Oct 29, 2020


Book Review - Binary: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol V (by T.E. Mark)

Title: Binary: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark
Series: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark (Volume #5)
Author: T.E. Mark
Genre: Science Fiction, Techno-Thriller, Anthologies
Publisher: Paragon Independent Publishers
Release Date: August 15th, 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 333

"A cyber anarchist will attempt to use a genetically modified boy, who can control computers with his mind, to turn the tables on the spy agencies and politicians, denying them their privacy rights. BINARY

What is real or merely the appearance of reality is explored in this mind-bending, thriller with a gifted young programmer, on the run from everyone, designing adult-themed, virtual playgrounds for wealthy executives. NET 2.3

In this explosive Sci-Fi Adventure, Agent Charli-5 must find her way back to World Security, the secret organisation governing all new technologies, to uncover why she was sent to remove (assassinate) the wrong person at Escape Inc. - a company experimenting with teleportation. CHARLI 5"


Binary: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol V
(click to read an excerpt on Amazon)


- Review -
What Made Me Read It
I was sent a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The author describes the series as "stories [that] examine the human condition in various contexts; in each story, a question is posited, an exploration made and conclusions are reached"; the novelettes for this latest installment play with the potentials and dangers of new technologies when placed in the wrong hands at the wrong time. After reading and thoroughly enjoying the previous anthologies - "Dreams Inc.", "Net 2.3" and "There Was A Silence" - this next volume was a must.

The Good
"Binary" is a collection of 3 techno-thriller novelettes set in modern days, with each story exploring how newly developed technologies impact and control our lives without us being aware, how addicted and dependent of them we've become to the point where we fail to see the hidden dangers that threaten basic rights like personal privacy and freedom of choice, how information that should guide us into making conscious decisions is controlled and manipulated by others in the name of security. So even though the novelettes are set in alternate realities with technologies as yet to be developed (tin foil hat throwaway: that we know of!), the characters still share the same human flaws, dreams and hopes of today's world, making each narrative feel realistic and relatable.

Written in a screenplay format combined with a lengthier narrative structure, each novelette could easily be adapted as a full-length movie or tv show, moving from scene to scene instead of chapters and alternating between different points of view and time frames - an intentional design by the author to give us readers a cinematic experience, or as close to it as possible.

Fast-paced and thrilling, with plenty of action sequences and suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and completely unexpected and mind-bending twists and turns that you won't see coming until the very last line; but also thought-provoking moments that will make you wonder what you might have done were you in the character's position. Each plot is unique and independent so the anthology doesn't feel like a variation on a single theme, but instead explores different possibilities in diverse situations.

The main characters are 3-dimentional and realistic, even those who are more than what they appear to be, with recognizable and relatable doubts and insecurities, goals and motivations. Despite the short length typical of a novelette, each story is imaginative, evocative and with enough background details and information to gives us a strong sense of the worldbuilding and the characters.

"Charli 5" - Charli Fife is an operative for World Security, a secret organization that governs the creation and release of new technology to the world. As an agent, her mission is to remove information not yet ready to be shared and the developers responsible for it, in order to ensure world stability. But when she fails to complete her latest assignment at Escape Technology Inc. and becomes a target set for replacement, Charli begins to question everything she's believed in all her life... Rating: 4/5 - a cautionary tale about the dangers of technology that gets out of control from its creators, full of brilliant and completely unexpected twists; it's a little confusing though, there are numerous hints of information and moments shared between characters that we're only aware of since the script format doesn't leave much room for in-depth development, which is why it lost a star.

