Brent Bolster Investigations: Book 4 – Double Infinity (Book Review)

Double Infinity is the fourth science fiction novel in the hilarious Brent Bolster Investigations series by author Michael Campling, and it is reminiscent of writers such as Douglas Adams and Red Dwarf creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.

…warning: potential spoilers for those not previously familiar with the Brent Bolster series…

My review of book one, Dial G for Gravity can be found here.

Continue reading “Brent Bolster Investigations: Book 4 – Double Infinity (Book Review)”

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Brent Bolster Investigations: Book 3 – The Surrana Identity (ARC Review)

The Surrana Identity is the third book in the Brent Bolster series by author Michael Campling, and is dedicated to fans of Douglas Adams.

 

Book three continues the hilarious adventures of Private Detective Brent Bolster and his oddball associates: Vince Claybourne, Rawlgeeb – a green humanoid alien known as a Gloabon – and Algernon, their pet fish who lives in a diving helmet.

Those who’ve read the previous books in the series will already be familiar with Brent’s nemesis, Surrana, the sneaky Gloabon Assassin who has already made numerous attempts to kill him. In this story, Surrana has been held captive by the GIT (Gloabon Institute of Technology) and experimented upon. However, she manages to slip her confinement and escape her tormentors, fleeing from Earth and into space.

Frustrated with the situation, and despite their need for tact and diplomacy, the GIT reluctantly hire Brent to track down their former captive. Brent has reservations considering his complicated history with Surrana, but Vince soon changes his mind and convinces him to accept the job. However, what is intended to be a simple stealth mission, turns out to have a rather different agenda completely, and the gang find themselves in a tricky spot.

 

As with its predecessor, The Surrana Identity begins with a helpful glossary of characters which allows the reader to easily keep track of who-is-who, and where-is-where, which definitely eliminates confusion for those not familiar with the characters. I must admit that I’m a bit of a geek for things like glossaries and appendices and maps, so anything with additional details that makes life easier is definitely a win.

Aside from Brent, Vince, Rawlgeeb and Algy, a number of our favourite characters return for this novel, including: Dex, Zeb & Dr. Cooper. As far as the story goes, I found it incredibly funny and I chortled so often, that I had to take regular breaks just to recompose myself. The ridiculous banter between Brent and his cohorts is what makes this series so great, from fancy pencils to popular culture references and alien abductions.

We also have serious moments too though, where the Artificial Intelligences, Jason and Dee, get caught up in some existential angst and question both their orders and their chances of survival. As a person creeped out by the idea of AIs turning on humans, I definitely found this part interesting.

At 4 out of 5 stars, The Surrana Identity is my kind of humorous sci-fi story, and in my opinion they just get better with each new release. However I received a complimentary copy of the book directly from the author and my honest review is compelled to point out a few missing words and minor errors – slightly more so than I’d like to see.

 

Anyone interested in grabbing a copy of The Surrana Identity can get it from Amazon.co.uk here. I for one am eagerly awaiting book 4, keep them coming Michael.

 

See also:

Brent Bolster: Book 1 – Dial G for Gravity

Brent Bolster: Book 2 – Dead Men Don’t Disco

 

Uprising: 12 Dystopian Futures Boxset – Cheatc0de by Michael Campling (ARC Review)

The Uprising Box set is a collection of 12 full length novels by various writers, all with the theme of dystopian futures. I kindly received an ARC of this huge boxset from author Michael Campling, and am voluntarily choosing to review each of the individual books contained within its 2,381 pages.

Book 8 finally brings us to Michael Campling’s novel Cheatc0de, book one in his Downlode Trust series, and out of the twelve books in the Uprising box set, this is the one which I have been the most eager to read. This is because I am already familiar with most of Mikey’s other books, and was a huge fan of his LitRPG novel Prison Quest, which he co-wrote with Saffron Bryant. Cheatc0de sounds like it could be very similar, and his Downlode Trust novels are the only books of his that I haven’t yet read.

