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Author interview with Angus Watson

 Author interview with Angus Watson

Author bio:
In his twenties, Angus Watson’s jobs ranged from forklift truck driver to investment banker. He spent his thirties on various assignments as a freelance writer, including looking for Bigfoot in the USA for the Telegraph, diving on the scuppered German fleet at Scapa Flow for the Financial Times and swimming with sea lions off the Galapagos Islands for the Times. Now entering his forties, Angus lives in London with his wife Nicola and baby son Charlie. As a fan of both historical fiction and epic fantasy, he came up with the idea of writing a fantasy set in the Iron Age when exploring British hillforts for the Telegraph, and developed the story while walking Britain’s ancient paths for further articles.


Hi Angus, welcome over at The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us

BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Angus Watson is? What are your hobbies, likes and dislikes?
AW: I’m a married 41 year old with 10 month old baby, two cats and a dog who lives in west London next to the Thames. I get excited as a puppy about going on walks and don’t really mind where it is – hiking in the Alps in summer or a short stroll through the suburbs of Stoke on Trent, it’s all good to me. I’ve recently become a keen photographer and particularly like taking photographs in the various deserts and national parks near Las Vegas, when I can get there. Deserts are good because without much foliage it’s easier to spot the animals, and the animals tend to be weird. I used to love video games, but no longer have time for these (see first sentence in this answer).

BP: Age of Iron is your debut into fantasy fiction, when and where did you decide that you wanted to become an author?
AW: I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing, but my chief driver is probably that I don’t like commuting, bosses or office hours.

BP: Writing a debut is daunting task, how did you went about it and plan it?
AW: I started. Planning came later.

BP: What gave you the idea behind the story of Age of Iron?
AW: It was a combination of many factors, but there were two main annoyances which fueled the story. One is that we know nothing about the sophisticated, busy times in Britain before the Romans came two thousand years ago. It’s a stupid thing to be annoyed about, because we can’t learn history that we have no record of, but it does bug me that we don’t even give it a go, and history is taught as if the things we know about are the only things that ever happened. Secondly, and similarly, is the fact that Caesar unsuccessfully invaded Britain twice, leaving with no profit or any benefit, and after that the Romans didn’t come back for a hundred years, yet historians accept the only account, his, that says it was all a massive Roman victory. Bollocks to that, I say. So I wrote a trilogy explaining what really happened.
The other point is that there are loads of Iron Age hillforts sitting around massively in the British countryside, and I wondered what they were and what happened there and thought other people would want to know too.

BP: Age of Iron was released last  August, if you would have to sell it with a single sentence how would it go?
AW: Age of Iron is first in a trilogy in which a lazy warrior, a crazy, beautiful archer and strange little girl join forces to unite Britain and defend it against Julius Caesar’s legions and the terrifying forces of dark Roman magic.
BP: Age of Iron has a definite historical feel to it, just the cover alone says enough.  Did you have to carry out additional research for your book?
AW: Luckily there’s not much you can research about the British Iron Age since they didn’t write, and any oral histories and cultural traces were wiped out by 400 years of Roman occupation, then the Dark Ages, etc.. So I read everything there is to read, which is not a lot, visited museums and hillforts and walked a few ancient tracks. For the next couple of books, when the Romans get involved, I did a lot more book based research because there are thousands of books about the Romans.

BP: Did you encounter any specific problems so far in writing Age of Iron?
AW: When I started the book, I had no wife, son or animals. Although I love all of these and would not change a thing, they don’t help with the sitting at the desk and writing part of writing.

BP: What has been the hardest part in writing Age of Iron?
AW: The niggling notion that everything I’m writing is steaming pile of crap. That’s why I write mostly in the mornings. After lunch I become too paranoid and self critical.

BP: Besides the hardest part, which chapter/scene did you enjoy writing about the most?
AW: The end. It’s not horrible writing a book, but it is draining and it takes a long time, so finishing a book is like coming home from a brilliantly fun holiday that went on a little too long. Scenes I enjoyed writing included Dug’s first conversation with Spring when she realizes that they are kindred spirits even if he doesn’t, when Dug meets Lowa and rescues her with Spring’s help, and Lowa’s fight against the chariot.

