Book Jacket

 

rank 353
word count 45011
date submitted 27.04.2012
date updated 19.07.2014
genres: Fiction, Thriller, Science Fiction
classification: moderate
incomplete

Touched

simon cairnes

The glue that binds us together is coming apart...

 

Forced into a life of solitude by the Great Relocation, Luke's only means of interacting with other people is via a Network connector. At first he thought it a wondrous device, creating virtual environments at the touch of a button. Then they discovered it had a defect - while you were on it, any form of physical contact made you sick. The more you used it, the worse it got until, one by one, they disappeared.

It became known as Network Allodynia. In the beginning, just a few of them suffered from its worst effects. More soon followed. Amongst them was Luke. Now, if he wants to survive, he must leave the safety of his home and search for a cure in some of the darkest recesses of a broken world.

 
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tags

1984, dystopia, near future, parable, political, psychological, speculative fiction, thriller, time machine

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176 comments

 

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CJBowness wrote 297 days ago

R2G review:

I found this very exciting and really wanted to know what happens to Luke and whether he ever finds a real companion. His life - loneliness, sickness etc - was movingly, but unsentimentally, described. I was glad to see he does in the end and hope Alex improves somewhat in both her attitude and her hygiene as time goes on - I feel sure she will.

You write well and engage the reader with ease, so much so that I could not 'put it down' because I cared about what happens to your hero. That, I think, is the ultimate test of a book.

I noticed a few minor editorial errors:
"They'll be rabbit" should be 'there'll be rabbit", I think.
"Impossible let the day go by" - I think you've omitted 'to'.
"He weaved an unsteady path" - isn't the past tense 'wove'?
"Going miss Kristian too" - I think you've omitted 'to' again.

High stars and backed.

CJ Bowness

Otter wrote 302 days ago

R2G Review Touched, by Simon Cairnes

Hi Simon.

I have read the first five chapters and would like to share my thoughts.

I chuckled at the opening. I sit in front of a computer screen, most days, for the past twenty three year, so yes, I can identify with Lukes nausea.

Relocation, is it mans ingenuity to ensure survival of the species or something more sinister? A Robinson Cruseo existance, in a controlled contained environment - is this an experiment or a system put in place and forgotten by the rest of the world.

Lukes existence is a compelling read, the darkness, loneliness and the battle to survive in a world of pain and punishment. The only contact is with others through the network, are they real or is he interacting with software.

By the end of the fifth chapter, I fully empathise with Luke, his predicament and the hook, that he must risk all and move beyond the boundaries of his property is an enticing one.

The writing, the plot and a good old fashioned, one man against the unknown makes for a compelling read. The refererence to Orwell is quite clever, as are other subtle references.

In my opinion, it is the unwritten that elevates the quality of this book. I have painted a picture in my mind of Luke, his world. I make wild guesses as to why he is in this predicament. In a nutshell, I have been engaged and have a virtual presence in the story,

Your ability to convey Lukes state of mind at every twist and turn is excellent and that is not an easy task to achieve without boring the reader.

This is an excellent read, clever, engaging and very tightly written. I take my hat off to you.

The pub needs a jukebox.

Norman Morrow
The Con-Quest of Father Brennan




wcarson wrote 361 days ago

Hi Simon

I had a read of your first 5 chapters, and thought I would share some thoughts.

First, let me commend you on a very strong piece. There's an overt reference to Orwell's 1984 in the text, and in that fine tradition I think you paint a dystopia that is all the more ominous and threatening for what is implied rather than directly stated. Punishment, control, and authoritarianism is alluded to often without explicitly describing it, thereby (at least in these first chapters) engaging the reader by engaging their own imagination. Things are always more powerful when you allow the reader to imagine for themselves; the mental picture created is thus always more personal. You do, however, give enough clues and hints to steer us in the direction you intend. For example, the phrase "precious few things in his life to nurture" does that wonderfully well.

There's a slower build up, at least to start. I for one appreciate that. I think that current trends seem to push for an immediate immersion into some conflict or other, or implies that if the book's premise is not explicitly stated in the first few paragraphs that it somehow fails. Personally, I feel like - with some books, at least - one must become acclimatized to the world, the stakes must come into a more gradual focus, the questions being asked must evolve and sharpen over time. It doesn't make the work any the lesser, quite the opposite. I think that's the case here, and although it might not be easily done for most writers I think you have accomplished exactly that cleverly and with skill.

I think your writing is clean and tight. Your occasional use of fragments as full sentences is effective, and I believe reinforces the voice in which you are writing. I find your ability to render mood and setting with a relative economy of prose notable. There are a few things that someone else might have done differently - the way in which you use commas to break up sentences or thoughts is somewhat different from what I might do - but I'm sure it comes down to either regional or personal differences more than anything.

A few minor nitpicks, as much a couple of questions:
-Should Network Allodynia be capitalized? I realize its a proper noun, but normally, I wouldn't write "I have Cancer" or "She has Profound Deafness". I'm not sure to be honest, it just didn't seem to sit well when I read it.

-In conversation you reveal that 1984 was written "over 100 years ago", implying the year to be 2048-2055, or at least thereabouts. Luke is 40(ish), and the world post-revolution seems to be the only one he knows or remembers. As such, if one does the math the revolution is coming quickly! Would it be better to impose a further temporal distancing? Perhaps its purposeful. It only seems that you (intentionally or not) imply that political, social, and technological change is going to happen in the next few immediate years. More so if you work is published a further year or two (or three) from now.

-The line "'If I was you, I'd take a break and try and buy myself some more time.' Luke considered..." should have a hard return before Luke, I believe, as the dialogue wasn't his, and the following dialogue is.

This is a very well written, and more importantly to this reader, very intelligent, provoking, and compelling piece. You clearly have considerable skill, and I look forward to reading more of your work in the near future. Best of luck with this.

William Carson
Grace Far Fallen

David 2012 wrote 531 days ago

Hi Simon,

I have been on Authonomy for about 5 months now and this is absolutely one of the more engaging stories I have found here. It is one of very few where I am actually curious about what happens to its characters. Interestingly enough, I think it is the information that is withheld that actually captures the reader's attention. I really only have one question and it is about the virtual world. The pub in which Nick meets his friends is characterized as having deteriorated in the 15 years in which they have been meeting there. At the same time, Nick and his friends have also deteriorated. I am curious whether or not it ever occurred to you to make the virtual world in which a given group of people habitually meet reflect the condition of those people; as they deteriorate, their 'world' also deteriorates.

You have a captivating story here, one that engages my imagination as few others have done on this site. From where I am sitting (judging) this one deserves to make it to the editor's desk.

David
Toccata and Fugue

KJD wrote 48 days ago

Interesting world building here. I'm intrigued. Love the mention of the 'tiny cut' - shows impending peril. Also like the warning alarm and having some Big Brother type punish him for not obeying curfew. Loved the hook ending too.

A few minor points.
Brief re(s)pite? Add the 's'.
As we're in the protag's POV, he shouldn't be able to see that his colour returned - without looking in a mirror.

Pitiful comments really picky only - loved the opening Chapter and will put the book on my watch list. Thanks for uploading.

Poppygb1415 wrote 55 days ago

R2G Review

Chapter 3

Unsure if you wanted to continue the swap, or if maybe I'd missed a turn... But I'd like to see how this is developing anyhow!

such a dangle of wires could deliver - I like this, very true, well observed

experience terrifying, like being - again, wonderfully graphic depiction

the para on entering the Network visceral, absolutely in his body - stunning

Allodyte? sounds ominous

friends becoming remarkably similar - again, alienating, scary prospect

time with his friends was running out - this sounds a lot like a cancer prognosis. knows he's going down, and has to deal with it, fully conscious.

turned up like it at lunch time - I'd say 'like that'

I like the set-up you've got, a fully plausible conversation to convey the details of this disease/condition - makes it all the easier for us to believe it, get wrapped up in your world and its problems

every time I touch anything - ah, here comes a hint of what's at the root of it, as indicated by your title and pitch...

a funny turn? not so sure - he just accepts this phrase almost as a scientific term... me, I'd be wanting to know exactly how Luke defined 'funny turn'

can't take much more of it - blunt, and true of debilitating illnesses

I'm going straight to the woods - great hook, and shows his determination

our lack of immune systems - really? uh-oh...

locked him up until he starved - a minute ago, he was trying to be reassuring about people disappearing, and now this! I wonder if it might be worth hinting, earlier, when he suggests faulty machinery to blame, skepticism from both men?

butting in to the conversation - into?

