Shadow of a Dead Star by Michael Shean – 5/5 Stars

Shadow of a Dead Star by Michael Shean

Shadow of a Dead Star is science-fiction cyberpunk, set in a future America called Wonderland, where over-reliance on dark technology fuels society, and sexual and materialistic fantasies are prevalent. Commercial status even determines human rights: the population of Seattle is divided between poverty-ridden Old City, the tumultuous Verge, and the dazzling New City; where lights, advertisements, and simulations overload the senses. I was fully immersed in the opening scenes and the author’s technology of the future was concise and clear. There was no room for ambiguity. After 17%, the writing breaks free from minor rigidity, and then the investigation unfolds with tension.

Federal Agent Walken is the exception, or so he believes; he’s a man of flesh who distrusts the widespread implicit faith in machines. Walken must investigate a case of Princess Dolls, little girls modified into sex toys, a practice that infuriates him. When the Princess Dolls are hijacked, Walken is ordered to investigate dubious sources to trace their location. However, he must work alongside “Civilian” Protection (CivPro) officers: who are unsympathetic and uncooperative because corporate interests masquerade behind most civil and public services. All Walken has is his instincts; and they haven’t let him down yet… I easily sympathised with Walken’s remarkable point-of-view, and liked his tough-guy persona.

Shadow of a Dead Star is a terrifying glimpse into a world where individual independence and initiative has been made obsolete: doors with no handles; administrative workers physically connected to the machines they use; and soldier helmets with view-screens instead of visors. Body “branding” is commonplace. Indeed, faith in machines is absolute to the extent that Walken sees himself alone, apart, and distinct from everybody. For readers worried about the rapid technological invasion in the information age, Shadow of a Dead Star reads like a political statement: cyberpunk realism if you like. Expect a few familiar cyberpunk elements, such as brain-riding (hacking), virtual reality, and an “underground” movement. Many of the main and sub-characters appeared typical of cyberpunk, but with relief the author fast-forwards past all pretence.

The sudden injection of first-person thriller action in the latter half kept me enthralled; it was like a first-person shooter video-game. Don’t expect an average plotline either. Just when you think it’s going to lapse into predictability, it takes a sci-fi/horror twist that is so “out-there” that I was horrified, stunned, and yet fascinated because the conclusion made perfect sense. Shadow of a Dead Star concluded but it didn’t fully end, which is something that will no doubt be cleared up in the sequel. Overall, what an experience! What was life like before this meteor-impact of a novel?

Creak by Elizabeth Morgan


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Today we have a guest post by long time Tea Society member and Vampire Month regular, Elizabeth Morgan. She is here to present to us her latest release – erotic suspense novel Creak. I’ll leave her to tell you all about it.10723079_929879940405806_557017422_n

“What happens in Silver Creek…stays in Silver Creek.”

After spending the summer as a recluse due to a bad break-up, Nicole Saunders agrees to go to The Heat Wave Festival with her best friends, Kacey and Tyler.

Along with three other friends, they plan to take a shortcut through the small town of Silver Creek. The last thing any of them expect is to become lost and end up pulling into a motel for the night.

The Creek Motel is isolated and the last place Nicole wants to be, especially after meeting the glacial owner. But her discomfort is soon forgotten as she finally gives in to her feelings and asks Kacey and Tyler to spend the night with her.

This should be bliss, but it quickly turns into a nightmare when she discovers that one of their friends has mysteriously disappeared from her locked room in the middle of the night.

Worried, Nicole presumes the worst, but she will soon discover that isolation can be the perfect stage for those who have something to hide…and that Jayne’s disappearance is more disturbing than any of them could have guessed.

This title contains explicit language and scenes of a sexual and/or violent nature which some readers may find disturbing.

