Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

Ross Baker is having a bad day. Having found out from office gossip that his beloved girlfriend has fallen pregnant but does not trust him enough to tell him, he volunteers for a scan using the new technology his company, Neurosphere, is developing. The scan is meant to take his mind off the complications in his life, and it does, just not in the way that Ross had expected.

Now he is trapped inside Starfire, the computer game he had played incessantly as a child. No matter what he does, he cannot escape. Dying is painful, but only leads to respawning. There are bridges that can take him out of the game, only to lead him to other games. What’s worse, a group of people called the Integrity have set up within the game world and are trying to close off all the bridges, using brute force if necessary. Ross must find out what they are doing before time runs out for him and everyone else.

From the blurb one would expect Bedlam to be a fast-paced action with a lot of thrills and kills, but not much heart. That would be wrong. It does have action, but there are a lot of other things going on in this novel. It’s philosophical and strangely domestic. Stuck in a game – or set of games – where pretty much anything goes, Ross’s character is defined more by what he has left behind than by his actions. He considers the ramifications of killing before he makes any kills and his mind is consistently on Carol, his pregnant girlfriend. Ultimately Ross is a pillar of morality, and he has the intellect to be able to consider ethics on a scholarly level.

The writing is third person, but from Ross’s perspective and it is as clever as it ought to be in showing Ross’s thought processes. Brookmyre’s writing is at turns witty, thoughtful or self-deprecating, but it is always in character.

The pace is the only thing that lets this novel down. There were a few reveals that I figured out before Ross did because of pacing issues. Usually that wouldn’t bother me, but Brookmyre sold me on Ross being smarter than me (and most of the general population) and he should have been able to figure out anything that I could.

There were quite a few reveals that I didn’t figure out, though. And, although I beat Ross to some of them, his reaction to the news was starkly different to what I would expect and quite refreshing.

 Bedlam isn’t what one would expect from the cover and blurb. It is, however, a wonderful read that takes into account the moral dilemmas we will increasingly face as our technology advances. It’s an inventive and thought-provoking read that I would recommend to gamers and non-gamers alike.

 Bedlam – Christopher Brookmyre

 Orbit Books (February 7, 2013)

 ISBN: 9781408704073

Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen


What if everyone had the means and ability to make their lives better but they simply lacked the knowledge to do so?

This is the theory that Janette Dalgliesh posits in her short but hefty book, Your Everyday Superpower. Coming from a scientific background, she studies the theory of Deliberate Creation or the Law of Attraction (LOA). Though the two seem mutually exclusive, Dalgliesh argues that new scientific evidence into the human brain actually supports the subject of Deliberate Creation.

For four centuries, the accepted scientific theory had been that the brain was elastic during childhood but became fixed as people reached adulthood. Since the 1920’s however, some trail-blazing scientists found evidence to suggest that this theory was wrong. When Norman Doidge’s book, The Brain That Changes Itself, hit the shelves in 2007, it became more commonly perceived that our brains are far more elastic and incredible than we knew.

Your Everyday Superpower takes its theory a step further. If the brain (as Doidge and many others have provided substantial evidence for), can change a person’s perceptions by altering its thoughts, could it not then change the person’s very reality?

Your Everyday Superpower explores the extent to which we might be able to utilise our brains in order to make our realities better. Dalgliesh does not suggest that ‘like attracts like’ as many of the LOA theorists do. Rather, she makes the argument that reality is largely a state of mind and that altering our state of mind will alter our reality.

While a lot of the ideas here are interesting ones, the book itself is a little too compact to explore them in great depth. The logic of the book works well though. We’ve had a social awareness of the impact of positive and negative conditioning on the brain for quite a while now. Negative thoughts lead more deeply down a negative path, while positive thoughts can pull a person out of a bad situation. I’m on board for that.

However, where the science merges with the concept of Deliberate Creation, I would have liked explained in more detail so I could take a stance on it. Nor am I sure how to put what I’ve learned into practice. I do like the idea of rewarding oneself for changing one’s thinking to something more positive. The thing I’m unsure about is the limitations of Deliberate Creation. Reality may be based on individual perception to a degree, but there has to be a limit?

Your Everyday Superpower is a good introduction to both neuroplasticity and the LOA with an abundance of further materials to both read (and watch) throughout this book but also collated at the end. So, over the holidays I’ll be looking into a few of these TED talks to see if I can find out more about how to use my everyday superpower.

Your Everyday Superpower – Janette Dalgliesh

 Difference Press (November 30, 2013)

 ISBN: 9781936984299


reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen
 

If the person you loved tried to kill herself, would you want to know why? When Atsumi’s (Haruka Ayase) suicide attempt leaves her comatose, her lover, Koichi (Takeru Sato), is eager to reach out to her. There is a medical procedure that can help him. With new technology, Koichi can communicate with Atsumi through ‘sensing’, a process that will allow him to enter her mind and speak to her directly.

 He is unprepared for what he finds, however. In her mind, Atsumi is obsessed with her work as a horror-themed Manga artist and the world outside of their apartment building is smothered in fog. Worse than that, the things from Atsumi’s drawings are making terrifying appearances in her mind. And, when Koichi finishes his ‘sensing’ experience, some of the apparitions continue to haunt him.

If he and Atsumi have any hope of waking her, they will have to delve into the fog of her subconscious and confront the horrors that lurk there.

Real is a conglomeration of many genres, but at its heart it is a story about two people who love each other against monumental difficulties and who will do whatever it takes to protect one another. Despite this, the romance is not over-done. Koichi and Atsumi have been together long enough that their relationship doesn’t have the giddy excitement of new love. Their bond is more sedate, but all the stronger for it as they can rely on one another.

With the two lead characters carrying most of the story, the film’s atmosphere almost becomes a third entity. At times the scenes in Atsumi’s mind are beautiful, the screen rippling as Koichi’s consciousness merges to hers. The illustrations that Atsumi is so desperate to finish are gorgeous as well, also serving to carry the story along and unlock secrets that have long been repressed. In other instances, though, Atsumi’s mind is a horrific place to be, with brutally slain bodies appearing. The bodies too, carry the story; particularly the apparition of a little boy who refuses to go away.

While Real explores a fascinating premise, it moves quite slowly. At first it seems that Atsumi’s depression over work is the problem, but the truth is psychologically deeper than that, and it takes time to reach the real issue. The film would have been stronger if it had stream-lined some of the plot-points.

Ultimately though, Real is an enchanting look at the strength of the bond between people who love each other. Haruka Ayase and Takeru Sato do a suburb job of portraying two people who are trying to reach a new understanding of each other since the old one has failed.

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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