All posts tagged: Michael Smorenburg

Book Review: LifeGames Corporation

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Title: LifeGames Corporation

Author: Michael Smorenburg

Genre: Thriller

Book procurement: Received from the author for an honest review, and also for Mystery Thriller Week.

Synopsis:

Da Vinci Code—meets Paranormal Activity—meets The Matrix.

Ad-agency boss Catherine Kaplan is a danger junkie. Bold and brave, she’s cornered the juiciest prize in the global arena, a LifeGames Corporation contract. But now it’s time to pay the price—a dare to cross the forbidden line. There’s a deal sweetener of course—give a little… and enjoy some intriguing secrets.

The first… Artificial Intelligence runs the LifeGames operation. Key to the success is an automated hypnosis sequence that suppresses each subject’s mind, convincing them that the immersive Virtual Reality crisis they’re about to experience is reality. The training technique has been fabulously profitable, allowing company founder Kenneth Torrington to indulge his every perverse fantasy.

Governments, militaries and business are so reliant on LifeGames that it is said to control mankind’s future. Yet, nobody has realized—a door has opened and a character of unfathomable capacity and unknown motives is looking back, pondering the next move.

Review:

First Thoughts

Michael and I have sort of a history after I reviewed his novel The S.K.A at Carnarvon – A Trojan Affair. It was a great novel that touched on the very personal topic of religion. So here I was, reading LifeGames with that backdrop, and to my shock and awe the story spins in a completely different direction. Well almost haha, there is still a couple of shots to religion but this isn’t about that. Also, a couple of things from the previous novel that had been of a minor annoyance were addressed in how LifeGames was written and all in all, made for a really great thriller. Michael Smorenburg is climbing up my list of favourite authors.

The Story

Virtual Reality is an amazing technology. One which has been on the forefront of human development and hopeful expectancy – to be fully immersed in a different world that looks and feels real is something we all want to exprience. We see it in the anime Sword Art Online, .Hack/Sign, Log Horizon, in movies like Surrogates, Total Recall, Gamer, and of course current technology is getting closer with the Playstation VR, Occulus, Samsung Gear and others. What Michael Smorenburg wrote in LifeGames, and the virtual reality system built is just next level stuff.

We follow Kenneth Torrington, founder and CEO of LifeGames Corporation. He is a pig, a male chauvinist, a manipulative, self-entitled man who only has money and power at the forefront of his ambitions. He has built LifeGames from a number of shady dealings and has wrought immense success. The governments of the world use the Virtual Reality simulation to train individuals. Lawyers, Doctors, Military personnel, and all sorts of people in power are fully immersed in a simulation of real life events that is so realistic, it actually helps prepare them for their job roles. Years of training condescened into mere days or weeks. The technology is brilliant, but of course with great power comes great responsibility.

Catherine Kaplan is a PR who has landed LifeGames as her biggest client ever. She’s a strong woman, bold and daring, but unaware of the dark secrets behind LifeGames and the sweet-talking Ken Torrington. She’s unaware of how close she is to the fire until it’s too late and she’s psychologically, and spiritually, thrown into the deep end. Something sinister lies deep within the system. No one knows what (or whom), and the truth of it will send a chill up your spine.

It’s more than just a story about the repercussions of technology, but perhaps a delve into horror?

The Writing

The writing is good. Slightly disjointed at times when switching between the different characters but otherwise it flows really well. A few shocking moments keep the story engaging. The characters are written amazingly well, with unique quirks of their own. I had an enjoyable time reading through the novel.

Final Thoughts

Okay so I wasn’t expecting that end. It seemed to be hinting at one thing, then knocking it out for something else, then twisting it to something else again, then a cliffhanger ending to wrap it all up. I was completely thrown.

As a side note, my previous discussions with author Michael Smorenburg allowed me to glean insights that perhaps someone else would have missed. For example, the heavy skepticism continuously bashing against the very idea of the supernatural, and the concept of God and how religion is borne, is given logical reasoning while there’s quite a bit of decent Christian philosophy too. I found it quite interesting.

Rating: A solid 4 out of 5

Nthato MorakabiBook Review: LifeGames Corporation
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Author Spotlight: Michael Smorenburg

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Michael Smorenburg

Michael Smorenburg (b. 1964) grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. An entrepreneur with a passion for marketing, in 1995 Michael moved to California where he founded a business consultancy and online media and marketing engine In 2003 he returned to South Africa.

Michael’s published works include: Business Buyer’s Kit (Career Press, 1997), The Everything Sailing Book (Adams Media, 1998), The Everything Sailing Book – Part 2 (Adams Media, 1999).

Michael is represented in non-fiction by Keller Media of Malibu, California. Michael’s greatest interest is the ocean, keeping up with the latest breakthroughs in science, understanding the cosmos.

FaceBook: MichaelSmorenburgAuthor

Twitter: @SmorieTheWriter

Amazon: Michael Smorenburg

Author website: MichaelSmorenburg


The SKA at Carnarvon – A Trojan Affair

Book review

the-ska-at-carnarvon-a-trojan-affair

Dara Singh is seventeen. Gregarious and with an Oxford accent, he carries the dark Indian skin and fine features of his evolutionary psychologist father. He is dangerously innocent to the fundamentalism and dogma of the predicament he’s suddenly thrust into.

His American astrophysicist mother, Marsha, has taken on a contract to help build the SKA, the $2.5-Billion Square Kilometer Array radio telescope network.

This sees the family relocate to the dusty desert town of Carnarvon in South Africa’s arid Northern Cape. It delivers Dara into the heartland of a staunchly conservative culture.
Next year he’s off to finish school in the city, but with 3 months to kill, he’s made the fateful decision to seek new friends by enrolling at the local school. Alas,

The Dominee, the town’s preacher, considers the SKA a direct challenge to Genesis.
Better yet, only the preacher knows that an Evangelic group from America’s Bible Belt has secretly offered to bankroll his struggle, and the cantankerous old man is already well advanced in mounting a renegade resistance against the vast scientific infrastructure.

On sight, in Dara, the SKA now has a face for the preacher—a dark dark foreign face.
Neels, the preacher’s youth leader and school bully, targets Dara, not just to exact revenge for the town’s anguish, but because his pretty girlfriend, Sonja, moves to protect the outsider… an action that will bring scorn from her father if he finds out her alliances may be suspect…

And so unfolds a cascade of intrigue, agendas and unusual alliances.


If you read my Book Review of The S.K.A at Carnarvon, you will be aware that, although I utterly loved the book, I found the argument between the religious folk and the scientists too one sided, more inclined towards the science rather than the religious. If you’ve read the book, you might know that the debate was excluded from the book but Michael Smorenburg has made it available on the S.K.A website: Removed Chapter 38a & 38b

Share your thoughts on the debate if you’ve had the opportunity to read the book, or heard the debate elsewhere.

Nthato MorakabiAuthor Spotlight: Michael Smorenburg
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The S.K.A at Carnarvon – A Trojan Affair

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the-ska-at-carnarvon-a-trojan-affair

Title: The S.K.A. at Carnarvon – A TROJAN AFFAIR

Author: Michael Smorenburg

Genre: Religious Thriller/Mystery

Book procurement: Received a copy from the author for an honest review. Available on Amazon.

Synopsis:

Dara Singh is seventeen. Gregarious and with an Oxford accent, he carries the dark Indian skin and fine features of his evolutionary psychologist father. He is dangerously innocent to the fundamentalism and dogma of the predicament he’s suddenly thrust into.

His American astrophysicist mother, Marsha, has taken on a contract to help build the SKA, the $2.5-Billion Square Kilometer Array radio telescope network.

