Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review of The Method - a dystopian science fiction novel.

Juli Zeh's The Method is a very believable dystopian, science-fiction thriller. It is a different take of themes explored in novels like 1984 and Brave New World. The novel is set in a future Germany, not too different from the current version, except society is controlled by a strict set of rules known as “The Method”.

The Method is an all-encompassing health regime that every member of society is legally obliged to follow. Every person must eat the right foods, excluding those deemed unhealthy. Everyone must do the right amount of exercise. People are only allowed to mate with those who have compatible immune systems. Anyone who fails to follow the rules is arrested and rehabilitated.

An individual’s commitment to The Method is tracked by microchips embedded in them, and by their toilets that automatically examine their urine. Each member of society has an exercise bike on which they must complete a certain amount of kilometres per week.

The novel revolves around Mia Holl whose devotion to The Method is waning. She is eating the wrong foods, and falling behind in exercising. She is upset about the execution of her brother Moritz. He was found guilty of murdering a woman he desired. Mia and her imaginary friend, the Ideal Imorata, are convinced her brother was innocence.

Mia is put on trial for her lack of devotion. While on trial Kramer, the public face of The Method, visits her. He was partly responsible for the conviction of her brother. Kramer tries to convince Mia to return to The Method. He is concerned her faltering conviction to The Method will be noticed more by the general public because of her brother’s execution. He worries she might cause others to question The Method. Like 1984, the novel is about the need of a dictatorial society to eliminate all dissent. 

The Method was written by German Juli Zeh and translated into English by Sally-Ann Spencer. They have written a thriller where each scene builds on the tension of its predecessor. Zeh had a number of quirky ways of introducing chapters. Sometimes she wrote in second person as she foreshadowed coming events. Her writing flows, but has a formality to it, which emphasised Mia’s scientific background and analytical mindset.

Mia is a different type of main character, one who does not display her emotions, preferring to analyse the world around her. But she uses an imaginary companion to express her emotions.

Kramer is a charming ruthless fanatic who will do anything to protect The Method. He is very reminiscent of many current politicians.

The novel’s themes resonate with the desire of real world governments to monitor and control their citizens. The novel asks if the increasing amount of data collected by governments could be arranged by overzealous authorities to show the guilt of anyone they choose to investigate. Data could be arranged like incorrect forensic evidence was used to wrongly convict Lindy Chamberlain of murdering her child. 

The Method is a novel for readers who enjoy stories that cause them to think about society and where it is heading. With increasing surveillance and concerns about massive health expenditure, a version of The Method could become a reality.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

ebook Piracy

Pirate Clip Art
I’ve been doing a bit of research into ebook piracy, and I have come to the conclusion that any author who is worried about their book being pirated should worry about something they can actually do something about. It seems just about every published ebook is being pirated on multiple sites right now. Spending time trying to track down all those illegal download avenues will just waste an author’s time. An author might have success having their book taken down from one website, just as it pops up for free on another website.

Warning on Google+

My initial research into this topic was prompted by a post I saw on Google+. The post had a link to a website and said something along the lines, “my ebook is illegally posted here for free, check if yours is.” I have not published any ebooks but I was curious, so I went to the site and searched for books from a few local authors who are yet to become big names. In all cases, the search provided links to free copies of their books.

I thought I would do the right thing and message the authors, just in case they were unaware. Which I started to do, but then thought maybe I should add a link to the pages concerning their books. When I went back to the site, their books no longer came up in a search, so maybe the initial post on Google+ had resulted in so many take down notices, that the site had given up. Or maybe Amazon threatened them.

General ebooks

I did not copy down the sites name, but since then my research has come across similar sites such as general.ebooks. Once again I found many of those yet to become household name author’s books for free on them. Including a book written by a friend which I helped edit. General ebooks is clever in the way it is presented because it has links to paying and legal downloads of the books, but then down the bottom it has a big GET BOOK icon, which links to one of at least three illegal download sites. The General ebook page for each book even has a big red Report Copyright Violation tag on the page in an attempt to make it look like a legitimate site.

One of the sites linked to General ebooks is There I found three files for one author’s books. I did not download them because I was unsure of their safety. Another of the sites that general.ebooks linked to was Before accessing the ebook, registration is required. It says registration is free but a credit card number is needed to ensure that the user is from an acceptable country. I did not register because if a company is involved in illegal downloads who knows what use my credit card details might be put to.