 

The story centres on Hank, a teenager who uses his total immersion Virtual Reality gaming hobby as an escape from an otherwise difficult home life, and his father, Mervin an ex-military man struggling with his past, and the responsibility of raising his son single-handed. After finishing school, Hank straps in to his favourite VR game, hoping for a fun distraction from life. Usually a solo player, he unexpectedly encounters a fellow gamer called Will, who lures him into joining an unsanctioned mission with the promise of lots of easy money.

While sceptical at first, Hank soon warms up to Will as he realises that the two of them really do perform better as a team. However, Will is reluctant to share his secrets, and Hank begins to harbour doubts about his friend’s motives. Unknown to Hank, Mervin joins the game eager to relive his days in the military, and places both his own life and Hank’s in danger. But will the rewards of the game outweigh the risks and consequences for Hank? Can he complete the mission? Will he survive?

 

While this is not technically LitRPG, not like Prison Quest, I rather enjoyed the story. It was fast paced and engaging, and being a non-gamer myself I found the story simple, fairly easy to follow and mostly entertaining. The virtual world appeared realistic and well thought out, and it has a relatively small cast of characters, which I found oddly refreshing.

While technically it is another good novel from Michael Campling, I can only rate this at 4 out of 5 stars as there were quite a number of errors, which is unusual for this author. Also, I struggled initially with Mervin’s chapters as they didn’t quite gel together with the main storyline at first, and it wasn’t until later when he joined the game that it all began to finally ‘click’ with me and make sense. My final issue is the neat and tidy conclusion, which I thought fell a little flat. I was expecting a bit more action or danger, more nervous tension, or just something to give it more of a realistic feel.

That being said, I will be continuing on to read the next book in the series, book 2 The Trust, and those interested can find the Uprising Boxset on Amazon.co.uk here, or you can buy Cheatc0de as a stand-alone here.

 

See also:

The Bottle Stopper – Angeline Trevena

 

Brent Bolster Investigations: Book 2 – Dead Men Don’t Disco (Book Review)

Dead Men Don’t Disco is the latest offering from author Michael Campling and it follows on from the first Brent Bolster Investigations novel, Dial G for Gravity. Those not already familiar with this sci-fi comedy series can read my review of Dial G for Gravity here.

Having made an unfortunate enemy of Gloabon assassin, Surrana – see Dial G for details – Brent and his associates must now find a way to thwart Surrana’s attempts at revenge.

Meanwhile, simple government peace talks take a bad turn when a faulty translator forces Lieutenant Commander Dex to enlist Zeb, the science officer and slightly bonkers cybonic lifeform on board The Kreltonian Skull, to act as interpreter and translator instead. The result; a drunken kidnapping which sparks an interspecies war.

In an attempt to diffuse the situation, Rawlgeeb is escorted to The Gamulon but is then taken captive by Dex and Zeb on The Kreltonian Skull as hostage, in retaliation to the Gloabon Captain’s abduction of their crew. Concerned for his friend Brent undertakes a mission of rescue however, will his unusual methods of negotiation and coercion have the tact and diplomacy necessary to diffuse such a sensitive situation? Best grab that fancy coffee and hope for the best.

 

The more I read of this Douglas Adams-esque series, the more side-splittingly hilarious it becomes. Whether this is because the comedy level has increased from the previous book, or because I have become more comfortable or more at ease with the personalities of these characters, who can really say. However, my final review for 2018 is a highly recommended 5 out of 5 stars.

While I’m not necessarily always a fan of robots/androids, I love the character of science officer Zeb, he is such tremendous fun. He’s probably up there in my list of top 3 robots/androids/cyborgs from literature, along with Kryten and Marvin The Paranoid Android.

Where the Brent Bolster series outshines Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s series though, is in one fairly major area, its plot. By which I mean that Dead Men Don’t Disco actually has a cohesive storyline which is easy to follow, makes complete sense and doesn’t veer off on random tangents.

