Love vs Honour released tomorrow!

Tomorrow my new novel Love vs Honour is released for download from Amazon Kindle. You can still pre-order (see link below) for a mere 99 pence.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Honour-Religions-Deceptions-Love-ebook/dp/B00VC40DSM

Love vs Honour is a young adult romantic drama, but it will also be appreciated by grown-up readers, or anyone who enjoys a gripping, provocative story.

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

Two Religions. Two Deceptions. One Love.

When Johnny meets and falls in love with Sabina, their bond proves stronger than a teenage holiday fling.

Fearing the disapproval of their strict Christian and Islamic families, they undertake an elaborate deception to continue seeing one another. Johnny pretends to convert to Islam whilst Sabina pretends to covert to Christianity to appease their parents. 

But how long can this deception last before it unravels?

Love vs Honour is released tomorrow on Kindle.

Print copies will be available from the 6th of June.

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Film Review – Unfriended

01

Essentially Unfriended is a logical progression of the found footage horror template, this time having the action unfold between several teenage protagonists on a Skype call. Although there is nothing particularly original about the plot, on a visual level this is an intriguing curiosity and something of a technical marvel.

The afore-mentioned teenagers end up with a mystery party on their Skype call that they can’t get rid of. This individual appears to be the ghost of a girl they inadvertently drove to suicide through cyberbullying. Said ghost then holds everyone on the Skype call hostage and subsequently secrets are revealed with increasingly deadly consequences.

Director Levan Gabriadze and writer Nelson Greaves, not to mention editors Parker Laramie and Andrew Wesman, deserve considerable credit for juggling all the different multiple Skype box elements, making them work together cohesively. Not only that but other commonplace computer activities – listening to music, muting the call to search the internet, private messaging and so forth – are all depicted simultaneously. This leads to intriguing insights as a character types one thing, then deletes it and says something else. Incidentally, the performances from a largely unknown cast are all pretty decent.

The horror element is not particularly scary, although it is gruesome in places (with lots of swearing and some sexual content, whilst we’re on the subject of potentially offensive content). However, from a satirical perspective Unfriended shines a light on technology and how people live their lives through it in unhealthy ways. It also mercilessly depicts cyberbullying, and how a person’s life can be ruined by their foolish mistakes being plastered all over the internet. All throughout Unfriended, the phrase that will go through the audience’s mind will be “Just turn it off!” but these people never do. Their curiosity is insatiable. They just have to know what’s in that file, that hidden message, that online video, and so on.

In final analysis, the characters depicted herein and their actions are reprehensible. Furthermore, plot wise this has nothing new to offer. But as a piece of cinema, this is actually deserves considerable points for generating claustrophobia in the way Facebook messages, Skype icons and buffering wheels are menacingly depicted throughout. Ultimately Unfriended gets by on sheer inventiveness.

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Love vs Honour – extract 2

Herewith a second extract from my upcoming novel, Love vs Honour:

Johnny spent the afternoon with Ant, Mark and Joe at Blackpool Sands. He went swimming, cliff diving and took his surf board to the waves, but the experiences were utterly empty. In the past such activities had excited him, but now they seemed like mundane routine. He did his best to laugh and joke with his friends, but even Mark could tell he wasn’t quite himself.

‘What’s the deal with you and that Asian bird?’

‘Her father’s from Iran,’ said Johnny.

‘Yeah, whatever. The point is have you got anywhere with her?’

‘We’re just friends.’

Mark grinned. ‘I’m not stupid.’

Johnny sighed. ‘It doesn’t matter. Nothing will come of it anyway, so what’s the point?’

‘What’s the point? Mate, she’s gagging for you! Strike while the iron is hot. Who cares what happens afterwards? Another day, another bird!’

‘Is that what you think about Amanda? Sabina told me she’s interested in going out with you properly. God knows what she sees in you.’

‘She’s got taste,’ said Mark.

‘Will you go out with her?’ Johnny persisted.

‘Perhaps, if she’s lucky.’

‘I only wish I could go out with Sabina. But her family would kill me.’