1984 - apt!

out of date! ha! The irony. The whole speech on Orwell - very clever - you are essentially practicing Orwellian double-speak here!

politics no longer topped anyone's agenda - again, the irony, as it seems to me that their whole lives are dictated by, embody, the dystopian politics of your world

Kristian, you're such a - don't like the repetition of the phrase here - I know we'd do it in speech, but... as a reader, less good. Maybe rephrase, slightly?

demented woodpecker - great image

jagged glass to his face - ouch! this is sudden, out of nowhere, but sits perfectly in the context of the chapter

first to react, grabbing him from behind - comma

appeared as though he'd enjoyed - appeared as though is a bit on the vague side - I might prefer something more definite, what was it about him that suggested he enjoyed it? a wicked grin? what?

just thinking - the nausea, where does it happen? as in, I assume it happens to his physical body, but he experiences it in the virtual world too? so the virtual doesn't cut out physical effects from the real world? likewise, could George have done himself real damage in the virtual world? Interested in the science of this. Worth expanding on?

amidst their growing isolation - not sure about amidst here - what about 'set against' or 'in counterpoint to'?

he'd already gone - great end to the chapter.

Fantastic reading, and will be back for more, if you want to keep up the swap. Don't know that I was able to contribute much though, this chapter very polished!

Poppygb
Amanda Cute and the Case of the Pussycat Sex Club

Neville wrote 59 days ago

Touched.
By Simon Cairns.


I must say that this is a fantastic Sci-Fi thriller; it has all the hallmarks of ‘Big Brother’ watching you.
I love the way the book opens up, the intrigue, uncertainty and unexpected.
It’s a mind boggler and something out of the ordinary when we think of Sci-Fi.
It could well make a good film I thought.
It’s no good me explaining what I’ve read because it’s a damn good book all the way as others admit before me...they’re right of course and I endorse their opinion.
A very well written story that has one way to go...Up!
Well starred, Simon

best wishes,

Neville .'One Off, Sir!'

celticwriter wrote 60 days ago

Hi Simon. Nice synopsis, led me swiftly into your work. On WL for now. :-)

PurpleProse wrote 64 days ago

Read to the end of 21. The whole plot works extremely well and I like the idea of the diary of the vicar to explain everything. Luke and Alex as characters are credible and the dialogue works well except for the bit in the garden when Alex describes her life in Southampton - somehow that read more like the diary entry and less like dialogue. I wondered if it was because you were trying to get a lot of information across but not giving her enough space to do it in, so it didn't sound so much like her? I think you could expand that - couldnt she be talking whilst he's fixing the water system? Like that thing about sons being able to talk about important things when they're doing something where you're not looking at them? After all Alex has no social graces and presumably doesn't know how to talk to anyone. The other thing that I really worried about was thirst. Isn't that the main thing people crave - before food? You never gave Luke a drink of any sort! He went for days without even a mention of the thirst that must have nearly killed him - how long can you live without liquid, isn't the human body 60% water or something? The sculpture is working well... Poppy. PS I have put you back on my bookshelf because I thought, I really want to read these other chapters so that's a good reason to do so.

Raymond Crane wrote 64 days ago

Onto your pitch, - who are 'they'. It is a dead word. R Only because I care.

kabiba wrote 64 days ago

R2G ‘Touched’ continued read - chapter 4

Luke returns from the network sick and exhausted, his stomach cramping. Once recovered, he decides to investigate the trail of blood, and I liked the line ‘He felt a pleasant jangling of nerves at the prospect of playing detective..’

There was a good sense of his anticipation, as he waits for the alarm. The danger of him being shot or reported to the authorities is very real. Your descriptions of the forest, the night falling, and the atmosphere is general are all very effective. ‘…the moon came out from behind the clouds, sending silvery shafts of light across the frosted ground.’ Then the fallen branch sounding like gunshot - this is great, because he is already worried he might be shot.

Edit: At one stage you said he was completely wrapped in darkness, and then mentioned he could still see the blood trail - how is this possible? Maybe you could say that he is wrapped in darkness other than the moonlight?

The tension builds as he smells the musky odour of an animal nearby. He is being hunted. Terrifying how it moves when he moves and stops when he stops. He sees a ‘flicker’ of something between the trees - good, showing it is not just his imagination.

He is defenceless, without even his club to fight back. You have the reader very close, inside his mind with his panicked thoughts - a pack of dogs, the impossibility of escape. I thought you could have some physical reactions to the fear here as well.

‘He didn’t want to die out there, ripped to pieces by wild animals in a feeding frenzy.’

His panic in full force, he runs blindly, then trips over a root and collides with a tree - out cold. The alarm is sounding. I hope he can get out of this without being reported… A gripping chapter, full of suspense. Back soon.

Kate
Stone Circle

Eliza Moon wrote 70 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapters 25-28.

I have now finished all you have uploaded, and I wonder how far this story is going to go. Will Luke and Alex succeed in their quest to free to 'outsiders' from the confines of the cities. And while I am on the subject, I love the twisted irony of this, how the people who are excluded from 'society' are the ones that have the social interaction, whether it be friendly or hostile, they are still 'touched' by humanity. 'Society' on the other hand is an isolated and lonely one.

Great start, 'You took my headset off, didn't you, you wonderful, mad, crazy bitch.'

The door closes before Luke can get out.

How beautiful- the piece of art which I have previously commented on as being a 'useless' thing, ha ha!, has now become a battering ram:-)

Wild dogs. But they have collars. I wonder if the collars somehow invoke the viciousness in their behaviour.

A nice touch with the Robin. And the little bird was all. Company of a real live creature.

The mix of emotions as they left was effective. His home was his prison, but it was also his life, he didn't know any other.

Fab line about Kristian, 'There he's a god, here he's just a man.'

And those dogs are in pursuit.

I'm going to have a look and see if there's another star, but I think I gave you them all already. x

PurpleProse wrote 75 days ago

Love this book - i like the fact that you have such a very human MC and yet it is set in this very different world, also I like the underlying theme of the essential loneliness of the individual. got to the end of chapter 16 and found it very compelling. you have found a good way to inform the reader about the great relocation without being boring about it. the mystery of the snake woman and Alex are intriguing, beautifully done. in Chapter 7 i have a slight issue with the sculpting as , in my experience, you cannot carve, let alone chop. and think of anything else. The whole point is that the process totally absorbs your thoughts. Polishing is different though, as you observe. I am still unsure about his thoughts in italics. For me they don't add anything and seem a 'device' of the author which Luke doesn't need. Anyway, an exciting read with all manner of unexpected twists and turns. A story set in a convincing dystopia dealing with the eternal themes of loneliness and trust. excellent. Poppy

Eliza Moon wrote 77 days ago

Touched.
Chapter 24. The other half of last nights review.

Kristian is turning into the egotistical villain. He truly enjoys playing god, gets a kick out of it. I wonder if he is The One, or if he is just the messenger.

Good line, 'We don't have to stay here, you know. All that screaming can get on your nerves.'

They materialise on a virtual beach, as Kristian demonstrates his godlike control, both on the environment, and the people.

Fab line, 'You cant do this. It's not human.' And then immediately the truth of it all, that a life on the Network is not a human existence, yet this is what THEY are striving to achieve in creating their utopia.

'sucked him in and vanished.' - I reckon smart Alex has pulled the plug on him and saved his skin.

So, the Network is a form of control on the people, like a drug, compulsive, addictive. If Allodynia is adjusted where necessary, it stands to reason that the 'addictive substance' (for want of a better description) is controlled by THEM too. And the 'problem people' are controlled further via a good dose of Allodynia.

Some believe that people in the Third World are kept hungry for reasons of control. The characters in this book are kept hungry too, hungry for human interaction, which is a basic instinct. The Powers That Be have those people dangling. What is the mystery though, is why? All I can imagine is some jumped up Hitler Psycho figure full of delusions of the perfect race. Or perfect world? A world can become perfect if it is all virtually created. x

Eliza Moon wrote 78 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapter 23.

Wow! This chapter packs a punch, with a very unexpected twist. And the idea of it hurts my head. I think you are talking about the fallacy of Utopia? Of getting rid of everything bad, sick, useless, dangerous, or imperfect? Wow, I say it again. This makes me think. A lot. The 'perfect' race? Various political regimes spring to mind. And this makes the idea scarier, more real.

Alex returns from the Network safely. Luke is so relieved he kisses her.

'already on her way to his mum's old room and the sculptures.' -perhaps you could add here the sound of Alex beginning to sand and smooth them, to show that she is at peace?

