Tag Archives: dystopian

The Fifth Place Book 3: VOLSYNG now available!

The third book in the sci-fi/fantasy/dark western/dystopian series The Fifth Place is completed and up on Amazon! You can find it here.

I hope those who have been following this series enjoy this dark new chapter, as different again as SLADE was to WULF, but still featuring our diverse and tragic anti-heroes we can’t help but root for.

 

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WULF and SLADE soundtrack

In my writing-but-not-writing that occupies the middle ground between being genuinely productive and procrastinating, I make a lot of playlists. The Fifth Place series is a cinematic series; I often visualise it as a movie, complete with music. Hence I make Spotify playlists for these books. Officially unofficial. Music that inspires, accompanies and/or links in with the books.

I think they’re well worth checking out, although I would say that. I’ve spent a stupid amount of time of them.

Here is the playlist for the first two books, WULF and SLADE:

 

SLADE excerpt – The Fifth Place Book 2

Read below for a snippet from Book 2 of the Fifth Place. Don’t read if you haven’t read WULF (Book 1) yet and/or don’t want any spoilers!

 

 

‘Miss Slade, it is my delight to inform you that you will not die today. You are, in fact, coming with me.’

That’s what he’d told her, before he’d gone on with himself. She hadn’t been able to reply, given the silver band around her throat that stopped her from speaking, except when he allowed her to. Not that she would have offered much; it was the first time in her life she felt she could have outdone Savvi on swearing.

He never offered his name, but he referred to himself as a “Servant”. Information beyond that was scant. When she woke up (she’d no idea how he’d knocked her out and taken her; the last thing she remembered was talking to Jay in a bar in Stoneswell – had he drugged her drink?), she found herself in the middle of nowhere, her ankles and wrists bound with silver loops held together with a kind of slithery, jelly-like cord.

The design wasn’t wholly unlike common manacles, but as the days would wear on, she would be forced to acknowledge their superiority. The cuffs seemed to sense the tensions of her body, and perhaps even her mind. They were only loosely connected most of the time, allowing her to walk almost normally and use her hands. Whenever she tried to escape however (which was about eight times in all), and even when she was only preparing to escape, the glistening silver tentacle that connected the loops would draw itself in, quickly shortening the distance between her limbs. The more she struggled, the closer her ankles and wrists would press together, and the tighter the bands would be. Her legs would be unable to manage even the slowest shuffle, and her hands would clasp with such force that she was unable to use her fingers. This had been particularly frustrating when she’d tried to pick up a rock to hit her captor over the head while he’d been asleep. She thought he’d been asleep, at least, but maybe he never did. He’d opened his eyes glowing green in the night like a cat, and watched her with cool interest as she fell back down, tired and angry and hopeless.

The next day he’d handed her his gun. It was a cold grey thing, as smooth and featureless as a piece of paper. She knew at once it was pointless, but she aimed at him without emotion and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened, of course. She let it drop to the ground and he picked it up, and aimed at a stub of a tree and fired. He gave her what he must have thought was a smile. She stared back. It was a gun that only he could fire. She’d never heard of something like that before, but it didn’t matter. She understood. Until something changed, there was nothing she could do.

After that moment, she only tried to escape twice more.

At the beginning she thought he’d make her walk in front of him, but he never did. They walked in tandem, or side by side, close together or thirty feet apart. It hadn’t mattered. Unless she followed his direction, the bands tightened and she could no longer move. She thought she’d die from the frustration, the impotence.

They walked on in silence, west through the golden Sol Forests, and then into the wilds beyond. Always towards the Black Circle.

 

SLADE can be bought on Amazon here.

 

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VOLSYNG teaser – The Fifth Place Book 3

I’m currently working on the third book in The Fifth Place series. Here’s a short teaser that doesn’t really spoil previous books, if you haven’t read them yet (which you should!)

The first book in the series, WULF, can be found here, currently free!

 

He was born small, smaller than the other kids. Some called him a runt, others protected him – though even at an early age he could see the disappointment in their eyes.

