Monday, April 12, 2021



Necrogarden (Book Two: NeuralTech Rising Series)

Necrogarden, the second in Bryon Vaughn's trilogy, moves straight into the action as agents Landry and Mack give chase to Jenny and Leo. They, against the odds, escaped the Garden, a terrifying, secret technological construct powered by human minds. 

As the title implies, Necrogarden takes a sinister turn from its prequel, Neurogarden, introducing a dark assortment of antagonists, Takahiro and Mack, both prepared to unleash brutal violence on their targets, "seeking the next level of pain". The quick move to action grips the reader from the beginning, although it helps to have read book one. 

Brenna, the ruthless CEO of NeuralTech, barely holds the reins of her company. Now she enlists Artificial Intelligence, in the guise of her virtual assistant, Hal, to run the Garden. However, Hal goes rogue, carefully manipulating all around him to gain control.

All the main characters from the first book, Brenna, Jenny and Leo, are unwittingly caught in Hal's deceptive web, challenging their motives. Other characters, such as Brenna's father, are seamlessly linked into the story without any drop in pacing.

Vaughn's novel takes a decidedly dark turn from the first novel, moving more to horror than science fiction, but it's the thriller elements that bind this fast-paced story. For those who like their antagonists with a sadistic bent, this novel is for you. 4 STARS

Neurogarden (Book One: NeuralTech Rising Series)

Neurogarden, Bryon Vaughn's imaginative debut novel, delves into the possible future of AI technology. The theme is a familiar one: the corporate impulse to exploit profit and power no matter how questionable the technology versus those who see the moral disadvantage. It reminds me a little of Neuromancer, but with less tech and more of the thriller element. 

The CEO of NeuralTech Corporation, Brenna Patrick, has developed the world's most effective and accurate facial recognition system. Unsurprisingly, it has attracted the Department of Defence's collaborative funding, but the company's operations are not what they seem.

The antagonist, Brenna Patrick, possesses a ruthless ambition and superior intelligence that drives her to succeed no matter the cost, both to herself or those who dare to cross her path. A perfectionist at heart in all things, Brenna possesses a selfish streak that ultimately leads to her downfall.

The protagonist, Jenny Marcado, loyally supported by her grad student friend, Leo Marino, inadvertently fall into Brenna's dark web whilst innocently pitching their business acumen to NeuralTech. Jenny's presentation fearlessly speaks the truth to power, impressing Brenna and sparking an interest between them that extends beyond professional competence. A fatal attraction develops.

Jenny and Leo are drawn ever deeper into Brenna's shadowy corporate web, leading to a thrilling cat and mouse game between those who wish to expose NeuralTech's secrets and those who want to protect them.

I enjoy the new wave of tech science fiction, exploring the impact of new technology on society. Vaughn's take on 'The Garden' was an intriguing and imaginative journey. It took some time to reach the action as it introduced character backstories, unnecessarily slowing the pace. That said, the second half of the book quickly gathers momentum. Vaughn's atmospheric prose soars when it reaches the beating heart of NeuralTech's technology, 'The Garden'. The imaginative dreamlike experience is effectively counterbalanced with thriller elements, making for an entertaining and thought-provoking story.

Fans of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One and Philip K Dick's Minority Report should enjoy Neurogarden. 4 Stars

Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Australian and British Science Fiction Awards 2020

Australian Science Fiction Awards

The Aurealis Awards are an annual literary award for Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror fiction. It was established in 1995 by Chimera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis Magazine.

The Aurealis nominations are out for the best science fiction novels for 2020. There is a good mix of new writers and previous winners and nominees.

The nominations are:

Ghost Species, James Bradley;

Aurora Burning, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff;

Fauna, Donna Mazza;

The Animals in That Country, Laura Jean McKay;

The Mother Fault, Kate Mildenhall;

Repo Virtual, Corey J White.

British Science Fiction Awards

The 2020 British Science Fiction Awards (BSFA) are awarded every year by the British Science Fiction Association based on the votes of BSFA members, and in recent years, members of the British National Science Fiction Convention, Eastercon.

The 2020 awards will be held online from April 2 to 5, 2021. The nominees for all categories can be viewed on this link.

There’s an interesting group of science fiction novels this year and I have read one of the nominations. 

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. 

Two more interesting standouts for me are:

Threading the Labyrinth by Tiffany Angus; and 

Water Must Fall by Nick Wood.