Review: The State of the Art by Iain M.Banks

Having read all of Banks’ Scifi a decade ago and now revisiting them, The State of the Art is the only one I have never read, not being a massive fan of short stories. This collection demonstrates why.

Banks’ is my favourite author and his abilities as a wordsmith and a crafter of realities I have never found bettered. Each short oozes with his style and substance but there is just never enough space for him to build momentum or for me to become engaged. The first Culture tale is just a frivolity whilst the second, whilst longer, still does not have the space it needs to mature: indeed it becomes more of a duelling polemic – fascinating and highly relevant, especially given the current pathetic state of humanity  – but I wanted so much more.

My summary – excellent work from Iain M Banks but the format is not my cup of team and I am looking forwards to returning to the Culture big time!

Fleecy Moss, author of the Folio 55 SciFi fantasy series (writing as Nia Sinjorina), End of a Girl, Undon , and 4659 now available on Amazon.



The New Plague

The Brexit Party of the UK is not a political party; to consider it as such is to give it what it wants, time until the next election to unleash its ideological payload into the body of our nation and destroy it as it currently exists.

It is no  party, has no members or manifesto, suffers no internal democracy, its leader cannot be deposed or removed, its funding is opaque. Whilst outside, its public face appears to be a political party, its internals are crafted by data analysts, sovereign wealth individuals, and ideologues intent upon only one thing, the betterment of themselves at whatever cost to the individual, society, and the planet at large.

Crafted by political geneticists, its investors have taken time to build this new weapon of mass societal destruction.  Students of the past, the have considered previous epidemics, in particular that which started in Germany in the early 1920s and spread to engulf most of the world in fire.

To successfully infect, a susceptible population with a weakened societal immune system is required. In this previous outbreak, it was a once proud nation having been laid low through the Treaty of Versailles and its consequences. A trial of the next generation of political virus in the US, a nation almost entirely split down the middle only needed to play the What About Me card to shift a small number of voters disillusioned with a less than perfect political process; the result of this infection is there for all to see, a small number of voters leading to consequences echoing around the world.

Surprisingly, this was not the primary infection scenario but merely a small trial, one in such a dominant host that no one would really consider the possibility of a greater plan underway.

To succeed, an infection a way into the host and a vector to spread and then tighten its grip. With the UK, a nation that never rebuilt itself after an imperial past, there were multiple access points ripe for exploitation: an antiquated political system; no formal constitution; no independent checks and balances; a cultural memory of superiority; a barely healed class system concealing patronage, nepotism, and a chumocracy.

For a vector, the ability to spread the infection, the UK offered both ancient and modern: the almost maniacally trusted and beyond suspicion edifice of the BBC; the ingrained technological wonder of social media and more, the lack of understanding of the general population in how it works, who manipulates it, and who pays for that access directly into their heart and soul.

Brexit was ground zero; the long prepared setting of first release of the virus. Take the weak Prime Minister that was David Cameron, haughty and unaware in the role he was about to play and whisper into his ear that he could deal with the troublesome Right Wing of his party by agreeing to a referendum that could not possible go against him. Target the unreconstructed latent nationalism of a population long prepared via the private held media against a suitable target, the European Union, craft a process of a simple majority and a binary statement to deal with a highly complex issue, and then pump money and disinformation into the national body.

The shock of  that first stage of the infection reverberated around the host, and around the world. Too late the immune system began to fight back, but this was no virus it recognised for it used its own processes against it: democracy. Only too late did it realise that the inherent failings of simple majority system could end up becoming fatal.

For three years the host has fought to quell the virus but this is no simple, one of a kind construct: it has been decades in the crafting. Stage two has seen the virus manifest a mass, a tumour, that of the Brexit “Party”. The host victim suitably feverish with infection, righteous indignation has seen a nationalist macrophage enter the political bloodstream. It proffers no place for those who stand against it, the binary choice, the clarion call already heard before: you are either with us or against us.

Its purpose is clear and indeed now stated: it will remake the nation in its new image of a national, a world order. This will be achieved one constituency at a time, with simple slogans, feel good statements, lots of noise, and a victim mentality, decrying the very vectors that it so magnificently manipulates.

Yet whilst its infection continues to widen its reach, deepen its hold, the host continues to fail to understand the danger, the potentially terminal nature of this first step on the road to a global epidemic of which the UK will just be the first casualty. A by-election is underway in Peterborough: infected voters flood from dying parties to the new party that is not a party, and yet those who would stand against it continue to do so using the very archaic thinking it has already subverted.  A simple majority system is its spawning ground, its victory. Divided resistance will fall, seats will be taken, momentum will increase.