He had more enemies than friends, but he preferred it that way. Better an enemy than a friend that turned on you. Enemies were supposed to be mean; friends weren’t. But it seemed his friends were always the type to flip like a coin.

He was told to grow thicker skin, and he did. But as his skin thickened, so too the cruelty of others increased, growing in sync, and just like everything else, he couldn’t catch up. He was too white in a white culture and too short in a world where the buildings rose higher every day.

He was beaten often. He stopped wanting to leave the house; it was a big house after all, a great manor, one with plenty of places to explore.

He remembered the adults standing over him, always over him, looking down at him with their bright eyes and sharp teeth. He never knew who his parents were, he was never told. Perhaps none of them were, perhaps his parents had died. He was raised by the Family, and when he tried to remember them, after they had disappeared one by one, they were only black, looming shapes, indistinguishable from each other.

One day, after he came home bloody and bruised, they told him about himself. They said he was not like those he played with, those who hurt him and acted his friend. He was better (the word stuck a little in their throats) than them. He would outlive them all. In his life he would see riches turn to poverty and back to riches, and when he was poor he would have to hide from them, but when he was rich, when he had power, they would be at his mercy.

Many times over the years, they would ask him: ‘What are they?’

And he would reply, as they had taught him: ‘They are weakness masquerading as strength.’

And they would ask him: And what are you?

And he would reply, ‘I am strength masquerading as weakness.’

The next evening after they had told him about who he was, about the history of their kind, he left the house again. He was grabbed by his tormentors and one, the biggest, the meanest, put a hand over his mouth to stop him shouting out.

He bit it. Hard. The boy screamed.

The blood tasted good, but the pain tested better.

The boy tried to pull his hand away, but he came with it, still biting.

It was his first taste of justice. It felt right. That those who would harm him would themselves be harmed. The punisher would be punished.

Over the crawl of following years, as the memory of that boy’s wounded cries were joined by the cries of many others, he would come to know the idea as Equilibrium.

 

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WULF sequel SLADE now available!

It’s my pleasure to announce that the next Fifth Place book, the sequel to the weird science fantasy western WULF, is finished and available HERE!

It’s called SLADE – it’s more irreverent, darker, crazier, more complex and twice as epic! This is where things really get going in the series. And if you want answers to all the questions raised in WULF, here is where you’ll find them!

 

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SLADE (The Fifth Place Book 2) finished!

I’ve been working on the crazy sci-fi adventure SLADE, the sequel to WULF, for god knows how long, but I’m so pleased to say that as of today I finally finished it! Well, sort-of. It still needs a careful read through and editing away issues and mistakes – and fervent praying that there’s no gaping plotholes… but still!

It’s currently 123,353 words long, making it longer than its predecessor WULF by 50,000 words, and longer than the longest novel I’ve written by 40,000 words. It just kept getting longer!

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever written for numerous reasons. I really hope fans of WULF will enjoy this epic.  It answers just about all the main questions raised by WULF while still setting up the pieces for a future installment.

Can’t wait for you to read it!

Oh, and here’s the cover!

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SLADE extract #1

I’ve been working on the sequel to WULF, called SLADE. It’s been hard to find a suitable extract for this site that won’t spoil anything, especially for those who haven’t read any of WULF (but might do one day), but I think this will be fine…

 

He leaned closer, his back permanently hunched as his fingers skittered across the holographic keyboard, for all the world looking as though he was dancing puppets or playing the piano beyond mastery.

One of his hands reached down and plucked a piece of nojo from the desk, deftly peeling it between two fingers and sticking it to the side of his bald head at the same time as another hand did the same with another piece. His round amber eyes flickered for a moment, as he felt the rush. The drug kept his mind working as fast as his fingers.

Nobody could type as fast as a spider. Not with six long spindle-fingers for each thin and hairy arm. Six arms in full, sprouting from a fat, sunken body as black as pitch. Thirty-six fingers to dance across the huge array of holo-keys of every known alphanumeric character and symbol, thrice replicated. Thirty-six fingers to play with people’s lives.

