Book Review: The Relive Box by T. C. Boyle

I’m not a short story fan, but I am a T. C. Boyle fan, so I did try his new collection of short stories. Bottom line: they are great!

With 270 pages and just 11 stories, these are not the shortest of short stories, and most of them are very original and engaging. What to think of the title story, in which a family is addicted to their “Relive Box,” a game console with which they can watch any moment of their past? The father throws off his daughter (“Time for bed!”) and then spends the whole night finding back events from his past, never satisfied with the way he acted at the time, but with no way to change the past, either.

Several of the stories—like Relive Box—are placed in the near future, for instance involving a water apocalypse or genetically selected children and pets. Others are set in the current time, with a girl who failed college trying to cover up this fact for her parents at graduation, or a friendly widower who receives a letter from a stranger asking for his help.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories. They are typically T. C. Boyle: full of quirks and great writing.

I received a e-copy of this book in return for a review.

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Book Review: The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

What the publisher says:Every dog has its day…

And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can be.

Reg, an agoraphobic writer with an obsession for nineties football, plans to wait out the impending doom in his second floor flat, hiding himself away from the riots outside.

But when an abandoned orphan shows up in the stairwell of their building, Reg and Lineker must brave the outside in order to save not only the child, but themselves…”

What I say: As a lover of post-apocalyptic books, I very much enjoyed this novel. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic London, where Reg, a writer, lives with his dog. He knows there are other people in flats further away (he keeps track of them; there are ten window spread out over the city that lit up every night) but he is not interested in meeting anyone else. He likes to keep to himself. But then he finds a young girl at his door, who refuses to go away. Reg decides to bring her to wherever she’s supposed to be and, once he gets outside the familiar streets, finds the remnants of London to be very different from what he expected. He is forced to deal with other people and his quest to drop the girl off turns into something bigger.

Besides Reg, there is another narrator, who is at Reg’s side for most of the time but also has his own adventures. This is Reg’s dog Lineker. He’s very wise for a dog and he philosophizes like a real human. I loved how he interprets the smells that he comes across; these are much more important to him than sound or vision. However, while he was generally telling an entertaining story, as the story progressed, I found him less believable as a dog. He knew too much; he was too clever.

In all, this was an entertaining story about a man and his dog in a world where there are many more men and dogs than either of them knew.

I received this book as an e-book (ARC) from the publishers (Del Rey) via Netgalley.

 

Broadcast by Liam Brown

broadcastThe description of the book reminded me of The Circle by Dave Eggers, which I enjoyed a lot, so I was keen to read Broadcast. 

And I was right, while reading the book, I noticed some similarities  with The Circle. Dave Callow is invited to a remarkable building for his meeting with the famous inventor Xan Brinkley, who runs a large technology corporation.  Dave is a well-known vlogger and is asked by Xan to participate in an experiment with a new device. This is implanted in his head, and with it, his thoughts can be displayed directly onto people’s computers. So Dave can stop vlogging; whatever he wants to share, he can just think about.

Of course, privacy is a bit issue here, but Dave is all for becoming ever more famous—which he does—and he’s not aware of the consequences of everyone seeing his thoughts every moment of the day until it’s too late. Or almost too late.

This was a slightly too easy read in the sense that already early on in the story, I had my misgivings about what Dave was doing, and my predictions did come true. However, there was also an aspect of the story that I could not have guessed, so that meant it was interesting to keep reading and finding out what would eventually happen. I found Dave rather gullible and I never really warmed to him. The descriptions of what he was going through were sometimes a little long and I found myself skimming paragraphs.

In all, I enjoyed the story, but found it a little too simple. It had some interesting themes such as privacy and friendship. I would recommend it to readers who enjoyed The Circle.

The publishers say: “The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me – within a few months you’ll be the most talked about person on the planet.

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity.

Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world.

A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show’s creator has for him.”

I received a free e-book copy in return for an honest review.

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For the Love of Ethan by Marjorie Reynolds

This is the story of a family in turmoil when the 10-year-old son is diagnosed with liver disease. The reader is sucked into the hospital visits, the check-ups, the difficult decisions, and the marriage of the parents. I’m not typically interested in hospital stories but there was no escaping this one! It was a fast read, as I hoped that all would be right for Ethan, but could not imagine how that would come about.

The story describes how far parents can go to protect and save their children. Would you break the law, if necessary? Would you disadvantage others (and possibly sentence them to death with your actions) just so your son could live? These are serious issues that are discussed in a very readable way, both making you go with what the parents feel they should do, and at the same time, making you stop to think whether this is ethical – and what would you do yourself?

I do hope this really is a work of fiction, but the writing is so detailed and knowledgeable, that I could imagine this really happened to the author. Let’s hope not!

Publisher’s description: “Delainie Franklin is a devoted mother whose ordinary life runs smoothly — until Ethan, her ten-year-old son, becomes ill. Delainie and her husband, Joel, must not only face the challenges of Ethan’s uncertain future but also survive events that test their family bonds. How far will a mother go to save her son? Delainie must make that agonizing decision.”

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