Friday, March 9, 2012

Psinapse / Andrew Ives

"This presents a thorny issue."

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

Approximate word count: 45-50,000 words

Kindle US:
YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


As a reader, Andrew Ives prefers reading the old “Victorian classics”: Dickens, Verne, H.G. Wells, and so on. You’ll notice some of these authored science fiction, which have since partially turned into science fact.


A dystopian thriller, set in Britain, in the not too distant future.


Ives wrote Psinapse in the late 1980s based on a future he pictured in twenty or thirty years. We’re rapidly approaching when the story takes place, if not already there. This presents a thorny issue. How a potential reader feels about this will make an immense difference in deciding if this is a book for them.

Before discussing that issue, let’s talk about the story. The main character is Karen Masterson, a recent college graduate with expertise in computer security. While this was a hot field when she started her training, the demand was much lower when she finished. With the high rate of unemployment in the dystopian society Ives’ imagined, Karen was lucky to get her job helping develop a leading edge defense system. Cancellation of the project sends Karen to the unemployment line. When some strange things happen related to her former employer and coworkers, Karen starts digging, and sets us off on the thriller part of the tale.

I mostly enjoyed the story. The futuristic technology and dystopian world Ives describes are imaginative and, with a few exceptions, worked well. However, it felt like too much of the book was extended narrative. Psinapse starts out with a good, dramatic scene to draw the reader in, followed by narrative explaining back-story. There is nothing wrong with this approach; however, the back-story, primarily concerning how technology had evolved up to that point, went too far, causing the story to drag. That the author had thought this out was a good thing. That the reader had to wade through it all, whether necessary to the story or not, wasn’t. For example, a long history of how computer technology had changed, allowing much more powerful computer chips to be built, wasn’t important to the story. Only that this change had happened.

The remainder of the book contains a fair amount of narrative. Some of this is filling in of back-story, some needed, and some maybe not. Some is because the characters, especially Karen, are often acting alone, so the storytelling is largely action or her thoughts. The latter, while technically “inner dialogue,” often reads the same as narrative. How a reader will react to that is more a matter of taste.

Which leaves us with the thorny issue. In his bio, the author talks about his love for the classics of science fiction: Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and such. Reading these authors today presents the reader with an envisioned future that is both futuristic and retro, when compared to our actual present. Psinapse has the same situation. Some of the technology as Ives pictured it in the late 1980s is still forward looking – imaginable from our current vantage point, but still in the future. Retina scanning for ATM security and computer/brain interfaces are two examples. Yet other technology has come and (mostly) gone – dialup internet access, for example.

The type of reader who enjoys reading classic science fiction, comparing the future those authors pictured to the reality of where we are today, is likely to enjoy Psinapse. Those things I see as negative, including detailed back-story, may well appeal to those same readers. For those readers who get jarred out of a story when it feels like they’re jumping between past, present, and future in the same scene, it may not.


Uses UK spelling conventions.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: *** Three stars


postcardsfromlalaland said...

When you said "thorny issue," I expected there to be something controversial -- socially, politically, or morally -- about the portrayal of technology in the book, but I don't really see that in what you described.

I think it'd be interesting to read a story that combines retro with still-not-existing technology. Heh, I still remember the high-pitched squeals of the dial-up…almost makes me feel nostalgic, but then I remember how slow Internet access was back then :)

BooksAndPals said...

@postcardsfromlalaland: It sounds like it would be worthwhile for you to give it a try.

Andrew Ives said...

Thanks BooksAndPals,
Your review is very fair and quite consistent with my own viewpoint on the book now that 20yrs have passed. Much of what you say about the back story slowing the pace rather early on is quite true of many of Verne's books too, so I guess it suits the more techy audience.

As PostcardsFromLalaland says, I often enjoy the future-retro feel of films such as Westworld, Space 1999 or books such as Paris In The 20th Century and other cyberpunk 80s/90s books, or seeing 1950s concept cars and robots, but I agree that with some people that could be considered a bit strange in an almost contemporary story.

Thanks for taking the time to review my book anyway. I appreciate it.

Joansz said...

I really like the concept this book presents, and as one who experienced downsizing and unemployment, I can immediately relate to the protagonist's position. But based on this evaluation, it seems this book could stand some editing. I had the same issue with backstory in my sequel, but the freelance editor I hired was able to help me spread out the narrative some so that it didn't stop the story. There's really no reason why you couldn't revise this ebook and republish a second edition, Andrew Ives.

Andrew Ives said...

Thanks Joansz, that's a good suggestion. I may well do that as I have some links I might incorporate too. The book isn't very long, so although the technical sections may slow the pace, they don't actually go on for many pages. Compared to eg Journey to the Centre of the Earth, I think they're quite short and interesting-ish in their own right.

Btw, when I wrote this in 1989, I lived in East Anglia and used dial-up. On Anglia News today, they mentioned that some of Anglia still uses dial-up internet, so such times haven't completely passed.