There was a knock at the door and he paused, his hands arching in mid-air. ‘Come in,’ he said, his high voice like the screech of a child.

A woman walked in, her own hands stiff behind her back. ‘Spider, two of our men have been killed. The culprits are a man and a woman unknown to us. Their dress is strange and barbaric, and the man is covered in extensive tattooing.’

He did not turn from his screens. There was a camera in the room and he looked at the woman on the respective monitor. His vibrant orange eyes blinked slowly inwards from the sides like closing elevator doors.

‘Interesting,’ he said. He paused, letting the silence reign through the room, drinking in the woman’s tension.

‘Get eyes on them,’ he said. ‘And patch me in.’

‘Yes, Spider. Will that be all?’

‘Yes.’

The woman nodded her head sharply and left. Her relief was palpable in her step.

The Spider turned his attention to the rest of the screens that covered every inch of the wall. Zoomed out it might look like a compound eye, like that of a giant fly. In front of him were reams of scrolling data, data that would never pause, never stop.

He leaned in.

 

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All stories free for 3 days! Adult horror, fantasy, dystopian

In advance of WULF imminently becoming an ebook to buy (just waiting on the cover), for 3 days (starting on 13/12/2016) all of my previously published work is free! Click the pictures of the covers below to be taken to the Amazon page to check them out and read samples.

This includes:

Born to be Weird

 

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A short collection of weird, twisted stories, featuring the gothic science story The School of Necromancy (like Harry Potter meets Frankenstein and Lovecraft!) and the very bloody horror The Gauntlet of Gore, which is like nothing else.

Included are the short stories (also available separately):

The School of Necromancy – Deep below the city of York, below the sewers, below the catacombs, lies the School. It is here, if you are privileged to be selected, that you can study the art of raising the dead.

Keep it Clean – Have you ever been swallowed by a public toilet? No? This man has. A truly grotesque and odious tale.

There’s Only One King – Elvis Shadow walks the world, caught between this life and the next. A world containing other half-creatures, other myths and legends.

The Half-School – A dream-like account of a return to an old school.

The Gauntlet of Gore – “When playing the Gauntlet, there are two options. Either you win, or the whole team dies.
Either you die, or you see every other opposing team member blown to bits. There are no corpses, only giblets.”

January 5th – “It was January the 5th, and everywhere things were dead or dying.”

Faces in the Dark

 

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A short collection of strange, paranoid horror stories. Featuring the novella The Violet Dark – a hallucinogenic road horror. Read this toxic lovesong to darkness itself, and see what is meant by ‘a beautiful nightmare’.

Also included are the short stories (also available separately):

Her Parents’ Masks: She has never seen her parents’ real faces. They have worn terrifying buffalo masks from the moment she was born . . .

The Watcher – The air is black, and I do not sleep. The hours tick by. I do not sleep because someone is watching me.

Anamia – Assorted entries from the Anamia Diary, found among possesions. Care is advised before reading, especially for those who have or have had an eating disorder.

The Gremlins – Humanity’s days on this earth are numbered. How do you fight an enemy too small to see?

Dead Streets – A sad and haunted tale.

Moral Zero

 

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This is rock n roll writing. Its energy reminds me of early Amis, its articulation reminiscent of a Tarantino screenplay… Brilliantly sleazy, scum and filth visibly oozes from between the words on the page. Each paragraph leaves you breathless, each moving with such runaway-train speed you almost expect one to crash into the next. And it’s very funny.” – Paul Davenport, author of Not Like The Other Boys

I read this sitting next to my wife and after the first three paragraphs I said, ‘This guy can write’… In a word, this is uncompromising, brutal and pulls no punches.” – Joe Carter, author of The Corruption of Michael Blake

The voyeur. The pervert. The sadist. Three tormented souls in the grotesquely twisted city of Rule treat morality like a plaything in this dystopian thriller.
The voyeur: Knowledge is lust.
The pervert: The fantasy is everything.
The sadist: The answer to all things lies in death.

