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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Last Hack and When the English Fall

I read and recommended Christopher Brookmyre's Bred in the Bone: a Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod Novel in 2014.  Then...I failed to follow up on any of his other books, until I saw The Last Hack as a NetGalley offering, I remembered that I wanted to read more from Brookmyre.

The Last Hack is the most recent in the Jack Parlabane series about about a Scottish investigative journalist who sometimes trips over legality to get his stories.  

At first, I was a little unsure about whether I would be able to engage with this novel; I wasn't sure what was going on.  But I'm glad I gave it a chance because once my mind had accepted the original ambiguity and got a grip on the characters and plot--it was full steam ahead.

Once the novel gets going, the pace is fast and compelling, as are the characters.  Jack Parlabane is trying to get his career back on track when he gets a message from the hacker known as Buzzkill with a threat he can't ignore.

Samantha (Sam) Morpeth struggles to attend school, raise a younger sister with learning disabilities, visit her mother in prison, and find the money to support her sister and herself.

Parlabane and Sam each find themselves entangled in a blackmail plot and must cooperate, however unwillingly, to survive the threats that could ruin them both.  

Now, I'm going to have to go back and pick up more of this series.  :)

Read in Feb.; blog post scheduled for June 14

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic

Mystery/Suspense.  July 4, 2017.


When the English Fall by David Williams gives a decidedly different approach to a dystopian novel.

From the description:  When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath.

Jacob is an Amish father whose daughter has what appear to be epileptic seizures in which she says, "The English fall." The English are what the Amish call those who do not belong to the Amish community, but Jacob and Hannah have no idea what their daughter's words mean.

A disastrous solar storm creates a world-wide EMP, an electromagnetic disturbance that causes planes to fall from the sky, the lights to go out around the world, and hospitals lose power.  The modern world quickly begins to fall apart.

In the initial stages, farmers are more fortunate than city dwellers.  In the Pennsylvania community where Jacob and his family live, the "English" and the Amish are friends and neighbors who are better able to support themselves and who rely on and support each other.  Even they, however, must make huge adjustments as machinery and generators and refrigeration damaged by the storm make life so much more difficult.  Most cars won't start and fuel rapidly becomes a problem for the vehicles that still work.

As expected, violence eventually results when food becomes scarcer and scarcer.  How will the Amish respond to the inevitable violence?

It is surprising to find that for the most part Jacob's journal entries calm the reader.  Jacob is a thoughtful man and his beliefs are solid, so even when he knows what to expect, his responses are troubled but reflective and  thoughtful.  

No solution to the end of the world as we know it is available; there is little hope that there will be a rebuilding of society in any way similar to the one lost during the solar storm.  How people survive will be a matter of personal choice.

The novel contemplates the way in which the Amish, committed to lives of peace, prayer, and non-violence, will respond when confronted by the unavoidable reactions of the hungry, the frightened, and the violent in the aftermath of this disaster.

I like that David Williams takes such a different approach to the dystopian novel.  

Read in Feb.; blog post scheduled for June 14.

NetGalley/Algonquin Books

Dystopian.  July 11, 2017.  Print length:  256 pages.

13 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful review! I'm glad you enjoyed the book!

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  2. I so have to read When the English Fall! It has so many elements that I love: a disaster in the shape of a solar storm, seeing who will survive, the Amish! And you liked it. I'm definitely putting this one on my summer reading list! :)

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    1. The novel takes an interesting approach that covers the immediate and gradual effects on society, but also the different responses to such a calamity. Although the Amish are less reliant on technology, the changes to their way of life are quickly apparent.

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  3. Ooohhhh! Just pre-ordered When the English Fall after reading your review. You've steered me in so many purchases over the years! 😄

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    1. Hey, You! I hope you like it. I found it thoughtful and thought provoking!

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  4. I declare, as we Southerners say, I really don't see how you like to read so many dystopian novels, Jenny. I believe I would have to be on anti-anxiety meds. Of course I read murder mysteries for diversion and listen to the blues to cheer myself up. Go figure. As always, you've written a thoughtful, engaging review.

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    1. :) I just read a lot. The percentage of dystopian novels is actually pretty low--like you, mysteries are my main go to reads! But I do like good dystopian novels. I was in the third or fourth grade when my dad gave me a copy of Robinson Crusoe for Christmas, and I've been fascinated with the ingenious ways people survive "ship wrecks" ever since! Maybe because I always realized that I'd be completely lost without modern conveniences like grocery stores and air conditioning. :P

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  5. When the English Fall does sound different from other dystopian novels. I will definitely have to check that out. I have still yet to read Brookmyre, but hopefully soon-ish.

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    1. I want to read more of both of Brookmyre's series, but I have such a stack of print books and a longer queue of ebooks! The reader's usual conundrum.

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  6. When the English Fall sounds interesting! Will have to check it out.

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    1. I liked it for a number of reasons, Melody. I find the Amish community interesting under any circumstances, and the book adds a crisis of humanity that could easily be a crisis of faith.

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  7. Quite different reads but both sound interesting. I have to say the Brookmyer book sounds like it would make a great action film!

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