Stephen Oram is one of my favourite contemporary authors. His debut novel, Quantum Confessions, had a significant influence on me; in fact, it was the book that inspired me to start writing my own. His work primarily examines the way our society works, and how it could be affected by technological developments in the near-future. Stephen works closely with future thinkers and scientists, most notably as part of the European Human Brain Project, and extrapolates their research into accessible, thought-provoking narratives. There is often a dystopian feel there, a warning perhaps, which is all the more poignant once you realise how close to reality some of the ideas really are. Recently, I was lucky enough to be selected to share some of my flash fiction at an event he curates for Virtual Futures, and he kindly agreed to let me interview him for the Orchid’s Lantern blog. I hope you enjoy reading his well-considered answers as much as I did. Continue reading “Author Interview – Stephen Oram”
Reverend Danny Nemu’s Neuro-Apocalypse is the second book in the Nemu’s End series. I haven’t read the first, Science Revealed, yet, but it would seem that the order isn’t too important.
In short, this book is a delight. It reminds me of the feeling I got when I read Robert Anton Wilson for the first time: dazzled, amused, and awakened. Although there is a focus on the Bible, Neuro-Apocalypse is no lesson in organised religion. This is a book about language, perception, cognition and revelation; the Bible passages are merely an illustration of what we take for granted as truth.
In the beginning, did God create or was God created in the head? Who defined good and evil? Does the snake really represent temptation, or a reality check? Oh, and did you know there were psychedelic drugs in the Bible?
“Like people in their multi-faceted complexity, like sub-atomic particles spinning spookily, the letters of the Hebrew Bible behave differently in different contexts, depending on the perspective of the person generating meaning from them.” Continue reading “Neuro-Apocalypse – Reverend Danny Nemu”
The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr. David S. Sparks by William F. Aicher
“Just because you remember it doesn’t mean it happened.”
In this fast-paced sci-fi novel, David Sparks wakes up in a terrifying future. Surveillance, augmented humans and a damaged environment are the norm, though David has no idea how he came to be amongst it. His stream of consciousness is interlaced with memories of an ordinary family life some 100 years earlier, and the drive to keep turning the pages comes from the question: who is David S. Sparks and what is his reality?
This book is full of imaginative technology that gives a varied and colourful illustration of a possible future. It is exciting, action-packed, and potentially divisive. But, like all good sci-fi, it also comes with a warning as to where our obsession with cutting-edge tech and playing God may land us. Continue reading “Recent Reading: 5 Reviews in Brief”
Erin is a fast-paced novella written by psychonaut and editor, Robert Dickins. It follows protagonist Lije Baillie on an excursion to the Solpsycle festival with his friends, a cocktail of psychedelics, and some excess emotional baggage. Clinging to a warping, increasingly anarchic environment, he feels a darkness surging up within. It is something he isn’t admitting to himself: something only Erin can lead him to.
This book is a vibrant journey. It is a short read, but deceptively deep: something I didn’t fully appreciate until the very end when it left me contemplating. Dickins does a fantastic job of putting the reader right at the centre of the action, and I love his portrayal of a landscape I recognise:
“Grotesque, post-hippy caricatures are enticing me into their booths, trying to sell me sprawling colourful hats and baggy shawls, scratchy bags and day glo sticks. They want me to vanish as well; vanish into a cloudy, indistinguishable mass. But it’s impossible. I am lost and this is who I am…”
There are some laughs, some reflective chill-out moments, and some chaos. But Erin is more than that: it is an experiment in altered consciousness, not only for Lije but for the reader, too. There is a distinct impression that we are caught up in a trip: the gaps in Lije’s experience, a general confusion about the passage of time, and abstract sensory rhythms…
Continue reading “Erin – Robert Dickins”
The Surrogate is a science fiction novella and debut release from author Gavin Jefferson. The setting is a world in which obesity has been eradicated, leaving behind a ‘healthy, beautiful, and promiscuous’ populous. All, that is, except for one man: a man named Ronald Calico, a.k.a. The Surrogate.
This book grabs the reader from the intriguing first scene where we meet an old man (with a much younger public face) boarding a cruiser with his robotic assistant. It is through his eyes that we are shown the way society has developed, and through his conversation that we learn who The Surrogate is and how his unusual career came about.
This is a straight forward read, and a quick one at just 100 or so pages. What amazes me is that in so little space, and without being immediately obvious, Jefferson skilfully poses important questions about the way we interact and, in particular, the way we perceive intimacy. The Surrogate addresses such issues as body image, sexuality, personhood, and the messages filtered down to the masses from powerful decision-makers. I was left contemplating the role direct and diverse human contact plays in our sense of connection, and whether it could be considered endangered as we reach new levels of scientific and technological discovery.
The characters are well-rounded: likeable but realistic, and the ending made me a bit emotional!
There is also a bonus story included in the book called ‘The Collector’, which is a great teaser for Jefferson’s next release ‘Almost Surely’. I am very much looking forward to reading that and more from this author.
At the beginning of 2017 I challenged myself to read 28 books this year, which I surpassed by reading 33. It’s not as many as I would like to read ideally, and at this rate my current ‘to read’ list will take about 6 years to get through, but I like to think I go for quality rather than quantity. My ratings would certainly suggest that too: I scored 9 of the 33 books as 5/5, and a further 15 as 4/5. Even the books I scored as 3 were enjoyable reads on the whole, just less remarkable or memorable than others.
Some of these I have written full length reviews of, and those have hyperlinks so you can navigate to them.
Continue reading “The Best Books of 2017”
‘One might say that the noumenaut is a philosophical psychonaut – one who navigates through both the human harbour of ideas and out through to the inhuman ocean that is psychedelic consciousness.’
When I saw the subject matter of this collection of essays, I couldn’t wait to read it: so I was thrilled to be sent a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Although it took me a while to read, this was only due to the fact I kept stopping to make notes and contemplate, so it’s safe to say I was not disappointed.
Like most books with a philosophical bent, there is a lot packed into Noumenautics’ 136 pages. It starts out with a discussion on psychedelic phenomena: what the experience of using psychedelics does to our sense of reality and physics, and how we can apply the knowledge gained from it in rational, philosophical thought. It is an area that is surprisingly omitted from most popular notions of philosophy – which may have more to do with our prescribed morality (a topic also covered in the book) than a lack of validity – so I found it fascinating. I am a fan of Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, and this reads well as a scrutinising companion.
‘To deny philosophers of mind psychedelic substances is tantamount to denying instruments to musicians.’ Continue reading “Noumenautics – Peter Sjöstedt-H”