A Review of Tucker vs. The Apocalypse

Book cover for Tucker Vs. The Apocalypse by Jay Allen Storey. Image on cover shows a photorealistic painting of a golden retriever standing alone on a wet street in the evening sun with city skyscrapers behind him. Title: Tucker Vs. The Apocalypse

Author: Jay Allan Storey

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: December 1, 2023

Genres: Science Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 125 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Lost and alone amid the ashes of a dead civilization

Household pet Tucker is thrust into an apocalyptic world when not only his own ‘master’, but all of humanity, are stricken with a deadly plague. The disease is fatal in almost one hundred percent of cases, but affects only humans, leaving empty cities and towns that are quickly being repopulated with domestic animals and wildlife.

Tucker eventually connects with a group of other former pets. Deprived of their human caretakers, and guided by the mysterious Web of Life, Tucker and his ‘pack’ must learn to fend for themselves, confronting cold and blinding snow, blistering heat, the threat of starvation, ferocious predators, and the violent remnants of humanity as they search for a new home.

Review:

Content Warning: pandemic, robbery, human and animal deaths from both natural and violent causes, murder, animal attacks, plane crash, car crash, (animal) pregnancy and (animal) birth. I will not talk about any of these topics in my review.

Beloved pets generally aren’t taught many survival skills, and that’s a big problem in an apocalypse.

Tucker was an intelligent and sweet dog who I enjoyed getting to know. Mr. Storey did an excellent job of showing the world through canine eyes. Some things that utterly ordinary to humans can be mystifying to dogs and vice versa, so it was amusing to compare those two perspectives as Tucker either puzzled over the weird stuff humans do or assumed the audience was already aware of certain canine behaviours were honestly so obvious to him he barely felt the urge to explain them to the audience at all.

I was surprised by how many of the adult dogs in this story had not been spayed or neutered before the first scene began. It’s rare for that to happen in my social circles, so I was caught off-guard by later scenes that referenced what can happen when humans are no longer around to keep an eye on what their dogs are doing. It would have been nice to have even a brief explanation of how many so many fertile pets were running around during an apocalypse.

The world building was excellent, especially considering the fact that it was filtered through the perspective of a dog who, as I stated earlier, had a wildly different opinion on what was most important to share than a human narrator would have mentioned. There was always enough information to know what was going on here, and I enjoyed the challenge of putting together the pieces of scenes that were intentionally written a little mysteriously as Tucker trotted off to sniff interesting scents or find reliable sources of food and water.

Tucker Vs. The Apocalypse was a wild ride.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Pets I Wish I Could Have

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

A fluffy little white Bichon Frise puppy sitting on a blue and white striped chair. The dog is looking at the audience with an expectant expression on its face. Perhaps it wants a treat?

As cool as reptiles, arachnids, and fish are, I think I’d prefer to have mammals as pets.

Unfortunately, I’m terribly allergic to the vast majority of mammals that are commonly kept as pets.

If pet allergies didn’t exist and I no longer had migraines that restrict what I can do some days, I’d love to have a few furry companions.

Dogs

Dogs can make such wonderful companions in life from what I’ve observed.

They (usually) don’t mind being petted, and some of them will even actively seek out that sort of attention from at least some of the humans in their lives.

Having a dog or two would also encourage me to be more physically active, especially in the winter when going outside honestly doesn’t sound that appealing most days.

From what I’ve read, dogs can be a solitary pet, but many of them enjoy having at least one canine companion around as well. I appreciate that flexibility as some species like Guinea pigs really need to be kept in groups, or at very least in pairs, in order to be happy.

Some dogs are quite intelligent. I’d enjoy teaching them new words or tricks. It would be interesting to see just how much they could learn over the years.

Rabbits

My second answer to this question is rabbits. A photo of three rabbits sitting under the archway of a door and looking serenely out at the world in front of them. Two of the rabbits are light brown, and the third is a wonderful patchwork of light brown, grey, and white fur. There is a grey stone wall behind them and a wooden door frame just a few shades darker than their light brown fur to frame the scene.

I’ve mentioned my love of this species here many times before.

Unlike dogs, they never need to be taken outside for walks.  They can get all of the exercise and mental stimulation they need inside your home if you provide them enough playtime and enrichment activities. This would be a nice bonus when the weather outside is frightful.

