Anne Bonny #BookReview Crime Scene by Jonathan & Jesse Kellerman @JesseKellerman #CrimeFiction @headlinepg @bookbridgr ‘The novel covers the theme of redemption and a person’s moral obligation to right their wrongs…..’

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Crime Scene by Jonathan & Jesse Kellermen
Review copy
Synopsis:

Natural causes or foul play? That’s the question deputy coroner Clay Edison must answer each time he examines a body. Figuring out motives and chasing down suspects aren’t part of his beat – until a seemingly open-and-shut case proves to be more than meets his highly trained eye.

Eccentric, reclusive Walter Rennert lies cold at the bottom of his stairs. At first glance the scene looks straightforward: a once-respected psychology professor done in by booze and a bad heart. But his daughter Tatiana insists that he has been murdered, and she persuades Clay to take a closer look at the grim facts of Rennert’s life.

When Clay learns that Rennert’s colleague died in a nearly identical manner, he becomes even more determined to discover the truth behind the man’s death. The twisting trail Clay follows will lead him into the darkest corners of the human soul.

It’s his job to listen to the tales told by the dead. But this time, he’s part of a story that makes his blood run cold.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this novel focused around a deputy coroner. It reminded me of my teens watching episodes of Quincy. I think the angle of the protagonist being a coroner, worked incredibly well. Although there are multiple references of death and methods of dying obviously.

‘When I meet new people, they’re usually dead’

The novel opens with Deputy Coroner Clay Edison called to the scene of a dead body. The victim is 18yr old Seth Lindley Powell, it is unclear at first how he died, and this gives you a whole new respect for coroners and pathologists. The work they do, to get results for the family.

‘There are an infinite number of ways to die but only five manners of death. Homicide, suicide, natural, accidental and undetermined’

Seth’s death involved multiple factors, was he drinking? Did he fall? Was he pushed? Eventually it is ruled an accident. But it is still on Edison’s mind 5yrs later when he is called back to the same town.

‘My job begins with the dead but continues with the living’

Edison is called to the residence of Dr Walter Rennert a 75yr old retired psychologist. His daughter Tatiana is at the scene and found the body. She is adamant it is not an accident and a case of murder. Edison gives her time, respect and most importantly listens to her story. He then continues to evaluate the scene.

The scene suggests an accidental fall, but on further search the team discover a bottle of Risperidone (anti-psychotic) only 5 days old and prescribed by a different doctor to Rennert’s usual physician. Why is a psychologist administering anti-psychotics to himself, when he knows the impact of the medication with his heart problems? Something about the medications presence unnerves Edison and leads him to investigate further. . .

‘A lying doctor; the echo of a fall; a murderer walking the streets’

The case of Walter Rennert’s death is extremely complex and goes deep into his past and career. Specifically, a study the doctor organised on the theme of media violence on the developing brain. Which led to the murder of a young student Donna Zhao.
The young man convicted of the murder seemed to fit the ‘perfect’ police profile.

‘Most mentally ill people – the vast statistical majority – weren’t violent’

How does Walter’s fall down the stairs relate to the conviction of Julian E Triplett? Where is Julian? Why are the doctors involved in the study so secretive?

The novel covers the theme of redemption and a person’s moral obligation to right their wrongs. It is a stark insight into the American justice system. 4*

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Jonathan Kellerman
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Jesse Kellerman
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Pool House by @tasminaperry 5* @headlinpg #NewRelease #SummerReads Someone lied. Someone died.

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The Pool House by Tasmina Perry
Synopsis:

A Summer To Die For
To Jem Chapman, it’s the chance of a lifetime. An invitation to join a group in an exclusive Hamptons house-share, who could say no? But when she discovers what happened last summer, Jem can’t help but feel a chill.

A young woman was found drowned in the house’s pool. The housemates said Alice was troubled. She’d been drinking. She couldn’t swim…

A Secret To Kill For
As Jem gets to know her glamorous new housemates, she realises each has something to hide. What really happened last summer? And who would go to any lengths to keep a person quiet?

My Review:

This is not my usual type of book at all. It is however, my sister’s favourite genre! We read very different books and she has nagged at me for many years to try something from ‘her’ genre. So, I opened The Pool House thinking ‘this may not be for me’. But I was so wrong, it wasn’t long until I was texting my sister about the plot and absolutely hooked on the drama.

I think this would make the perfect beach read! Possibly not poolside read, due to the plot within! But nevertheless, perfect for the holibobs.

The novel opens with a prologue, a young woman named Alice is crying and alone. We are aware she is at the Hamptons and lives a life of wealth and privilege. A charmed life! But someone not so charming appears and utters the words ‘Hello, Alice. I knew I’d find you here. I think it’s time we had a talk’.