Buy Links:
Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
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I pressed my head to the wood, mentally preparing myself for the hard stare of a nosey redhead, but when I turned round, I found an empty bed.
No reply.
I walked over to the bathroom and pushed the door open only to find the small room empty. My unease began to twist further as I looked round the room. The dishevelled covers and pillows confirmed that I wasn’t going crazy and that she had been in bed, but her case appeared to be missing. I pulled the door to the built-in wardrobe open, hoping like hell she was playing a childish prank to get back at me for my absence, but found it empty, and strangely cold.
A knock on the door caused my heart to flutter. “Who is it?”
“It’s Shauna.”
I walked over and unlocked the door, pulling it wide. “Is Jayne with you?”
Her brow furrowed. “Er, no. I actually came to see her.”
“She’s not here.”
“Well, where is she?”
“I don’t know.” Guilt stabbed at me. “I, er—I kinda couldn’t sleep so I went and had a few drinks and then crashed with Kacey and Tyler last night.”
Shauna arched a perfectly plucked eyebrow. “You guys got wasted last night? You should have told us. We were so bored.”
I shrugged. “We thought you two would want some ‘alone time’.”
She snorted. “Oh, heck, Craig’s good, but he’s not that good. Trust me. Getting wasted would have been a nice break.”
I looked round the room. “I locked the door behind me, so how did she get out?”
Unease began to rapidly turn in my stomach.
“Maybe she climbed out of the window?” Shauna walked over to the window and pulled the curtains open—a single panel of glass had been welded to the frame. “Okay, maybe not.”
My gut twisted. “Oh, God, what if something’s happened to her? What if someone broke in and—”
“Nikki, be serious. You would know if someone had broken in. The window would be smashed, or the lock on the door would have been broken.” She walked over to the bathroom doorway and glanced inside. “And your bathroom window is as small as ours is. So, no one got in.”
“What if the lock was picked? What if—”
“Are you seriously suggesting that someone picked the lock, kidnapped Jayne, and then locked the door behind them? That’s insane. Plus, ten minutes with her and they would have brought her straight back.”
I wanted to find this ridiculous. I wanted to believe that Jayne had somehow gotten out and was playing a trick on me as payback, but my gut wasn’t buying it. Something was very wrong.
“Jayne was locked inside this room. Tell me how the hell she got out?”
“I have no idea, but I’m sure there is a logical explanation.”
She looked doubtful, and the sight made me all the more sick.
“Something’s happened to her. I don’t know what, but—” The steady humming of wheels caught my attention. I turned and looked at the window, watching as Sarah’s shadow moved across the closed curtains. “I saw someone outside Kay and Ty’s window last night. I don’t know who it was. One of the other guests, or maybe the owners…and they have spare keys, don’t they? Technically, they would be the only other people able to get into this room—”
Shauna appeared in front of me. She grabbed my arms and looked me dead in the eyes. “Nikki, you’re talking crazy, and it’s starting to freak me out. I don’t know what happened, but let’s not jump to conclusions. There has to be a reasonable explanation for this.”
She let go of my arms and glanced round the room once more as if there was some corner I had forgot to check. “Just get ready and go get Tyler and Kacey.” A faint smile fluttered on her lips as she looked back at me. “Craig and I will go check at reception and ask the owners if they’ve seen her. Okay?”
I nodded. “Yeah, all right.”
“Just relax. She could have gone for a walk or something,” she stated before disappearing from sight.
Perhaps, but that still didn’t explain how she got out of a locked room.

~ * ~
About the Author:

Elizabeth Morgan is a multi-published author of urban fantasy, paranormal, erotic horror, f/f, and contemporary; all with a degree of romance, a dose of action and a hit of sarcasm, sizzle or blood, but you can be sure that no matter what the genre, Elizabeth always manages to give a unique and often humorous spin to her stories.
Like her tagline says; A pick ‘n’ mix genre author. “I’m not greedy. I just like variety.”
And that she does, so look out for more information on her upcoming releases at her website:
Away from the computer, Elizabeth can be found in the garden trying hard not to kill her plants, dancing around her little cottage with the radio on while she cleans, watching movies or good television programmes – Dr Who? Atlantis? The Musketeers? Poldark? American Horror Story? Heck, yes! – Or curled up with her two cats reading a book.