They tend to be quiet, albeit sometimes mischievous, creatures. I like how independent they can be, especially since they generally do best with at least one other rabbit around for companionship. There’s nothing like watching two or more rabbits play together or try to eat the same piece of hay. I’d have hours of entertainment from quietly observing them.

Rabbits are less likely to want to be petted than a dog would be, but it can still happen if you build a trusting relationship with them. I’m a peaceful and patient person, so we’d be a good match there as well.

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Superpowers I Wish I Had


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Two fluffy little white dogs, who are possibly Yorkshire terriers, are standing in an all-white room next to each other. The dog on the left is wearing a yellow cape and the dog on the right is wearing a red cape. They look like fuzzy little superheroes!Since Cathy @WhatCathyReadNext submitted this topic, I’ll bet her answers to this question will be fantastic.

Here are my answers.

1. Remembering the names of secondary characters.

Main character names are easy for me to remember, but this isn’t always the case for characters who only show up occasionally. I will probably remember that they have a horse or that they love tea, though, even if I don’t recall their name!

 

2. Instantly knowing if a book will be five-star read for me.

Sometimes I know within the first page, but in other cases it takes me until the final sentence to realize just how perfect a story was for my tastes.

What’s interesting about this is that there have been some authors who have written one (or maybe a few) five-star reads for me but whose other books don’t affect me the same way.

 

3. Instantly knowing if a book will be a five-star read for someone else. 

I can generally make an educated guess for people in my inner circle, but reading tastes are such personal things that I really try not to recommend something unless I know the person well and am pretty sure it will be a hit.

 

4. Encouraging certain authors to finally publish those sequels!

No, I will not be naming any names here as I don’t want anyone to feel pressured or put on the spot. It would simply be wonderful to know what some of my favourite characters have been up to.

 

5. Reading descriptions of food and not getting hungry.

Don’t get me wrong – I love passages that describe what characters are eating if it’s relevant to the plot and/or the meals in their world sound amazing.

I would simply like to read those scenes without my stomach suddenly thinking it needs a snack when it was perfectly content and not at all hungry five minutes ago. Why do bodies do this?

 

6. Being able to write “If You Like This, Read That” posts easily

Some of you Top Ten Tuesday bloggers are amazing at thinking of similar books that might both appeal to the same reader. You make it look effortless, and I wish I had your talent in this area. Please make a TED Talk for the rest of us or something. Ha.

 

7. Having more patience with slow plots 

When I was a teenager, I would savour books that took a long time to get to their point.  It was an easy and free way to enjoy long summer days when not much else was happening.

Now that I am an adult, I generally DNF anything that moves slowly unless the writing is exquisite. I’m sure I’m missing out on some fabulous stories, but I simply don’t have the time or patience these days to wait 10o+ pages for interesting stuff to start happening.

 

8. Commenting more often on other blogs

I tend to let them build up in my RSS feed until I have a nice big block of time to get through everything at once.

This means that the bloggers I follow will occasionally be surprised by a flurry of comments from me, some of which are on posts that are weeks old…or sometimes even older than that.

I hope that is amusing to them, and I am trying not to do this quite so often.

 

9. Having advance knowledge of which new-to-me authors will be future favourites.

I put genuine effort into trying authors from a wide variety of backgrounds, genres, and writing styles.

This leads to a lot of really interesting outcomes:

  • I DNF their work and probably never read them again
  • I realize that book X might be perfect for person Y in my life even if it’s not to my personal tastes
  • I finish their book and keep an eye out for their future work without making them a must-read author
  • They’re instantly added to my short list of must-read authors.

Among many other options. As much as I usually enjoy this process, sometimes I wish there were a faster way to narrow down all of the authors out there into the small percentage of them that are perfect for a specific reader.

 

10. Becoming the newest bestselling author.

If only!

 

 

 

 

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A Review of The Girls in Red

Book cover for The Girls in Red by BB Wrenne. There is no image on the cover. It’s simply bright red with the title written in a wavy yellow font and the author’s name in a smaller black font. Title: The Girls in Red

Author: BB Wrenne

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 3, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Historical

Length: 21 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Two girls enter the woods on a journey to visit their fiances – a short story, also available as part of the collection Fabulas Part 2

Review:

Content Warning: Arranged marriages, an animal attack, and a small amount of blood.

Danger lurks everywhere in the forest.