The novel then jumps ahead to the following summer. Young couple Jem and Nat, have recently moved to the US and getting accustomed to life in Brooklyn. Nat works long hours for a men’s health magazine. Leaving Jem lonely and isolated.

When they are invited to join Todd and Angela with two other couples at a beach house in the Hamptons, in the first week of September. Nat jumps at the chance, he is desperate to get ahead at work and appear to be hanging with the ‘in crowd’. Jem is more hesitant and concerned. She misses their life in England and feels that everything has changed since their move to the states.

‘This is going to be the summer of a lifetime’ – Nat

Once Jem has viewed the five-bedroom property in Wainscott, taken in the beautiful location and area. Her mind is firmly put at rest. But it isn’t long until someone mentions the previous couple David and Alice, that Jem becomes more suspicious. Alice drowned at the property the summer before under mysterious circumstances. The group of couples are quick to paint the picture that Alice was a drunk with other personal problems. They make it clear it is a topic best not discussed.

When the other couples return to their jobs. Alice is left behind in the property. She decides to spend the day taking in the sites as she is alone. She meets local author Michael Kearny. They strike up an instant friendship and Jem feels less lonely.

As you read the novel, you really get a sense of the seduction of the surroundings. You can relate to the characters on some level as their appetite for wealth, luxury and status increases. Yet it is not without its problems.
I did find myself peering over the top of the novel and saying to my husband ‘Oh, how the other half live’ lol

Jem’s friendship with Michael develops and he offers her a role as his PA. She is flattered by the job offer, but it isn’t until later she learns why she was picked. Michael wants to write about the drowning of Alice. With Jem acting as sort of mole turned investigator. Reluctantly she agrees, and the investigation begins.
By this point, I was gripped to the pages.

The novel then jumps back in time again to when Alice was alive, and we see her developing personality prior to her death. I quite liked Alice as a character, but I did get the sense she is the type of woman that is routinely talked about by others. Alice has a raw vulnerability mixed with self-sabotage. I wanted to know what happened to her, to put my own nosey intrigue to rest.

As said above, I am not a huge reader within this genre. But I know a good book when I see one! This novel is a 5* beauty! Perfect for reading when the sun is shining!
Enjoy this summer with a cocktail in the other hand!

TP
Tasmina Perry
Website
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***Currently available in Ebook for just £3.99 via Kindle & released in paperback 19th April***

Anne Bonny #BookReview Snow Blind by @ChristophGolden 5* #Snow #Horror #SnowReads @headlinepg #SnowBlind

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Snow Blind by Christopher Golden
Synopsis:

Twelve years ago the small town of Coventry, Massachusetts was in the grasp of a particularly brutal winter. And then came the Great Storm.

It hit hard. Not everyone saw the spring. Today the families, friends and lovers of the victims are still haunted by the ghosts of those they lost so suddenly. If only they could see them one more time, hold them close, tell them they love them.

It was the deadliest winter in living memory.

Until now.

When a new storm strikes, it doesn’t just bring snow and ice, it brings the people of Coventry exactly what they’ve been wishing for.
And the realisation their nightmare is only beginning.

My Review:

I had previously read the authors novel Ararat, which absolutely blew me away and has recently won a book an award! When we had the snow (March 2018 UK), I decided to read a novel with a theme of a storm/blizzard and picked up Snow Blind from my tbr pile. The novel has an eerie horror/mystery feel and has received praise from Stephen King! So, here’s my thoughts on Snow Blind.

The snow is set in the small town of Coventry, Massachusetts during a brutal winter. My favourite thing about the novel is the character depth. The characters are detailed, but not overly so. Just enough to get you invested in their stories and intrigued on their journey within the novel.

‘Snowstorms provided the most beautiful and haunting images of all’

The novel opens with restaurant opener Ella having a cigarette break alone as the snow falls. Ella is lonely and vulnerable as the blizzard moves in.

Allie is a young widow, a mum to two young boys and currently dating handsome doctor Niko. They gather as a family to watch movies and eat popcorn, whilst the storm hits Coventry. Allie’s husband died in combat and she is apprehensive about her new relationship with Niko. How her sons Isaac and Jake will adapt to the new situation, and also Niko’s daughter Miri. They read incredibly well as a family just trying to survive what life throws at them. But their pain is far from over!

Joe Keenan is a rookie cop for the Coventry PD. He is on patrol during the blizzard, dealing with the typical complaints and thinking back to the last aggressive storm of 1978. When Joe hits something in his patrol car, something he can’t see. . .

Doug Manning is a local mechanic on route to an evening with his workmates to watch the game. His wife Cherie remains at home awaiting his return. When some ‘jokes’ get out of hand, Doug finds himself fired and cast out from his workplace.