Where to find Elizabeth Online:
Twitter: @EMorgan2010
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[Review] Quigsnip by Sean Phillips


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Quigsnip, subtitled The Untold Tale of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, is Sean Phillips’ attempt at a sequel to Oliver Twist. Like Tony Lee’s Dodge and Twist, Phillips uses Quiqsnip to examine characters and situations in the original book and extend their stories on. The difference is that while Lee goes many years in the future, bringing the Artful Dodger and Oliver back to London as young adults, Phillips takes us closer to the original source by beginning his tale soon after the events in the original.41vGnNxStzL__SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

I guess that the main hero of this book needs no introduction. Oliver is still the same blond haired waif that most are probably more familiar with from the film versions than the original novel. We join him as he gives over a chunk of his wealth to a charity aimed at helping orphans like himself. Fagin, Sykes and the Artful Dodger are all dead – executed for their crimes – but one member of the Fagin gang remains at large – Quigsnip – and he seeks revenge against the boy who ruined all his plans.

And who is Quigsnip? You might be forgiven for thinking that he is a creation of the author, retroactively inserted into the original story background in order to justify the tale. That is certainly what I believed when I first started reading the flashback scenes in which our villain reveals himself. However, without fear of spoilers, I can say that the author has thought of this and has provided an interesting justification for his creation based on a throw away scene in the original novel which. His suggestion is that Dickens may have intended a larger role for this character.

Quigsnip carries out his devious plan and Oliver finds himself caught in a dangerous bind that he must use all of wits and charm to defeat. There follows a reasonably fun romp through Victorian England. Oliver is deprived of his wealth, his family, his friends and his reputation and must fight to win them all back. There are many cameos by characters readers of the novel may recognise and, as an extra bonus, the entire town of Coketown from Hard Times plays an important role.

There are flaws in the plot. Quiqsnip’s plan for example, is overcomplicated and full of potential pitfalls that do not get challenged. Of course this is no different to many schemes carried out by villains in all fictional universes (including Bond) though there are some fairly major flaws. These include a reliance on hypnosis which seems to have a greater power here than it does in the real world  – forcing someone to unconsciously perform acts against their personality, something that even fictional hypnosis considers impossible. Phillips also seems to place Coketown a lot closer to London than it is largely believed Dickens intended it to be, which is the approximate location of the North West industrial town of Preston in Lancashire. This tale places it a lot closer, within 100 miles of London. Nevertheless, this is a minor issue and one which does not detract from the tale (unless you are an unforgiving pedant :) ) and does allow Oliver to walk there from London (eventually – even at only 100 miles it is still along walk).

Another issue with the book is the writing style which I think is trying to mimic the style used by Dickens. This is a laudable effort but does lead to the text sometimes seeming bloated and stilted. This issue may be due to modern readers not connecting with an essentially now very old fashioned style or perhaps Phillips not quite managing to deliver the style in an entertaining way. This is not to say the writing is bad, there are in fact areas where it is good, but rather that just as in Karaoke where it is considered a mistake to cover Elvis, it may be ill advised to try to cover Dickens.

Overall I enjoyed this book, especially the interesting essay at the end where the character of Quiqsnip is analysed. Here is revealed the author’s love of the source material. The ending to the fictional tale is also satisfying and includes some suitably Victorian melodrama. Well worth a look.

Second Born by EA Stokes – 4/5 Stars


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Second Born

Second Born is a sci-fi/fantasy mix adventure novel that starts with vicious mercenaries hunting Princess Sasha. Dragon-riders are then dispatched by the King and Queen to rescue her. This event underpins growing disaffection between Sasha’s parents (the King and Queen) and the dragon-riders, who the reader will learn much of in the course of the novel.