While astute readers may have already guessed which famous fairy tale this was based on, I’m going to do my best not to give too many clues about it for anyone who prefers to be pleasantly surprised. I honestly haven’t seen this chosen for many retellings over the years, so I was excited to see how the author would reimagine what was a rather straightforward and short tale in its original form. Despite the many changes over the centuries, errands are still part of everyday life today. This includes trips to see places or visit people you might really rather not be visiting, and that mild but persistent sense of dread is as relevant now as it was many generations ago.

The ending was what lead me to choosing a three star review. After a fast-paced and atmospheric beginning and middle to this story, it suddenly ended without resolving the main conflict. There was so much more the author could have done with this, especially given the source material and how common it is for women who didn’t conform to the cultural expectations of women in the past or of this genre as a whole to still find places to thrive in the centuries and the forests in which they happen to live. If the final scene had been developed more thoroughly, I would have happily gone for a full five-star rating as I was thrilled with what I was reading up until that point.

I adored the romantic subplot. Yes, it moved forward rapidly, but the author was careful to explain why Ru and Thalia, who had known each other a very long time, were only now beginning to realize the depth of their feelings for each other. Given the era in which they lived, it made perfect sense for them to take as long as they did to talk about their feelings, much less entertain even the slightest notions of pursuing them. Slow-burn romances make perfect sense in circumstances such as these.

The Girls in Red was a thoughtful twist on a famous fairy tale.

 

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: What’s New in My Life Lately

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

The phrase “open to new opportunities” is written in chalk on a black chalkboard. Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone celebrating it today!

Here is what is new in my life lately:

Festivus Geekiatum

Last October, Long and Short Reviews released a Wednesday Weekly Blogging topic about which new holidays participants would like to invent.

My friend Michael Mock responded to that question by inventing Festivus Geekiatum:

Festivus Geekiatum is a day to indulge your favorite interests. Work on that knitting project, watch that anime, re-read that favorite book, perform in — or attend — that one play. Reconnect with your hobbies, re-engage your interests, work on your projects.

I will be participating in this on February 26 and am talking about this in advance in case anyone else would like to join in on the fun.

Career Change

I’m gearing up for a career change and job hunting in the near future.

If any of my readers happen to excel at job hunting, interviews, or making career changes and have experience doing so within the last few years, advice is appreciated.

For everyone else, I’d love some good vibes and encouragement if you have any to spare.

It will be interesting to see how this goes.

Getting Back Into Exercising

I started feeling sick around New Year’s Day. My cough eventually lead to me developing costochrondritis, a benign but uncomfortable inflammation and injury to the chest wall. My covid tests were all negative, and I did have covid and flu boosters last autumn. Whatever bug I picked up in late December was not a fun way to begin this year by any means.

Exercise other than the occasional slow walk was really difficult because every sort of movement hurts when you have this condition: breathing too deeply, coughing, laughing, carrying anything heavier than a pound or two, sneezing, bending over, rolling over in bed, etc.

The good news is that this is something that generally heals on its own with rest, patience, and ibuprofen as needed. I am just now trying to slowly increase the speed and length of my walks when possible.

Not exercising at all for well over a month was a huge change for me as I was previously someone who enjoyed 30 minutes of formal exercise most days of the week (weightlifting, kickboxing, dancing, etc.) and then usually another 30-ish minutes of brisk walking that was usually broken up into a few minutes here and there as I walked to errands, appointments, and other necessities of life.

So I am really looking forward to being able to get back into my old workout routines. I miss them so much.

That’s about it for me at the moment. I look forward to hearing about what’s new with everyone else.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Chocolate


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Chocolate cupcakes covered in chocolate frosting and little white or pink candy hearts. While trying to decide what to blog about for this year’s Valentine’s Day freebie post, I took a look back at the topics I selected for it in previous years: Bookish Romantic Quotes, Conversation Hearts on Book Covers, Helpful Nonfiction Books About Relationships, and Books I Liked About Asexual Characters.

Yeah, so I am not exactly the most romantic person in the world.

What I do like about Valentine’s Day, though, are the chocolates and the sales of leftover Valentine’s Day chocolates that will be happening in about two days.

There is nothing like getting a little package of sweets for 50% off the day after the holiday! They somehow taste just a little better that way if you ask me.

Here are some books about chocolate that would make me hungry.