The hellbox. Glass. With the shapes of the figures and the screams on the other side.

Kristian. He is the friend weirdly not affected by being Touched. He is what? One of the controllers? Allodynia is controlled, given in varying doses to 'problem' people, those who are a threat to the grand plan.

'We'll harvest what's in their heads, add it to the Network and they'll live on with us, forever.' - Now, there is a thing in The Raw Shark Texts, a story within the story, about a man called Mycroft Ward. He wanted to live forever, and the way he did that was to try and make many minds one mind. And the phenomenom of the world wide web allowed this 'one mind' to grow exponentially. I never did get round to checking out whether it is an urban myth type story. Maybe I should.

Kristian knows about the houseguest. Luke, perhaps foolishly, lies.

The remnants of his mother is summoned from the screaming masses. Kristian's power is such that he does not need a pen, or any weapon, he only needs the power of his mind.

Terrific stuff. Apologies only one chapter this time, but all those whirling implications and ideas made me want to pause to dwell on them. Back soon. x

Poppygb1415 wrote 82 days ago

R2G Review

Chapter Two

Hope it's ok if I just launch in!

the sun had already - my first thought is, won't he take some Big Brother style flack, for not obeying his preordained schedule, whatever that is? would this worry him? send him scurrying? or are normal schedules suspended for boxing day, perhaps? in which case, an initital scurry, and then remember the holiday?

took out some clothes - out not necessary

ready smile was a distant - especially as we tend to smile in reponse to an exterior trigger, and he has so few of these, in his isolation - this is poignant, and might be worth dropping in?

the feeling the prime of his life - that the prime of

like the rest of them - the rest of them begs the question, who? the rest of the world, or the rest of society - some kind of definition of them might be good here

a farmer on a timer - poignant, again.

surrendered so meekly - to what? I don't recall him surrendering to anything...? I think this could bear with definition too. I want to know! Surrendered to the system?

that had disappeared - think that disappeared - would be fine

porn sites - interesting... and the way you use 'impotence' at then end, so soon after - a leading word choice - nice work!

Allodynia - I would use the word when he first gets the symptoms - so almost straight away - names of diseases are real hooks - in real life, we obsess about disease, scour the net like hypochondriacs - I'd get it in there early!

but did not entirely silenced his doubts - silence his doubts?

sounded, late that afternoon, that he - insert commas?

he was preparing himself for - new sentence here might be stronger?

grabbed his club - is it tucked into his waistband, or what?

no sign of the rest of it - the rest of its body/corpse - might be better/clearer?

the stick, the wire... - insert comma

going beyond the woods...repercussions - whether he goes or not, he's at risk - nice set-up...

weren't so ineffective - then why is he bothering??

I have a feeling that the building of a larger trap will provoke a larger reaction from whatever's pillaging the woods... Plenty here to keep the reader on-side and moving forward. Still, still want to see what 'tripping' involves. I can tell you're deliberately withholding it, but... it just seems so central... Will have to carry on!

Poppygb
Amanda Cute and the Case of the Pussycat Sex Club

PurpleProse wrote 85 days ago

Read to the end of six. Very exciting and menacing. Very impressed that you have conjured up this whole new world, and made it real without describing it, just alluding to it through their experiences. BTW There is a typo when you say Kristian says something and then he agrees with himself in chapter 6, just after they've got George to talk. The porno world he describes is also very convincing, and the fact that Luke is drawn to find out about it despite seeing what it has done to George is totally believable. Earlier the whole business of being chased through the woods has enormous tension, and you build the fear of the unknown, tantalisingly never letting us know who or what it is. I did wonder, just one thing, do you actually need the italicised sentences? I know they were his thoughts but I found them unnecessary. I thought the excellence of the writing didn't need that addition. Will be reading on, Poppy

Eliza Moon wrote 88 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapters 21-22.

Alex touches the sculptures. 'It isn't anything really. It's abstract.' A wave. Life's perpetual motion. Her reaction to the sculpture is interesting, it makes me think of man and evolution, how she lives a primitive hand-to-mouth existence, like first man. I think it was something like when man first started farming, first started to take control of his food supply, that was when art forms such as story telling and paintings developed. The concept of creating something as 'pointless' or 'useless' as a sculpture is probably quite fascinating to Alex.

'I couldn't be too about something like that if I tried.' -something missing here I think.

And thought-provoking again- the first physical touch, contact with another human, in decades, is violence.

New para required between 'I'm really happy you came.' and Alex saying, 'Let's just make one thing clear..'

Good exchange here-
'In my world, we don't make friends with strangers, we kill them.'
'We are not in your world are we? We're in mine.'

Someone ripped up all the plants- destruction, not need? Not because they stole the plants for sustenance?

When Alex is talking about going to other houses, I am reminded of Luke's mother, and the mystery of what happened. Her disappearance and her warning not to open the door to anyone.

Home. The Home Page. Portals to other pages/sites.

A touch. Which is lost on Alex, it means nothing to her, 'What on earth is the matter with you?' But the whole world to Luke.

Alex wants to find the source of control. She wants to shut down the system, shut down the defences of the towns.

Alex's reaction to the virtual falling was effective. I know that reaction, went on a virtual roller coaster once lol, it was HORRIBLE brain-melting stuff, it completely messed with my head ha ha, the confusion over what was not happening to my body, but my brain telling me it was. Everybody laughed except for me, I was hysterical:-)

More thought-provoking stuff here. Luke considers the possibility of leaving with Alex, because she is important to him. He would consider leaving his safe cocoon for a harsh and brutal reality.

Great stuff. x

kabiba wrote 88 days ago

R2G ‘Touched’ continued read - chapter 3

Luke is nervous about going back on the network - it is against his better judgment, as he knows it will increase the intensity of his Allodynia. He is too desperate for human company to listen to his instincts.

A good description of the terror when he first used it - ‘like being thrown from an enormous building - a fall with no end.’

The description of him going into the network was well done too - the speed and adrenalin, and the pressure in his head. I imagine it is the pressure in his head that might contribute to the illness.

His friend Kristian is there waiting, and confirms he is in the ‘final stages’ - sounds terribly ominous. The detail of them looking similar, and being dressed in their best clothes was good - illustrating how visiting the network takes them out of their humdrum, colourless lives.

Kristian confronts the truth of Luke’s limited time - something he is ill-prepared to do. Then there is strange George, rocking back and forth. There is unease beneath the surface.

Contact with objects and other people make their Allodynia worse - ‘Kristian grabbed the glass and put it down on the table like it was a burning cinder.’ And ‘Spillages and apologies were a frequent occurrence.’ (As they try and avoid touching one another.)

‘You’d never be able to leave this place. It’s your life’ They are both addicted. I wonder if you are making a statement about technology addiction in modern life, its prevalence.

Luke tells his friend about the rabbit, and his desire to go and investigate. Kristian is concerned and warns him against venturing away from his plot. Luke feels he has nothing to lose - he is probably dying anyway.

This leads to more of an explanation of the Great Relocation - designed to keep them apart. Disease, overpopulation and a natural disaster. The leaders, who Kristian feels did a good job. The fact that the leaders were not elected is unsettling though - totalitarianism.

George starts to self-harm, and the others intervene by pressing the tip of his tongue, ejecting him from the network. That’s great - an actual technique for ejection. ‘Turn him off, now’ - that’s funny.

I would suggest putting the excellent description of the room at the start of the chapter, so the reader can visualize it in the context of the action.

Luke’s friends do not expect to see him again, very sad for him. Back soon.

Kate
Stone Circle

Poppygb1415 wrote 89 days ago

R2G Review

Chapter One

This is, as I said, a great premise, as laid out in your pitch. You begin to build tension from the start, which I've commented on below. Now, I don't mind being eased in, but I think some readers might complain about the pacing... As I said, I'm not one of those people. I did wonder, however, if you might slide in the final image or few words from his 'trip'. As the tripping is at the crux of your plot, it might be a good idea to give us a glimpse of it, up front and centre...? I am sure it will feature later on, but it might be a real snare. Just an idea.

Editorial and admirable stuff:

mopping at - perhaps 'mopping up', or just 'mopping' on its own?

the clean up - cleaning up?

gardening time and homemade moccasins - tiny details, the accrual of which give us a clear picture of his altered (dystopian?) reality

outside, beyond the confines of his house - do you need both of these? think they express the same thing

being released - a sense of confinement, of inprisonment

a robin in a garden - conjures 'The Secret Garden' for me... nice childhood image, to be smashed!