‘You should convert to Islam. Then you’ll be well in there.’

At this, Mark went off to buy an ice-cream, but his throwaway remark planted the seed of a crazy idea in Johnny’s mind. He laughed as he thought about it, and realised how desperate he must be feeling to have even considered it. He wondered if he should tell Sabina, but decided not to. She might just be crazy enough to want to try it.

Love vs Honour is released on the 31st May on Kindle, and can be pre-ordered from the link below:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Honour-Religions-Deceptions-Love-ebook/dp/B00VC40DSM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432470492&sr=8-1&keywords=Love+vs+Honour

Print copies will be available from the 7th of June.

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

Two Religions. Two Deceptions. One Love.

When Johnny meets and falls in love with Sabina, their bond proves stronger than a teenage holiday fling.

Fearing the disapproval of their strict Christian and Islamic families, they undertake an elaborate deception to continue seeing one another. Johnny pretends to convert to Islam whilst Sabina pretends to covert to Christianity to appease their parents. 

But how long can this deception last before it unravels?

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Film Review – Tomorrowland: A World Beyond

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is difficult to review, mainly because I really, really liked the film in spite of the fact that it was massively, arguably fatally, flawed. Brad Bird is one of my favourite directors, and this is unquestionably a deeply personal labour of love for him, but from a purely objective perspective it would be easy to tear this film apart, as some critics have. However I can’t bring myself to do this. Tomorrowland has so much warmth, beauty and naïve wonder that being cynical about it would be like kicking a puppy.

Attempting to describe the plot is difficult, because this is very much a film about ideas. Big optimistic ideas. For instance, why does humanity believe the future will be inevitably dystopian and apocalyptic? What happened to all that 1950s/60s starry-eyed optimism that the future would be all about space travel, jet packs, flying cars and shiny robots?

This idea gnaws at teenage Casey Newton (Britt Robertson, who looks like a slightly younger Jennifer Lawrence). As the scientifically curious daughter of a soon to be redundant NASA engineer, she longs for a return to this optimism, and despairs of the way humanity seems to have given up in this respect. When she inadvertently discovers a mysterious pin that transports her to a parallel universe containing an extraordinary futuristic city when she touches it, she… Well, actually, its best if I don’t say anymore, suffice to say it eventually brings her across the path of embittered Frank Walker (George Clooney), who seems to know the answers but doesn’t want to tell her.

On a visual level, the film is brilliantly directed, with a real sense of mystery and marvel. The affectionate retro-futurism inherent in Bird’s The Incredibles and The Iron Giant (still his masterpiece, in my opinion) is present and correct, as is his recurrent theme of exploring the very best and worst of human instinct. Performances are all very good (Hugh Laurie also crops up, and child actors Thomas Robinson and Raffey Cassidy are excellent in key roles) and the visual effects, production design, and Michael Giacchino’s evocative music score are all terrific.

It is unquestionably true that Tomorrowland is awkward from a narrative perspective, and in the final ten minutes or so it becomes dangerously easy to dismiss the entire film as much ado about nothing. Any close examination of the plot and the whole thing falls apart like a house of cards. But the afore-mentioned big ideas are fascinating to consider from a number of perspectives.

The film offers a humanist ideology that if we just stopped listening to negativity and had the will to act we could fix the world’s problems and bring in a utopian age. This is similar to the worldview offered in other science fiction, such as the Star Trek universe. Of course, this doesn’t fit the Christian view of what ultimately happens to humanity when left to its own devices, as is evident by the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Christian belief makes it clear that after this appalling time there will be a utopian age in the future, but one brought about by God, not human self-determination.

That said, from a Christian perspective, the idea that we should speak and think positively, not give in to fear as a result of the negativity being pumped out by rolling news media and so on is to be highly commended. The Christian belief may be that the Revelation apocalypse is inevitable, but my personal belief is that it can and should be delayed as long as possible by Christians not being passive but fulfilling their God-given callings.

