A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

A Long Long Sleep
by Anna Sheehan
pub: Gollancz

Ok the blurb

‘Rosalinda Fitzroy had been asleep for 62 years when she was woken by a kiss.

Locked away in the chemically-induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten sub-basement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long dead, and Rose – hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire – is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat.

Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes – or be left without any future at all.’

This all makes it sound terribly dramatic and there is a dramatic sub plot to the book, but for the most part it follows the same riffs as any other boarding school drama, be it fantasy, sci fi or st trillians. Ok technically Rose isn’t a boarder and there is the whole, might she die thing, but basically, she doesn’t fit in, she’s out of step with everything, trying to make sense of her life and has a crush on a boy. If you ignore the hovercars, the alien class mate who communicates by touch and the whole stasis thing, it’s nothing new. That’s not a complaint.

It’s very well done, with engaging characters, an appealing heroine and yes all those sci fi touches do make it a richer and more interesting setting than most novels of this type. There are some genuinely touching moments, it’s good fun, the pacing is pretty good and the world is absorbing. The Dark Times are an interesting device and not entirely out of keeping with the sort of problems the earth could well face in a pessimistic view of the future, giving a fairly solid history to the time Rose wakes up in. There is also the relationship with her parents and the careful handling of the readers knowledge and understanding of that, in line with Rose’s own.

All in all excellently done, an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

The return of cyberpunk!

We welcome Colin F Barnes novelist & micro publisher to talk to us about the return of cyberpunk.

Is Cyberpunk Coming Back in Fashion?

When we look around at technology today, we see things predicted by science fiction and cyberpunk stories of a few decades ago. Back then, mostly during the late 80s and 90s when cyberpunk and the techno thriller were at their peak computers were becoming affordable and regular household items. The early Apple machines, Spectrums and Commodores brought computing to everyone; including the spotty teen in the basement.

Not only did that technological singularity change the world—or at least put in place the elements for change—it brought with it a new way of thinking; the connected world. Writers such as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, amongst others, took the idea of the connected world and extrapolated forward to a futuristic world of hacking, cybercrime, and virtual reality worlds.

As we approached the late 90s and 2000s it started to wane a little, but another decade on and we’re seeing more technothriller/cyberpunk stories return—in the form of books, films and even TV shows. The reason for the slump, in my opinion, was that the things predicted weren’t quite there yet in reality, and regular SF such as Star Trek, Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica filled that desire of stretching out in the future.

Now, though, we are seeing the things predicted, and this is inspiring another kind of singularity; that of the connected world as something that is established, something that humanity has come to rely on. In many instances, social media is this new singularity. And with it comes a lot of problems, and thus opportunity of us writers to explore and extrapolate what this means.

In my novel, Artificial Evil, the world has suffered a great cataclysm and just one million survivors are left living in a dome city that is tightly controlled. Individuals are now one with the network, and are effectively nodes; this is kind of what is happening now, but on a much lower level. With out smart phones and always-on connections, as we move around and manipulate the virtual world, we are becoming nodes and routers of information and content. What would happen if that technology and that idea was integrated directly into the conscious mind?  How much of your free will would be give over to  the network? And what would that mean for the individual?

If you did lose some of your humanity, but gained the benefits of a wider network, are you still human? or another species altogether? This is partly what I explore in Artificial Evil. Our evolution might not be a biological one, but a technological one, and that, in my opinion, makes a riveting story.


Colin F. Barnes is a writer of dark and daring fiction. He takes his influence from everyday life, and the weird happenings that go on in the shadowy locales of Essex in the UK. 

Growing up, Colin was always obsessed with story and often wrote short stories based on various dubious 80s and 90s TV shows. Despite taking a detour in school into the arts and graphic design, he always maintained his love of fiction and general geekery. Now, as a slightly weathered adult, Colin draws on his experiences to blend genres and create edgy, but entertaining stories. 

He is currently working on a Cyberpunk/Techno thriller serial ‘The Techxorcist.’ which combines elements of Sci-Fi, Thriller, and Horror. 

Like many writers, he has an insatiable appetite for reading, with his favourite authors being: Stephen King, William Gibson, Ray Bradbury, James Herbert, Albert Camus,  H.P Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith,  and a vast array of unknown authors who he has had the privilege of beta reading for.

Website: www.colinfbarnes.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/ColinFBarnes


“Artificial Evil: Book 1 of The Techxorcist sees the revival of everything we used to love about cyber punk, repackaged with new twists in this tech thriller. This is a brilliant tale that combines fantastic characters, great tech and a little bit of good old fashioned possession” – Adele Wearing, Un:Bound

“The Techxorcist project piqued my interest for a couple of reasons. First, it is the brainchild of Colin F. Barnes whose work has, to date, always lived up to expectation. The second reason is the title; not only is it fun to say, but it also sets the tone for a grim cross-genre design.