Relocation Pack - another intriguing detail, with an edge of warning to it

worked his way up and down - doing what? is he weeding? replanting shoots? watering? as this detail is about his survival... and he enjoys it, perhaps be more specific?

nice, that he exerts control over the physical urge to black out - he is strong-willed, and motivated

gone wild - perhaps grown wild?

got the feeling they were trying to grab at him - menace, where he is nurturing... with a nod to triffids? ideas about what will take humantity's place, when we fail, come to mind... Like that your wriiting is sending me down these paths, getting the mental cogs spinning.

leant on the side of his house - leant against - though 'the lean-to on the side of the house' would also work. Though lean-to is a brit useage, and I'm not sure which side of the deep blue you're writing on, or for!

placed his harvest on its wooden racks - something funny with the grammar here - placed his harvest on the wooden racks, or even, provided wooden racks - might be better?

traps, check the traps - so we are pretty much back to an amended hunter-gatherer state of affairs? though the gathering goes on in greenhouses... Post-apocalypse? Can't wait to find out...

a heavy wooden club - inspires worry - what does he need that for, checking traps! Something lurking in the woods...

unexplained incidents - I might use inexplicable, as there does not seem to be anyone about to offer the poor guy an explanation... so it is to himself, and his experience, he must look for an explanation

he used their skin - give this its own sentence?

punished him with... - oooh, very Big Brother.

diseased animals - with what? toxins, chemicals, pollution... And here's an early in about 'touching' things in this world being a bad idea, dangerous

and the rabbit in the trap - a symbol or foreshadowing?

umbillical chord - nice image - makes him infantile, in his dependence

he had no idea why they called it 'The News?' - don't think this is a question, so no ? - though as you've put it in the quote marks, is it meant to be part of the title?

for over thirty years - aha! we get a glimpse of his age... I had pictured him younger. Mightn't hurt to give us a glimpse, earlier? If he is older, and also possibly suffering from dietary deprivations, he could well be feeling the aches and pains of age early on... Especially as a long time 'connected' would probably wreak nastiness on his spine and posture, and cold, outside, would bring this out. Long-time anorexics get oesteoporisis/arthritus early, because of the defficiencies in diet - I am imagining something similar here... Which might also serve to age him from earlier on?

animal reports - I like the way he thinks it's manipulation - but it gives rise to a two-fold tension, both in the suggestion that the authorities are manipulating people and the reminder that punishment for disobedience isn't impossible, but also in the sense that perhaps there ARE nasty animals in the woods...

a full one among the multitude - full bottle? full flask? how does he store it? As you've been so precise about his arrangements thus far...

Wizard of Oz - ha! can't believe you share similar feelings to me. It took me several attempts to watch the thing over the years to finally work out that what I liked were my memories, associated with the movie, rather than the damn thing itself. Quelle coincidence!

alarm's display panel, that hung - display panel, hanging - might be smoother?

Poppygb
Amanda Cute and the Case of the Pussycat Sex Club

Morven James wrote 91 days ago

R2G Review
Simon Cairnes, Touched
Chapter 28:
What an excellent opening. Sadness as leaving the home you have known for so long, wanting a last lingering look, and the excitement of a new life.
She isn’t going to let him forget his last time on the network – women, along with the proverbial elephant, have long memories!
Alex is still managing, not altogether successfully to remain distant, but their attachment is growing.
“Shut up.” “What! Don’t be so rude.” “Be quiet. Now. I can hear something.” Great dialogue.
The perimeter alarm, baying dogs. – that’s not good.
You are so good at creating a read-on. Looking forward to more.
Morven

PurpleProse wrote 94 days ago

Fascinating concept. I like the way you drop in the details of Luke's extraordinary existence and the way you allude to the current political situation via a discussion about film - very subtly and cleverly done. I like the mystery of the trap which hangs around in the background as both a menace and a temptation to rebel. The characters are believable and the dialogue works well. There is a rising sense of menace and fear which keeps the reader gripped and wanting to read on. I am sure that Kristian is not what he seems. On my book list. Poppy, the day will come.

Eliza Moon wrote 96 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapters 19-20.

I found the diary extracts extremely moving, and want more of them. I hope to be able to read more about the Reverend's world as Touched progresses.

Jan 1st 2055. The beginning of the end. No one comes to the New Year service. Mention of infectious people.

March 10th Food is scarce. Victoria is all bones but for a distended stomach. Which could be starvation/malnutrition but is probably Alex.

Feb 14th (is there a reason you placed the dates out of order, is Luke flicking backward as well as forward through the book?) Driven by desperation the crowd turns into a mob.

March 24th 'Is this a fit world for a child?'

April 29th The PM and cabinet are dead. (Or so it said on the radio)

June 25th Leaflets dropped from helicopters, but the Reverend does not know what they said.

July 1st People airlifted out of the affluent areas

July 10th Abandonment

July 15th Holed up in an underground carpark

July 16th An explosion

An apocalyptic scene. The image of the charred family in the road, and the Reverend saying prayers that now sounded hollow was very moving. He becomes lost in the devastation, physically and emotionally. He hides from a drone and finds a dying woman. Good line, 'She had not wanted to reach out to God when she was alive and it would have been disrespectful to do so on her behalf now she had died.' (although, Ive just looked it up to be sure, and Last Rites just before death, not after. Perhaps change to prayer?)

There was an electric fence and wall on the perimeter. I guess it must have been quite far from the edges of the city to avoid damage from the bombing, but it was not clear.

The child was not Alex, it was her brother.

Like Luke I had been sucked into the Reverend's world, so it was quite a jolt when Alex said 'That's enough.' I wanted to dwell on the diary some more.

Nice line at the end, 'Let's try a little trust.' x

kabiba wrote 101 days ago

R2G ‘Touched’ continued read - chapter 2

Luke looks in the mirror and almost doesn’t recognize himself - ‘He’d been a handsome young man once, full of dreams and ambitions, but time had begun to draw deep lines across his face…he couldn’t shake the feeling the prime of his life had passed him by.’ There is poignancy to this passage, wistfulness, and a sense of loss. He is a sculptor who once had a ready smile - this paints a sharp contrast to the folorn forager he currently is. Along with this sadness, he misses his friends, who presumably died of Network Allodynia. This leads him to his powerlessness in the search for a cure - he feels he has been ‘meek’. This is interesting, in light of his situation - how could he have helped when he is so indentured? Perhaps he had more power before? Porn sites being related to the illness - now that is strange.

All day he tries to resist the lure of the Network - a chance to catch up with his friends, the excuse of Christmas. The fact that he knows it will probably make his symptoms worse shows the extent of his loneliness.

He finds the severed head of the rabbit - something has taken its body away, the trail of blood. Luke wants to go to the forest to investigate, but he might get caught - this is a good hook, as I feel he will take the risk. ‘…the area of disturbance around the trap was extensive and quite unlike anything he had seen before.’ This sounds ominous.

The other trap has disappeared - even more frightening. There is something very odd going on. Making the deer trap he injures his hands, and he thinks it won’t be worth the effort. ‘The instructions made it sound so simple.’ Very true in real life too. The trap looks cruel, but isn’t because it doesn’t work. The irony. He heads back to the house to join the network and find some temporary relief. Back soon.

Kate
Stone Circle

Eliza Moon wrote 102 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapters 17-18.

A really powerful couple of chapters as we learn more about Alex and her existence.

Luke had been bundled back into the cupboard, and Alex struggled with the Network for 5 days before a brief breakthrough.

Fantastic line, 'Her shrieks mixed with the sounds of her pounding feet as she bore down on the cupboard. Faster and faster, a raging crescendo of noise.'

She beats him.

Then something in her changes 2 days later. What? Has she realised he could become an ally rather than the enemy?

And she watches him take a shower...

Great line, 'Things had changed. He was no longer sure of the rules of the game and he felt nervous when he limped back into the room.'

Southampton. Ooh, 'Not just before, after it too.' So there is, or was, a society outside of the isolated virtual one. Thought-provoking stuff- only the superior of the race were relocated, 'the educated ones who'd got money.' The rest of them, (the ones who were not useful, or usable?) were left to die when the cities were bombed.

Great line, 'She pushed her face into his and spat her words straight at him.'

'You need to know the price we paid for your salvation'

Maybe tweak the line, 'That's someone who definitely wasn't there that day. Not according to dad anyway.'
[He definitely wasn't there that day. Not according to dad anyway.] To make it sharper? She is spitting the words.

Then the questions get too much, he is demanding too much from her. But they are things Luke has to know.