All things considered, I found Tomorrowland: A World Beyond impossible to dislike due to the sheer good feeling and thought provoking ideas it exudes, in spite of it’s undoubted flaws. It is entirely possible that others may find it inconsequential, laughable, perhaps even contemptible. But I admire Brad Bird for putting his heart on his sleeve.

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Download Children of the Folded Valley FREE – for five days only!

For five days only, you can download my most successful novel to date, Children of the Folded Valley, absolutely FREE from Amazon (see link below).

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Children-Folded-Valley-Simon-Dillon-ebook/dp/B00LYR3NWK

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

During a journey to visit his estranged sister, James Harper recalls his childhood growing up in a mysterious valley cut off from the outside world, as part of a cult called the Folded Valley Fellowship.

In this seemingly idyllic world, the charismatic Benjamin Smiley claimed to be protecting his followers from an impending nuclear apocalypse.

But the valley concealed a terrifying secret.

A secret that would change Smiley’s followers forever.

By far my most successful novel to date, Children of the Folded Valley is a gripping and dramatic mystery with a “light” science fiction edge.

The novel has been very well reviewed. Here is a sample of the many raves:

“I don’t usually leave reviews but I felt so strongly about encouraging people to read this fantastic book. It had me captured from start to finish. At one stage in the book I actually thought it was a true story.” – Paul, Amazon.

“The use of re-written religious doctrine to control, govern and frighten is particularly chilling… Full marks to Simon Dillon for this creative and highly readable novel.” – Around Robin, Amazon.

“I was captivated… I didn’t want to put it down and just kept trying to find time to squeeze in a chapter… It just gets better and better as you read it and you find yourself needing to know what happened.” – Hannah, Goodreads.

“Creepy and unnerving. Kept me gripped the whole way through.” – Lucyboo, Amazon.

“I couldn’t put it down.” – Bukky, Amazon.

“Really well written, well thought through, compassionate… Full of empathy.” – Over, Amazon.

“So well written, you could believe it was a memoir.” – Shelley, Amazon.

“A perturbing and very original story… The ending is magnificent.” – Joan, Goodreads.

Print copies can be ordered here (but unlike the download are sadly not free): http://www.lulu.com/shop/simon-dillon/children-of-the-folded-valley/paperback/product-21812308.html

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Film Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

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Well, I must admit I didn’t see this one coming. I knew Mad Max: Fury Road was about to be released, but my expectations were very low. After all, can a franchise that had its last instalment over thirty years previously come back out of nowhere with any credibility?

The answer, surprisingly, is yes. Director George Miller has crafted an astonishing melee of cinematic carnage that incredibly lives up to the legacy of the original Mad Max films. Essentially one big chase sequence, the film throws the viewer right in at the deep end, refusing point blank to explain any detail of the previous movies. What matters is the here and now – Max (Tom Hardy) the wandering survivor, whose tormented madness in the face of the apocalypse is made tolerable by the fact that the baddies are so much more insane. The plot revolves around a crazed sort-of religious dictator who is betrayed by one of his own, Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who along with his “breeders” (a quintet of women, some of whom are pregnant), try to reach the safety of the “green place”, with Max reluctantly assisting and various crazed minions and factions in hot pursuit.

There is so much incredible stunt work here that it seems redundant to use words like spectacular, jaw-dropping and breath-taking. The production design is astonishingly deranged, and the film so relentlessly cinematic, that one feels utterly immersed in the smell of petrol, flames and burning rubber. In a film like this, performances tend to be a little one-note, but these one-notes are very well played. Hardy is great, Theron is great and there are some brief, unexpected moments of tenderness amid the supporting characters too (especially with Nicholas Hoult). In a film as overwhelming as this, it is easy to end up feeling numbed at the sheer nihilism, yet although Fury Road is essentially a very violent, very grotesque and very, very demented Stagecoach homage (with nods to silent cinema as well, such as Buster Keaton’s The General), there is – incredibly – talk of redemption and hope amid the chaos.

Inevitably, one misses the stripped down, low budget, non-CGI aesthetic of the earlier movies, but although the film does ultimately exhaust it’s audience, Mad Max: Fury Road really is quite something to behold, especially on a big screen. Sometimes films don’t need amazing plots or complicated characters to work. Sometimes the sheer spectacle of incredibly well constructed thrills is enough. And it is more than enough in this case.

