Friday 31 March 2023

Beautiful Shining People by Michael Grothaus BLOG TOUR #BeautifulShiningPeople @michaelgrothaus @OrendaBooks #OutOfThisWorld #BookReview


This world is anything but ordinary, and it’s about to change forever…

It’s our world, but decades into the future…

An ordinary world, where cars drive themselves, drones glide across the sky, and robots work in burger shops. There are two superpowers and a digital Cold War, but all conflicts are safely oceans away. People get up, work, and have dinner. Everything is as it should be…

Except for seventeen-year-old John, a tech prodigy from a damaged family, who hides a deeply personal secret. But everything starts to change for him when he enters a tiny café on a cold Tokyo night. A café run by a disgraced sumo wrestler, where a peculiar dog with a spherical head lives, alongside its owner, enigmatic waitress Neotnia…

But Neotnia hides a secret of her own – a secret that will turn John’s unhappy life upside down. A secret that will take them from the neon streets of Tokyo to Hiroshima’s tragic past to the snowy mountains of Nagano.

A secret that reveals that this world is anything ordinary – and it’s about to change forever…

Beautiful Shining People by Michael Grothaus was published in paperback on 16 March 2023 by Orenda Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour.

As readers, and consumers, we find most things are put into boxes these days. We want to buy a book, we want to know the genre. We see a specific description, we want to buy it, or maybe it puts us off purchasing. 

Beautiful Shining People is a book that has so many elements, it is almost genre free, or maybe it's just so original that it should sit on its own, in its own specific box?

Set in Tokyo, a few decades from now, this is a beautifully written, lyrical literary novel that moved me beyond words. There's history and culture, there's up to the minute technology, there's war and there's love. There's deepfake, lies and mistrust. Most of all though, there are people. These characters are so much larger than the setting or the plot, although both of them are magnificent too. The way the author has created this world and the characters that inhabit it is just wonderful, no reader could fail to cheer these guys on. 

John is a seventeen-year-old student from the US. He's alone in Tokyo having agreed to sell his quantum code to Sony. He's going to make a lot of money, and he knows that this will change his life, and that of his mother too. John is a solitary, complex young man. He doesn't have friends to share his excitement with. He carries his own burden, both physically and also the legacy passed down to him by his parents. 

As he wanders the Tokyo streets, passing the robots, the driverless cars and the drones, he stumbles across a small cafe. The information bot had told him that nowhere was open, but this place seems to be serving.  Who John finds there will change the course of his life, his beliefs.  Goeido, a disgraced sumo wrestler; Inu, a very strange looking dog and Neotnia, a beautiful waitress who John finds beguiling. 

This is not a short novel, and it's incredibly multi layered. Detailing recent technological breakthroughs, wars between the US and China. It also looks at humanity and love and as John and Neotnia gradually get to know each other, it becomes a beautiful and exquisitely told story of kindness, compassion, sadness and secrets. 

John and Neotnia both have their own secrets and it is when John discovers the truth about Neotnia, the novel alters. It becomes a discovery, for the characters and for the reader. The author reveals so much more about the characters, and it is often heartbreaking and challenging to read, especially as you've invested so much into them. 

The inclusion of ancient Japanese culture and history, along with more recent devastations such as Hiroshima gives this novel such grounding. Amongst the new technology in the vibrant, busy city, we discover shrines and customs that are older than we can imagine. This mixture of history and up to date modernity is stunning and adds such depth.

Speculative but not science fiction, in my view. A love story, but not a romance. Beautiful Shining People is a book made for discovering, packed with characters who are so well formed, with a story that will touch the hardest of hearts. Highly recommended. 

Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist and author of non-fiction. 

His writing has appeared in Fast Company, VICE, Guardian, Litro Magazine, Irish Times, Screen, Quartz and others. 
His debut novel, Epiphany Jones, a story about sex trafficking among the Hollywood elite, was longlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger and named one of the 25 ‘Most Irresistible Hollywood Novels’ by Entertainment Weekly. 
His first non-fiction book, Trust No One: Inside the World of Deepfakes was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2021. 
The book examines the human impact that artificially generated video will have on individuals and society in the years to come. 

Michael is American, currently living in London.

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