TJ Farrelly is a local singer at Ella’s restaurant, he harbours romantic feelings towards her but has previously held back. He is supposed to be spending the evening of the storm with his elderly mother Martha. But when there’s a power cut in Ella’s restaurant he can’t resist the urge to bring her comfort.

Cherie (Doug’s Wife) is alone at home on the telephone with her best friend Angela. When her dog begins howling she must venture into the yard during the storm to bring him in. She hears strange whisperings of ‘Let’s get in’ and her dog bites her hand.

The night is full of strange occurrences for the townsfolk of Coventry.

‘The city of Coventry had given itself over to the storm’

The evening continues to get more and more creepy.

Joe is dealing with the 13 power lines that are down, when he is summoned to the Wexler’s residence The Wexler son and his two friends have gone missing. Joe must find the teens as the snow continues to fall down around him.

Allie and Niko discuss their future, trying their best to consider everyone in the family’s feelings and where they go from here. Down the hall in the boy’s room, Isaac has become terrified of a presence outside of the window ‘There are monsters in the yard’. Despite the comforting words of his brother Jake, he opens the window.
A mistake that will scar them all, one way or another.

At this point the novel has a huge twist and it is not one I am willing to give away. What I have described above is actually, only a short part of the opening of the novel.
The beauty of this novel is within the first twist!

This novel has a subtle eerie feeling and is perfect to read when the snow is falling. As stated above the descriptions of the characters are brilliant. They draw you into their individual stories and they are all unique. The novel maybe of the horror genre, but it does have a strong emotional edge also. The theme of personal grief and emotional longing for a lost relative, is beautifully written. When you add in the eerie feeling and the flash horror scenes, you have the recipe for a 5* novel.

CG
Christopher Golden
Website
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My Review of Ararat
My Q&A with Christopher Golden
Enjoy the snow. . . . . 

 

Anne Bonny #Review Come And Find Me by @sarah_hilary #DIMarnieRome #NewRelease #CrimeFiction @headlinepg His game. His rules. Your Life at stake.

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Come And Find Me by Sarah Hilary
Synopsis:
On the surface, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull have nothing in common, other than their infatuation with Michael Vokey. Each is writing to a sadistic inmate, sharing her secrets, whispering her worst fears, craving his attention.

DI Marnie Rome understands obsession. She’s finding it hard to give up her own addiction to a dangerous man: her foster brother, Stephen Keele. She wasn’t able to save her parents from Stephen. She lives with that guilt every day.

As the hunt for Vokey gathers pace, Marnie fears one of the women may have found him – and is about to pay the ultimate price.

My review:

This is the 5th novel in the DI Marnie Rome series. I am a huge fan of the series and I am completely hooked on the background theme within the novels. I always feel as though we are slowly moving towards uncovering what took place the day Marnie’s foster brother Stephen killed their parents.

Each novel in the series offers up small revelations in the story. It has kept me absolutely hooked! Although this novel could be read as a stand-alone. I feel that for it to be fully enjoyed, readers would benefit from the depth and build-up of previous novels.
Come And Find Me opens with a prisoner at HMP Cloverton writing a letter. There has been a recent riot at the category B prison.
Which has left several inmates hospitalised and one on the run. . .

‘To look at me, I’m alright.
But I’m not. I’m Not. None of us are’

Mickey Vokey is the prisoner on the run. He is a violent and notorious inmate, in jail for a brutal assault on a young mum. I found the portrayal of a vicious inmate and prison life to be fascinating. The themes of rehabilitation, making amends and prison cuts are explored in their relation to the plot and as it evolves. Is detention truly effective? Or does prison simply enhance a convict’s criminal skillset?

‘On a scale of one to Dennis Nilsen. . .’
‘I’m giving this a high five’

The police officers follow the clues to a derelict house. The former home of Mickey’s (now deceased) mother. They find a room covered in hundreds of polaroid photos and an open grave in the cellar. What is Mickey planning? Who is his intended victim?
There is also the backstory of DS Noah and his younger brother Sol. Sol is currently on remand in another jail and has recently become part of a local gang. With Noah desperate to keep him on the straight and narrow.
How do you protect your younger siblings, when you sit on opposite sides of the law?

The police investigate the prison officers too. Which leads them to question Darren Quayle, a baby-faced, immature and out of his depth prison officer. He offers the police an insight into life at the jail and the personalities of the inmates. Mickey’s cellmate Ted Elms also offers his thoughts and a profile of Mickey is formed.

‘He wasn’t in prison, it was in him’ – Ted Elms

The profile portrays Mickey to be highly manipulative and aggressive.
Life inside an overcrowded prison with a high rate of suicide is the perfect environment to fuel his rage.