This sees the family relocate to the dusty desert town of Carnarvon in South Africa’s arid Northern Cape. It delivers Dara into the heartland of a staunchly conservative culture.
Next year he’s off to finish school in the city, but with 3 months to kill, he’s made the fateful decision to seek new friends by enrolling at the local school. Alas,

The Dominee, the town’s preacher, considers the SKA a direct challenge to Genesis.
Better yet, only the preacher knows that an Evangelic group from America’s Bible Belt has secretly offered to bankroll his struggle, and the cantankerous old man is already well advanced in mounting a renegade resistance against the vast scientific infrastructure.

On sight, in Dara, the SKA now has a face for the preacher—a dark dark foreign face.
Neels, the preacher’s youth leader and school bully, targets Dara, not just to exact revenge for the town’s anguish, but because his pretty girlfriend, Sonja, moves to protect the outsider… an action that will bring scorn from her father if he finds out her alliances may be suspect…

And so unfolds a cascade of intrigue, agendas and unusual alliances.

Review:

I literally just finished this book and I’m reeling from all the implications that the book carries, although categorically a book of fiction, the details outlined in the story tread across multiple factual truths as well as unfortunate distortions, intermingled with very controversial issues. Kenneth Bacon and his Genesis Answers group would be sourly displeased <- I love this injection of fictionalized truth.

From a character perspective, I must immediately state that the scientists are represented by a myriad of colourful, sophisticated, intelligent, cultured people across the range while the religious are clumped into one simple, shortsighted, racist group of bigots. Their arguments always fall short and show no sign of any intelligence – their answer is strictly biblical naivety. Granted, the location of the story and the cultural background of these characters can be used to justify their mentality, but having a renowned scientist having a debate with these remote individuals is far from a legitimate argument. Like arguing with a child. Even the reference to the “American” version of these religious “Calvinists” and “Evangelicals” does nothing to represent a very intelligent portion of these groups. So from that standpoint, I found the book solemnly one-sided. But it builds up that climatic end like the biblical rains of Noah’s time.

All of that, however, made for a very interesting book and we see Dara, the Indian boy from Britain, uninformed and unsuspecting, dive into a severely racist town. He is met with abject hostility. Man did I cringe. Not just from the slurs, which authenticated the book, but from the trials he had to face, one especially big I didn’t want believe could happen. We see his mother, who is an astrophysicist, work through these issues as both a mother and a scientist. We are faced with a “typical” Afrikaans boy who, in that culture and setting, is the epitome of expectation and how he deals with Dara’s appearance. We have the local pastor who staunchly stands against the S.K.A, the other races that have infiltrated their holy land, question their God and the degree by which all the developments drive him. A smattering of other varying individuals make appearances, falling into either end of the argument, all adding fascinating aspects to the story.

And the tension. So much tension in the book from the word go, right through the pages. And perhaps all of the controversy so close to home jolted it all up a notch. Science is of the devil and must step into the realm of God and religion. This is the topic that not only pulls the story together, but thrusts it forward with unrelenting intrigue and drama. And then it all rolls out from under the table like a giant spider that snares both sides in a twist I did not see coming! Woo!

The writing is smooth and transitory – and Michael Smorenburg doesn’t hold back. I’ve actually learned a few words myself and have learned the true meaning of some of the slurs I’ve heard myself. Really insightful. It is also clear that the novel was written with an audience that doesn’t understand Afrikaans in mind, which at times was an annoyance to me to have it translated. However, the translation is molded into the story cleverly to clarify the preceding texts. I’ve read other books where the author doesn’t do this (Kill BaxterDark Things, Moxyland) and it doesn’t change the story, merely adds authenticity to it. No one really translates their own language to English as they think or speak anyway. But it works in S.K.A.

Any book that makes me question my own beliefs and challenges my thinking, is a book worth reading. I feel as though many would fall into the “I agree with the author” route and with good reason, but as my review has, I hope, clearly defined for you that I neither agree nor disagree with either party represented in the group. Although I think which way the author falls is pretty clear. Nonetheless a fantastic book that has truly wound me up.

Rating: An authentic 5 out of 5

Nthato MorakabiThe S.K.A at Carnarvon – A Trojan Affair
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