1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, #1) by Roald Dahl

2. The Healthy Chocoholic: Over 60 healthy chocolate recipes free of gluten & dairy by Dawn J. Parker

3. Decadent Cake Ball Recipes: Pretty Little Treats for Many Occasions by April Blomgren

4. Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers by Deborah Cadbury

5. Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert by Michael Krondl

6. Chocolate: A Global History by Sarah Moss

7. S’more Cookbook: Tasty Creative S’more Recipes by Stephanie Sharp

8. Best-Ever Book Of Chocolate by Christine McFadden

9. Chocolate-Covered Katie: Over 80 Delicious Recipes That Are Secretly Good for You by Katie Higgins

10. Chocolate Cookbooks for You 50 Valentine Chocolate Recipes Valentine Cookbook by Victoria Braze

11. Vegan Desserts: Make your own vegan desserts at home by Stephanie Sharp

12. Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover’s Soul: Indulging Our Sweetest Moments by Mark Victor Hansen

13. Hot Chocolate: Rich and Indulgent Winter Drinks by Hannah Miles

14.The Diabetic Chocolate Cookbook by Mary Jane Finsand

 

Yes, I had more than ten answers this week. This will help to balance out the weeks when I only have four or five answers. That’s how it works, right? Jana combs through all of our posts and averages out how many replies we come up with for her secret database or something? Ha!

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A Review of Who’s Haunting Whom

Book cover for Who’s Haunting Whom: A Ghost Story by Kenny Wayne. Image on cover shows two figures standing outdoors at night in front of an eerie blue-green light. The figures are wearing hooded cloaks and appear to be bending over to look at something, but it’s too dark to tell who or what they may be inspecting. Title: Who’s Haunting Whom

Author: Kenny Wayne

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 30, 2020

Genres: Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 20 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Paranormal investigators, with years of experience, are called to the scene of a haunting. That’s their job and they do it well, but this time they’re just not sure Who’s Haunting Whom.

Fred Madison once experienced a life changing event… a haunting. That one event changed the course of his life. He now owns the Madison Paranormal Investigations Agency. His mission in life is to gather irrefutable evidence of the existence of ghosts and to help those that are being tormented by hauntings.

Harley Stinson has been around the block a few times himself. He has had his own experiences with ghosts and has worked with Fred ever since his first sighting.

Experienced as they both are, they have never experienced anything like the case they are about to undertake.

What if the homeowners that hired them aren’t whom they appear to be? What if the ghosts they’re supposed to remove aren’t whom they appear to be?

You’ll enjoy this short ghostly tale as you follow along with the investigators in their attempt to determine exactly what’s going on.

Review:

Content Warning: accidental death

Without trust they’ll have almost nothing at all.

I enjoyed the way this tale played around with the reader’s expectations of what was going on. Anyone who is well-read in the paranormal genre will probably be able to figure out what was happening early on, but putting those clues together was only the first step. Knowing why certain characters behaved the way they did was even more important and it took extra effort to untangle. People are endlessly interesting, and they were what made this worth reading in my opinion.

Linda Morgan, one of Fred and Harley’s clients, had a phobia that overshadowed the first scene but then was never mentioned again. I was confused by why something like this would be included if it wasn’t actually relevant to what was happening in that strange little house. There was a lot of space here to flesh out both her character as well as the storyline itself, so it was disappointing to me as a reader when it fizzled out instead.

The relationships between Fred and his employees was also well worth exploring. He seemed to have subconsciously arranged them in a particular order that did not always line up with how useful I thought they might be as he attempted to figure out what was actually happening with this case. As much as I would have liked to dive more deeply into the assumptions he made about which people would be most helpful, I also thought that leaving those moments the way they were revealed a lot about Fred’s character in both positive and negative ways. On the one hand, he was a decisive person, while on the other he was someone who could be too quick to brush an employee off if they didn’t fit his mental image of who he thought should be exploring that home. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, this would be a great mixture of traits to explore even more deeply.

Who’s Haunting Whom was a fun twist on the paranormal genre.

 

 

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Things I Like to Do on Stormy Days

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

A woman playfully blowing snow out of her hands. She is wearing thick gloves and a warm hat and coat while standing in the woods in winter, so the effect is lighthearted and she doesn’t look the least bit cold. Winters here in Ontario have been milder than usual these past few years. When we do get cold, stormy weather, here are some of the things I like to do to amuse myself during them:

Read

This one is pretty obvious, and I’m betting most of you are going to mention it, too.