‘Prison was the perfect place for him to escalate to full-blown murder’

The novel has various themes of prison pen pals, living conditions and young men overwhelmed with anger in their lives. For me personally, I was engrossed in the theme of brotherhood. Noah and Sol and their situation with police officer and suspect. Mickey and his sister Alyson and their disagreements regarding their mother’s property. Marnie and Stephen with their shared past and the murders of their parents.

We learn some more information about Stephen’s past, cleverly drip fed through the plot. With Stephen one of the victims of the riot’s violence, I was so desperate for Marnie to visit him at the hospital, so I could learn more. Does Marnie have the courage to ask the questions about her parent’s murder? What will she uncover?

A complex plot in a unique setting. The theme of prison riots being very accurate in the UK currently. The financial cuts in the prison system and youth detention; the plight of young men in Britain today, all real issues in the UK in 2018, sadly. The author has done a fantastic job of weaving the fact and the fiction together.
A cracking edition to the Marnie Rome series.

SH
Sarah Hilary
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***Come And Find Me is released in the UK on the 22nd March & is currently available for pre-order*** 

#BlogTour #Extract #TheFeed by @nickhdclark @headlinepg @WmMorrowBooks #NewRelease @annecater

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The Feed by Nick Clark Windo
Synopsis:
THE FEED by Nick Clark Windo is a startling and timely debut which presents a world as unique and vividly imagined as STATION ELEVEN and THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.

Tom and Kate’s daughter turns six tomorrow, and they have to tell her about sleep.
If you sleep unwatched, you could be Taken. If you are Taken, then watching won’t save you.
Nothing saves you.

Your knowledge. Your memories. Your dreams.
If all you are is on the Feed, what will you become when the Feed goes down?

For Tom and Kate, in the six years since the world collapsed, every day has been a fight for survival. And when their daughter, Bea, goes missing, they will question whether they can even trust each other anymore.

The threat is closer than they realise…

#Extract

Kate

What Would You Sacrifice?

Is this what you realise when you turn off the Feed? The restaurant’s other diners hustle around me, yet I am absolutely alone. I should be nestling in amid the raucous chatter of this busy place, but instead I’m embalmed in real silence, and it’s as that weird ringing thing happens
in my ears that it hits me: Tom is right. I really must remember this. Even though this unconnected stillness feels deeply unnatural, it is good to be slow – if I can just ignore the itch in my brain. I was spraying non-stop between classes earlier and I’m still buzzed from it now, even though I took Rafa for a big walk in the park after school. Marooning myself on a bench with my Feed off and my do-not-disturb on, I threw his ball and watched the children play. That was it. That was all I did. No chats, no news streams. I had homework to mark (Class 9K filleting The Tempest with trowels in a filtered-thinking test I’d set them) and I should have messaged JasonStark27 to release him from detention, but I didn’t. I didn’t even check my pool. I simply sat and winced at the repetitive torture of the rusty swings and

forced my thoughts to slow. And gradually the buzz subsided. My heart calmed and I felt the baby inside me relax: her agitations eased as my mind unknotted. Action: reaction – nice and clear. Tom would have been proud; I slip my Feed on now, here in the restaurant, just our PrivateStream, and nudge him to tell him he’s right. The connection makes my heart race, and without thinking I dip into the chatter of the restaurant’s hectic PublicStream, I plunge with ease into the— ‘No!’ Tom’s thick eyebrows go up and his eyes widen, whether in surprise or irritation I can’t tell, as his Feed stays off and his emotis are therefore unknown to me. I turn my Feed off again, like one of my troublesome pupils, and we sit in silence some more. He smiles at me but I don’t return it. I can’t, for a while, while I concentrate. I can do this, I can go slow. Why does Tom have to make
it look so damn easy, though? My eyes rove, hungry for information. The cutlery of the thirty-three other diners scrapes, the occasional, unintended real laugh rasps around the room. Someone coughs. No words, though, no talking in the real, and I hear birdsong over the superroad’s growl. I realise I haven’t heard a bird consciously for so long, and it’s a really lovely thing. But the problem with being off is – it’s – so – slow! ‘How long will this take?’ ‘Could take forever,’ Tom agrees, nodding his broad forehead patiently before swivelling towards the kitchens. ‘How long have we been waiting?’ ‘I’ll check.’ ‘Kate,’ Tom warns gently. ‘We are being slow tonight.’ And there it is: the psychotherapist’s tone. It implies far more authority than the length of Tom’s experience deserves; in fact, I think I first noticed it right when he

