Showing posts with label dystopian society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dystopian society. Show all posts

Monday, 22 October 2018

Max Booth Future Sleuth: Stamp Safari

Max Booth Future Sleuth: Stamp Safari by Cameron Macintosh, illustrated by Dave Atze (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $12.99 ISBN 9781925675368

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Max Booth and his trusty robo-dog Oscar are back for another sleuthing adventure. Stamp Safari is the third book in this futuristic series for young readers.

The year is 2424 and the world is a very different place. There are floating skyburbs as well as the usual ground level suburbs and zoom tubes with aircells that transport people back and forth. Zip coasters move people around the city by looping over buildings and underneath bridges. Max Booth lives on Skyburb 6. Since his escape from the Home for Unclaimed Urchins, he secretly lives in the storeroom of the Bluggsville Museum. Max helps his friend Jessie to identify ancient objects for display in the museum, to earn a little cash.

Max and Jessie become intrigued by a tiny rectangular piece of paper that has a pattern cut into its edges. It has a picture on one side and is sticky on the other.   Unfortunately, the Great Solar Flare of 2037 destroyed the old Internet and its contents, and this patch of paper is too old to easily identify. So, Max sets off with his resourceful beagle-bot Oscar in search of clues to find the origin of this rare and fragile piece of paper.

It isn’t long before Max and Oscar get themselves into trouble and hopes fade for identifying the piece of paper. Max gets captured by Captain Selby (the leader of the Unclaimed Urchins Recapture Squad) and is separated from his beloved Oscar. Max needs to try every trick in the book if he is to safely return to the museum with his dog and the patch of paper.

This humorous book would appeal to children 7+ years old who are beginning their chapter book journey. Atze’s monochrome cartoon vignettes are scattered throughout the book to help young minds visualise the futuristic world that Macintosh has created. If you’re keen for more sleuthing fun after you’ve read this book, make sure you check out the other two books in this series: Tape Escape and Selfie Search.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Circle in a Spiral

Circle in a Spiral by Stefan Nicholson (Self-published) PB RRP $24.00 from ISBN 9780980460452

Reviewed by Janet Kershaw

This 56,000 word psychological thriller with its focus on climate change, robotics and the survival of the human race is aimed at the adolescent fiction market. Author and composer Stefan Nicholson has published seven books to date and a CD of original music: he is also the inventor of Symbolic Art Notation, a complete language in pictures.

The book’s cover is from abstract artwork by the author and while it is interesting and colourful, it does not serve the book well, giving no indication of what genre the book is or what is its subject matter. Inside there is a list of contents with chapter headings. Unfortunately the print type is very small which might be off-putting to some readers.

The first page, however, immediately engages the reader’s attention with fast-paced writing as a sister and her small brother, Lodi and Modnar, having attempted to raid the Xylon auto-farm for food and weapons, race to escape a fire. Before long they meet a being called Amgine who alerts them to the destruction of planet Earth caused by man. However, Lodi and Modnar are not the real names of the children: when they return to their home, they are known as Sarah and Max Robertson.

It is Sarah’s quest to fix the problem which affects the universe: she needs to find the ‘Krel Key’, a complex sequence of algorithms which prevent humanoids (developed by scientists and the military to become super-beings) from using their machines from destruction.  Of course, as in any quest dystopian fantasy Sarah’s quest is never going to be easy. Two universe sentinels, Amgine (see above) and Retibra try to use humans and others to stabilise the universe, but one of the sentinels becomes corrupt as does one of the human collaborators. Sarah, who is na├»ve in many ways, has a massive job to right wrongs in a world where everyone, including Life/Death Algorisms have their own interpretations of survival.

For an intelligent reader who enjoys fantasy and quest tales, and is able to navigate their way through a labyrinth of places, people, and events, this book is sure to be to their taste.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Cameron Macintosh and his Max Book Future Sleuth Series

Today I’m talking with Cameron Macintosh, author of the recently-released Max Booth Future Sleuth series.

Let’s start with the most obvious question – what’s your new series about?
So far we’ve got two books out in the series: Tape Escape and Selfie Search. They’re both set in the year 2424, and are about a street kid, Max, and his hazardous missions to identify artifacts from the distant past – which just happens to be our present day, or hereabouts. Max makes a very humble living from identifying these objects, but there’s always a greedy adult or two wanting to take advantage of his hard work.

Is there a particular reason you tend to gravitate towards science fiction when you write for children?
Sci-fi isn’t the first genre I lean towards as a reader, but I find speculation about the future to be a really useful inspiration for fun story ideas. It also offers the chance for all kinds of meaningful discussions between kids and parents or teachers – whether it’s about ways technology will evolve, or about how our present-day lifestyles are impacting on the planet’s future.

The Max Booth books are your first leap from educational writing into the world of mainstream trade fiction. How has the experience varied for you?
In terms of writing, there’s a lot more freedom. Educational writing usually involves quite a strict brief, but that’s not necessarily a problem – those parameters are very helpful in guiding a manuscript towards completion. When it’s you who’s setting the parameters, the process can be a lot slower!