BP: If you would be given the chance to retract Age of Iron and make one final adjustment, would you do so? If yes, which parts and why?
AW: I can always edit anything so I’d change pretty much every word. If I had my way my first book would never be published and I’d just carry on tweaking it. I know that’s not a satisfying answer, but since I can’t change it now, I don’t want to think about how a major change could make it better, because I might realize and that would be depressing.

BP: Age of Iron is the first in a trilogy, do you have any other plans or projects that you wish to pursue in the near future?
AW: When I’ve finished the third book I’d like to catch up on my photography. I have a few massive photography and Photoshop text books to read, a lens that I haven’t even tried yet and I’m about six months behind on looking at the photos I’ve taken and putting them through Photoshop. Photoshop is a little annoying, since once you discover that pretty much every photo can be improved, you have to use it for every photo. On the plus side, it means you keep far fewer photos so you’re left with maybe thirty good shots from a day’s photography rather than a billion that you’ll never look at again.

BP: Everyone enjoys science fiction and fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about it?
AW: I think I like if for the same reason as a lot of people – the freedom and the joy of imagination.

BP: If you would have to give your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?
AW: Impossible to say, but the first that come to mind are Watership Down, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,  Brazzaville Beach, and pretty much any of the Master and Commander or Flashman series.

BP: And just lastly, can you give us a sneak peak as to what will be in store for the readers of Age of Iron series and possibly the direction of a possible sequel?
AW: In book two of this series some of the characters have adventures in Gaul and Rome, but there are bigger problems at home, which require a massive, destructive solution.
What I do when I’ve finished the trilogy depends on how it’s received. If nobody reads it, I’ll look for bar work or possibly start up a car washing company. If it goes well, I may take some of the surviving characters across to prehistoric America to have a look at the animals and culture and possibly get involved in the massive war between humans and something else that took place there two thousand years ago (not really, but I’ll make one up).

BP: Thank you for your time Angus and good luck with your future writing!

Book Review: The Black Stone

The Black Stone by Nick Brown, Agent of Rome #4

273 AD. Obsessed by the solar religions of the east, the emperor Aurelian sets out to obtain every sacred object within his realm. But one - a mysterious rock said to channel the power of the sun god - lies beyond his reach. Warrior-priest Ilaha has captured the legendary stone and is using it to raise an army against Rome. For imperial agent Cassius Corbulo and ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara, stopping him constitutes their greatest challenge yet. Assisted by a squad of undercover soldiers and a Saracen chieftain, they trek south across the deserts of Arabia, encountering sandstorms, murderous money-lenders and a ruthless German mercenary. And when they finally reach Ilaha's mountain fortress, they face thousands of warriors who will give their lives to protect him ... and the black stone.

About two weeks ago I read Nick Brown's short story, Death This Day, which takes place before the actual events of The Siege, the first book in his Agent of Rome series. After just a few paragraphs into it, I really got the urge to read more Roman stories and luckily I still had The Black Stone awaiting one. The Black Stone is already the 4th book in the Agent of Rom series written by Nick Brown, with his first book he had already completely won me over and continuing in this series has only gotten me further excited about the upcoming books in the series. I am a big fan of Roman fiction and read some great stories but the Agent of Rome series is and will remain one of my favorites. 

In the previous book, The Far Shore, Nick Brown took us to the island of Rhodes where Cassius had to retrieve a specific document, but finds himself intertwined in something much larger. Having faced the treacherous seas, Cassius much prefers his stay on solid ground and this is also where his next assignment takes place. I am a big fan of what Nick Brown is doing with the Agent of Rome series. Often when you read the urban fantasy detective stories or Sherlock Holmes stories, they can be considered case files, and this is a trend that is emerging in the Agent of Rome series as well. As I have said in my earlier reviews, these books focus on Cassius Corbulo who is an agent of Rome's secret police, the frumentarri, they are like the police officers. So in short these books highlight a new case for Cassius to solve. Really cool stuff to have such an historical correct "detective" themed stories.