started practising last year, but I can’t check my mundles to see without going on. If it riles me, though, why wouldn’t it rile his clients? And that wouldn’t be good; he has to make this work. It’s taken him a while to find himself, and he loves the work. He’s really good at it. It’s his. So I disengage my eyes again and look around the real, past the diners and outside. It’s not yet dark, though the super-road brings an early murk to these older parts of the city. We moved in round the corner two years ago, just before we got married. A beautiful old house (new-builds lack soul – I like a home to have a past) and way more expensive than we could dream of affording, but Tom’s parents helped us out. I’m still mixed about that. So’s Tom. But we’re on the hilltop up here. The super-road arches close above us and the city is an urban growth, laid out below. So many people down there before me, the millions of lights sparking like so many vibrant lives, and I could be chatting with any of them, my thoughts prismed out from the lit-up tower over towards the river, the main Hub of the Feed. Tom’s father’s place. Watching over us all: the eye of a needle through which everyone threads. Just seeing it, I’m tempted to dive into my pool; I’m itching to check the new poll I set. Two hundred million followers I have now! (If I accepted endorsements, and I wanted to, I’d be able to give up teaching – but no.) I’m tempted to do a GPS trawl to see how near I am to any of my followers, but I smother it back and try to ignore
the itching in my brain. I gulped in some pool the other day that it’s not actually the implant itself that itches. The Feed doesn’t create any physical sensation at all. It’s just an urge that, to make sense of it, we attribute to something physical, and so our brain tells us that it’s itching. I resprayed that fact. One hundred and thirty-seven million

people ‘liked’ it, though I doubt they actually did. I close my eyes and my memories of the Feed’s phantom images score the darkness like neon and starlight, an internal global cityscape where everyone lives close by. So beautiful. So inevitable. So comfortable. I can’t believe I’ve become hooked. Tom’s right about that, too, damn it and love him at once. Eyes back open and, off as I am, the billboards across the street display nothing but giant square quickcodes on their pristine expanses. The world is quiet. The social hubbub of the restaurant’s PublicStream is silenced. I have no idea what the menu is and we can’t get the waiter’s attention. It’s like we don’t exist. We’re here, cocooned in slow-moving silence as everyone around us communicates, eats and laughs, and it’s like— The waiter’s boots echo off the wooden floor as he leaves the kitchen, tattoos strangling his arms. He dumps plates before two young women whose lips twitch, swollen into semi-smiles, while their eyes roll and judder. He grinds pepper on the blonde girl’s food but not on her friend’s; the communication was silent but clear. Though the waiter stares up into a cobwebbed corner, I know that’s not what he’s seeing. This is a strange repose, to be asleep with eyes wide open! as Class 9K would effortlessly reference, fresh from their filtered-thinking test (they wouldn’t). Rather, he’s accessing an infinite multitude, streaming with his friends, internalising a soundtrack, messaging his girlfriend . . . or not, I guess, as the trio’s mouths twitch into synchronised smiles, because it looks like he’s flirting with them, and I’m left itching to go on even more than I had been before, a dry urge, the interface of the Feed teasing my brain like
a catch in the back of my throat. Tom strides over and grabs the waiter, who jerks at the

contact and gapes when he realises Tom is talking to
him – actually speaking words. He disengages his eyes as Tom forces him to really look at the world and see the
real. Tom drags him back to our table and the young waiter rocks nervously. He has a tiny quickcode tattooed above his eyebrow, shaped like an eagle, instantly scannable and ready to enhance my world, and I wonder: what would I see if I turned on my Feed? What skin does he have set? He’s pale, so maybe those girls just saw him with a tan. His teeth aren’t even, but maybe to them he has a perfect smile. Or maybe he’s set himself to look like someone famous. Turning off the Feed is like drawing back a veil.
It might not be as pretty, but it’s real, and Tom is right, I know he is, of course I do, it’s not just because he hates his father: it is a healthy thing to do. ‘No, no, no.’ Tom clicks his fingers and the startled waiter’s gaze jerks back to him. ‘We aren’t on,’ he articulates exaggeratedly, and mimes a mouth with his hands. ‘It’s just talk-ing.’ ‘You’re . . . off?’ the waiter asks, his voice croaky through disuse. His eyes glaze for a moment. Who did he just message? His manager, for help? Those girls? Probably not; they don’t turn to look. Has he sprayed a grab of us? Doubtful – Tom’s security settings are so high he’s virtually impossible to grab; his father has seen to that. ‘Do – you – have – a – menu?’ Tom asks, glancing at me. He’s having fun with this. ‘Not real.’ The waiter points at his temple like we’re the idiots. ‘Just Feed.’ Tom smiles up at him in a way I know means trouble, and it’s been a long day, so . . . ‘Pasta?’ I interrupt, and
the waiter nods. Real words feel strange in my mouth, but I speak quickly. ‘Bolognese for me, then, and carbonara

