New Books (May-June)

Witchfinder-CityOfTheDead-01-Art crop

Featuring: Ramona Ausubel, Stephen Baxter, Peter S. Beagle, Matthew Blakstad, Marie Brennan, Gail Carriger, Joe Carter, Wesley Chu, Richard Cohen, Catherine Coulter, Justin Cronin, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, Mark de Jager, Cindy Dees, Matthew Dunn, Brian Evenson, Bill Flippin, Frederick Forsyth, Tod Goldberg, Michael Hjorth, Jon Hollins, Emmi Itäranta, Cassandra Khaw, Jay Kristoff, Travis Langley, Alex Marshall, Hollie Overton, Terry Pratchett, Tim Pratt, Hans Rosenfeldt, Anthony Ryan, Jamie Sawyer, Adam Sisman, Martin Cruz Smith, Cass R. Sunstein, Michael Swanwick, K.B. Wagers, Ren Warom, Chris Whitaker, Walter Jon Williams

Above artwork: Witchfinder: City of the Dead #1 (crop), by Julian Totino Tedesco (Dark Horse Comics)

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BlakstadM-AuthorPic2Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Matthew Blakstad?

Former child actor, then a director of fringe theatre, more recently a specialist on digital communications – and now, novelist. I’ve lived in South London most of my life. I’m married, no kids. No cats (allergic spouse). As you’ll guess if you’ve read my book I’m very much into tech culture but perversely I also love the natural world and wild places.

Your new novel, Sockpuppet, will be published by Hodder. It looks rather interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

It’s a thriller, set in the very near future. An online celebrity starts dishing dirt on a politician, but this online voice is nothing but a chatbot – an artificial persona created by software. So how is a fake personality causing mayhem in the real world? Two very different women – a middle-aged politician called Bethany Lehrer, and a young software developer called Dani Farr – need to find out fast who’s behind this malicious campaign before it takes their lives to pieces.

Along the way, the book asks questions about how our online life is changing us – at the erosion of our privacy, the trolling of women, and the shift of power away from governments and towards the big technology companies. Continue reading

Upcoming: SOCKPUPPET by Matthew Blakstad (Hodder)

BlakstadM-SockpuppetUKThis sounds really good. Society is becoming increasingly dominated by social media. And, with an online society often run amok (see, for example, US political “discussion”, endless misogynist internet trolls, and countless other examples), not to mention ever-more reports of cyber-crimes, maybe Sockpuppet is the novel we need? Here’s the synopsis:

You shared your life online. Now how will you get it back?

Twitter. Facebook. Whatsapp. Google Maps. Every day you share everything about yourself – where you go, what you eat, what you buy, what you think – online. Sometimes you do it on purpose. Usually you do it without even realizing it. At the end of the day, everything from your shoe-size to your credit limit is out there. Your greatest joys, your darkest moments. Your deepest secrets.

If someone wants to know everything about you, all they have to do is look.

But what happens when someone starts spilling state secrets? For politician Bethany Leherer and programmer Danielle Farr, that’s not just an interesting thought-experiment. An online celebrity called sic_girl has started telling the world too much about Bethany and Dani, from their jobs and lives to their most intimate secrets. There’s just one problem: sic_girl doesn’t exist. She’s an construct, a program used to test code. Now Dani and Bethany must race against the clock to find out who’s controlling sic_girl and why… before she destroys the privacy of everyone in the UK.

Matthew Blakstad’s Sockpuppet is published in the UK by Hodder, on May 19th, 2016. For more on the author’s writing and novels, be sure to check out his website, and follow him on Twitter and Goodreads. Check back on May 4th for an interview with the author.

[This is the first of four Hodder Upcoming posts, today.]