The story of The Black Stone picks up with a scene that shows that the black stone, a stone that is said to have divine powers, is stolen from the Romans from their temple in Emesa. This was far from a simple walk in, pick up the stone and walk away kind of scene, it was brutal and vicious this is something that readily inspired the harsh and gritty Roman, alternate history feeling to the story. Ok so an important relic of the Romans is stolen and it is Cassius Corbulo's task to retrieve it. Now this might sound as a fairly easy task, a done deal, but first Cassius needs to cross the desert and locate the stone and the locals are far from helpful. Luckily for Cassius he isn't on his own in this ordeal, he is helped by his trusty companion Simo and his bodyguard and man with a past Indavara. Additionally to them Cassius also get the call over 20 extra soldiers. In the end there are some very nice confrontations between the different forces at play. Now the premise of the story might sound a bit simple and plain but just let me tell you this, it is far from it. The idea's are straightforward but Nick Brown involves a lot of extras in his story to build a very rich and detailed world and fully bring his characters to the forefront. 

This latter aspect of first the Agent of Rome series and secondly The Black Stone makes it a very enjoyable story top read, not necessarily giving the focus on the bloody gladitorial battles (and don't get me wrong I like those a lot, Gladiator, is still one of my favorite movies), but also focusing on showing the world and more importantly the development of the characters within the world and how they live in it.  

For the world, Nick Brown has alraedy shown various locations in his preceding books, from islands, treacherous seas and the political "corrupt" Rome this time around he takes you across the desert of Arabia. I am not that familiar with the whole history of it but the feeling that Nick Brown inspires when you read these scenes feel very authentic and like you are right there next to Cassius in the desert. The writing style describes this readily pulls you into the story and just doesn't let you go. A few days ago I tweeted about a particular scene in the book which really put a huge grin on my face. It showed Cassius at his wittiest and perhaps funniest so far. When you look at the whole of the story the often grim and bleak prospect of the Roman world, that is outside the gates of the grandiose and rich Rome, this little witty moment really made the story for me. Something opposite to the humorous moments are what happens in the end. This gave a very realistic feeling to everything. With all the horrible stuff that Cassius has gone through its only natural. All in all great writing and very diverse; jumping for hardend battle scenes to personal and emotion confrontations. Nick Brown knows how to get the setting just right. 

As for the characters, Nick Brown develops his "steady" cast even further. In the review of The Far Shore I mentioned that the focus was more on some other character but this time around Cassius is once again the spotlight, and definitely for the better. Cassius has already seen a lot of things and these previous events have already greatly build his characters. In the beginning of the book when Simo is missing this did lead to some funny scenes where he has becomes perhaps a bit to reliant on his servant and when he is not around he cannot be bothered. But when push comes to shove, Cassius does show that he is not reliant on any additional character to make his own decisions and not necessarily to pick his clothes for the day. Cassius' overall development in The Black Stone really marks him as a very real character especially given the what happens in the end, didn't see it coming but was a very great ending to see, and looking back over everything, very natural. Next you have Cassius'' bodyguard Indavara, I like him, I like him a lot. The beginning of the book when he is in the contest, just good stuff, it brings out, for some the worst and for others the best in his character. For me the best in any case. Indavara, the ex-gladiator has a past and now he just wants normality but that is definitely hard to get, he wants to play fair but other don't and then yes, when you mess with Indavara you get what you deserve. As for his servant Simo, he was in every story so far for me a bit of a background persona more doing what Cassius told him to do, but in this part, Nick brown does voiced him for me more stronger with his own opinion and his own actions. I think this really showed that Nick Brown want you as a reader to experience every character in full color. It clearly falls to note that a lot of time and effort is put into developing real characters. This is a very strong point to the Agent of Rome series. 

So far Nick Brown has written four very solid stories in the Agent of Rome series and with each new addition, the series only keeps on getting better. Showing more of the Roman empire, different warring tribes and of course developing the character even more. These stories can be viewed as individual "case files" for Cassius to solve as you see with the popular detective series but if you read them as a whole the books get much more justice. 

