The calendar is blank and the most excitement we’ve had this week was the communal clap for the NHS and care workers on Thursday evening. Everyone working in the NHS and as a carer deserves all our support; they are endangering their lives, as we can see from the number of medical workers who have died of the virus in other countries. While clapping I was thinking too of the many people who are enabling us to spend our time in lockdown in relative comfort. There’s all the shop workers, not just the supermarkets; our local greengrocer and butcher are doing a tremendous job of keeping us stocked. Then there is everyone in the supply train right back to the farmers, here and overseas (what happens if overseas trade falters?). Then there are the people keeping the water, electricity, gas and telephone systems going, the postal and delivery workers, broadcasting employees, public transport, police, fire & rescue, civil service and the armed services called in to provide support.. The list goes on and on. While a lot of us are in isolation many more are still in work, keeping things ticking over even while manufacturing and other industries have halted. How long can it go on before cracks appear?
A few people are putting around that we should have a collection for the NHS like Children in Need or Comic Relief or Sports Aid. There are two reasons why not. First the NHS is the responsibility of the government which we vote for and to which we pay our taxes. If we want the NHS properly funded we need to vote for the appropriate people to govern. Secondly, even if you combined all the proceeds of the charitythons, the total would still be a tiny proportion of the cost of running the NHS and care services. I don’t think people realise the proportion of the UK’s expenditure that goes on health, social care and welfare. The sums of money are immense.
On the 18th March a writing friend published a novel, the first of a trilogy. I had an advance copy so I could write a review to put on Amazon. That is what I did but for some reason Amazon decided that my review did not meet their guidelines. I am publishing my review below so you can work out how it goes against Amazon rules – I can’t. Simon Kewin is a well-known author of SF and fantasy and I hold him in great respect. I wish him lots of sales for Dead Star and its sequels.
Dead Star by Simon Kewin: Review
Do you want a story that stretches over multiple volumes? Dead Star is for you as it is the first of a trilogy. Do you want galaxy spanning starships, a variety of interesting planets, space battles, miraculous tech? Dead Star is for you.
A young, impressionable girl is rescued by an older, wise man who provides her with remarkable abilities with which to oppose her enemies, a galaxy-wide, theocratic, vicious empire. The plot may sound familiar but the action is original. Is this a galaxy far, far away or our own? That’s one question we learn the answer to but there are plenty of others to lead us on through the episodic events. The pace is fast, the settings well-developed, intriguing, and described in detail, though not tediously.
I felt sympathy for Selene, the young heroine, though she lacked the humour required to encourage empathy. She has plenty to be miserable about but, thanks to her enhancements, rarely seems pressured and is somewhat remorseless in her pursuit of her goal, even during the pause for some love interest. The episodic adventures seemed to take off with little lead up and the plot meandered somewhat but was always interesting. The tale is told almost exclusively from Selene’s viewpoint although early on there is a scene from the point of view of her enemy which is never followed up (in this first volume at any rate). The ”Empire” is presented as an implacable foe, with huge power and a surveillance regime that makes rebellion apparently all but impossible. Yet the rebels, very few in number and beaten, nevertheless have just sufficient tech resources to infiltrate and irritate the leaders and the ingenuity, or is it luck or a cunning plan, to escape every time. Well, of course that is how it has to be in these adventures.
I enjoyed Dead Star and look forward to joining Selene in her adventures in the sequels.
Writing group is now meeting by video link. We had our first go on Thursday and it worked pretty well once we’d learnt the etiquette of video conferencing and got rid of the extraneous noises off caused by spouses, pets and radios. Some of us posted our stories earlier so we had a chance to read them before commenting. The subject was Primrose. Quite accidentally mine turned into a virus story with added fairies. The internet gave me some myths uniting primroses with the little folk though whether they are shared widely I don’t know.
I picked a primrose today. I know I shouldn’t have done but there was such a wonderful display of yellow on the bank at the edge of the village. It took me back to the days as children when we picked huge bunches to take home to mother on Mothering Sunday, to decorate the house at Easter, and to put in our hair when we pretended to be fairies. Such tales we told of the little folk, jolly if mischievous, and their enchanted, flower-festooned land.
As I admired the flowers, I noticed the Cranston family approaching. It was an unusual sight to see them all together. He’s usually away in the city while she’s doing her good works and the two children are normally at school. The parents took the hands of the young boy and girl and passed quickly on the opposite side of the lane.
I returned to the cottage, cupping the single bloom in my hand. I put it with a drop of water in a medicine glass and set it on the dining table. The doorbell rang. In the porch was a cardboard box, my weekly shopping order. The delivery boy was at the gate, mobile phone raised to photograph me with the box. He gave a quick wave and ran off to his van. I carried the box into the kitchen and could see at once that quite a few items were missing from my order. The shortages are getting worse and who knows when I might get another delivery slot.
I put all the packets, jars and tins in their respective cupboards. A tickle in my throat produced a cough and I felt a tightness in my chest. Time to put the kettle on. While the tea brewed, I stood in the living room. It was dusk but the little primrose still gleamed yellow. It looked as lonely as I felt. Why had I plucked it from its fellows? Soon it would droop and fade while the flowers in the bank would live on and provide a display for every walker for many a day. It was a forlorn specimen certain to wilt and die in hours. I coughed again, breathing becoming a struggle.
There was a tale we used to tell as children, a myth of magic. I picked up the primrose and popped it in my mouth. I closed my teeth on the stem and tugged it away with my finger and thumb. I chewed. The taste was not bitter. There was instead a little sweetness and a subtle and indescribable flavour suffused my mouth and nose.
The room brightens. I turn, wondering what could be the source of the light. The windows are dark, but in front of them is an archway decked with hundreds of primroses glowing with a primrose light. Through the arch I glimpse a sunny, grassy lane, green-leaved trees and clumps of primroses and other wildflowers. A figure emerges. His gender is imprecise, but I shall say he. He is shorter and slighter than me; his pale skin has a translucency. He is clothed completely in primrose petals and even his short curly hair is the colour of the flower.
“Come,” he says in a soft, welcoming voice.
“Where?” I ask.
“Yes, with me and my faerie companions. Your time here is at an end.” I see others like him through the arch beckoning me to join them.
He stretches out a hand. I take it in mine and with a gentle tug he pulls me through the arch into eternal spring.