Mr White. Kidd Red. Johnny Black. Three deviants in a violent, sickly dystopia where completely opposing laws and moral codes are just a short walk away. Guided by a corrupt sense of moral subjectivism, they form an uneasy friendship. Each tormented by his own grotesque existence. But the greatest danger is making sure they don’t lose track of what is real…

Enter the city of Rule and the world of the moral zeroes.

 

You can also find the individual short stories, also free for 3 days,  if you browse my Amazon author page.

The City of Nowhere

I wrote this short piece based on a dream I had early this morning. I hope you like it. I guess it’s kind of dystopian and post-apocalyptic. But it doesn’t have to be . . .

THE CITY OF NOWHERE

By Set Sytes

 

 

The city was black and burnt around me. There was a leathery smell, together with a not entirely unpleasant scent like factory grease. Hollowed out skulls of buildings grinned and gaped at me as I picked my way through. The crunch under my feet sounded like gravel or bones. The sky was wet. The air was white.

‘It’s just a town now,’ an old woman wrapped up in a big jacket said as I passed. She was talking to a hunched man who was all wrinkles; there wasn’t an inch of smoothness on him. ‘It’ll be a village soon,’ the woman said.

They were talking about my home.

Everything was black and dripping. I found a cluster of people in raincoats milling together, and I joined them. They stood around for a while, mumbling to each other but ignoring me. That was okay, I was ignoring them too. I could see I was the youngest by some measure. Eventually one of them opened a door in the only building that couldn’t be seen through, and one by one they entered and were swallowed up. I followed.

I looked about, suddenly confused and uncertain. It was a classroom. Clean floors and walls, shiny wood and windows with glass in them. A whiteboard, a half-patient teacher.

I followed the others on autopilot and sat down at a desk by the window. There were huge tomes on every one, and they were all titled ScanQuick Learning. I opened mine up and flicked through. Walls of text. It was dense gibberish, entirely meaningless to me.

I stood up and walked back to the door as the others settled in their seats.

‘Excuse me?’

I turned around. The teacher was looking at me and smiling. ‘Were you not wanting to have a walk around the town afterwards?’ The teacher pointed at a man sitting next to the seat I had taken. He had his hand up and facing me, and he was smiling broadly, like an old acquaintance reunited. ‘Mr Farsdale will walk with you,’ the teacher said. ‘He’ll be your partner.’

‘I’ve got the wrong place,’ I answered. ‘I thought this was a, uh, a train. But it doesn’t look like a train at all.’ I said it expecting laughter, but there only a few tired smiles.

‘It’s okay, ‘the teacher said. ‘Why don’t you have a sit back down? There’ll be a test in an hour.’

I saw out the window with surprise that there was a lot of motion, a noiseless blur. ‘Is this a classroom or a train?’ I asked.

‘It’s both,’ the teacher said. ‘Go on, sit down. You’ll be with us for a long while, and we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.’

‘Where is it going?’

‘Somewhere green. Sit down.’ The teacher was no longer smiling.

‘Green?’ I murmured, but I went back to my seat. Mr Farsdale grinned at me and nodded. I nodded back and looked out the window. For a second I thought I saw the green the teacher had spoken of. There were hills and valleys, trees and meadows. They were glowing like they would in a dream, and rushing past at a tremendous speed. Then I blinked and they were gone, and there was only black ruination.

‘Do you know where we’re going?’ I asked Mr Farsdale.

‘Of course,’ he said. ‘I think we all do. Maybe. I think maybe we all do. Don’t you?’

‘No.’

He looked quizzically at me. ‘I know you’re young, but I would’ve thought . . . still . . . surely you’ve been here before?’

‘I may have. I forget things. I have trouble remembering the past.’

Mr Farsdale nodded, understanding. ‘Of course, of course. I think most of us are like that.’

‘So where are we going?’

‘Back to where we got on, of course.’ He pointed out the window. ‘You can’t really tell, but the track’s at a curve. See, it’s a big, big circle.’

I stared at him. ‘But what’s the point in that?’