If good men and women do not recognise this seemingly fantastical danger in time, then it will be too late. This virus has been decades in the making, by those who seek sovereign wealth and power over the citizens of this planet. The UK is the first victim because it was the most vulnerable as already described.

Anathema to these people and their agendas are cooperative and international institutions that protect the small from the large, the weak from the strong, the poor from the rich. The European Union was founded in the flames of the last infection; it has been developed by good men and women in order to provide a barricade against the new outbreak, preaching tolerance, acceptance and love for each other and the environment around them.  Whilst mistakes have been made and weaknesses exist, its track record is there for all to see: no war on the Continent for seventy years; improved living standards for its citizens; improved environment.

The UK was always the weak link in the EU because of its past, for many reasons; that it has been targeted by the virus via Brexit was inevitable.  Those who would stand against this virus, both here in the UK and abroad, need to recognise what they are fighting and organise a proper resistance now or the future will be lost to a new dark age of intolerance, repression, environmental degradation, and war.

It should have started with the EU elections but it did not; it could happen in the Peterborough byelection but it has not. We are using its very weapon of tribalism against ourselves: only a grand coalition against this virus will have a chance of victory.  We either fight this virus on its own terms, in its own playground, with superior thought and tactic, or we will die. It is that simple.


Review: King of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom) by R.J.Barker

A wonderful final outing in The Wounded Kingdom, at least for now if the author is to be believed. This series has grown on me, from the inital odd mash up of fantasy and detective thriller with a curious dash of almost unwanted magic into something offering superb depth, twist, and intrigue.

Characterisation and humour have been a strength of this series from the very beginning but the journeys of certain characters have been a joy to behold, Aydor, the King without a kingdom & Merela, the Jester of Death, in particular.

Whilst the first book merely sparks on occasion I encourage readers to stay with the series: it soon catches alight and ends in a mesmerising inferno as multiple strands come together in a fantasy and thriller triumph.

Highly Recommended.

Fleecy Moss, author of the Folio 55 SciFi fantasy series (writing as Nia Sinjorina), End of a Girl, Undon , and 4659 now available on Amazon.


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Review: Blood of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom) by R.J.Barker

Diving straight into this from the first book, it is more of the same good stuff that intrigued me: great characters, political machinations, and the development of individual story lines that are both credible and engaging.

The series is unique, or unique to me at least, a detective story rolled into a classic fantasy. A good few years has passed since the end of the second book but not much has changed as the assassins return: people are scared; leaders want power; a king tries to walk the path between morality and efficacy; a young boy with a clubbed foot has grown physically but needs to mature as a person.

I enjoyed the development, the twists and turns, and the big reveal at the end. As with the first book though,  I want to see more development in the magic system. What happened to end the Age of Balance? Why is the magic alive? Why can’t it be used for good?

The second is definitely an improvement on the first: I am intrigued to see where it goes and in that, the author has succeeded.

Fleecy Moss, author of the Folio 55 SciFi fantasy series (writing as Nia Sinjorina), End of a Girl, Undon , and 4659 now available on Amazon.


Review: Age of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom) by R.J.Barker

Never heard of this author but a tweet from Adrian Tchaikovsky said that his book was on his to-read list so I thought I’d give it a go.

.An interesting take on fantasy, more like a detective novel: oddly I was reminded of Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco) – probably the master/servant relationship, and the investigation of a mystery in a single place.

I enjoyed the development of character: the author has a talent for creating distinct personalities and driving forwards their agendas as unique individuals. The political intrigue and mystery itself I found less impressive – not bad but it could have been more well crafted rather than becoming almost a backdrop which then jumped to the fore at the end.

Where I did want to see more development was in the magic system and the history of the place, but perhaps that will come in the second book, which I am already well into.

I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it at the moment but the series definitely has promise.

Fleecy Moss, author of the Folio 55 SciFi fantasy series (writing as Nia Sinjorina), End of a Girl, Undon , and 4659 now available on Amazon.


Review: Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

Second book in my decade old reread of Iain M.Banks catalogue.

Stunning (again). When his weapon is a pen (well, keyboard), this use is divine.

Funny, dark, sick, incredible science and technology: one man’s battle against his past played out against the almost irrelevant backdrop of civilisation engineering. It just doesn’t get any better than this and I weep that he will never write any more novels.

Fleecy Moss, author of the Folio 55 SciFi fantasy series (writing as Nia Sinjorina), End of a Girl, Undon , and 4659 now available on Amazon.