One final point to note is the handy glossary of characters that was included at the beginning of the book; a very useful addition if you ask me. While I was initially suspicious of the Brent Bolster series, I’m really glad that I decided to check them out as they’ve definitely put a few smiles on my face. If you’re looking for some light-hearted comedy to help you unwind during the overly-stressful festive season, then look no further and grab a copy of Dead Men Don’t Disco from Amazon.co.uk here.

Watch out for book 3, The Surrana Identity, currently expected in early 2019.

 

See also:

Brent Bolster: Book 1 – Dial G for Gravity

Brent Bolster Investigations: Book 1 – Dial G for Gravity (ARC Review)

Dial G for Gravity is a fun sci-fi comedy book by Michael Campling, and its humour is reminiscent of Douglas Adams novels – both Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently.

The story follows private investigator Brent Bolster who goes missing for 10 days and suffers amnesia, after a botched alien abduction. Accompanied by his assistant, Vince and fellow abductee, Maisie, Brent must figure out what happened, not just to himself and Maisie, but also the thousands of other people who’ve recently vanished from Earth.

Meanwhile, falsely blamed for the spat of botched abductions by the Gloabon Government, Gloabon Liaison Officer Rawlgeeb is exiled to Earth, and tasked with an undercover operation to get to the bottom of the issue. He joins up with Brent, and together this unlikely team uncovers a major alien conspiracy that is sure to make you fear the existence, and motivations of extra-terrestrials.

 

Along with the nods to Douglas’s novels, this book also reminds me of the style of comedy that can usually be found in the writings of Red Dwarf creators, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. In essence this is my type of humour, and therefore my style of novel.

I particularly enjoyed Dr. Cooper, a minor character who works at the Gloabon Institute of Technology, and while I appreciate that this is maybe just a coincidence, the man held similar characteristics and peculiar mannerisms to his namesake, Dr. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory TV show. I couldn’t help but imagine Sheldon in my head while reading Dr. Cooper’s dialogue, and this added to my enjoyment of the overall story.

All in all Dial G for Gravity is a pretty good space comedy, with well thought out characters and some interesting alien races in the Gloabons, Andelians and the Kreitians. I received an ARC of this book direct from Michael Campling and as it has a few spelling errors my review rating is just 4 out of 5 stars, however I’m looking forward to reading more about both Brent Bolster and the Gloabons, as well as Zeb, the cybonic lifeform, so hopefully there will be more books to come in the Brent Bolster Investigations series.

In addition, Dial G for Gravity comes complete with a handy list of characters at the end, for folks who appreciate that sort of thing. Anyone interested in checking out this humorous sci-fi story can grab a copy from Amazon.co.uk here.

The Darkeningstone Trilogy – Michael Campling (Book Review)

Book 1: Trespass

Having been a fan of some of Michael Campling’s other books – The Colony B series, and his LitRPG collaboration with Saffron Bryant, Prison Quest – I really thought that I would enjoy this time travel and historical fantasy trilogy. However, after just reading book one, Trespass, I’m a bit disappointed. The story jumps back and forth between three different time periods, and although that doesn’t really bother me, I do feel that as a result not much of real consequence actually happens.

If I had read the free copy of Trespass that I received direct from signing up to Michael Campling’s e-mail newsletter, I would probably have stopped reading at this point, rating the first book at just 2 out of 5 stars. Unfortunately, I have already purchased The Darkeningstone Trilogy Boxset, so I’m going to persevere and continue reading book two, Outcast and hope that the story improves.


Book 2: Outcast

Outcast continues the interlocking stories of Jake and Cally, which began in Trespass: Jake is lost in the forest, while Cally is working on her University Dissertation.

I found this novel more interesting than its predecessor, but I felt that the Darkeningstone played very little part in this story, which was quite disappointing. I liked the survival techniques that Jake used to keep his spirits up and his body alive while he searched for a way back home, as well as the different tribes people and their primitive ways of life.