One again Nick Brown has written a powerful story with The Black Stone, not only wanting to show the Roman times but also showing how people lives in that time, happy moments and bad moments. This isn't Roman fiction that centers around action alone but also on human emotional actions. Nick Brown has shown that he is a strong writer and his stories fall in the category of over to soon. Luckily for me there are 3 more books in the making and the next one is due out next summer. I must urge you to pick up these books asap they won't disappoint you.   

Author interview Steve Bein

Author interview Steve Bein

Author bio:
Steve Bein (pronounced "Bine") is a philosopher, photographer, traveler, translator, climber, diver, and award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Interzone, Writers of the Future, and in international translation. Daughter of the Sword, his first novel, was met with critical acclaim.


Hi Steve, welcome over to The Book Plank and thanks for taking your time to answer these few questions.

BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Steve Bein is, what are your hobbies, likes and dislikes?
I’m a writer first and foremost, but I wear two hats: I write fiction and I also write as a philosopher.  I’m on the Philosophy faculty at Texas State University, and in my downtime (what little there is, after papers are graded and I’ve made some progress on the most recent research project) I’m usually either writing or practicing jiujitsu. 

As for likes and dislikes… hm.  Dogs, chocolate, and a good wheat beer are among the top likes.  These days my top dislike is eyestrain headaches.  Between my work and my writing, I spend too much time in front of computers, I guess.

BP: Do you still know the moment when and where you decided that you wanted to become an author?
SB: That depends by what you mean by “author.”  I’ve always been a writer, in the sense that I’ve been writing stories for about as long as I’ve been able to write.  If “author” means a writer who’s been professionally published, then yes, I know when and where: my ghetto apartment in Moiliili, on Oahu, when I was 29.  That was where I printed off and mailed out my first fiction submission.

BP: Daughter of the Sword kicked off the The Fated Blades series; how did you come up with the idea of the series?
SB: Actually, it was never intended to be a series.  Daughter was written as a one-off, and then I spent years trying to find a publisher.  When Penguin made an offer, they asked if I could write another one.  I said yes, because that’s the only answer any struggling writer has any right to say.  You say yes and then you figure out how to make it happen.

As luck would have it, I had written the perfect book to build into a series.  The main protagonist is a cop, and the world will never run out of cop stories.  The story unfolds over 700 years of Japanese history, with samurai and WWII officers stepping in as secondary protagonists; that left me 700 years to explore and develop as the series moves forward.  So completely by accident, I ended up with a stand-alone book with the potential to become as many novels as I can think of.

BP: Daughter of the Sword received some rave reviews.  Had you ever thought that it would be such a success?
SB: Sort of.  When I signed on with my agent, she told me this was the kind of book that wasn’t likely to break sales records but it was going to draw lots of good attention from critics.  I can live with that.  Everyone wants to write a book that’s really good and really popular, but given the choice, I’d rather write a good book than a popular book.  If it sells a million copies, hey, I’ll be as thrilled as anyone, but that’s a byproduct, not the goal.

BP: Did that success put any added pressure when you were writing the sequel, Year of the Demon?
Absolutely.  And now the pressure is doubled on Disciple of the Wind, because of the reviews Year of the Demon has been collecting. Every time you write a book people like, you set the bar higher for yourself.  My goal is for Disciple of the Wind to be the best installment of the series.

BP: Did you gain valuable experience when you were writing Daughter of the Sword that you were able to use in Year of the Demon?
SB: The most obvious benefit was all the time I’d already logged doing research on Japan.  But there’s a more important sense in which my approach to writing the two books could not have been more different.  I had seven or eight years to put Daughter of the Sword together, but once I had a contract with Penguin, I wrote Year of the Demon in fifteen months.  You’d think that the slow approach to Daughter wouldn’t have prepared me for Demon at all, but it turned out to be a surprisingly smooth transition.  I’d invested years in getting to know Mariko and Daigoro, the two protagonists that carry over to Year of the Demon.  I know how they think.  I know what they’re afraid of and what they aspire to.  That made it easy to build secondary characters that could shine a spotlight on their strengths and weaknesses and quirks.

