• James Hewlett

Pulse - book review

I am back baybeeee! I told you I wasn’t going to be gone forever.

I’ve been super busy lately with all sorts of stuff but if you haven’t heard already I now have three podcasts on the go; Lonely Boiz Meets World will be coming back soon to finish up season one and move into the next season after an extended hiatus, I recently wrapped up the first season of Invincipod with my friend Ralph covering the show Invincible on Prime Video and we’re just starting a new show covering everything live action in the galaxy far, far away aptly titled Live Action Star Wars.

Go subscribe to all three wherever you listen to podcasts and on YouTube!

That’s not what I’m back here to write about today though, I’m here to review a book I recently read!

Pulse by B.A. Bellec isn’t scheduled for release until December of this year but I was lucky enough to get an advance review copy.

Pulse is a near-future science fiction horror story loaded with pop culture and present day analogies. It is mostly set in and around New York 2040 which has become even more of the beating heart of America after the west coast was rendered obsolete by mass wildfires some ten to fifteen years earlier.

The first part of this sophomore novel introduces us to a wide ensemble cast of very diverse characters. We have out of work clowns, rebellious teens, under-appreciated programmers, creepy and nefarious ‘men in black’, weathered cops and tech billionaires just to name a few. I found each of their perspectives and stories different enough and each interesting but we meet them all at such a breakneck pace I did struggle to remember who exactly was who when we do get back to them later on. Until I had read a few chapters of each that is, then they all became clear and distinct from one another.

That first third or so of the story is laying the groundwork for each of these converging mysteries and they all seem centred around the mega conglomerate ‘Pulse’ and the festival they are hosting imminently.

The description of Pulse immediately brings together images of Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon with all the positives and negatives that go with them. This isn’t a fictional world in which those companies never existed though, conveniently rolled into one for storytelling purposes. In this version of our near future those companies were hit hard when California burned and in the turmoil Pulse rose up and swallowed them all, becoming all powerful and synonymous with every aspect of day to day life.

The company are so powerful they not only have their fingers all over at least the American political landscape but in the food chain too. Love them or hate them, you cannot escape Pulse.

The main thrust of the novel is centred around ‘PulseFest’ an epic music festival that would make Woodstock, Burning Man and Glastonbury all green with envy. The descriptions of the free party, touted as an appreciation festival from the mega-corp to its loyal users, is being hosted just outside New York City and screams of FyreFest from our real world recent history.

And while that tropical island debacle was an unmitigated disaster the death toll was at least very low if anything at all.

Without going into too much detail, the same cannot be said here.

While the events of PulseFest itself take place just over hallways through the book it is the narrative focal point and the aftermath is just as intriguing as the build up. I was wondering how everything was going to get wrapped up with my rapidly dwindling page count and while this story does have a conclusion it is left open for a direct sequel in the future.

I enjoyed Pulse. It went in a direction I was not expecting and that was a pleasant surprise. With the reliance on present day pop culture references I was expecting something a sci-fi adventure akin to Ready Player One, with our modern day being the throwback time period instead of the 1980’s. What I ended up reading felt a lot closer to a David Cronenberg sci-if horror, ironically, from the 80’s.

Before the parasites in the water started turning people into monsters I was beginning to feel like the use of modern analogies such as battle royale video games and even COVID-19 would quickly date this novel and I chocked it up to a relatively new author still finding their feet.

By the end of the book though the message and statement on consumerism felt apparent enough without being overbearing or detracting from a pulpy, and sometimes spooky, good time.

I would recommend this book to fans of films like Alien, for the creeping dread and dark confined spaces, 28 Days/Weeks Later, for the way the story ramps up and gets way more intense as it progresses, the video game The Last Of Us, for the monster horror and even X-Men comic books, for the diverse ensemble cast each bringing a different element to the story.

Pulse by B.A. Bellec is due out in December 2021.


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