 

Play in the Snow for About 20 Minutes.

I love being an outdoorsy person when the weather is mild, but not so much when it’s painfully cold or hot outside. So about 20 minutes of building a snowman or walking around to admire the beauty of winter is my idea of a good time before I go back indoors to warm up.

 

Watch Movies

I think that psychological horror films are a great match for snowy winter days when it’s far too blustery to be outdoors if you don’t have to be.

There’s something delicious about getting scared silly while the wind beats against your window. It’s so easy to imagine there might really be a monster lurking out there just beyond the blur of the storm, after all!

If I’m watching movies with someone who doesn’t like anything scary at all, other genres like historical, documentaries, or comedies can work perfectly nicely, too. Just don’t ask me to watch anything involving people being cold.

Hypothermia isn’t something I like to think about when the weather outside is frightful. Let’s find something lighthearted, educational, or thought provoking instead.

 

Cook or Bake Food 

I prefer making warm, hearty things like soup, stew, chili, roasted vegetables,  banana bread, or chocolate chip cookies during winter storms. There’s nothing like slowly noticing your home filling up with delicious scents on a stormy day.

 

A black woman dancing joyfully while listening to something on her headphones. She’s wearing jeans and a pink t-shirt. Dance

Am I a good dancer? Heh, not really, but I love learning new dance routines through the magic of the Internet. You don’t have to be good at something in order to enjoy it, after all.

This is a nice way to get some exercise in when you’re stuck indoors all day, and it’s a great way to pass the time as well if you see the snow piling up outdoors and start feeling restless.

I’ll dance to all sorts of types of music, but I find that hip-hop, Bollywood, and Zumba-style dances tend to get my heart pumping the best.

So if I’m dancing as my exercise routine for the day, I tend to start with those styles because I have specific goals about reaching certain heartbeat rates that I try to meet for my cardio workouts.

If it’s just for fun, anything will do. Every sort of dance is a good sort in my book!

 

Play Board Games, Card Games, or Do Jigsaw Puzzles

There are some games I try to save for days when the weather is bad or when I have a cold and need something quiet to do as I recover.

Bodies need exercise, and so does your mind! I’m perfectly happy to play games of luck that don’t require any thinking, too, but I also enjoy the challenge of solving a puzzle or figuring out who killed Professor Plum in the conservatory and what weapon they used as well.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Quick Reads


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A photo of a water-damaged, possibly mold-encrusted book lying opened up to the world on a flat grey stone outdoors. It appears to me that someone did this in order to help the pages dry, and they are drying stiffly and with some pages sticking straight up. Looking at this makes me wonder if the book will be readable again! What a great topic idea, Jennifer @ FunkNFiction.com and Angela @ Reading Frenzy. 

I love short stories, novellas, and other short reads! They always seem to float to the top of my TBR list and comprise most of what I review on this blog because I don’t think they always get as much attention as they should have.

My first few answers will be of some of my recent reviews and the rest will be of older short works that I thought were well done.

Whenever possible, I have included a link to the full text stories I’m discussing here so that you can all enjoy them, too.

1. Is Neurocide the Same As Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas (Spiral Worlds) by Alexandra Almeida

What I Liked About It: The ethical dilemma it introduced was interesting and did not have any easy answers. If only the brain mapping technology described in this tale actually existed.

 

2. The Girls in Red by BB Wrenne (My review for this one is scheduled for February 15)

What I Liked About It:  It retold a classic fairy tale that I have seen very few recent retellings of. It’s always nice when that happens.

 

3. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

What I Liked About It:  The main character was sympathetic and the message is something modern audiences still need to take heed of.

 

4. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

What I Liked About It: The surprise at the end. Some of you may already be aware of why Omelas is such a peaceful city, but anyone who does not will be in for quite the read. I still daydream about this tale sometimes and wonder what happened to the main character after the final scene.

 

5. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

What I Liked About It: Goodness, how do I describe this one without giving away spoilers? Let’s just say that it’s not quite the idyllic setting it might first appear to be and it can be excellent fodder for a spirited discussion after you finish it if you like that sort of thing.

 

6. Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

What I Liked About It: There was a strong sense of justice woven into the main character, and I admired his willingness to help others even when it put his own reputation and livelihood on the line.