BP: Your latest book, Disciple of the Wind is the third book in the series.  If you would have to sell it with a single sentence, how would it go?
SB: Tokyo’s only female detective takes on a terrorist cult, a ninja clan, and her own police department after Japan’s 9/11 strikes the heart of Tokyo; meanwhile, a lone samurai boy launches a one-man war against the most powerful general in the empire.

BP: Did you encounter any specific problems so far in writing the Fated Blades series?
SB: Oh, yes.  These are intricate books, because multiple storylines intertwine across hundreds of years.  I write each one as an independent story, so if you wanted to, you could read all the Mariko sections as if it’s only her book, then all the Daigoro sections as if it’s only his book.  Each story has to stand on its own.  But once they’re done, I’ve got to braid them together, and that means I have to be very careful about what gets revealed when.  Their stories are linked thematically, and they interact with the same historical artifacts, so I have to negotiate that interplay without letting any spoilers slip through.  That’s not easy when everything that happens to Daigoro is already more than 400 years gone by the time Mariko comes along.

BP: What has been the hardest part in writing Disciple of the Wind?
SB: Two things: structure and expectations.  We touched on expectations before: I want this book to be the best of the series, but with each successive book the bar is set higher and higher.  But the plot structure has been the most vexing.  Mariko and Daigoro face their toughest, most powerful opponents yet, and I’ve stripped away all of their best assets for fighting those opponents.  Daigoro loses his clan and Mariko loses her badge.  These are the worst kind of self-inflicted wounds for an author to face: I put victory totally out of reach, and then I have to find some way for my heroes to win.  It makes for some really cool stories, but solving all the plot puzzles can be a royal pain in the keister.

BP: Besides the hardest part, which chapter/scene did you enjoy writing about the most?
SB: Daigoro’s final showdown is awesome.  I love a good samurai swordfight, and I’ve included my fair share in the last two books, but this one is the best one yet.

BP: Your series features influences from Asia; did you have to carry out any additional research for writing the series?
SB: Yes.  I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan and I’ve spent my entire adult life reading about Japan, so in that sense I’ve got a pretty robust understanding of the culture.  But there are countless little things I have to look up.  It’s been years since I lived in Tokyo, and that’s a city that never stands still.  Samurai history won’t change much anymore, but by now my readers know quite a bit about it, so I have to take the culture deeper and deeper, to give them the most immersive experience possible.  

BP: There are so many different cultures on Earth. What draws or drew you the most to choosing the Japanese culture?
SB: I’ve been fascinated with Japan ever since the fourth grade.  My teacher married a Japanese man and moved to Hokkaido, and in her final week she showed us all of these amazing things about Japan.  “They eat seaweed!”  “They can roll their beds up and tuck them away in a closet!”  Even the little details were totally fascinating to me.  Then, of course, came the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the American fascination with ninja.  Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Michael Dudikoff, Sho Kosugi, they all hit the scene.  James Clavell became a favorite author of mine and You Only Live Twice became my favorite Bond movie.  Then I discovered Akira Kurosawa, anime, and cult classic samurai splatterfests.  In college I got involved in martial arts and Japanese philosophy, and from there I was hooked for life.

BP: If you would be given the chance to retract Disciple of the Wind and make one final adjustment, would you do so? If yes, which parts and why?
SB: I can’t say I’d make changes, because I’m only willing to turn in the best book I know how to write.  But if there’s one regret I have with this book, it’s that I couldn’t include Kaida.  She’s a fan favorite and one of my favorite characters to write.  She had a storyline in Disciple of the Wind up until the very last draft, when ultimately my editor and I decided that the book was just too long.  Including Kaida, this one would have been ten percent longer than Year of the Demon, which was already thirty percent longer than Daughter of the Sword.

The good news is that now Kaida will get her own story, Streaming Dawn, which will come out in time for Christmas.  We get to see Shichio’s origin, we learn who sets him on his collision course with House Okuma, and we also get to meet Daigoro’s illustrious father for the first time.  Kaida plays a pivotal role in how all of that unfolds.