Back for more soon. x

Morven James wrote 106 days ago

R2G Review
Simon Cairnes, Touched
Chapter 27:
Luke, after multiple attempts, shows there more than one way to skin a … sorry to crack open a window. Well prepared for – whatever they may come across – they make their escape.
“…couple of bars of soap. “We might need [these] on the road.”
And Luke, kind natured person that he is, needs a word with his faithful robin – loved his words of wisdom about finding a mate – sound advice!
“You have your family, He was mine! He was all I had.” And those few words sum up his time – everything except the robin was false, a hologram of sorts, and throughout, you really managed to make it sound as if the robin returned his feelings.
Without wishing to resort to cliché, but doing it anyway, that was short and sweet. They have escaped, but now we are left wondering, free – but for how long, will they find another access to the Network, will they discover the location of the government, will they rescue Alex’s family? Will the robin find a mate?
This chapter is well written, as always, with the plot moving along together with the fiery relationship of Alex and Lucas, now being interdependent. Although Lucas is no longer in control, the Network was his realm; the outer world belongs to Alex
I’m already waiting for more. These are great characters who get under the readers’ skin.
All best wishes,
Morven

kabiba wrote 106 days ago

R2G ‘Touched’ review - chapter 1

An intriguing start to this chapter, in very close third person. I liked the way you went straight into Luke’s illness, and the suffering and anxiety of his existence. He has Network Allodynia, and the prognosis does not look good.

All the physical details, and the sequence of his actions with the bucket, then the alarm indicating he must start work in the garden, raise questions about where he is, and why.

Great description-‘…he could see a robin waiting, its bright red breast a welcome splash of colour in the endless grey light.’ The robin is like a friend to him, taking refuge in the greenhouse. He has been relocated, another hook - where from and why?

‘he had the sensation the ground was moving beneath him, as though tilting on some unseen axis.’ His illness again. There seem to be a plethora of hardships: loneliness, illness, authority, and restrictions. Lack of food. He almost collapses and then breaks his fall.

The plants in the next greenhouse, combined with the heat, are oppressive and sinister, as they fill every available space. You create the threatening, lonely atmosphere well. He manages to collect some vegetables, and this seems to cheer him. There is a strong sense of the repetitiveness of his work, and of the sequence of his days.

The rabbit has been trapped, and he just manages to get it out of the trap before the alarm sounds. The threat of a 24 hour blackout means he must heed its call.

‘the birds had frozen on their perches overnight’ - the cold is extreme - perhaps the plants cannot grow outside the greenhouses?

I liked how he thanked the heavens for the gift of the rabbit. Interesting detail about the news, that never says anything new, and never changes.

He does at least learn it is Christmas, and celebrates by watching ‘Bad Santa’ instead of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ It was a good detail about his childhood, disliking the film because Oz is a fraud.

Great hook at the end with the perimeter alarm sounding - he can see something moving around outside. ‘something about its movements that didn’t look right, not right at all.’ Very ominous - I look forward to reading more.

High stars and watchlisted.

Kate
Stone Circle

Eliza Moon wrote 108 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapters 14-16.

The intruder.

She might be softening, calming down a bit. She allows Luke to use the toilet, and later, she pushes him a plate of food. Mud on her face and caked in her hair. A tribal mask.

'His dreams were filled with the snake woman,' - perhaps you could add here 'from Eden' as it was not clear at first, I was thinking of the intruder, and wondering why he was referring to her in that way. (although that might be in part due to the gap between me reading the chapters)

The woman doesn't know how to access the Network. She has not been a part of 'society' for a long time, or never was a part of the Great Relocation. She has always been an outsider.

Alex. Finally her anger dissolves into tears. But still, she flares easily, 'SHUT UP YOU BURNING BASTARD'. She has shouted about burnings before, but Luke is confused by this. It is not a part of the history that he knows. He is confused and does not know what she is talking about. There is a deep resentment towards the Great Relocation, how had it affected her...? (I am imagining she is young, younger than Luke, but there is nothing specific to indicate her age, whether she lived before the Relocation.)

I am liking this Alex character, and the way she shouts about being calm enough.

Luke must bide his time. Alex needs him, she just needs to come round to that idea. And probably, Luke needs her. People need people.

Back soon. x

Ps, there was an 'IF' at the beginning of the chapter, I wasn't sure if it was intentional or a shout. If it was a shout, perhaps it should be 'If YOU'.

Jim Heter wrote 120 days ago

Hi Simon,
Found and read your new chapter. Well done as usual.
I am admiring the way you are handling the tensions between the two main characters, and the extreme tensions of their situation. Nice launch into a new phase, more in her world, less in his.
Jim

Eliza Moon wrote 126 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapters 12-13.

The smell of something rancid. It is the Thing from the woods. It charges him from behind. 'A knee jammed into his back. His hands are bound.' - a humanoid of some sort. A knife- an intelligent humanoid who knows how to use tools/weapons.

The Thing is looking for stuff in drawers and cupboards, supplies.

'the smells of cooking seeped into the cupboard.' The Thing is a person. One of the disappeared? Living on the peripheries of society? ('society' used in the loosest of senses here...)

I liked this confused mix of emotions, the fear of the intruder but yet there is a stirring of excitement: contact with a real person after 27 years.

Some explanation as to the disappearance of Lukes mother. A quest for water. 'He had nodded but not listened.' 'He still felt guilty about it. She had only been trying to protect him. And how right she had been.' - He let someone in? Did the mother ever come back? Or did she come back and something bad happened because he had let someone in?

Some history of what went wrong with the world.

A sneeze, 'like a warning shot from the past.' 27 years might mean he has suppressed immunity.

Zoonosis. (Did you see the thing about the thawing out of the live bacteria, which was thousands of years old, from the ice? Not harmful to humans. How do they know...?)

The Thing shouts, she is a woman!

She is saying that the history of Relocation is a lie.

'If you say one more word I am going to burn you like YOU burnt US. YOU PIECE OF HUMAN GARBAGE.

You. Us. Are they the same, or different? Or just different in her eyes?

This was a fantastic chapter, the best yet, with hooks and questions all the way through. Bravo. x

Morven James wrote 127 days ago

R2G Review
Simon Cairnes, Touched
Chapter 23:
Relief, kiss, oops!
Alex is overjoyed and now needs more information.
And Luke, bucket prepared, goes back to the pub or does he. I have a sneaky feeling that, being quite new to the Internet, I’ve been in his situation [not in his network obviously]. No, I was wrong – I thought Alex hadn’t “logged out” and he returned to her last “place”. More intriguing than that – good.
At this point, I struggled to remember about Kristian – I know he was one of Luke’s friends, but no details [my fault I’m sure – it’s impossible to read parts of so many different books and remember every detail.] Excuse me while I make a quick check back – big friends - boot kicking – no contact nausea – disappears.
Oh, nasty nasty cruel trick, poor Mum, but clever not-Mum, if you follow me, for speaking up.
C.24: Well you do up the anti – Kirsten really fits the saying, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. He’s a really mean, perverted control freak.
C.25: Saved. Don’t do as I say. Good for Alex. And Luke, selflessly pushes her out. He doesn’t think she understood his last words – but maybe she did.
C.26: “…he wrapped the end of the rope around his [waist].” Waste would have been messy – and not substantial enough to serve the purpose :)
The two sentences beginning, “If he came too close to it…” I see you’re trying to avoid using “would/could” too often, but it may possibly sound better as, “If he came too close to it he would lose his leverage and be lifted off the ground. If he couldn’t get close enough to swing the weight, the exercise was pointless.” Just a thought you might like to play around with.
Well, they are in a predicament and with no knowing what Kristian will come up with, or be capable of, which is probably anything and everything, Alex waits and Luke packs. And then all they can do is wait.
A great ending, you have left the readers, and the characters dangling.
Are you uploading more? Can you bear to leave us like this?
This is a great book, full of twists and turns, superb chapter endings, it’s very different and should, I believe, do well.
I wish you the best of luck, please message me if you do decide to upload more chapters.
Morven