He sniffed and looked down at his ScanQuick. ‘It’s the journey, not the destination,’ he said.

‘Can I get off? There’s stops, right?’

‘No stops.’ He spread his arms around his huge book and hunched his shoulders, as though to block me out.

I put my face and hands to the window. The glass was so cold, colder than the air outside, colder than the wetness that dripped from everything. In here it was warm and dry. But the glass was still cold.

By the look of the blur of outside, we were approaching full speed, going faster and faster towards Nowhere.

 

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Moral Zero extract #4

Moral Zero is a dystopian thriller with post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, existential and horror themes. Contains visceral and potentially disturbing sexuality and violence and is not for everyone, certainly not the faint of heart and stomach.

It is currently self-published as an ebook and can be found on Amazon for Kindle here.

Disclaimer: The lack of speech marks and other idiosyncrasies are deliberate.

Here is another extract from it.

 

THE BLACK DREAM

 

Smoke and darkness. Little lights like glowing insects popped into existence and he saw that they were beetles, their carapaces embedded in the walls and their antennae feeling out to brush against him like the hairs of a carpet. They were alive. The feelers tickled his skin as if judging his merit.

It was a tunnel and he moved down it, moving like a phantom, something not really there, perhaps a hallucination or a memory. There was dark at the end of the tunnel and it was this that he was shifting towards. It was this where the smoke was coming from. It billowed like a plume, caught up in the dull beetle light and shining in patches, coming reflective in wisps – and then just a thick, lifeless fog. He could feel the hissing from the end of the tunnel and yet he could not hear it. The tunnel seemed without air and he was not breathing and the smoke as it rolled and writhed seemed at moments as though some creature winding out the netherworlds, and then other moments was a mirror to him, a mirror almost fully gaps and broken shards and the spider-thin fingers of smoke reflected his eyes and nothing more and at one instance a thousand eyes stared at him and then it was just smoke.

He reached the end. The vacuum trembled with the hissing and still all was silent and now he was in darkness.

There was a stretch of time alien and unknowable as he shifted and hovered and drifted as though smoke himself. He felt pulled back and forth as though on currents not his own. His legs remained useless and dangling and his body was pained by the pressures of larger forces upon it. He wanted to speak, to say that he was under his control and his alone, but that which controlled him would not permit this and his mouth stayed shut and sewn.

After the alien time and alien movement there was a flicker of light and he fell to the floor. His legs buckled and jarred and he had to recall the methods of their use. The flicker was growing and the first sound came, that of sizzling meat.

His eyes blinked and there was fire all around him and he was choking. But not from the smoke, which infested him as though part of his being. He choked at the sight of the lumps of meat in the fire, sizzling away, and then great sobs found their way through him and his body racked and heaved and he vomited and drooled and trembled impotently as the flesh bubbled and he traced the contours of the body parts with his fingers as if sketching in the air. The noises of the cooking and blistering meat were now accompanied by screams, even though there was nothing alive to make them and the screams were more like a chorus of echoes.

The stitching around his mouth was gone and he whimpered like a pup and was on all fours as he put his hands over his ears but the screams of the burning woman were still there, now louder and fierce as though the desperation to be saved had reached its point of crescendo and yet any hope of salvation was a lifetime ago and all that resounded within his head was a spirit, accusatory in his not being there and shrill in her anguish.

I couldn’t stop them, he said, all cracked and pathetic like a broken thing. The fires burned brighter and the smoke clogged and almost mercifully began to blind him from the detail.

She wailed as though a banshee and his tears fell so strong that they seemed that they could hold back the fires, and if they did it was only for him, or perhaps the fire just refused itself to touch him, but no amount of tears or buckets or oceans of water could quell its hold on her body.

He fell to the ground and curled up, twisted and unformed, more corpse than babe, some thing almost all dead inside, and even his raging hatred of mankind for its evil deed was at the moment stoppered and empty, ready to fill back up to overflowing whenever some idea of life returned to his body and mind, whatever its guise and whatever black road such an idea might lead him down.

 

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