BP: With Disciple of the Wind being published soon, have you thought about how many more volumes The Fated Blades will run?
SB: Yes, but nothing is set in stone just yet.  It’s too soon to say exactly where the series will go from here.

BP: Next to The Fated Blades, do you have next to these other projects that you wish to pursue in the near future?
SB: Yes.  I have plans for space-faring science fiction and Tolkienesque epic fantasy, and a YA series that has been percolating for some time. But writing is just like ordering at the deli: the ideas have to line up and take a number.

BP: Everyone enjoys science fiction and fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about it?
SB: It’s the capacity for philosophical reflection that draws me to it.  You can take the purely theoretical and turn it into something you can wrestle with.  You can invest anything with meaning, even the most commonplace item—say, a ring that embodies greed and the lust for power, or a spice that allows you a glimpse into the future.  Frank Herbert built an entire interstellar economy on that spice, and that’s before we get to any of the political or religious themes.

BP: If you would have to give your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?
SB: Ouch! That’s a hard question. But if I’m forced to answer, I’ll go with Lord of the Rings, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Watchmen, Dune, and the Analects of Confucius.

BP: And just lastly, can you give us a sneak peak as to what will be in store for the readers of Disciple of the Wind and possibly the direction of the fourth book?
SB: Disciple of the Wind pits Mariko and Daigoro against their greatest enemies, in circumstances far worse than either of them has faced before.  Terrorists strike Tokyo and scar it forever.  Mariko loses her badge, then her moral compass.  Daigoro’s closest allies become enemies, while his enemies gather allies of their own.  And all of that happens in the first few chapters.  After that things get really dire.

As for the fourth book, I can’t say much without revealing spoilers.  Suffice it to say that there were a couple of ends left untied in Daughter of the Sword.  Daigoro’s father was never avenged; his killer was never identified.  And Mariko’s cocaine smuggling case had its roots in California, and the American dealers are still at large.  Someone will have to tie up the loose ends.

BP: Thank you for your time, Steve, and good luck with your future writing!
SB: Thanks so much.  Let’s do this again after Disciple of the Wind comes out in April!

Book Review: The Hive Construct

The Hive Construct by Alexander Maskill

Situated deep in the Sahara Desert, New Cairo is a city built on technology – from the huge, life-giving solar panels that keep it functioning in a radically changed, resource-scarce world to the artificial implants that have become the answer to all and any of mankind's medical problems.

But it is also a divided city, dominated by a handful of omnipotent corporate dynasties.

And when a devastating new computer virus begins to spread through the poorest districts, shutting down the life-giving implants that enable so many to survive, the city begins to slide into the anarchy of violent class struggle.

Hiding amidst the chaos is Zala Ulora. A gifted hacker and fugitive from justice, she believes she might be able to earn her life back by tracing the virus to its source and destroying it before it destroys the city. Or before the city destroys itself . . .

Who doesn't like a good near future, dystopian, computer tech focused kind of story? These kind of themes plays into a lot of interests of mine so when I was notified about the release of The Hive Construct earlier this year I got very excited. Furthermore the mentioning of bio augmentations really made me even more excited for the story. A year ago I finished the computer game Deus Ex Human Revolution and this made me look differently towards augs and some of the ethnic parts involved so all in all I had high hopes for this story. The Hive Construct is written by Alexander Maskill, who wrote this story just when he was 17, just as with the books of Henry Venmore-Rowland Transworld has struck a amazing deal. Alexander Maskill also won the Terry Pratchett First Novel Award. Just a small note upfront, Alexander Maskill does live up to them! 