I was quite taken with the descriptions of planets, dragon lore, and especially the character background scenes. The writing style was unique, and not overly descriptive. I enjoyed reading about the characters so much that it didn’t bother me that the main plot only started to develop at about 50% through. Thereafter, the peril made the characters yet more distinctive and I became completely absorbed with dragon-riders Jet, Vik, Damyil, and their culture. Sasha, Kaa’ln, and Larsom had complementary perspectives that added much. The author was adept at weaving interaction and situations with her characters to construct sub-plots that kept me happily reading.

The inclusion of spaceships and planets, not dragons, initially made me want to read Second Born. There were a few notable sci-fi ideas as I continued to read: mirrors that acted as instant messaging systems, and a system of identity numbers. More could have been made of the sci-fi and technology, but perhaps not without detracting from the storyline and the rich world of dragons.

The major criticisms I have of Second Born are the sheer number of spelling and grammar mistakes, incomplete sentences, and wrong words used. I had to distance myself from the incorrect text, which did affect how immersed I was in it. I had to read through obstructing webs to decipher the author’s message. As a result, these issues need to be resolved. I might have rated Second Born even more highly if the main plot didn’t break off as often into minor sub-plots before returning; sometimes it seemed to have been forgotten about. Also, it would have been nice if the dragons had a more active role than as telepathic reassuring presences, for the dragons lounged about a lot.

Second Born had a profound writing style, author voice, and plotline. EA Stokes is certainly an author I would consider reading again. She has proved she can conjure worlds and characters with ease, and make it a thoroughly enjoyable experience at the same time.

Release! And the Blog Tour Begins…

D.A Lascelles:

A special mention to yours truly here…

Originally posted on Alex Campbell:

I have just returned from a fabulous weekend, where at long last, my first novel, Sigil of the Wyrm was officially released!

Myself and fellow Manchester Tea Society Authors, D.A Lascelles, R.A Smith and Ninfa Hayes were at Mancster Con to celebrate, and while it was quite a small turnout, a lot of fun was had. I even got a chance to speak on my very first panel!

L-R Ninfa Hayes, D.A Lascelles, R.A Smith, Yours Truly

I’m still utterly exhausted from the weekend, but while I catch my breath, here are a few links to be getting on with:

Firstly, if you didn’t make it to the con and would like a copy of Sigil of the Wyrm, they are now available on Amazon, right here!

Secondly, the blog tour has begun!

Things have been kicking off with a post on Lurking Musings with D.A Lascelles

Next, I am…

View original 86 more words

Alex Campbell interview redux


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In March, we interviewed Alex for Vampire month and she provided the exceptional ‘Vampires of my life’ post. At the time we hinted that that she may be back soon. Now, here she is literally one day after the release of her debut novel (an event I was privileged to be sitting next to her while it happened at the MancsterCon, the sight of her face when she opened the box was classic) telling us all about it.redhair

  1. How did you come up with the concept of your story?

I think all authors have a touch of magpie in them somewhere – I know I do. I see something shiny and I want to steal it and put it in a book. Sigil of the Wyrm is a nest of glittery things I’ve collected – it’s full of real places from the North East where I grew up, and a few real people have cameo parts, or have lent me bits of dialogue and turns of phrase. And the main concept, the Lampton Wyrm itself, is from a local legend and, for me, bedtime story I heard as a kid.

  1. How did you come up with the title?

With great difficulty! And a lot of discussions with my editors. Even then it changed several times in the process. Titles are very polarising for me – either there’s one title that jumps out at me immediately and it’s perfect, or nothing is ever quite right and it takes an awful lot of work to come up with something.

  1. Please provide some insight into or a secret or two about your story.

I’m very wary of spoiler-ing the ending, or of giving away secrets that are going to become plot points in book two, so this is going to be a little cryptic. There’s a very famous essay by Roland Barthes that I read at university when I first conceived of the novel. I took the title a bit too literally, and it inspired something that happens in Chapter 22. With that in mind, you should be able to work out who a certain character is based around.


  1. 4. What was the most surprising part of writing this book?