The other main difference is at the promotional end of the process. With my educational books, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to be part of the promotion. If they’re part of a successful series or reading program, it’s generally the reputation of the series that sells them, as much as I’d like to take all the credit! Now, with Max, I’m doing interviews, interacting with blogs and doing a bit of hustle to support the sales. It’s a new world to me, but I’m really enjoying the ride.

What do you think is the biggest trap that people should beware of when writing for children?
Relying too much on inspiration from books you read as a child can be a problem. I constantly have to mentally detach myself from certain key books. It’s really important to keep up with what’s being published and what’s being enjoyed out there in 2017. For me, though, the big one is to avoid writing down to anyone. Kids are incredibly savvy and they know when they’re being patronised.

How do you avoid that?
On a first draft of anything, I just imagine myself in the main character’s place and try to experience his or her main emotions in that situation as honestly as possible. Hopefully by the end of the first draft, the text has an emotional and conceptual integrity that will survive the redrafting process. On the second and third drafts I think more consciously about the age of the reader, and how they’ll interact with the words. It’s then that I make any changes to sentence construction or concepts to bring the text into line.

So how does that work when you write the Max Booth stories?
Fortunately, I find it gets easier the older the central character happens to be. Max is 11, an age I have very vivid memories of being – it’s the cusp of great change and the dawning of a lot more world-awareness, so it doesn’t tend to take too much conscious effort.

What are some of your favourite kids’ books on the market at the moment?
I really love the Tom Gates books by Liz Pichon, and anything by Shaun Tan. Another favourite at the moment is Ickypedia by the Listies (Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins) – a dictionary of disgusting new words. It really is laugh-out-loud funny.

Are they similar to the kinds of books you enjoyed as a child?
There are definitely some parallels in terms of their off-centre humour and slightly odd settings, but I tended to gravitate towards longer books by authors like Roald Dahl, Judy Blume and Paul Jennings. My most beloved book for years was Under Plum Lake by Lionel Davidson, about a child who visits a wondrous civilisation beneath the bottom of the sea. I know a lot of people find it too dark, but I still reread it every few years to try to relive the magic of it.

Is humour important in your own writing?
I always try to get some humour in, especially when dealing with more serious subject matter. Humour is a great door-opener for exploring darker topics – in the case of Max Booth, I tend to use it when Max is dealing with the extreme class snobbery in his future world. I also think that when you’re trying to excite reluctant readers, action is important, but giggles will do even more to keep the pages turning.

Is it hard to judge what a child reader will find funny?
I’m blessed with a very childish sense of humour, which definitely helps! It’s always slightly dangerous trying to judge what anyone else – of any age – will find funny, but as long as I’m getting a giggle from a line or a situation, I’m fairly confident that most of the readers will enjoy it too. It’s really important to keep up with the kinds of humorous books today’s kids are reading, and to seek feedback from the kids in your own family or social circle.

Writing can be a precarious way to make a living: what keeps you going?
It comes down to a very strong belief in the power of stories – the ability of this craft to remind people how intertwined, and how similar, we all really are. Stories have the unique ability to remind us of this without specifically reminding us of it – and to let us walk in other people’s shoes temporarily too. It’s a real privilege to be part of an industry that values these possibilities.

On that note, thanks for the chat, and all the best for the next Max Booth adventure.
Thanks very much. Book 3 is roaring into shape as we speak – only slowed down by overly frequent coffee breaks!

The Max Booth stories are available at or through your local bookshop.

Cameron can be found online at, on Facebook as ‘Cameron Macintosh, author’, and on Twitter @CamMaci99.

Friday, 7 November 2014


Crossing by Catherine Norton (Omnibus Books)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-028-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

The world Cara has grown up in is unlike our world. It is a closed society with little freedoms, their city surrounded and isolated by a huge wall. Food shortages, high security and limited privacy are the norm for Cara although her family is afforded a few privileges as her parents are dedicated to the secret work of the National Security. While Lilith, Cara’s gifted younger sister, seems to be following in their parents footsteps, Cara is unsure of where life will take her but is content, comfortable even, and doesn’t really question how they live.
Then she meets siblings Ava and Leon. They feel differently about their existence in the shadow of the wall and cause Cara to begin to wonder about her parents’ views, the society in which she lives, and what life may be like beyond the wall.
Crossing is set in a dystopian society, a world of the future. But it is just as much about the past, an echo of historic East German society and the Berlin Wall.
It’s hard to do this book justice in a short review. This is a brilliant story about growing up, growing awareness of how the world operates, the struggle of torn loyalties between family and friends, and the importance of being true to one’s own feeling and values. This is a story which provides much to think about long after the pages have closed. It touches on many issues in a thought-provoking manner.
Crossing is a powerful story. The author has created a believable world and filled it with interesting and relatable people. Cara is a strong character, a young girl well on her way to becoming an independent woman. And her journey - along with Ava and Leon’s - is told in an engaging way. It is hard to put down. As a reader, I connected immediately and my emotional response was such that even though the ending is fully satisfying and completes the book, I was unwilling to let them go and would love to know what happens next.
I would highly recommend Crossing to both genders from twelve years and up, particularly those who love to read fantasy and dystopian novels.