for him. And a side salad, please. Just green.’ Once the waiter flees, Tom’s expression makes me laugh despite my mood. This in turn makes him smile, which
is nice, his grin still soft, still young around his cheeks, beneath his drooping hair. It’s a touch longer than it was when we got married. I lean back and clasp my hands
over my baby-filling tummy. Mummy and Daddy happy
again, little girl, just like we used to be. Enjoying being off together. We can still do it, you know. We’re good together, it’s just the other things that get in the way. The distractions. This life. Tom leans towards me and marks each word on the tabletop: ‘Kate, it’s so fucked up!’ He means it, very genuinely, but as it’s our routine to come to public places and bemoan the state of the world, his angst is rounded and warm. I take his finger before he breaks it, though. ‘It is. We’re the only ones who’re sane.’ ‘Seriously, look at these people. No one’s living in the real world any more!’ Something turns fierce despite his speaking in a whisper. And of course, as we’re off, I have no idea what he’s thinking as his face folds into a scowl and something dies in his eyes. He pulls his hand away and there he goes, his thoughts most likely rolling down that rut to do with
his father, his family, the Feed, but I have no way of knowing for sure. Him isolating his thoughts like this is almost rude. What is he thinking about? His alternative life, maybe, the one he chose never to live, where he stayed involved with the Feed rather than running away. We discussed that one loads while he was training to be a psychotherapist. Chasing that career – the talking cure – when his father had set up the Feed. Well, you don’t have

to be Freud, do you? I remember Tom’s glee before he told him, and I remember his father’s reported silent rage. We talk, Tom and I. We talk a lot. It’s one of our strengths. When we find the time. Like tonight, when we’re going slow. But I wish he’d give himself some peace. He chews his lower lip and stares out of the window, his eyes darting around for all the world as if he was on and spraying away, but I check and he isn’t; his Feed is still off. As is mine. The blonde and the brunette work through their food silently, mechanically, lost in conversation with each other, or others, or many people at once. From the outside, who knows? Their eyes are moving even quicker than Tom’s but what they’re seeing is not the tables and old prints on the walls but the pulsing, strobing colours of their Feeds. My brain-itch, I’m suddenly aware, is now unbearable. It’s making my fingers flex and clench. My mouth is super-dry. I could be checking my poll. I could be surfing newspools for developments about Energen. Everyone was surprised by the company’s announcement, but no one seems to be asking why it’s made the Arctic drilling stop, why it’s made this decision now, Anthony Levin, its CEO, smiling sincerely at the world. I don’t trust him. Something is building. The world is disturbed and people are doing strange things: businesses are unpredictable, politicians perverse. It’s all very odd, and my brain (my actual brain, working really hard here without my Feed) is starting to hurt now. I could, if I was on, be relaxing it, catching up on some ents. Mum and Martha wanted to message tonight because Martha has mundles of her new house to share; I could leave my own world and experience her memory bundles of a place so many miles away in a time now past as if I

was actually there. I could be checking my pool: ‘What Would You Sacrifice?’ has been getting tens of millions of resprays a day. Everyone loves a poll. But I need to keep it fresh. People’s attention needs constant feeding, and if I want to influence them to think about the world, I need to be smart. I need to be heard above the chatter. That’s what Tom doesn’t get: I’m using the Feed as a tool for good. I’m not addicted! One of the first polls on ‘What Would You Sacrifice?’ had been ‘. . . for the Arctic?’. Fitting, given Energen’s news today, but barely anyone had taken part back then and I learned from that that it’s not stupidity or care lessness, it’s just distraction. It’s the enticing noise that surrounds us. So now I slip the political ones between things like ‘. . . to look good?’ and ‘. . . to get the man of your dreams?’. I got over sixty million sprays with that particular poll and then hit them with ‘. . . to be kinder to the planet?’. Eighty million sprays for that one. Smashed it. Newspools scraped my stats. (Politicians ‘won’, naturally – who wouldn’t sacrifice them?) What matters is making people focus for a moment on what we’re doing to our world. If we can get a toehold, just crack open people’s brains a bit, then greater changes might follow. I don’t know yet what the next poll will be, but from where I’m sitting I’m thinking something like ‘What Would You Sacrifice . . . for the good of your brain?’ because – and there is no way I could tell Tom this, though I’d like to scream it in his face – I don’t think I’d sacrifice the Feed! I don’t think I could! I can’t! I want to go on, right now, I’m screaming for it inside! But . . . I breathe . . . come on now, Kate, come on . . . I breathe and soften my voice, because this was supposed to be a nice evening and I’m just being distracted. Like everyone else. I need to focus here.