Morven James wrote 131 days ago

R2G Review
Simon Cairnes, Touched
Chapter 21:
I really like the idea of creating something to describe feeling and ideas, rather than a poor copy of an original sculpture.
“I couldn’t be too // about something like that if I tried.” Missing word.
“Let’s just…” I believe this needs a new paragraph.
He likes her being there, even the beating – yes, I thought – a link to our past, we were, and still are, herd animals. Very few humans find it easy to live completely alone without any human contact. Perhaps the creators of the Network realised this, played on a basic need. Touch being one of our needs, therefore the Network, played on this, temptation, followed by punishment – sadistic tactics.
Luke’s instructions to Alex for her first trip – sounds rather like people [at least me] having a look round Autho before taking the plunge.
Sneezing! Ill! Aha! Testing her temperature, touching – he likes that sensation, a little too much, maybe.
Just when we’re settling in, there’s another good read on “until she made her breakthrough.”
C.22: And now he wonders about his emotions – real love, or … well she is the only “real” person he has seen.
Further physical contact, stronger emotions. And the Alex succeeds; she’s on-line. Now what? She doesn’t come off. Is she dead? He feels for a pulse. Does he risk the emergency 50% chance of “frying her brain” or wait?
Some cliff-hanger!
Morven

Morven James wrote 135 days ago

R2G Review
Simon Cairnes, Touched
Chapter 18:
A now calm Alex making another attempt at the Network – I can feel Luke wondering what she will do if she is successful and no longer needs him.
He manages to talk to her, find out. Southampton, before… before and after. Then Alex tells us that only the educated with money were taken out of the cities before they were burned. I felt shocked – and so did Luke. We shouldn’t really be surprised – it repeats throughout history and is humanity’s shame.
C.19: I didn’t write as I read for this chapter. Too involved in the diary. I still feel quite numb; the writings drew terrible pictures in my mind. The only consolation I feel now is that this is fiction, but it was so real. An example of fantastic writing skills.
C.20: Only because I paused at the end of one entry, did I spot an omission, “Luke found the diary far too moving [to] have been faked.”
But I think that break from the diary was well placed – we needed to pause after the woman’s death.
This diary feels to me as if it was written by somebody who has witnessed atrocities such as those firsthand – or at the very least spoken to somebody who was a witness. Everything is so realistic, so terribly believable.
Why do humans never learn? They make technological progress and use that progress to destroy more of their own kind – because underneath, we are all the same.
***
And now Alex and Luke have a common ground – knowledge and information, and trust is building.
But I have to know how her parents coped, how they escaped.
Morven
The Buck Stops Here

Eliza Moon wrote 137 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapters 9-11.

I am reminded of the Hellbox while reading this, which could be the crushing lift. Or it could be the cold dark place beneath Eden. The lift- he gets in at the top and goes down. This must be symbolic, a descent into hell.

Eden. Uncertainty. Brain overload. A desire for someone else to take control.

Luke descends deeper. 'Nothing but blackness' His leg- 'when he brought it back in, it felt freezing and had turned blue.'

Why is it impossible to die on the Network? There is a need for an emergency exit, and it causes physical harm. Is Luke wrong about this, deluded?

'A Heart Stopper' - 'A means to frighten off the curious.'

This world outside of the Network is not as dark as I first thought. Not sure if I've already said this- apologies if so- but I was questioning at one point, gardening in the dark, then it transpired people gardened on a rota (still working out why the need for a rota). Now Luke is gardening outside. A change in season.

Apple blossom in Eden. Is the woman the apple? Tattooed serpents. Excellent. I am not sure if the woman is real or a kind of computer generated Lara Crofty type. She is unusually tall. She stands very still, statue-like when he first touches her. 'the smell of apple blossom all around him was so strong it was overpowering.' Yes, she must be the apple.

Something screaming deep inside him. Luke makes an emergency exit, she tries to stop him.

And off the Network, she is now consuming him. He is distracted, makes careless mistakes, finds himself doing things without realising it. Then the voices start...

Great stuff. Will be returning for more. x

Willow Fay wrote 138 days ago

Hey Si, =)

Had some time today to read the following three chapters you've put up since I last read.
Again, great stuff. The story and plot is flowing good and there's lots of suspense and tension building now, especially with Kristian. And, your still giving good hooks at the end of each chapter, especially in chapter 26 with the pack of Dogs. Good stuff.
Looking forward to continuing if you put any more up =)

Willow x

Morven James wrote 140 days ago

R2G Review
Simon Cairnes, Touched
Chapter 15:
Good start – unexpected that the anger at the end of the previous chapter would turn to sobs, and then, after of the “burning” mentioned, we [at least, I] expected a poor, burnt soul, that couldn’t face the world, and she turns out to be beautiful – great!
He has a bargaining tool, she needs access to the network, but there still has to be patience …. and trust.
C.16: Her frustration is completely believable. And from experience as a very recent
Our own Internet is a web of crossed wires [to a relative newcomer] and calmness is the only solution.
Slight inconsistency: “began kicking with her bare feet” later “there was a quick squeak of her shoes as she [spun] round” and later “he was fortunate she had not worn shoes”
“You’re no better than an animal,” he shouted, …” [ capital “H” after comma, and quote marks before he, rather than after animal,]
He [peeled] off his soiled clothing.
Another two good chapters, characters developing and a wary relationship in the making. But will it continue?
Morven
The Buck Stops Here

R2G wrote 144 days ago

A much deserved backing from R2G.

Morven James wrote 145 days ago

R2G Review
Simon Cairnes, Touched
Chapter 13
Finally Luke got through to his captor, and no time for modesty, but the humiliation…
Escape, he thinks is not a good idea, also the door is locked until gardening time. Which, he may not have yet realised, locks her in too.
“It was not ideal for eating, being face down in his food [ with] his neck [was] at full stretch.” I would suggest either, “with his neck at full stretch”, or, “while his neck was at full stretch”.
I think, “You stink…” needs a new para.
C.15: Even when the door unlocked, his captor didn’t leave, so what does she want? Shelter? Company, of sorts? She must know that Luke cannot give her justice.
And in his dreams, the snake woman knows about his captor. His mind is confusing reality with the Network, but then our dreaming mind does cause confusion at times.
And the woman cannot access the network, so it is more certain that she escaped ‘the burning’ of cities etc.
Her frustration mounts, but he decides she saved him from Eden, and hopes she stays.
“But what came next was a surprise…” Great ending!

Morven
The Buck Stops Here

Eliza Moon wrote 148 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapters 7-8.

The sculpture was in the middle of his mothers bedroom. This must mean he has always lived in that house, even before the Great Relocation? Nobody went anywhere? They just had perimeters set up to isolate individuals? Was the mother Relocated, or did she die? Lots of questions now, this is turning into a great puzzle to figure out.

The sites architects. So the Network must be controlled in some way by people other than the government. Virus's on porn sites.

Luke is now pondering his friend Kristian- why isn't he affected by contact? Luke realises he doesn't know much about his mysterious friend at all.

I liked the description of the forums being 'dark and twisted', that is a little bit like the forum around here;-)

Good line as he waited for a response, 'His message box remained as empty as his spirits.'

Eden: Paradise. They are all dead. That is what it is there for. Paradise is not being alive?

Intriguing hook, 'AND KEEP AWAY FROM THE HELLBOX'

Great stuff. x

Morven James wrote 149 days ago

R2G Review
Simon Cairnes, Touched
Chapter 12
Whoa! Great chapter. Very short, to the point.
Terrific impact and another good read on.
C.13. And the tension racks up.
“…he had not quite realised how much he wanted to live.” Very realistic, however bad a situation, at the point of death, most would come to that conclusion, but it’s good, here, to drive it home.
“…ran through him like a series of electric shocks.” Great imagery.
Tiny nitpick, you have: “the AV unit”, and later, “The AV unit”, I believe it should be “the”.
Great way to tell the back-story, and have Luke’s thoughts and the intruder’s actions intersperse.
You have: “The intruder appeared to be getting more and more agitated. He could hear them pacing….”
I realise Luke doesn’t know the gender of his intruder, but this is a little ambiguous [more than one intruder?] and since he was overpowered, I think it is likely he would assume his assailant was male, in which case you could say “He could hear him pacing…”
New para for: “There was a huge crash, like breaking china…”
“Murderers!” Ah, so it is a woman, after all. But I still think, say “he” earlier – it will increase the surprise, and let the reader feel Luke’s shock.
Now that is a good read on. “Like you burnt us.” So is she one of the survivors from the towns or cities?
Look forward to reading more.
Morven
The Buck Stops Here

Morven James wrote 154 days ago

R2G Review Chapter 9
Simon Cairnes, Touched
Just put me off lifts, and I’m not claustrophobic!
Lovely description of “Eden”, so then he risked the basement.
Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but this is the first time I remember being told about him wearing the “cap” to enter the network.
Makes perfect sense of course, a bit like Arnie S. in that film.
I had a little chuckle, “Do I look mad to you?” addressed to the robin. Nothing like a light moment to deepen the darkness.
But then it’s followed by a very sensuous section, beautifully written.
Back to reality sounded painful, but necessary, and thanks to George, and as he predicted, no nausea.
But mind manipulation, that’s another matter entirely.
You have a upload error: Para. starting: "He picked up some tools… but it wouldn’t_____ settle…” empty space. [chapter 11]
Oops! Even the robin knows something isn’t right.
Tell-tale [hyphenated] [following para from empty space.]
“…he couldn’t identify any of them. One or two of them were quite large…”
‘Of them’, repeated could be avoided by saying, “There were lots of prints on the ground, but the heavy rain that had come down overnight had opened them up and blurred their edges making them unidentifiable. One or two of them were quite large…”
“Rolled in on clouds of hypnotic sounds…” Great!
Oh dear. More mind manipulation. Can he resist?
Maybe the Net isn’t the only thing doing the manipulating, the author’s doing a pretty good job too!
Morven
The Buck Stops Here

Eliza Moon wrote 156 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapters 5-6.

