed to be doing something far more important than dignifying such bollocks with an answer, like counting the grains of sand on the beach.
(Ok, we admit it, we did make up this last bit, but only because we already knew what the answer would be).
And that, readers and viewers, brings us to the end of our coverage of this year’s Flat-Earth conference.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on those bloody flat-earthers; they’re much closer to the truth than they realise,” the Galactic Council’s chief scientist was telling his mate.
“You’re right there. The only bit they’ve got wrong is that the water’s kept in by the sides of the petri dish – perhaps we should put them in a bigger one, just so we’ve got room for an Australia too?”
NASA scientists finally release …
… REAL photos of earth from outer space.
For the very best in internet bollocks, stay tuned for future reports … upcoming features include:
The Moon? Did we really land on it & Is it Really there?
Hollow Earth theories? Are they based on ‘solid’ science or just filled with hot air (or molten lava)?
Alternatively, keep a lookout for my upcoming book, Flashbulb Moments – Ninety-nine flash-fiction stories – some silly, some sad, and some plain scary ones.
The Inlooker – Book Review
Another book from within the ranks of our Indie Author Support and Discussion 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:
Terry Tumbler’s Amazon Author page:
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’s unnecessary here, that the strength and clarity of the author’s writing allow 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:
Seb Cage Begins His Adventures
Magic Carpets, Turkish Carpets
The Rough & Tumbles Of Early Years
The Alexandria Project – Book Review
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 cybersecurity, 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 homegrown 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 cybersecurity, 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 cybersecurity 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, George 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.
Mischief – Book review
Mischief by Chris Wilson (available on Kindle, and in Hardback & Paperback)
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.
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