 

7. A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

What I Liked About It: Someday I will stop gushing about the Monk & Robot series, but today is not that day. I adore how peaceful it is and how well most of the people in this universe get along not with each other but with nature and animals as well. Wouldn’t it be incredible to create such a harmonious society in real life?

 

8. Foster by Claire Keegan

What I Liked About It: The realism and honesty of it all. This read like it could be been based on real events that were written down by the main character many decades after her experience living with childless relatives for a few months while her mother recovered from giving birth. I didn’t want this one to end.

 

9. A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

What I Liked About It: This picture book (which reads more like a short story) was so encouraging and kind. I’d love to read a novel about these characters a few decades later when the little girl is grown up.

 

10. Ramona’s World by Beverly Cleary

What I Liked About It: I read some of the books in this series as a kid but outgrew them before the last ones came out. It was wonderful to finally go back and finish it a couple of years ago. Ramona was as creative and impulsive as ever!

I can’t wait to see everyone else’s answers.

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A Review of Is Neurocide the Same As Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas

Book cover for Is Neurocide the Same as Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas (Spiral Worlds) by Alexandra Almeida. Image on cover shows what at first appears to be a closeup photo of cells under the magnification of a microscope. The cells are shaded pink, orange, yellow and red depending on where you look at them. They are crowded close together and the six on the outside are the usual, blobby cell shape and have a few of the structures of their insides visible due to the “staining” as well. The cell on the nside is about a third the size of the others and comprised of a few dozen squares that have been arranged into the shape of a heart. It looks boxy and like something out of Minecraft. Title:  Is Neurocide the Same As Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas (Spiral Worlds)

Author:Alexandra Almeida

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 28, 2023

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: 19 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

In a world grappling with the ethics of advanced technology and the haunting shadows of past genocides, “Is Neurocide the Same as Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas,” emerges as a thought-provoking short story set in 2068.

This story is a compelling blend of science fiction, historical reflection, and ethical debate. It challenges readers to confront a moral dilemma pondering the implications of new technology on human morality and the timeless struggle between power and empathy.

Note: this short story does not require previous knowledge of the Spiral Worlds series. If you have not started the series, you may start here. If you have started the series, read this story after Parity, Book 2.

SPIRAL WORLDS is a literary, sci-fi series for the fans of Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit, Alex Garland’s DEVS and Ex Machina, and Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. Weaving near-future sci-fi elements with social commentary and queer romantic suspense, the SPIRAL WORLDS series explores the nature of consciousness and how it’s connected to a not-so-secret ingredient—story. As AI consumes the world, intelligence is nothing but the appetizer; the human heart is the main course.

Review:

Content Warning: mass murder, war, mental illness, child soldiers, brief references to rape (but no rapes are actually described).

Hurt people hurt people.

It was a little tricky for me to decide how many storyline details to share in this review without wandering too far into spoiler territory as the blurb could be vague at times. What I can say is that this is written from the perspective of a dead person, Gentille, who has been temporarily resurrected by her granddaughter, Estelle, in order to discuss a pressing ethical issue in 2068 that was created by the development of a new technology that could identify people with a specific and severe mental illness very early in life. Estelle wanted to know how this technology should be used and she hoped her grandmother would have some wisdom to share. I was immediately intrigued by the thought being able to talk to the dead and predict how a small child’s brain would develop decades in the future. These are both developments that could radically change human society for the better or the worse, and I kept pausing to consider the many different ways they could be used depending on who had access to them and what the intentions of those people might be.

While I understand that this is part of a series and that not everything can necessarily be included in one small instalment of it, I did find myself wishing that the narrator had spent more time on the world building given how important it was for how the plot would advance. There were times when I was slightly confused about how a specific machine worked or how certain details were intended to fit together. Having more context about life in 2068 would have gone a long way to help me understand it all and feel comfortable going for a full five-star review.

This tale started off in a rather grim place as is the case for a lot of – but certainly not all –  modern science fiction. Technology is a double-edged sword, and it only takes a handful of people to figure out how to misuse even the most brilliant tool. If the first few scenes make you want to stop reading, let me encourage you to keep going.  There are surprises to be found later on that turn much of the early imagery upside down. Knowing how terrible things were for Gentille as a young girl is imperative in order to understand why her mind works the way it does after her death. In the end, I was glad I stuck around to see what happened to her next.

Is Neurocide the Same As Genocide? And Other Dangerous Ideas was a thought-provoking introduction to this series. I look forward to reading more someday.

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