It did enough to keep me reading, so I’d rate Outcast at 3 out of 5 stars, but the story is probably more suited to young adults than someone in their 30s. However, having come this far it seems silly not to continue on and read the last part of the trilogy, Scaderstone Pit, and I will reserve final judgement until I finish reading the entire series.


Book 3: Scaderstone Pit

As I began reading this trilogy I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy it, the premise seemed interesting – a time travel mystery – however, the constant back and forth between different time periods seemed to really slow down the pace of the book. Just as something intriguing happens, we jump to another time period with different characters and as the major action began there, we would again jump elsewhere.

I felt that despite the deeply intricate detail that went into the crafting of this story, in the earlier books not much seemed to happen, or at least not that much that felt significant. I was tempted to give up reading a couple of times early on, however bearing in mind the respect that I have for some of this author’s other books, I kept on reading.

Having persevered all the way to the end of the trilogy, all I can say is that I’m glad I kept going. The third novel, Scaderstone Pit really tied all of the elements of this story together, and every detail finally clicked into place. Unfortunately, there were a number of spelling errors and missing words which let this entire series down, and this is unusual for Michael Campling.

 

At 4 out of 5 stars, The Darkeningstone Trilogy is perfect for young adult fans of time travel. It’s not perfect but if you can stick with it all the way to the end, you may be surprised by how well each different element blends together.

 

See also:

Prison Quest: A Sci-Fi LitRPG Adventure

Colony B: Book 1 – The Wall

Prison Quest: A Sci-Fi LitRPG Adventure (ARC Review)

Cody Milbourne works security for the Vortax Corporation Headquarters. When she discovers her friend and colleague Joseph Salter has been murdered on company property, she is aghast when the Corporate Crimes Unit falsely accuses her of theft, criminal damage, abduction and Joseph’s murder. As a result she faces up to 40 years in prison.

Cody’s new home is actually a virtual world known as Fortress Forty-seven, not just your regular prison. Her only choice is to complete the virtual reality game known as Prison Quest, if she wants to stay alive and have any hope of escaping this nightmare.

 

Having been a fan of some of Michael Campling’s earlier work, I didn’t hesitate when offered the chance to check out his new book, Prison Quest, which he has co-written with fellow fantasy and science fiction author Saffron Bryant. I received a free advanced readers copy in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Prison Quest – originally titled ‘Fortress 47’ – is a LitRPG novel, a genre which I am not very familiar with. LitRPG is the literary equivalent to role-playing games in which characters must complete quests in order to ‘level up’ or advance throughout the game or story, by acquiring experience points.

 

In this case, Cody must forge alliances, learn skills and complete various quests within the virtual game world called Fortress Forty-seven, a dangerous and unforgiving place. All while seeking the allusive Prison Quest, which may hold the key to her escape from both the game and her prison sentence.

While prior knowledge of RPGs would be beneficial, it is unnecessary as Campling and Bryant have put together a very well-written story, complete with easy to comprehend explanations that do not distract the reader from the graceful flow of the narrative.

Beginning in the Wild West themed town of Firebrand, there is an air of relative safety as characters who are unlucky enough to die, simply regenerate in the town jailhouse. However, for those who dare to really push the game to its limits and leave town, venturing into the wild desert wastelands, they must be willing to pay the ultimate price. For beyond the walls of Firebrand, when you die, you die for real, and not just within the confines of the game, but in real life too.

The book contains a wide-array of interesting characters and creatures including: bit roaches, grit worms, venomous cavelings and androids. With its combination of science fiction, fantasy and Westerns, this book is perfect for gamers, sci-fi fans, fantasy fanatics and also fans of Firefly. At 5 out of 5 stars this is a fast-paced, action packed novel that you won’t want to miss. I’ll definitely be checking out more books in the LitRPG genre after this one.

 

In Jan 2019, Michael Campling and Saffron Bryant re-released an updated and improved version of this book called The Prison Quest, click here to get your updated copy from Amazon.co.uk.