Sunday, September 9, 2018

Alt Truths by Alec Birri

Sub-Genres: Sci-Fi / Dystopian
Published: August 12, 2018
Pages: 254

ABOUT THE BOOK (Amazon): What if you knew an entire race of people was being systematically slaughtered but had to cover it up? 

Fake news. Alternative facts. Truth, lies, damn lies and statistics. Just who are we to believe? In this near-future dystopian thriller, that will be United Nations Police “moderators”. Thirty year old UNPOL officer Richard Warren has been embedded with the BBC and not seeing eye-to-eye with journalist Sarah Dyer is just the start of his problems. News of an Ebola pandemic is being withheld, and when it’s discovered Sarah’s artistic savant brother is involved, Richard’s determination to get to the truth takes an unexpected turn. But what if the truth must never be known? And Richard thought Sarah was a challenge. The very concept of right and wrong is about to be tested and in a way that’s going to make fake news look like quality journalism. 

Alt Truths is the fourth book I have read by the talented Alec Birri, but it’s the first of his books that I have read in print. (The Condition Trilogy, I read with my ears and am still fangirling over the amazing narrator Jonathan Keeble.) Alt Truths does not disappoint.

Told in short, highly interesting chapters, Alt Truths keeps the reader engaged and the story moving along at a fast clip.  The character building happens quickly, too, so readers not only meet the main cast of characters, they also see them fleshed-out early on. This is not to say that Birri gives away the goods. Many of the characters are not exactly the what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of people, so there are plenty of times that readers will be taken aback.

It is those “WHOA” moments that really force the page-turning pace to increase and induce some philosophical deep thinking for readers. Birri’s novel explores the what-ifs of savants, science, germ warfare, political agendas, and even mind control all in a very near future scenario. Initially, it is difficult to discern that the book is dystopian, and honestly, I had some trouble reconciling that some of the elements were feasible for as soon as when the United States seats a 46th president. Perhaps feasible is the wrong word – possible? Yes. Probable that soon? Doubtful to me. (Sadly, fake news and bad cell signals are still a thing in the future, but there wasn’t a mention of selfies, so small victories there.)

There is always a small concern when I love an author’s audio books and decide to migrate to print…I am, after all, a grammar freak and am much-too-easily distracted with errors. While I did come across some typos and inconsistencies, there were not so many that it impacted my enjoyment of the story. Birri’s writing is very good, and he does an admirable job with his descriptions of setting, allowing readers to visualize everything from the defunct amusement park and its West World-ish (original) occupants to the repurposed military compounds and their hidden agendas. For those who are squeamish, look-out.  Birri also masterfully and vividly describes the devastating and deadly effects of a virus that is ravaging the world. ICK! (But, ooooooh, so cool/gross/fascinating!)

Alt Truths is divided into two parts, and it’s almost like they are two separate books. Where part one gives us realistic characters and a realistic world, part two dives deeply into the sci-fi realm and went a bit too out-there for me with the droids and the robots and the transcendental trips. Strangely enough, within the advanced technology, global crises, and conspiracies happening, Alt Truths manages to infuse the strength of family bonds, romance, humor, and even witchcraft into this crumbling world. And it works! Admittedly, these elements work better in part one than part two, but the second half of the book does circle back around and grounds itself by the end for a satisfying and thought-provoking story.  

Thank you to the author for giving me an eBook in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alec Birri served thirty years with the UK Armed Forces. He commanded an operational unit that experimented in new military capabilities classified at the highest level (Top Secret Strap 3), and it is this that forms the basis of his novels. Although semi-autobiographical, for national security and personal liberty reasons, the events and individuals portrayed have to be fiction but are still nonetheless in keeping with his experiences.


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