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Love vs Honour – extract 1

Here is the first of two extracts from my upcoming novel, Love vs Honour:

Sabina had been looking forward to the school trip for days, and it had finally come. At first, her parents had been reluctant to allow her to attend, but after much persuasion, they had eventually given in. These small victories were important, and she knew that without them, she would lose her mind.

The school trip in itself was not anything special. The post-exam summer weekend in Dartmouth had been organised with no particular educational purpose, but conceived as a sweetener to encourage the girls of Plymouth High to stay on for A-Levels. Yet for Sabina it meant three precious days away from home, and a measure of freedom from her overprotected and stifling – if not entirely unhappy – home life.

Prior to putting on her school uniform, Sabina had taken extra care to complete the Salah washing ritual without skipping any parts, thinking that if she was seen to be doing this, her mother Ziba and brother Tariq might prove a little less hostile at the idea of her going away. However, as Tariq greeted Sabina at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, it was immediately apparent no amount of pious action on her part would make a difference. His stern expression communicated obvious irritation that their father Ahmed had permitted her to go.

Sabina observed her brother for a moment, pondering his attitude. Although Tariq’s shoulder length hair, intense hazelnut eyes and goatee beard insistently announced a manly demeanour, somehow his otherwise smooth skin made him appear baby-faced.

‘Why do you not wear the headscarf?’ Tariq asked, his eyes glinting with barely concealed disapproval.

‘I never wear headscarves, you know that,’ Sabina answered.

‘You ought to.’

‘It’s not part of the school uniform.’

Tariq frowned. ‘Neither is it forbidden.’

‘Dad doesn’t think it is necessary, and neither do I. Besides, it’s too hot.’

‘Why will you not wear it? Are you ashamed of what you are?’

‘No. I just don’t see the point in wearing extra things on a day like today.’ Sabina indicated the July sunshine outside with a vaguely irritated gesture. Even though it had been exceptionally hot, and the weather forecast predicted temperatures as high as thirty-one degrees, it was typical of her brother to try and make her feel guilty, whether over headscarves or associating with her “immoral” friends from school.

Tariq shook his head. ‘If only Plymouth had an Islamic school we could have gone to.’

Sabina said nothing. She cared for Tariq dearly, but in these moods he was intolerable. If she weren’t his brother she would have thought his behaviour not unlike that of a jealous lover. For a while neither of them spoke as Sabina made herself some toast. Then, as she ate, Tariq looked up at her.

‘You must understand Sabina, I am your brother, and am two years your elder, whereas you are not yet sixteen. This school trip you go on, although you go with other girls, will nevertheless provide many opportunities for immorality. There will be boys on the beaches you visit who will see your beauty and want to take advantage of it. Beware of such boys! I love you and will do anything to protect your honour.’

Love vs Honour is released on the 31st May on Kindle, and can be pre-ordered from the link below:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Honour-Religions-Deceptions-Love-ebook/dp/B00VC40DSM

Print copies will be available from the 7th of June.

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

Two Religions. Two Deceptions. One Love.

When Johnny meets and falls in love with Sabina, their bond proves stronger than a teenage holiday fling.

Fearing the disapproval of their strict Christian and Islamic families, they undertake an elaborate deception to continue seeing one another. Johnny pretends to convert to Islam whilst Sabina pretends to covert to Christianity to appease their parents. 

But how long can this deception last before it unravels?

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Film Review – Fast & Furious 7

vin-diesel-fast-furious-7

I must be honest and admit I have never been a particular fan of the Fast and Furious franchise. I’ve seen the others, and they all seem to blend into one another. However – and with apologies for being somewhat late in this review – if you are a fan of the series, Fast & Furious 7 should tick all the appropriate boxes. Furthermore, it has added and obvious poignancy in the wake of Paul Walker’s death, but more on that in a moment.