Having had the pleasure of reading Articificial Evil: The Techxorcist Book 1, I can honestly say I was not disappointed. The quality of the writing, the originality of the ideas – they blend together to show Barnes’ work at his best. The passion behind the project comes through every description and in every brilliant character – once you meet Petal, you’ll understand.

Artificial Evil reads as multiple stories at the same time. On the surface a fantastic plot-arc following a post-apocalyptic virtual battle against an evil AI, the brilliance is in the layers of interpretation going on behind the scenes. There are elements of a dozen classic tales intricately woven into the characters, the concept, and the dialogue, and the combination creates a story that is so rich in meaning and allusion it’s impossible not to connect with this seemingly distant and unrecognizable world.

A story that opens the mind to possibilities, crazy ideas that somehow seem plausible, Texchorcist is an exploration of how much we’re willing to give up to be free, and how far we’re willing to go to keep that freedom.” – Krista Walsh, Raven’s Quill.

Review: The Techxorcist pt 0.5 – The Rebirth

The Techxorcist Pt 0.5 The Rebirth
by Colin F Barnes

More information here

The novellette that kicks off the Techxorcist series is available for free to download and I strongly recommend you take advantage of that.

This first installment sets the scene for the upcoming trilogy, but it’s also a tale in itself. Gerry Cardle runs the death lottery so when his numbers come up something is definitely awry. Having spent is whole life in the system Gerry is at a loss to know what’s gone wrong or what he can do about it. Desperate and afraid he falls in with a couple of hackers who offer a ‘kill or cure’ answer, well he’s dead anyway right?

Rebirth did a really fantastic job of getting the reader ready for the world they will be visiting in the series, having you rooting for Gerry and his companions and asking all the right questions for what’s coming next. A short but satisfying read that will leave you eager for the forthcoming trilogy.

Officially billed as a tech thriller, the Techxorcist series will also appeal to fans of 90’s cyber punk (like me), offering adventure, an element of old fashioned horror and plenty of post cataclysmic grimness and entertainment.

Review: Owl Stretching by K.A. Laity

Owl Stretching
by Kate Laity

My 140 character tweet review of this one was  ‘Owl Stretching is wonderful, weird, lyrical and feels a bit like doing opium and playing space invaders with William Blake’

I can’t really usefully expand on that, but i’ll try. The tagline of the book is ‘Shamans vs Aliens’ and that’s about right, its also very much Ro’s journey to discover herself and mend bridges she had thought well and truly burnt.

In a world where nothing much grows any more and all the animals are gone there seems to be no hope against the aliens and the endless war Ro is a civil servant who’s best friend has been in a coma for ten years. When Simon miraculously awakes it sets a whole chain of events in motion for Ro, Simon and everyone who is prepared to follow them as they try and find a future.

Now the traditional disclaimer, I have far less time to read these days which is why I no longer accept review copies. Additionally I know far more writers than I did when I started out so its often the case that I am reviewing people I know and like and consider friends. Given that Kate also writes and edits for Fox Spirit it would be fair to point out a potential conflict of interest. Since my interest both as Un:Bound and as Fox Spirit remains the sharing and enjoying of great stories though I would refute that. I may not be 100% impartial, but who truly is and i’m so totally right.

Alt.Fiction 2013

After a fantastic Alt.fiction 2012 I was very much looking forward to continuing to run the event for two more years and seeing how we could draw a new audience to our fantastic genre fic family, or at least draw the audience that normally hides their fandom on their kindle.

Sadly there have been changes at my day job recently and I’m afraid my free time is going to be squeezed somewhat over the next year or so delivering the projects for work. As a result i’ve had to step down from Altfiction 2013. I will send on my thoughts and notes so far to WEM and hopefully the event next year will find a new lead and be a huge success.

Nottingham Writers Studio

I love Maxine’s writing and this looks great!

We still have a few places left on our Nottingham Writers’ Day coming up on Saturday 13 October with Maxine Linnell. Maxine is the author edgy YA novels Vintage and Closer, and will be sharing her secrets in an intensive one-day workshop on writing young adult fiction. She will help you kickstart your story, find a theme, address teen issues, adapt your use of language and voice, and avoid possible pitfalls, and will be providing individual feedback on your writing.

To book your place, contact Robin at admin@nottinghamwritersstudio.co.uk. Further details can be found on our Writers’ Day page.

The workshop fee is £50 for NWS members and concessions, and £75 full price, which includes the workshop, a buffet lunch, and a light dinner with the tutor and participants. The workshop runs from 10.30am to 4.30pm at the Writers’ Studio in Nottingham’s Lace Market, with dinner at 5pm.