"Net 2.3" - (this novelette was originally published in 2019 in the previous anthology "NET 2.3 – The Novelettes of T. E. Mark – Vol III" and it's being reprinted after a few key revisions) Seth Coriel was a CGR (Computer Generated Realities) top designer at E-CON Inc, responsible for the development of the revolutionary Net 2.3 environment, a hyper-realistic virtual  world where corporations and governmental agencies can conduct face-to-face meetings instantaneously without loss of precious time and money. After meeting and falling for Nakamura Miyuki, a programmer from a rival Japanese company, Seth quits his job and goes freelance, selling access to his virtual world to wealthy subscribers in order to secure a future for them both. But E-CON executives Joanne Aer and Chaz Cambrel want their technology back and Seth finds himself in the middle of a West-East technology war, hiding from security agencies and corporation assassins alike... Rating 5/5 - this was my absolute favorite, full of thrilling action sequences in a virtual reality setting brimming with ancillaries and iso-plexes avatars, a mystery that will keep you guessing all the way and one hell of a plot twist I did not see coming; with a big homage to the movie Blade Runner and addressing themes of corporate competition and the dangers of virtual reality and online addition, where there are no secrets, nothing is what it seems and everything is up for grabs if you know where to look.

"Binary" - Justin Quinn is a genetically engineered subject of a failed NSA pilot program code-named "Binary", cognitively modified at birth to think in binary code and with the ability to access and control any electronic device. Now overseen by the CIC for scientific purposes, Justin is under surveillance to determine how he functions in a technological world he can't tune out. Justin has a few authority issues and just wants to be left alone but soon finds himself under the radar of a self proclaimed cyber-anarchist who wants to start a revolutionary war, while the NSA and the CIC are just as determined to get their subject back under control to use as both a tool and a weapon... Rating 4/5 - another cautionary tale, this one with a focus on today's threat to the fundamental right of personal privacy in the name of security, in a world where personal data is forcibly created, collected, analyzed, used, shared and stored from an ever-increasing number of connected devices. The main character's description of what it's like to be inside the information network is a thing of beauty and this story would work very well on screen with all the plot tension and cinematic action sequences; not so much in written format though, again, there's too much information that's only hinted at that left me wondering what was going on, and it's the reason it lost a star. (note: this novelette ends with a cliffhanger, part II will be printed in the next installment of this series: THE REALITY EXCHANGE – The Novelettes of T. E. Mark – Vol VI, to be released in Winter 2020/Spring 2021)

Final Rating

"Binary" is an anthology of 3 fast-paced techno-thriller novelettes set in modern days, written in a screenplay structure with suspenseful plot twists but also thought-provoking moments. Recommended for those who enjoy sci-fi stories based on the impact, benefits and dangers of newly developed and futuristic technologies in everyday life.

• • • •

- About the Author -
Website: mthomasmark.wordpress.com
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

"Life may be different than the way we perceive it. In many ways, it should be different.This is why I write."
T.E. Mark - Writer / Screenwriter

T. E. Mark is an Anglo-American Writer, Screenwriter and Violinist from Bath Somerset. He currently resides in San Francisco California.

Though best known for his fiction writing, he also pens articles for  DISCOVER, ET Energy and Home Power magazines, and often writes on education issues for major universities.

His full-length novels and shorter Novelettes display his thought-provoking visions of our future and blunt, often sarcastic views of our present state of affairs. His screenplays are strong and compelling and always leave you with questions.

In a recent Author Interview, Mark was asked what advice he would give to new writers? He responded:

‘Write something new. Something entirely your own. And do everything you can to avoid cliches. There’s nothing worse than cliche writing.’

Mark also reads and writes poetry – publishing a selection of his personal favourites at the website titled: The Urban Scratch Project. When asked ‘why’ during a 2018 book signing he offered this response:

Ray Bradbury

TE Mark has studied Music, Architecture and English in the United Kingdom and the United States. He’s a member of Writers International, The International Writers’ Guild and he continues to write and teach the violin and viola from his Bay Area cooperative.

(source: mthomasmark.wordpress.com)


Previous in the series: Dreams Inc.: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol II (book review)
Previous in the series: NET 2.3: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol III (book review)
Previous in the series: There Was A Silence: The Novelettes of T. E. Mark - Vol IV (book review)