‘Why don’t we do some anagrams, hey, Tom? Get the old brains working . . .’ He grimaces and shifts in his chair. ‘So what have you done today, Kate?’ And then – I can’t help it; it’s because I was thinking about it and I’ve been spraying about it all day, so all those links are fresh, and I’m so desperate to check my pool,
it’s like a slip of the tongue, a habit that lives by itself – I go on, and—
—where the hell have you been? Martha messages, & Mum’s rightbehind her, her emotis making it veryclear that she’s about to unleash at me, but I blockher & interrupt. We’re being off tonight, I chat, Tom reckons it’s good for the brain to be slow, to keep it workingproperly. Don’t be ridiculous, Mum chat­snaps, have a look at yoursister’s mundle, & before I can blockher again she sends me one that bursts like a newlyformedbraincell in mymind, the senses & emotis of Martha’s bundledmemory expanding into existence like a polyp in mybrain, so I’m her not me for a while: —I’m on the lawn looking up at the new house, white frontage (the new [cloudbreath] shade from [PerfectPaint], an ident links me), peakedwindows, cloudysky above. I step onto the path (that lawn looks weedy, use new [Weedaway], an ident links me) & myheartrate increases as I reach out towards the door; myheart is thumping 42% faster & a 2.3% endorphin rush flows in. It’s soexciting! The BioLock – mine – recognises me, because it’s mylock in myhouse! & the door opens automatically & I hear the kids 6.72m behind me running up the path, but I’m in the hallway now, the coolshadows & the freshsmell of polish & it’s—

—I freeze the mundle & explain I’ll message them later because I’ve been on for 4millisecs already & Tom’ll notice if I’m on much longer & I still haven’t surfed any pools for Energen news or looked at the [WhatWouldYouSacrifice?] pool & I can see my boards are flashing with 57,603 messages, so the poll must be doingwell. A message from someone called ChloeKarlson437 comes in as I watch – Keep up the good work, Kate! – but there’s no time to reply because— Oh come on, Kate, Martha messages me & I flash her an adrenalspike & at the same time quickly search for [Energen] & news streams out of all the pools, but there’s nothing new so I spray at my friendgroup to see if they know anything new & send a quickapology to Martha & a wobblyface to Mum & tell them I’ll message later & I go off & it’s only been 11millisecs—
—but Tom noticed. ‘You’re addicted, Kate,’ he hisses. ‘Come on,’ I scoff, and gesture at everyone around us, though I know he’s right. ‘You’re just like the rest of them!’ ‘You’re such a snob! No, I know,’ I say, clicking my fingers, thinking as fast as I can without the Feed. ‘You have a transgendered intrasexual abandonment-induced Oedipus complex.’ We played this game just before he completed his psychotherapy training: how overly complicated can you make simple psychological syndromes sound? This one actually makes him laugh. ‘It’s a daddy complex,’ I explain, pleased with myself, proud of my brain, riding his good humour, ‘but more deeply complex.’ But his laughter stops. He glances at me. Shakes his head. No emotis needed. ‘You Feed too much, Kate. Come on. You’re . . . you

didn’t do this before. I’m sorry I annoy you, but it’s because I care. You’ll be freaking out the baby . . .’ We fall into silence again, but the silence isn’t like it was. There’s more to it now. We both agree the Feed is out of control. It’s what we bonded over when we first met at
his brother’s wedding. We’re both worried about the state of the world, too, and Tom agrees it’s got so much worse
in the five years since then. My parents don’t believe
that Tom is a good person, because of his family – he’s a Hatfield – but he is; I know he is with all my heart. He’s not like his brother or his father. But it feels like he has their absolutist streak, like he’s making me choose here. Between him and the Feed. Like I can’t have both. I turn away from him and pat my bump again, one of the many kids that I regularly tell my two hundred million followers we’re consigning to death because of the way we live. She’s a Hatfield, too. ‘Do you want to go on again then, Kate? We can be slow tomorrow night instead.’ But before I can reply, it happens like a wave. Clatters of cutlery and chairs thrown back. Gasps and a gabble of confused words actually vocalised out in the real, and then silence again, like everyone has taken a breath, but what has happened is everyone’s eyes have started to flicker even more rapidly. Someone sobs; the blonde girl’s hands are clasped over her mouth. The waiter runs for the door. ‘Tom?’ ‘Get back on!’ he says, and he’s on a snap second before I am and—
—I’m deluged with mysister. Martha is hystericallyshouting so I blockher & gland testosterone to counter the adrenalspike I feel, her panic contagious, & Mum is