The Hive Construct picks up readily inspiring a very dire setting the world as we no it, is extinct. There is a huge teeming city underneath the Saraha Desert, called New Cairo, where people now live. Even though this is a place of refuge the living is hard and resources such as food are scare. I was impressed with the whole dystopian setting that Alexander Maskill was able to inspire in just a few pages, like the dangers of the world. What makes the feeling of the world of The Hive Construct even more dire is the division of the poor and the rich. New Cairo is in the hands of a few rich cooperations that are able to do things for themselves, for their own gain.  
The story of The Hive Construct picks up with three different storylines. The first is of the hacker Zala Ulora, a girl with a dark past. Zala has had many run ins with justice in the past and her return to New Cairo is with a specific goal in mind. She wants to clear her name and get her old life back and one thing that can help her do this is by finding out the roots of the virus known as Soucouyant, that is currently plaguing the people of New Cairo. But there is a twist given to who can catch Soucouyant. It infects peoples bioaugmentations, and given a world where people rely heavily on such things... well... you can safely assume that people fear it. In her quest of finding the origins of the virus Zala has to go trough a lot, she is a skilled hacker, granted, one of the best, but this is a quest that cannot be completed by merely a computer and a keyboard. When she goes on investigating, she faces some very strong opponents and finds herself in some impossible situations, luckily she has her wits about her that help her out. 

The second storyline that you follow is that of Ryan Granier, a Councillor of New Cairo. The city of New Cairo is in quarantine and he is starting to play a game, a game that tries to win support on one hand but with some other motives that the people are led to believe. Ryan is leading strong force against the quarantine of New Cairo but he actually wants to only get higher up in the city's council. Well I am not saying you get what you deserve but some things happen to Ryan that where you can say: karma. When I learned more details I actually started to feel for the guy. But then again, karma... 

The third storyline is that of Alice, a recently widowed mother who wants nothing more for her children to escape New Cairo. Her husband though was part of a revolutionary group and this past is haunting her and her children and they get caught up in a deadly game and getting out is not an option. I do have to be honest and say that I didn't quite enjoy this storyline compared to the other two, it wasn't necesarily misplaced, the emotional current did fit very strongly in the whole idea of the story but I just missed the connection with the characters. 

The three storyline begin slowly, which allow Alexander Maskill to put the setting right, gradually Alexander Maskill picks up the pace in the three storylines, I really liked the picking up of the speed as this produced just the right thing for a thriller, some very important plot twists were revealed that make you wonder just what will happen next, being wrong and again being suprised by what Alexander Maskill has in store for you. Even better yet is that he converges the storyline into a one story in the end seeing a bit of the interconnection between the character, creating a well rounded story.

I already mentioned above that the setting of The Hive Construct is nailed spot-on, I forgot to mention however that this is far from a humurous and funny book, the works of Terry Pratchett often feature on the comical side but The Hive Construct is a thriller sort of story with very bleak surrounding. 

When it comes to world building and the surroundings of the story, the whole city of New Cairo was very craftely made and executed into fine details but when I looked at the bigger picture the story could have taken place in any different continent and I didn't get the Egytian influences for the full 100%, yes it still inspires an arabic sort of feeling but if The Netherlands would have been turned into a desert wasteland it could have been just the location as well. But you know the story does take place mostly in New Cairo so that is what matters and that is what Alexander Maskill show very well.

Now what thing that surprised me was the focus of the story. The Hive Construct is an action story but it doesn't necessarily put the emphasis on the action alone. There are still plenty of action scenes, especially in the end of the book, wow (btw), but instead of the action Alexander Maskill explores more of a humane side of it, both emotional and economical, which really changes your prespective on the story, at least for me it did. It's with these kind of changes on where to put the focus one, that make such a story readily enjoyable and one-of-a-kind. 

The Hive Construct is a definite recommendation. I enjoyed reading the book a lot, perhaps because I am a bit of a nerd that I like the emphasis of the themes suchs as bioaugmentations, hacking and a virus that attackes these bioaugmentations, but if you are looking for your next thriller, The Hive Construct is also more than suited for you. Furthermore is has a connectable protagonist and the secondary characters of the book all help to inspire a complete, whole, feeling to the story. The Hive Construct can be considered as a stand alone book, I don´t think a sequel is opted for it and the story does end with one big bang, butI do think there is plenty of room for a possible sequel. Also I do have to say that is Alexander Maskill was able to write this at 17, watch out for him, I am eager to see what other creative stories he will be able to come up with. Recommended!