Micro-reviews (May 2018)

May 14, 2018
Theory of Bastards, Munich and The People's House

I've tended to write longish reviews on this blog and I'll probably carry on with that for some books - especially self-published ones.  But I thought I'd have a go at doing some shorter reviews alongside these.  Let's see if I manage to keep it up.  At any rate, it's got to be better than just feeding star ratings into the hungry maw of Big Data (aka Goodreads/Amazon in this case).  Here goes:

Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman

Set a few years in the future, this novel is about a scientist, Francine Burk, who embarks on a study into adultery - in particular, what are its evolutionary advantages and what are the biological drivers behind it?  The first half of the narrative weaves back and forth between the present, where she is studying promiscuity amongst bonobo apes, and Frankie's long struggle with the debilitating condition endometriosis (which I'm ashamed to say I knew next to nothing about - but I'm happy to say that is now rectified).  I won't tell you what happens in the second half - let's just say that things move out of the research environment and into the real world.  

The author manages to combine a page-turning plot with thought-provoking ideas about evolution and excellent characterisation (particularly the relationship between Frankie and her assistant, Stotts).  It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but as it says on Audrey Schulman's website, "her books aren't boring."

Munich by Robert Harris

Hmm, this was OK, but not a patch on "Fatherland" or the excellent "An Officer and a Spy" (a really compelling novelisation of the Dreyfus affair).  There - I did say I would try to be brief.

The People's House by David Pepper

Want to know how to rig an election?  Read this.  Stylistically, it's standard thriller fare, but what I found fascinating was the novel's depiction of the vulnerabilities of the US system - notably gerrymandered districts, voting machines and the general ease with which money buys you influence.  Who's doing the rigging?  Yes, you guessed it - it's those pesky Russians again, but this was published in August 2016 and was clearly written well before the issue really came to the fore in the Trump-Clinton presidential race.  Also, in this case it is not some Putin-esque figure doing the influencing but a Russian oligarch who's taken a cold, hard look at the US and asked himself "How can I play the system to get what I want for my commercial interests?".  

Whilst the media has tended to focus on Russian influence-peddling in social media and alleged offers of "dirt" on candidate Clinton, this novel suggests that there are other (potentially more effective) ways of swinging an election - but a media that's increasingly obsessed with what's being reported in the media is not necessarily going to do a good job of bringing them to light.  I doubt that a mainstream publisher would've picked this up - the focus on the nitty gritty of elections would not be seen as sensational enough for the thriller market.  But thanks to self-publishing, it has not only seen the light of day but looks to be doing pretty well on Amazon (and deservedly so).

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Bad Faith by Jesse Tandler

April 30, 2018

We seem to be living through an age that puts an unhealthy premium on “authenticity”.  Politicians who are said to have this characteristic are excused any number of glaring faults - just look at Donald Trump or, closer to home, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and (at the opposite end of the spectrum) Jeremy Corbyn. They can say or do things that would be career-ending for other politicians – but they are tolerated, even praised for this, because they are regarded as being “true to themse...

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Me Blackberry Fool, You Apple Tart

March 12, 2018

"Me Blackberry Fool, You Apple Tart" by Amelia Slocombe is chick lit, which is not usually my genre of choice - but it caught my eye because one of the characters is a lawyer in a London law firm, which happens to be what I do for a living too.  I have also made a bit of a thing of trying to be a bit more open-minded when it comes to books which I have a tendency to dismiss as "not my thing", especially when it comes to free fiction by self-published authors (as in this case).

Having said that...
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To Kill the President: a (non) review

January 14, 2018

Just finished "To Kill the President" by Sam Bourne.  It wasn't bad - and although we never meet the President, I'm fairly sure I know who the author had in mind.  But who cares what I thought about it?  Here's what the Leader of the Free World made of it (allegedly), when it was drawn to his attention:

@realDonaldTrump tweeted:

Sam Bourne is a total loser and hater who made up a story to write this really boring and untruthful novel. More FAKE NEWS!

@realDonaldTrump tweeted:

Great reporting from...

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Jon Evans and the techno-travelogue thriller

December 4, 2017

UPDATE 5.2019 - irritatingly, all the links to Jon Evans' novels below were to copies available free of charge on Feedbooks, which has now shut down its self-publishing platform - so the links no longer work.  Happily though (as at the time of updating), you could still find all the novels listed below on Wattpad free of charge - the main disadvantage is that you can only read them through Wattpad's interface on a web-enabled device (unlike Feedbooks, there's no option to dow...

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Copyright registration: is it worth it?

September 2, 2017

On author sites like youwriteon.com (which I reviewed here), you sometimes see adverts for services like this one:

These companies typically charge a fee for "registering" your copyright for a period of years.  Some of the sites even look a bit like official agencies (they are not - they are businesses who are in it for a profit).

So is there any value in registering your copyright with them?  I dare say some authors are tempted to part with their hard ...
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All Out War

August 12, 2017

All Out War” by Tim Shipman seeks to answer the question “why did the UK vote to leave the EU?”  As you might expect, there were many reasons – but what the book conveys quite well is that there was no inevitability about the outcome (there were, after all, only about 700,000 votes in it, on a turnout of 33.5 million).  If even a relatively small number of things had played out differently, Brexit might not be happening.  Here are just a few examples:
  • 16 year olds:  Had 16 year olds...

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Moderators: engage brain before applying rules!

July 16, 2017

Just over a week ago I posted a comment on an interesting article in The Bookseller entitled "When does a writer become a professional?".  My aim was to provide some evidence to back up what the author of the article was suggesting about how you don't necessarily need to be earning a living from your writing in order to feel OK about taking it seriously - for me, it all depends what your criteria for success are.  

I explained that I had decided to offer my work for free (because getting reade...
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Fedorov's dust

April 30, 2017

Having written a novel which draws quite heavily on ideas about the "Technological Singularity", I thought I knew a fair amount about it already.  But a recent article in the The Guardian by Meghan O’Gieblyn entitled “God in the machine: my strange journey into transhumanism” exposed some gaps in my knowledge and encouraged me to revisit the subject – which I haven’t really been back to since I self-published the novel in 2012.

The Technological Singularity is an idea most closely as...

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Ship of Fools

March 26, 2017
Went on the pro-EU march in London at the weekend - which may be something of a futile gesture, as Theresa May seems set to give notice to leave under Article 50 this week.  But if it helps to deter some of those in government from pursuing some of the more extreme forms of Brexit which are being seriously talked about (such as walking away without any sort of deal at all with the EU - absolute madness in my view), then it will have been worth it.  There were quite a few good placards but my ...
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About Me

Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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