Luke comes to, injured but alone. His pursuer has gone.

Punishment for violating the rules, a power black out.

Good line, ' He feared that so many years of rules and routines had sucked the life out of him. With no need to think, he was turning into a drone.'

The contents of his greenhouse has been trashed. Did he leave the door open or was it something or someone else? Is he at risk of going hungry if his plants are uprooted?

Lonliness drives him back to the Network.

Ch6

good line, 'banging between them and giving them a jolt of nausea.' - a reminder that even quite close is too close.

Viruses. Porn site viruses. 'A virus more or less lobotomised him.'

'He'd heard the sites designers had somehow managed to reduce the effects of the nausea.' - I'm still working on the theory that the Network must be controlled by the mysterious all-controlling underground government, but this line causes me to doubt. How can a person or persons interfere with the workings of the Network if their every act and movement is being watched and recorded..?

Kristian is not affected by the nausea, or at least, it affects him in a lesser way. Why?

Charlie and the chocolate factory. heh heh.

The porn site is weird. There are scents where there are none elsewhere. There is a macabre image of a man with an erection floating in the fishpond. I am thinking about the symbolism of this...what does it mean?

After that, the voices came, when George was disconnected from the Network.

Rota changes for gardening time. Why? There must be a reason for this.

All very intriguing stuff! I look forward to more soon. x

Morven James wrote 159 days ago

R2G Review Chapter 7
Simon Cairnes, Touched

c.7 Really like the image of the sculpture ... the butterfly to my mind representing freedom, emerging from the solidness of the tree stump and then the voice activated music to suit different moods and occupations.
Just a rather fanciful thought about the effects of touching, and more so, of sex on the Network – it would solve today’s overpopulation problems.
c.8 But Luke feels his time could be diminishing fast, he tries and fails to find the site, which may, or may not hold the answers. And then Kristian hasn’t been seen on the Network for a few days. He believes George will be dead, and now he starts to speculate about his best friend.
“The words that had been left behind were like epitaphs in a graveyard.” Very good description, graphic.
Really good to go from his frustration, which, at gardening time, he lets it overflow towards the robin, but then he realises that the bird is his only true, real-life friend, and their relationship continues.
I’m not sure I like all the capitals [both plain and italics] in the messages. But I see that you need to differential between the sender’s messages and Luke’s and also Luke’s thoughts. For now, all I can think is to forget the capitals in the messages, but still italicise as you have done, to indicate which is which, and then put Luke’s thought in brackets.
And, with the robin ever attentive, Luke realises that there is no decision to be made. Die. Or fight and maybe die … or maybe find the solution.
But I have the feeling it won’t be that simple…
Morven
The Buck Stops Here

Jorre wrote 161 days ago

Read up to 3 and you have something here. Thing is you have to set it up faster, perhaps is just me, and under pressure, job, writing, reads, unlike normal book buyer. Point is its like hunger games, this has that same big brother thing going on, and some can pull it off, some cant. You do. Is a movie in waiting. But maybe ruthless edit? Also pick somone thick. Read to them. If eyes glaze over, ponder. Sometimes. Sometimes they just thick. Pointless being clever if you cant tell your story. Dont give up. This is one of the better books on this site. Intriguing premise.
THE BLAME GAME

Sebnem wrote 161 days ago

Touched
Simon Cairnes

R2G Review
Chapter 7-8

Ch7
Luke deliberates and reminisces of Sarah, his teenage love and the sadness. Is he in his mother’s bedroom? To go or not to go, to the site…..he ponders, while he’s sculpting and listening to music, depending on the mood of the job he is performing…

Very nice chapter, the bleakness of the atmosphere and the despair is very well-portrayed…bare, dull, and desolate …Luke is becoming a human being, with feelings and memories…

Ch8
“The words left behind like epitaphs in a graveyard.” You need something there, …(were,seemed,appeared, etc ??). but it’s a wonderful description…very stark….

And Luke and the robin is very touching, this ‘Touch’ is growing up on me….very nice…
Beautiful Chapter, this book is insidious, it grows inside you. Simon Cairnes is a wonderful writer, depicting Luke’s despair, loneliness, and anguish with the robin is masterful.

This won my heart. I will be back, soon….

Thank you, Simon, very ‘Touch’ing…..

Sebnem
The Child of Heaven

Morven James wrote 161 days ago

R2G Review Chapter 6
Simon Cairnes, Touched

After Luke’s previous escapades, I’m keen to know how he’ll cope at the Network.
C.6 para.5: I believe you need some punctuation between James’ speech and the insertions: eg. “They tell me you’re, maybe, er, going soon.” He was home, safe. “I know we haven’t …… I wanted to say…” he struggled to find the right words “…how sorry I am. I’ll…..
“…weird porn site. “That explains a lot.” Giggles!!
The shoes helped. Ahah! That’s a good lead on.
And now we need to know how he got on after that last session on the Network.
You’re keeping the tension going, and the reader’s interest, too.

Morven
The Buck Stops Here

Jim Heter wrote 163 days ago
Jim Heter wrote 164 days ago

Hi Simon,
I just read to the end again.
Thought I'd leave a comment, not for you so much as your other reviewers, the ones who haven't met Alex and don't really have a clue where you have taken this.
As I can only guess where you will go next.
Luke is on the cusp of another turning point.
He is a complex character, full of self-doubt yet surprisingly capable and resourceful at times, hinting at untapped potential. An unlikely hero, but perhaps destined to become one.
If he survives long enough.
Jim

Eliza Moon wrote 165 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapters 2-4.

'The memories of his friends that had gone before him had begun to fade.' Luke is 40. The average lifespan seems to be not great. Nearly 15 years previously, physical contact became increasingly difficult on the Network, so they hang out in the virtual bar.

Luke wants to go on the Network again but he knows it will make him sick. But, 'The only thing that gave him any comfort was the idea of another trip on the Network.' That is an addiction, he is aware it is harmful/deadly but he feels a compulsion to do it none-the-less.

At gardening time he investigates the 'thing' he saw, and finds a rabbits severed head. The thing is taking his food.

ch3.

'when he ran out of excuses' he went on the Network. I wonder if you might think about tweaking this line to tie in with the compulsion of the 'addiction' (is it like an addiction? I might be wrong here) Perhaps something along the lines of fighting the urges and trying to distract himself by doing the chores, before caving in to the lure of the Network? (I am addicted to cigarettes, fighting against it is hellish..)

'He had noticed in recent times, they had started to look remarkably similar, merging into one anonymous mass' - I was immediately thinking collective consciousness, but then I doubted as it seemed they were just making the Network an occasion by dressing up smartly.

'Every time I touch something it gets worse.' 'I need hardly remind you about our lack of immune systems.'

Natural disaster, desease and over-population.

Good line, 'We didn't have time for elections. That's not Totalitarianism is it?' - I like.

George cracks, he needs to be switched off.

Ch4.

Back home the sickness is worse than the last time. But Luke has decided he is going to investigate the mysterious 'thing' and follows the trail beyond the boundary. Suddenly he realises he's been watched and followed, he is being hunted. He panics and runs, but he is still unwell from the Network and he blacks out before he reaches safety.


Now I am going to make some really wild guesses just for the fun of it. It is early days, so will probably be way off course on all counts!

Luke is 40. These people have been living in isolation -The Great Relocation - for more than 15 years. Does this mean there is no new generation here, no children? (At least of the human kind?) The species is then endangered and dying out.