Review: In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

In the Miso Soup

by Ryu Murakami

I got this one on kindle after it came recommended from a friend, it’s not something i’d normally buy. I’m actually very glad I did. It’s a strange and very unsettling book, focussing around a young Japanese sex tout guide and his American Client ‘Frank’.

Kenji becomes increasingly anxious about his client as things don’t quite add up.

The story is dark, creepy and disturbing, as you might expect from Murakami. It’s also very clever, brilliantly crafted, horrifying in the truest sense and utterly gripping. I read it quickly in one evening (no doubt losing some of the subtlety and beauty of the writing) because I had to know how it ended before I could possibly focus on anything else. It’s strange seeing the Japanese sex trade through accepting but slightly jaded Kenji and at the same time Frank who brings his American sensibilities and his own issues to the scene.

Worth a try for anyone looking for something a bit different, an alternative sensibility in writing and a clever well written tale.

Comics – 29th August 2012

As is DC’s want during month’s that have five Wednesday’s instead of neatly fitting in with their four week cycle it’s odds and sods time, with Aquaman from last week, a few annuals, and the perennial schedule hopper, Justice League.

Other publishers, less caring about the fluctuations of the calendar have followed their usual cycle so there’s Debris and New Deadwardians.

DC – New 52 #12 Part 5

The Flash Annual
Green Lantern Annual
Justice League


The New Deadwardians

Skipped To The End…
Continue reading

Second Shot by Zoe Sharp

ok first the disclaimer, I consider Zoe a friend. What this means in real terms is that if I wasn’t enjoying the book i’d pop it back on the shelf and leave it till another time, or never. Still, I believe in full disclosure so consider this it, Zoe Sharp is awesome, a truly and brilliantly fabulous person.

She’s also a damn fine writer.

In second shot we join Charlie Fox in the middle of some pretty ferocious action, we then zip back to the start of the case and follow to and beyond that point. It’s a device that I often find irritating but in this instance it definitely adds a frisson to events and to the character of Simone.

I loved Charlie, she’s tough and fierce and a bit not right in the head but she’s not bullet proof or infallible and she has no super powers, she’s not even better at everything than everyone else. She is however dedicated and determined.

The action is nicely paced, keeping the reader tied in all the way along, but with enough quiet moments to allow the reader to attach emotionally to the main characters. Also, the fight scenes. Ah the fight scenes. Sharp knows the anatomy of a fight. She knows the moves, the body’s responses and the pain. The fight scenes are fantastic, they were dirty and grim and agonising. If everything else hadn’t sold me on this series the fights would have.

Clever, entertaining and tough. Can thoroughly recommend this series.

Reviewing, it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

wrestler ‘mankind’s’ Mr Socko. Now reviewing on Amazon?

There has been a lot of discussion on twitter and blogs the last few months about the ethics of the industry. Jeremy Duns has exposed plagiarists and he and Steve Mosby have taken Stephen Leather to task as an unapologetic example of the sock puppetting and use of fake id’s to both push your own books and run down others that is rife.

It’s been a bloody time and the latest is the spotlight turning once again on the dubious review tactics used on Amazon. I do not habitually post my reviews on amazon, I have only done so when the authors have asked me to spread the word and even then I usually to a shorter version than the full unbound review.

Thing is, it’s coming to light that people review for money, making the reviews worthless. It’s always happened, truth be told, if you have reviewed for any length of time then on some level you are probably aware of it. There were debates when I was a more active reviewer about the idea of bloggers having to declare whether they receive freebies or payments (unbound had always been open about receiving books so I didn’t follow the end of that discussion, it seems it may have come in, in the US).

I’m not sure that there is a way for amazon’s reviewing system, or any public reviewing system to work properly, but it does seem that a lot of energy is put into fakes and stacking the deck. As a reviewer it’s a background noise I always just sort of accepted, it’s sucky, but it’s been on the scene longer than I have and will be long after I stop reviewing, which I haven’t officially yet (It’s called a hiatus folks). Now that i’m dipping my toes in publishing with Fox Spirit though it’s changed things a bit. Now it’s hitting my protective nerve. It’s hard enough to get any kind of profile for your authors and their books, it’s tough to get noticed in this market and it’s tough to get honest reviews of their hard work and talent. The last thing any of us needs or wants is a bunch of skuzzbags stacking the deck against us with fake accounts, punitive reviews of books by authors they don’t like or the (common to goodreads it appears) classic of reviewing a book that isn’t even finished yet.

So this is my advice to readers and buyers out there. Look at the reviews by all means, then look at the reviewers, if you follow the blogs you build a sort of relationship, you know what sort of books they like, where your tastes overlap, what bugs them for no good reason. So on Amazon et al  follow the breadcrumbs, check other reviews by them, do due diligence and at least try to ensure you are getting someone’s honest opinion, not the meaningless rating of a sock puppet.