Authors like Molly Greene have had success with getting General ebooks to remove their copyrighted work. But how many other sites link to sites like fat-games? Probably hundreds, maybe thousands, and how many sites contain the actual illegal downloads? Again probably hundreds. There are enough such sites for companies like MUSO who are hired by publishing companies to track down copyright violating websites.


And then there is pirating from peer-to-peer networks. Rightscorp is a big anti-piracy company in the US and it estimates 500 million ebooks were distributed by peer-to-peer networks in 2013. In an attempt to fight back publishers are now watermarking their ebooks to track illegal downloads.

At the moment the publishing industry says it is not concerned with ebook piracy. Companies like HarperCollins and Hachette says that piracy doesn’t hamper sales to any discernible degree, so maybe individual authors should not worry either, at least for the moment.   

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review of Holly Childs' No Limit.

No Limit is a book about hip young things doing hip things and wanting the world to know about their hipness via social media.

The novella is set in Auckland, New Zealand, in December 2012, which is important because the world was supposed to end then due to the Mayan calendar running out. To add to the apocalyptic feel of the novella, a volcano is erupting. Its ash causes the cancellation of Ash’s plane to Australia. With no idea how long she will have to wait, Ash decides to look up a cousin in Auckland. She spends much of the novella searching for him, meeting a few strange people along the way.

The novel is full of references to pop culture. For example, Tom, everyone’s first Myspace friend, makes an appearance. And many words are spent describing the clothes the characters wear. Labels, labels everywhere.

The characters all seem to suffer from attention deficit disorder as their thoughts flick from observations of the world around them to desires, to how they are going to get to where they want to be, and then to wanting to be somewhere else immediately after they get there. Their lives seem jaded by too many unlived and unanalysed experiences.

All along the way, they want to record everything they do and say, but the internet keeps on dropping out, perhaps the end of the world is really happening. The novella emphasises a youth culture that can’t see the point in doing anything if they can’t take pictures of it and then share it on social media.

This is Holly Childs' first published longer work of fiction. She is a writer and artist, who, according to her bio, creates work around digital semiotics, transformations of language, obscurities, fashion, aberration and corruption. 

She uses a lot of short sentences in No Limit, as if to emphasis the quickly passing thoughts of the characters. The novella is written with a lot of humour.

This is a novella for those who enjoy watching the slightly deluded lurch from one unfulfilled fantasy to another.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My Writing Efforts in February.

In an attempt at motivation, I decided at the start of this year to do a monthly blog post on my writing efforts for the previous month. 

Novel Writing. 

I am still writing Branded, a science fiction, young adult novel. In February I added 4841 words, 25 words more than for January, and in three less days. So I averaged 173 words a day for the month as compared to 155 words a day in January.

The novel is now just under 65,000 words. It has five parts and I am probably a quarter of the way into the forth. It still looks like the novel will be somewhere between 90,000 and 100,000 words.

I am still very much enjoying writing it. The dysfunctional group of characters are barely getting on at the moment, but not for much longer. 

Non-Fiction Writing. 

I wrote two articles for Divine in February and both went up on the website during the month. Both were reviews of films whose central character has a disability. One was a review of Still Alice, a film where the main character has early on-set Alzheimer’s, and the other was a biography of scientist Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything. 

My reviews concentrated on the disability aspects of the films, highlighting whether the characters with disabilities where realistically portrayed, and what experience the movie’s writers had with disabilities.

My next article fits in with those reviews as I research why characters with disabilities are rarely portrayed by actors with that disability. 

Blog Writing. 

I just squeezed in the four blog posts last month, posting the last on the 28th of February. 


I actually finished reading a novel - yay for me - the very good  Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. I reviewed it in my last blog post. It only took me four whole months to read – my excuse is tiredness as for about nine weeks of those four months I was sick or taking a medication that made me tired.

I am currently reading No Limits by Holly Childs, a hip novella, full of hip people doing hip things. Like Beukes, I also saw Childs at last year's Melbourne Writers Festival. Hopefully it doesn’t take four months to read her book.



Like in January, I did not make time to critique anyone else’s writing in February. Not good.

Also like in January, I wrote on every day of the month.

Health permitting, I hope to greatly improve on my writing and reading efforts in March so these monthly posts don’t continue resembling a guilt sheet.