Nobody knows who the 'non-totalitarian' government is, they have gone underground. This mysterious government controls them with boundaries and curfews. Nobody knows what lies beyond.

They have no immune systems. At least, they may have no immune systems, or they may just have been told they have no immune systems. But assuming they don't have immune systems (they would probably have supressed immune systems by now anyway due to lack of exposure) and being Touched makes them sick, this could be a play on computer viruses transferring to humans. In the same way desease in animals can be transmitted to humans?

The government is presumably in total control of the Network. I'm not 100% about this, but computer viruses are always created by people, they don't just happen? If that is correct then it is genocide?

I have some even wilder ideas about the rabbit eating 'things' too, but I'll hang fire for now. x

Morven James wrote 167 days ago

R2G Review Chapter 4 -
Simon Cairnes, Touched

It's always good to remember a story without having to re-cap. And I remembered, Luke has "overdosed" on his use of the Network.
C.4 Loved. “…the darkness wrapped itself round him so tightly…”
“The one thing he could be sure of, was however much he screamed, no help would come.” I rather feel that either the comma should be after “was” not before, or taken out altogether.
This is a very strong chapter, with many excellent descriptions, and the tension of Luke’s searching, the darkness encompassing him, until finally he has no alternative but to return. Then you rack up the tension again as he heads for home.
But the ending … Wow! Now that was unexpected.
C.5 Now just a minute! I had to rewind to the end of C.4. No, I didn’t miss-read.
R-i-ght. So back to C.5
“A low blanket of clouds had sucked the light out of the sky…” another excellent description, but there are too many good phrases and descriptions to mention.
And I’m still waiting to see why the end of c.4 and beginning of c.5 didn't seem to tally.
“…pain, like an unwanted guest, refused to go.” Great!
As there is no mention of some “trick” by his “captors”, to end his life and then restart it, I would seriously query the end of C.4 . In my mind, [if there is no fantasy or alien force at work] a lifeless body is just that – devoid of life. And yet you say, “…his head snapped back and his lifeless body dropped to the ground.” Maybe there is an explanation later, but it does make me stop reading to check.
Overall, this is a very engaging read; you have the ability to make us feel we are there along with Luke, feeling his anxieties and pain.
And above all, it’s different. I love different.

Morven
The Buck Stops Here

Eliza Moon wrote 169 days ago

Touched.
R2G review. Chapter 1 (for starters, more to follow shortly)

I like the short pitch very much, 'The glue that binds us together is coming apart.'

Network Allodynia. People in isolation, connected only by Virtual contact. But there is a deadly flaw in the system. 'The final stages of his Network Allodynia had begun, shattering his delusion and filling his head with unwelcome reality.' - what is the delusion and what is the reality? That is my first question and my first hook.

'until one by one they disappeared.' - Virtually? Virtual people? Virtual world?

Clothes are rags and shoes are handmade. Crops are grown and traps are set for subsistence. There has been an apocalypse.

Nice line about the plants in the greenhouse, 'twisting and turning around one another and casting strange shadows under the electric lights.'

Ok, the world is grey, cold. The greenhouses are heated and have artificial light to make things grow. Is the world always grey? Otherwise, why is he gardening in the dark?

'they punished him'... Who is 'they'? Who is in charge? 'and was still panting as he punched his ID code into the keypad.' - A curfew. Why? Why so controlling?

'A Network chair.' 'Umbilical cord to the world.' But it is harmful and damaging. The need for human contact. We cannot thrive in isolation.

A thing has set off the perimeter alarms. The wrong shape to be a deer or a fox. What is out there? Are the curfews in place to protect the people, or to conceal the truth of the real world. The world is out there but they are all locked in.

This is a running commentary of thoughts going through my head while reading. The questions don't need to be answered, they are just there to show you what I'm thinking. I might be wrong about things, and I might change my mind as I read further. More soon. x

Morven James wrote 173 days ago

R2G Review Chapter 1
Simon Cairnes, Touched

An attractive cover, a thumbnail probably doesn’t do it justice.
Title – totally appropriate.
Short Pitch – Intriguing, definitely a read on.
Long Pitch – Scene setting, informative without giving away too much. Yes, I like the sound of this.
From the pitch, and certainly the first paragraphs, your writing background shows through. I doubt very much there is much “red pen work” needed here.

C.1 The throwing up was well-handled, without sensationalism, [I have a phobia].
You succeed in the feeling of solitude, when even a robin flying off after a brief time together, leaves Luke with a sense of loss. What an unenviable existence. Yet, although desperately in need of protein, he has a momentary feeling of guilt for the rabbit he has snared.
But are the scare tactics of diseased rabbits and wild animals just that – scare tactics? Meant to keep them within their boundaries … and alone.
After thirty years, and even Christmas alone, how can we feel anything but sympathy for him?
The last paragraph builds the tension. What set off the perimeter alarm – it’s large, wrong shape, movements not at all right… that leaves me no option but to read on.
The tiniest of nit-picks, but as everything is meticulous, I thought you’d like it mentioning. “By the time he’d…” apostrophe upside-down.

C.2. So, we find more about Luke, more pulls at our heartstrings for his almost meaningless existence. But after the earlier scare, he is beginning to rebel by resisting to watch the Network.
The only evidence of the previous night’s alarm, was the severed head of a rabbit, torn off by … what? But the last of the traps is missing. With the larger, deer trap set, all he can do is wait. Another “I must find out what is going on” ending.

C.3. But the Network, contact with his friends proves irresistible. Addiction! I suppose the comparisons are there, but with other addictions, does the addict know what he has become? Or is he always in denial? With Allodynia, the addict certainly has lucid time when he is not connected to the Network, but that is the trouble he is not connected … to anything. Except in Luke’s case, he has a brief spell with his robin. And then you cleverly throw another spanner in the works. If Luke tells anyone about his intended trip out of his own zone [other than his trusted friend Kristian – or, I have to think, is he to be trusted?] they will report him because of their failed immune systems.
A couple of things that caught my eye: “Are you off on one again…” I don’t think you need, “ Said Kristian…” possibly, simply: Kristian rolled his eyes, and produced yet more laughter.
And, I think, a new paragraph at, “By then, nobody was listening. …”
James stared back at him with open hostility. “Kristian, you’re such a…” I believe this should be same paragraph.
Whoa! George ... Emergency! Switch off! That was drastic action for the others, I remembered the “no touching” rule, if you disobey it makes you sick.
But Luke has been on the Network for too long, returned too soon after his last attack, and he switches off. The look on everyone’s faces say they don’t expect to see him again.
Another good read on.

Watch list, high stars.
Morven
The Buck Stops Here

Marisa Knight wrote 174 days ago

Simon,

Enjoyed the first chapter. Really good concept, especially as it centres itself around such a widely used activity as social networking.
Still reading.....
Marisa
The Continuing Adventures of Montgomery and Dartington

Willow Fay wrote 176 days ago

Hi, I’m back for some more =)

I’m so caught up in this book, I’ve read chapters 8 & 9 and haven’t wrote down anything, been too busy reading!
Loved the description of his first trip to Eden, and then the strange void he came across after and the storm… weird, but leave’s some suspicion.
I love the way he has his little convos with the Robin, kind of show’s his loneliness, mind you, I’d probably be speaking to wall if I was in that situation!
Chapter 10, fantastic! – Descriptions are great, I like the way you don’t over describe the sexual aspects, but give just enough to get my mind picturing it. Poor Luke, I thought. What guy would be able to resist in a situation like that and not having been able to touch a woman for so long. I’m kind of worried now, is this the point where the addiction comes in? then insanity?
Great opening to chapter 11, him doing an emergency escape, and her trying to stop him? hmm, interesting!
Oh, no, the sites beginning to affect him! the voices… !
OH MY GOD. Loved the ending of chapter 11, how can I not start reading the next chapter after that last line! Damn u! lol
and again with chapter 12! Do I get to find out what was in the woods now?
Broadcast is good, gives some info on what happened in the past.
Seriously, I keep thinking, right…I’m going to stop after this chapter, but no, each chapter just has a massive hook at the end of it that is making me glued to the screen! Who’s the woman!? That was a shocker, I was expecting some kind of wild beast haha.
Ok, now I really do need to stop, at chapter 15. Need to get the kiddywinks to bed! =)
The best part is, when I came across your book I was interested by the pitch, but I don’t usually read this kind of genre, so I didn’t think I’d get this caught up in your story! So, a good surprise for me!

Great stuff, you’re book is next in line to be backed once a space becomes available on my shelf!

Willow x