desperatelymessaging, Where are you, where are you? I’ve been messaging you for seconds, Kate, what’s the matter with you? I blockher too & notice myboards have thousands of newmesssages & I’ve never felt anything like it: theFeed warps with a coalescingweight that nearly makes me fall off my chair in the real. I try to slow myendocrinesystem down because Mum’s now chat­screeching at me that Martha’s shouting at her & whydidIblockmysister? Then a silence falls on theFeed as billions of FeedIDs pause, like a wave drawing out, before breakingnews gushes like a tsunami. Memes flood & rumours ripple like a swelling contagion. Newspools burst into form in a swollentide. Clusters grow around them as people swarm to look, & Mum’s panicbursting me, What’s happening? My adrenal medulla pumps mysystem with epinephrine as I rush to look at one of the pools, but something slams down in front of it. But nothing’s dammed: theFeed is free & people swarmflow to other pools, which are dammed & dammed again, blocked by . . . the company? The government? Within 3nanosecs 127734pools are created & dammed & I tell Mum I don’t know what’s happening & I panic­nudge Tom but he flashmessages me he’s trying to message hisbrother Ben & then something filters out from the seething Feedchatter & there is a vid, a vid is going viral, it’s spreading faster than anything before & they’re trying to stop it & [dariancharles] the news is that PresidentTaylor1 has been killed. Everything goes quiet. All FeedIDs are stilled. PresidentTaylor1 has been killed. It fractals across theFeed, then mutates to say assassinated. Already there’s chaos in the US, contagious panic, the economy has flatlined & weapons have been mobilised towards the east. My cortisol levels are up 18.2%, my heartrate beating 2.93times too fast, & there are now 100000s of thisvid & as fast as 1pool is

dammed, 2000others appear, & I’m looking up what’s the difference between murder & assassination & Mum is still shouting but she’s drowned out by the roar & it’s something to do with the word hash which is an archaic term for C21H30O2 & I access one of the newspools & what’s there, the thing that everyone’s absorbing, that’s at the centre of all of these newspools coming repeatedly & unstoppably into existence is a vid tagged [RichardDrake62Senior SecurityAnalystWH.USA.StaffFID#22886284912] & timestamped 7.23secs ago. I go into his memory bundle. I have no idea where this room is because the GPS­loc is blocked, but it looks like every special­ops room from any ent I’ve ever gulped. A lacquered table reflects cold­buzzing neons. Thinscreens & decks adorn the soundproofed walls. Then PresidentTaylor1 walks in with a creamjumper (the new range from [Muitton], an ident links me) slung across his shoulders, a big mug of dark & fragrant coffee (the [arabeanica] blend from [Nesspro], an ident links me) in one hand, & this is the WhiteHouseUSA, this was the WhiteHouseUSA 7.34secs ago, & this mundle getting out is an insane security breach, no wonder pools are being dammed &— —Good morning all, PresidentTaylor1 says in thereal with that warm­gruff tone, & sits. I understand, he says, given Energen’s surprising news, that the race is now on for the ArcticSouth. We will not let it fall into the wrong hands. Folks, we have war in a cold climate. But before the President’s smile can fully form, RichardDrake62’s view is obscured as a silhouetted figure – PatrickVaughn59, it’s tagged – stands & raises a gun. The President’s head becomes a cloud of red. The room upturns as Richard Drake62 dives for cover & RichardDrake62’s mundle crashes to black & there’re the sounds of upheaval &

someone screams something that sounds like ‘DarianCharles!’ & right away [dariancharles] is spurting off into thousands of pools saying [whoisdariancharles?] & then the vid repeats – repeats – repeats. Whoever’s sprayed it zooms in each time on the President’s face as his head bursts apart & the mundle slows to split­frame grabs – the President’s head splits open in slow­mo & this vid is streaming into 47196255FeedIDs from this pool alone & in a stomachdropping cascade all pools are suddenly dammed. Everything stops— It’s like going over the edge of the world. There is nothing; just the samemessage appearing everywhere on theFeed, wherever I look. It’s from the government, telling me to go home quietly, to go home now. All other content is dammed, & in thereal, in the restaurant, we all stand like a herd & flood into the street. Everywhere people stumble, stunned in the hilltop dusk by the absence of anything on theFeed. All communications are culled. The tower, the Hub of theFeed, is still lit in the distance, but it’s broadcasting nothing now but the government. On as I am, the quickcodes now make the billboards alive with the samemessage endlessly reproducing itself in spooling neonbrights, expanding off the boards, filling the air, choking the eveningsky with gaudycolours telling us to gohome, there is a curfew, gohome, there is a curfew, gohome, there is a curfew, gohome.

NWC
Nick Windo Clark
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