The Sneak-Peak Pre-Release we did at London Film and Comic Con in July. I’m a total geek, so being told I was taking my book to Comic Con… I spent several weeks trying not to get my hopes up because there must have been a mistake somewhere, and my publishers couldn’t really have meant Comic Con… Except they did, and it was amazing. All the authors there were really friendly, and I met so many fantastic people, and I actually sold out of the copies I’d brought with me. It was a whole weekend of “I can’t quite believe this!”

  1. What was the hardest part of writing your book, and how did you overcome it?

The denouement. Chapters 20-22 took so long and so many revisions to get right, and I think that was because I was holding on to a plot element that I’d had since the beginning, but which no longer fitted. The novel had grown up and outgrown it, and it took me far too long to realise that. In the end, I just had to tear up those three chapters and re-write them from scratch, taking it in a slightly different direction, adding new scenes and even some new characters. In the end, it turned out to be the best decision I could have made, because it was a big injection of new writing into what had become a somewhat stale ending.

6. So, it’s been 5 months since you were interviewed for Vampire Month on this blog. Have the last few months been busy ones for you?

Very much so. A lot of scrambles to deadlines, plus a bit of publicity work in the run up to the launch, and the Sneak Preview at LFCC in July… and that’s even without factoring in a day-job and a social life!

7. As a newly published author, are there any differences between your expectations and what it is actually like to be published?

Not really. I mean, I haven’t made my millions yet, but then I never really expected I would (just hoped!). On the whole I went into the business with my eyes open, and with a fairly realistic view of what it would be like – both the good sides and the bad.

8. Your novel, Sigil of the Wyrm, has its roots in the Lambton worm legend. What are your earliest memories of that legend?

My Mum singing me this song to get me to go to sleep: It’s a bit incomprehensible if you don’t speak Geordie, I’m afraid, but I can provide a translation if required…

9. Are there any other popular legends you think might be ripe for interpretation into a novel? Do you plan to do one of these in the future?

Lots! I’ve already got several plans for book 2, which is going to draw quite heavily on a few Arthurian Excalibur myths, and also a lesser known story about a character called Tam Lin. That happens to be one of my favourites, because it’s one of the few times the girl gets to save her prince, not the other way round!

10. You are known as a feminist and a geek. What is your reaction to the claims that women cannot be geeks?

Raucous laughter? Beating them around the head with my Masters degree in Science Fiction? Point them at the vast number of women I know who have even better geek credentials than me? A massive wall chart pointing out all the fantastic Speculative fiction written by women, all the way back to the fact that a woman *invented* sci-fi as we know it (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 1818)? Depends what kind of a mood I’m in, but I disagree with that sentiment in the strongest terms. Luckily, I’ve almost always found Geekdom to be an open and welcoming subculture, and it saddens me that others of my gender have not always found it to be so.



Irony in Fantasy #MancsterCon


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So, on the 29th August MancsterCon will be upon us and that will see myself and a few other authors sitting on a panel discussing fantasy. Specifically fantasy tropes and clichés.



Now, fantasy is ripe with lots of juicy cliché. In fact, the years PT (Post Tolkien, a dark time which encompasses most of the 70s and 80s) were filled with trilogy after endless trilogy in which elves lived in forests, dwarves lived in mountainous mines and there was a need for a quest to go somewhere dangerous and do something with a rare artefact that would save the world. Even some of the most well respected authors were prone to these tropes. Raymond E Feist’s Magician, for example, is one of my favourite books from my childhood and one I can still stand to read today. It had some very innovative ideas for the time about magic and many other wonderful concepts. However, in my opinion the presence of elves and dwarves in the world building, particularly ones so close to the Tolkien ideas,  was not one of them. It was almost as if they were put in there because the publisher demanded it or because the author did not think a book without elves and dwarves would sell. I feel that a lot of fantasy in the 70s and 80s suffered from this very assumption. You had to have dwarves and elves and wizards to be fantasy. It was only in the mid to late 90s I feel the Tolkien effect began to wear off and popular fantasy veered away from many of the tropes he established.

Elves and Dwarves as portrayed  by Ravenchilde Illustrations

Elves and Dwarves as portrayed by Ravenchilde Illustrations

Partly to blame may be Gary Gygax who used a lot of the Tolkien ideas in D&D and later AD&D and as they turned into major concerns, many other Roleplaying games and Wargames fed from them.  There wasn’t even really much of an attempt to make things hugely different and this I think led to things spiralling to the point where it was expected that RPGs/Wargames had these concepts because they were in novels and novels had them in because they were in RPGs/Wargames and it kept on ad infinitum. When Serious Lemon asked me to write the background for the wargame Realm, I was basically given the brief to maintain the ‘standard races all fantasy fans expect’ but to try to make them different to the usual tropes. Not sure how well I managed that, though I was particularly proud of my fascist (and actually quite evil in an ‘it’s all for the greater good’ way) Roman elves and the ‘British’ Navy Halflings turned pirate following the destruction of their island kingdom by Cthulhu. However, the point is that the ‘received wisdom’ seems to be that the readers/players expect to see the old favourites and you cannot change them too much lest you alienate your target audience. This risk averse attitude, something which Hollywood is also accused of having, might lead to effective sales (sometimes) but also might stifle creativity. I guess finding the balance between those two points may well be a kwy to success – different enough to be seen as original but with enough familiarity to keep your audience in their comfort zone.

Terry Pratchett, of course, thrived on cliché. His Discworld stories are full of tropes and the subversion of those tropes and he managed to walk that creative tightrope very well. One of my favourites is Cohen the Barbarian, the octogenarian Barbarian hero who first appeared in The Light Fantastic, and his infamous Silver Horde, who debuted in Interesting Times. They manage to be both a subversion of a cliché and a cliché in themselves. On the one hand they subvert the Arnold Schwarzenegger school of barbarianism, which creates a wonderful piece of cognitive dissonance as you imagine a wiry old man swinging a sword far too big for him while wearing a loincloth and little else. On the other hand, they are also everything you come to expect from clichéd old men, including complaints about aches and pains and always having peppermints. Not to mention the wheelchair with blades on the wheels. A lot of layers there.

Pratchett’s treatment of elves and dwarves also shows these two approaches. His elves (as seen in Lords and Ladies) are a subversion as they appear on the surface to be typical Shakespearean fey as seen in A Midsummer Night’s Dream because of the effect of their glamour. However, they are actually completely emotionless sociopaths who enjoy tormenting and killing just for the fun of it. On the other hand his dwarves are an exaggeration of all the things you come to expect from them – including (at least in the animated versions) comedy regional accents for all the regions in the UK known for mining (Yorkshire, Wales and the North East). They mine, they talk about mining, they sing about gold (at one point they even sing the Hi Ho song, yes that one…) and they get into fights when drunk*. Oh and they get sensitive about their height. Pratchett’s use of cliché is, I feel, a successful one. He uses the expectations of his audience, lulls them into a false sense of familiarity, then bludgeons them on the back of the neck with the half brick in a sock that is the unexpected subversion of that cliché. This is one way to use cliché and a way I have talked about in the past.

Happily I think we are in a better place creatively than we used to be. It now seems possible to write a whole fantasy trilogy in which there are no pointy eared wood dwelling elves, no bearded mining dwarfs and no long bearded wizards. You can even have a whole long series of books in which the races are based on insects which has to be a step forward. Dwarves in fantasy now have to be the scarred and bitter dispossessed sons of cruel noblemen who have developed a clever wit as a defence against all the taunts they have endured in their life because GRR Martin is now this century’s JRR Tolkien. I am sure we can expect there to be many copies of the concepts in A Song of Ice and Fire in the future. The stagnation that had been in place throughout the PT years is no more, though I suspect we are now entering the PM (post Martin) period… Though personally I would like to see the advent of the PP (Post Pratchett) period.

So, this is written with the intent of starting a debate. I am looking for ideas and concepts to discuss at the panel… If you have a thought on clichés in fantasy, please comment below. Alternatively, please vote on one of the polls I am posting to facebook or contact me in another manner to voice your opinion…

*Well, most of them do… in Wyrd Sisters there is the playwright Hwel, portrayed with a solid West Midland’s accent in the animated version to accentuate the relationship to Shakespeare, who is a non-bearded creative dwarf who has no interest in normal dwarf pursuits.
Some of the images used here were created by Ravenchilde illustrations and Quattrofoto. Please thank them for their efforts by visiting their sites.

D.A Lascelles is the author of Lurking Miscellany, Transitions (Mundania Press) and Gods of the Sea (Pulp Empires). He lives in Manchester UK. You can sometimes see him writing about Zombie porn on but he mostly blogs about books, vampires, science fiction and Terry Pratchett. He is inordinately proud of the fact that one of his Pratchett articles was referenced on the French version of the author’s Wikipedia page.


Twitter: @areteus

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Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne – 5/5 Stars

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Journey to the Centre of the Earth is the incredible adventure of young student of mineralogy Axel, being compelled to voyage on a perilous undertaking through an (extinct?) Icelandic volcano. Unable to resist the iron will of Uncle Liedenbrock, Axel believes he faces the prospect of a lunatic crusade.

Professor Otto Liedenbrock: one might say he is the stereotypical mad professor, but in many ways he is one of a kind. To his critical nephew Axel, who suffered his living habits, he is an impatient man, egocentric in his thoughts, and prone to bouts of fury. However, I saw many endearing personality traits in him. An eminent scientific savant certainly, who is eccentric, bold, and has wit. I respected the Professor’s drive to achieve great things, for recognition and personal accomplishment. I also pitied the fact that his insular life and single-minded focus, courage, and determination made him blind to Axel’s feelings. To feel fulfilled in life, intellectual challenges and forcing himself to undergo expeditions of discovery, were aspects not touched upon in the novel, but which made me empathise with him.

At 20 per cent through the novel, Axel’s desperate attempts to thwart his Uncle’s surging enthusiasm and ambition, as well as his critical view of him, made for hilarious reading. I could just visualise the Professor racing like a bull down staircases and through doors, on to tackle the next challenge. In many passages, it highlighted how imperfect the Professor was, because he forgot things like what he has cooking. And though the Professor spent hours studying a Runic manuscript, Axel discovered the secret quite by accident. Sometimes I felt Axel was too critical, when he has to point out his Uncle’s flaws and imperfections to us so that we may see the Professor as human or acceptable. I’m not sure whether to blame the author for this.

From 20 to 45 per cent much description does burden the reader’s enjoyment. I urge the reader to persist, for after 45 per cent, the adventure really gets going, and the description puts the environment into perspective with a knowledgeable and scientific setting. Sometimes the science was a bit too much for the unacquainted reader, perhaps also because many of the terms would be academic to a Victorian scientist, but the dictionary helped with the basics. On a more accurate scale I would have rated this novel 9/10.

The personalities were powerfully constructed, and I felt I got to know them almost instinctively, even if they both did manage to surprise me numerous times during the course of the novel. Mostly, this was an effortless and rewarding read, filled with humour, colour, imagination, and wonder! The discoveries were stimulating, and reached beyond the scientific to deliver a panoramic timeless experience.

Reviewed by Alex James

Want a Badge? Here is how…


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So, a few days ago I received a delivery of badges. I have 50 of them, 10 of each of 5 designs. They look awesome (even if I do say so myself) and they will be making their debut at the MancsterCon on the 29th August. You can see the designs for them here…lurkerbadge

You can purchase a badge for a not unreasonable price if you come to visit the stall. Through a simple transaction you can walk away with what I am sure will be this year’s ultimate fashion statement. However, there is another more fun way to acquire one…

Contact me in advance of an event you know I am going to be at and tell me what you can do to earn one of these very covetable badges.

Contact details are all over this blog (see right at the bottom of this post) so you should find it easy to find me…

Some examples are:

gods of the deep3– You can take a selection of leaflets and other swag from Tea Society members and promise to deliver them to a place where they may get picked up by interested people. This can include a local library, a book or comic shop, another form of shop (I recently dropped some in a local organic grocers) or even a bar or nightclub. You do have to know for certain that this place will totally be cool with this. I don’t want to get blamed for your littering. I’d also like to see a photo of the leaflets in place, not because I don’t trust you to do the job but because it is nice to be able to post a photo of our leaflets on Social Media.

– You can do a blog post or a review about one of us or one of our books or give one (or more) of us blog space to post a guest blog. Honest reviews, please, I do not want to be accused of buying good reviews. And of course we’d like to see the links for these posts so we can share them too.elementbadge2

– You can offer some other promotional opportunity… Impress me with your ideas.

I’m also going to offer a free badge with every purchase of a copy of one of our books. Mostly this covers books bought at events but I guess if you can show up with evidence of ebook purchase (or even go online on your smartphone and buy one there and then) I’ll pass one over to you too. Obviously this applies to all my books. As to which other authors it applies to… well I am going to be evil there and not tell you (but you can flip back to the previous post to find out or come to an event and ask).

If you contact me with a promotional idea you can also feel free to request which badge design you want. However, this is first come, first served. Bear in mind there are only ten of each design so stock is very limited (for now…).


D.A Lascelles is the author of Lurking Miscellany, Transitions (Mundania Press) and Gods of the Sea (Pulp Empires). He lives in Manchester UK. You can sometimes see him writing about Zombie porn on but he mostly blogs about books, vampires, science fiction and Terry Pratchett. He is inordinately proud of the fact that one of his Pratchett articles was referenced on the French version of the author’s Wikipedia page.


Twitter: @areteus

Buy Lurking Miscellany (paperback)

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tea society badge2 gods of the deep2

Not so secret society


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I guess over the last few months an insidious and influential group has slowly been showing its hand. You may not have been aware of them, at first. They are an organisation who were cloaked in shadow. However, you may have met some of them, maybe at an author event, maybe passed them in the street. They have guided civilisation from the earliest days, raised kings and toppled princes, manipulated the stock market and contributed to the success of numerous creative artists. They have agents everywhere. Well, mainly in the UK. Actually, mainly in Manchester really with a couple elsewhere. To be honest, not all that many even in Manchester… but, so great are these agents they don’t need many to fulfil their schemes.tea society badge2

The name of this epic organisation? Why, it is none other than the Tea Society.

And if you are at this point thinking ‘Who?’ then that is testament to our ability to so totally blend into the background.

The origins of the Tea Society go back a number of years when a handful of writers who lived in Manchester started having sort of not very regular meetings to talk about writing. The name was a joke that rose out of the fact that we could not think of a name and all we seemed to do at the meetings was drink tea and in the end it sort of stuck.

Later, after some discussions around a shared trade table at a steampunk market, we came to the conclusion that it was really difficult sharing a table as we tended to do and maintaining a solid identity for customers to recognise. So, Elizabeth Morgan arranged for there to be a banner and Rachel Bostwick (Queen of trailers and other graphic design goodness) was hired to give us some brand identity with our official logo.

The banner debuted at the Yorkshire Cosplay con earlier this year and was also seen briefly at the World Book Night event at the Fab Café. It will next emerge this weekend at the Literally Literary event at Leeds Central Library and then at the MancsterCon in Salford on August 29th.

stallSo, now that we are out in the open, you may be able to guess some of our members… they include R.A Smith, Ninfa Hayes, Miriam Khan and of course myself. But there are others such as Pat Keheller, Erica Hayes and Alex Campbell (whose book is out soon, you should totally check it out).

If you see any of us at an event, especially if we have the banner up, feel free to come over and have a chat about books in general or our books in particular (and maybe even buy some). I am also currently pondering a special deal where if you promise to do some publicity – take some leaflets to be delivered to local businesses, tweet or share on Facebook, or otherwise spread the word – you may qualify for a special limited edition Tea Society badge. I’ll get out more details of this once I work them out properly.

Hope to see you all at an event soon!


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