Director James Wan crafts a plot derived from the usual nonsensical elements, throwing in the regulation crunchy fights and increasingly ludicrous car chases. Quite honestly I can barely be bothered to explain the details (something to do with Jason Statham wanting revenge on Vin Diesel and his crew, complicated by Kurt Russell’s shadowy government agent wanting to use them to take out a Somali terrorist).

My issue with this series has always been my inability to suspend disbelief and therefore to emotionally engage. Don’t get me wrong, I love action movies. But I prefer them to feel more grounded, for the violence to feel dangerous, to actually worry for the safety of the protagonist(s). The Fast and Furious series has hitherto – hitherto mark you – failed to engage me in this respect, in spite of the undoubted technical skills involved in putting together the truly spectacular onscreen stunts.

Yet this time, the performances – from afore-mentioned series regular Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez and obviously Paul Walker – feel that bit more committed. Perhaps it is for this reason that the finale actually feels quite tear-jerking. All that stuff about the importance of family and friendship hasn’t just been tagged on for this film, it has been in the series from the beginning. Therefore, this time, there is a surprisingly strong emotional pay-off, and a memorable final shot that qualifies as actual, proper, artistic filmmaking. Heck, it almost borders on subtle – not a word you expect to hear in a Fast and Furious review.

But rest assured, in spite of the final moments, Fast & Furious 7 is, for the most part, the usual numbing orgy of vehicular carnage.

Simon Dillon, May 2015.

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Film Review – Spooks: The Greater Good

movies-spooks-the-greater-good

Anyone who has enjoyed the BBC spy series Spooks, will enjoy this big screen version. It is a decent enough film, with some tense set pieces, but it doesn’t really escape its small screen origins. Essentially Spooks: The Greater Good is an extended, slightly above average episode that just happens to be on a big screen.

That said, fans will find much to enjoy, with spymaster Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) going off the grid to catch an escaped terrorist. Kit Harington, Tuppence Middleton and Jennifer Ehle pop up in decent supporting roles, as do series regulars Tim McInnerny and David Harewood. All things considered, director Bharat Nalluri makes a decent fist of the afore-mentioned set pieces, particularly one set at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5.

The usual warnings apply for the more sensitive, as there are some violent scenes. For the rest, Spooks: The Greater Good is solid, occasionally exciting but ultimately unremarkable.

Simon Dillon, May 2015.

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Love vs Honour – the contemporary setting problem

When I wrote Love vs Honour ten years ago, I intended it to be a contemporary story. However, as I prepared the manuscript for publication, I became increasingly aware of elements that dated it to mid 2000s. These included references to pop groups and current events that could easily have been updated, but there were other, more serious elements that couldn’t.

For example, Sabina’s father Ahmed has a background that goes back prior to the 1979 Iranian revolution. His age and the age of his daughter would not work if the setting became 2015 rather than 2005.

In addition, other plot events pertaining to how the protagonists communicate would not be believable in a contemporary setting given the social media revolution that has since taken place, regardless of the strictness of parental control exhibited in the novel.

On a more esoteric note, as I re-read the text I realised the attitudes of the characters reflected the concerns inherent during the Bush-era war on terror. These concerns have shifted in a number of subtle yet significant ways in 2015.

So I made the decision to make what was once a contemporary drama a period piece. I don’t believe this will make the story any less powerful but obviously that will ultimately be for readers to decide.

Love vs Honour can be pre-ordered from Amazon on Kindle (see link below).

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Honour-Religions-Deceptions-Love-ebook/dp/B00VC40DSM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431239210&sr=1-1&keywords=love+vs+honour

Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

Two Religions. Two Deceptions. One Love.

When Johnny meets and falls in love with Sabina, their bond proves stronger than a teenage holiday fling.

Fearing the disapproval of their strict Christian and Islamic families, they undertake an elaborate deception to continue seeing one another. Johnny pretends to convert to Islam whilst Sabina pretends to covert to Christianity to appease their parents. 

But how long can this deception last before it unravels?

Love vs Honour is released on the 31st May on Kindle.

Print copies will be available from the 7th of June.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment