Diving for pearls with a reviewer

I hadn’t really had much chance to read expansively into science fiction over the past three years. I was up to my eyeballs in Toni Morrison, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, F. Scott Fitzgerald… The whole classic crew, who (somewhat miraculously) I still have a soft spot for, despite a lifetime of picking apart and over-analysis. A chance meeting, however, with a book by J. G. Ballard and a copy of I Am Legend being lent by a friend would begin my shift of interest over to the side of SF and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction. I am particularly partial to a bit of hard SF.

I wanted to write a short, quick post about the past year, roughly when I started reviewing and getting deeper into SF. If there are any pearls of wisdom you can take then that’s a happy bonus. Let’s dive:

1. Trying to keep up with review requests is impossible but that’s okay.

I put my details up on a site called http://www.tweetyourbooks.com (Twitter @TweetYourBooks) and it was an incredibly successful way of putting myself out there. I get a lot of traffic from it. When I first began receiving requests, I was rather panicked at the thought of having to reply to every single email. I didn’t want to offend anyone. As I went on, I realised the authors are understanding and there’s nothing to worry about. They get it. And I really appreciate everyone’s requests, it’s encouraging to know there is so much creative writing talent out there. To those authors I have not been able to get back to I’m very sorry, keep on writing and sharing your creativity. To those whose books I am still nursing for review, I apologise. I am getting there. The best tip I can give to help reviewers starting out is to make sure you categorise your email mailbox from the very beginning. This may seem obvious in hindsight but at the time of starting I had no idea how many emails I would get. Keep to a simple method that works for you, don’t over-complicate things. This can be even worse than an unorganised mailbox. Another lesson I learned the hard way.

2. I have enjoyed reviewing!

This may seem like an obvious observation but as I hadn’t done it before who knew what could have happened? I especially enjoyed talking to many authors about their work. I’ve made firm friends through the medium of SF. Twitter is a great platform to get chatting.

3. Have a game plan for fitting in creative moments.

Then again, it’s virtually impossible to ‘plan’ when you’re going to be creatively inspired. I often write at 5am before I go to work, as that’s when I happen to be most spurred on to be creative, just figure out what works for you. For everyone things always happen unexpectedly: meetings; cleaning; laundry; a flat on your car; just life in general. Then, when you have a few minutes you never have the right gear with you (yes, sometimes we all need some particular stationary or notebook we are attached to before we can really let the flow go). My key to mastering this unpredictability of life is an application called Evernote. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s brilliant. Easy to download to all your tech. If I have a spare half an hour on a train, I can write notes on my iPhone then get home, open up my laptop and the notes will be there too. No sending files or waiting ages for each piece of tech to catch up with the sync (which takes seconds, if that). Evernote is useful for everything, no more needing to worry if you brought this list or that list with you, it’ll be with you everywhere. I’m firmly a paper and pen kind of person but Evernote is an indispensable addition. Frankly, I’m not the most high tech of people, there may be better out there than Evernote but it works perfectly for me. Side note: if you’re on O2 you get a year’s free Premium of Evernote. Yes! So you lot on O2 like me, no excuses.

4. Green tea is awesome.

I can’t drink coffee without it sending me to sleep – go figure – so my introduction to green tea was a life saver.

5. Life sometimes gets in the way.

I suppose this depends on the person. A perfectly organised person who quickly settles into routines or had more life experience probably could have handled it better. Me, I was just starting out living alone in my first flat far from home and beginning my first full-time position post-university. I had a lot to prove to myself and I think I was trying to do too much all at once. I had always dreamed of living alone and living life dictated at my own pace. I just hit the ground running a bit faster than I could handle! Saying that, I’ve now found my rhythm and reviewing only adds to this sense of achievement.

An aim that I am putting out there (so you can pull me up on it if I don’t fulfill it!) is that I am going to up my game with the original purpose of this blog: The SF Masterworks collection. I keep looking at the wealth of SF Masterworks copies on my bookshelves and they are just crying out to be read. Those people who have reviewed SF Masterworks, I would love to hear what you thought, add your pearls to the mix. It will add fuel to the reading fire.

Here’s to diving for pearls.

Pearl divers

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REVIEW: Katrina Mountfort: Future Perfect

The storyline of Future Perfect is heart-breaking in its truthfulness. It is a realistic storyline of life in a government collapse-and-realignment constructed dystopian setting, where life is hard and decisions are harder. I treasured Future Perfect‘s closeness to reality, the nearest to realistic that you can get for a futuristic dystopian world. The book explores the effects of oppression on humanity’s natural instincts. Society has narrowed everyone’s horizons into Citidomes, a proposed perfect world where everyone’s goals are the same: superficial physical alterations and materialistic social climbing with a search for “perfect” being the materialistic basis for life. 

 

 

 

A few Citidome dwellers during the years have managed to escape and lead a harsh but free life outside the Citidomes. This small scale life continues in the old towns and villages that were abandoned in the transition into Citidome living. Within the morally skewed world of the Citidome we follow the lives of odd-one-out Caia and the rebellious Mac. 

 

Mac’s loyalties are clear; to a free life on the outside. Mac is a born rebel for the cause. He believes in a better world outside, living in the colonies. He is meant for a world with no oppression or materialistic values and because of these principles, he constantly openly challenges the laws of the Citidome

 

Caia simply doesn’t fit in with the others around her, physically or mentally. She cannot find their materialistic values important, or find the reason to try. When she meets Mac, her thoughts are able to take wing and be voiced. Caia is torn, between escaping to a new life with Mac on the outside and fear-tainted loyalty to the only life she’s ever known in the Citidome. Actively going against the laws of the Citidome in pursuit of brighter horizons may be one step too far for them both.

 

 

 

In these divided perspectives one person’s perfection is another’s oppression. As we learn from Caia and Mac, perfection stands in the eye of the beholder. As we learn more about both Citidome life and outside life, we have to decide what definition of “perfect” we choose to live by. As the corruption of the Citidomes begins to show so does the harshness of life outside the walls. I enjoyed the questioning nature of the divided, yet co-existing lives of the Citidomes and the outside. They are ran by completely different ideas of happiness, healthiness, working; of just living. I couldn’t agree more with the synopsis that Future Perfect “will appeal to both an adult and young adult audience,” I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend to all.



The book is available from:

US Amazon:
UK Amazon: