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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Apocalyptic Story
The Testimony is a dystopian story which starts when everyone or nearly everyone hears a noise which sounds very like the static that a TV or radio would emit. It seems that the noise is heard inside the head rather than externally and there are various theories as to where it is coming from and what is causing it, but nothing is conclusive.

The story is told...
Published on 21 May 2012 by Brett H

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive page turner
It starts so well... All around the world people hear the sound of static, and from this static a voice says "My children..." Whose voice is it? Where is it coming from? The sound cannot be recorded, and its source cannot be identified, so what is happening? Is it the voice of God? And then there is another message: "Do not be afraid", then later, another, and the...
Published 22 months ago by Peter Lee


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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's The End of The World as we Know it..., 11 Mar 2012
By 
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Testimony (Hardcover)
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I have read a great deal post-apocalypse dystopian fiction. It seems to be becoming it's own sub-genre, but there are far fewer novels that deal with the moment of collapse itself (that don't involve zombies!). James Smythe has conceived a believable near-future, and then imagined a way to destroy it. Whilst not perfect, the result is a scary, credible and thought-provoking read. He also employs one of the boldest literary devices I have encountered for a while.

The story is told entirely using testimony. Each of the relatively short chapters is an account of the disaster, told by one of its survivors. There is no dialogue, no interaction between the characters in the book, just stories about the people they met, the people they loved, the people who have died. From the outset, you know everybody talking has survived, so one potential source of tension and excitement is lost, yet Smythe's novel delivers both thrills and emotion. I should imagine writing the novel in this way was exceptionally hard work, and the results could have been horribly stilted. Smythe manages to hold it all together, delivering a very effective piece of literature.

The novel's narrators are from all around the globe, from all walks of life, from US Chief of Staff, to a Chinese online gamer. Some voices appear more than others; there are core of six or seven narrators that form the spine of the novel, but other voices are brought in to add flavour and authenticity to the mix. This idea works well, as it allows Smythe to show different viewpoints of the same events, giving the story a global perspective (though most of the narrators are from the UK and the US).

The question at the heart of this novel is `What if God spoke to us?' All of us at once. A mysterious broadcast is heard by everyone across the globe simultaneously. The message, only a few lines long, is heard in English. It's origin and meaning are ambiguous, but there is a strong implication that it is from a sentient being, who watches over us. The fallout from this phenomenon is manifold. Is it Aliens? God? If it is God, which religion is right? Is it telling the truth? All of the characters have a theory, and so does the rest of the world. There are huge ramifications for world religion and geo-politics. Thrown into the mix are some shadowy, probably middle eastern, terrorists, and some shocking attacks against the US. From there, things fall apart.

Smythe could be accused of taking the all-too-easy route of demonising the US for being responsible for all the world's ills, but though the White House's response to events didn't totally ring true, I think the descent to Armageddon is a plausible one. Yet, as I approached the end of the novel, I still had some reservations. There seemed to be too many open ends; I could see no chance of a conclusion that wasn't farcical. I couldn't see how Smythe would tie the novel off without it being silly; he author is a cleverer man than me.

Some readers may not like the ending, but I very much did. If you don't like thrillers with ambiguous endings, you're probably not going to like `The Testimony'. Very little is resolved. The What? How? and Why? almost fade into the background, and Smythe even leaves the reader with yet another unanswered question. What if? There is a clever change in direction, from apocalypse thriller, to introspective thought-provoker. The novel becomes about what makes us human, and how we respond to tragedy. Curiously, my abiding thought at the end of `The Testimony' was the last line of the `Cat in The Hat' - `What would you do?'. This questioning conclusion gives the novel added power over the reader, making it a wholly satisfying read.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, 3 Mar 2012
By 
Alison "runninggirlcycling" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Testimony (Hardcover)
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I really enjoyed this book: a near apocalyptic set of global events challenges the beliefs and lives of everyone.

The book takes he approach of documenting first hand accounts of what happened from the perspective of a cast of 26 different characters. There are chapters but no narrator, only a collection of different voices in each chapter. Characters include a sales executive from London, a prisoner on death row in Chicago, a nun in Vatican City, the Chief of Staff from the White House, an unemployed man from Boston, a linguist from Marseilles and many others from different places and walks of life. Not every chapter includes all characters and some chapters have more emphasis on certain characters and there are connections between some of them at certain points. It's an unusual approach, but I liked the feeling of authenticity.

The central theme of the book is belief in God. The world hears a "broadcast" of static followed by the words "My children. Do not be afraid". Is it God, aliens, a government conspiracy, terrorism or something else? Can it be explained by science, is there a rational explanation for it?

It is not a book that gives answers but it is thought provoking and one that I really looked forward to reading each day. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy apocalyptic fiction and those that like to question the meaning of life, religion, faith and the presence of a higher being.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written book - Disaster Genre, 26 Feb 2012
By 
A John (Uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Testimony (Hardcover)
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What would happen if everyone on the planet suddenly heard static, followed by a voice? James Smythe's book is written from the perspectives of a number of different people faced with that situation, and follows the story as people stop what they are doing, normal life stops, the churches become crammed, suicides rise, terrorists unleash bombs, followed by a nuclear strike and plague. It's very much in the "disaster" genre.

The book is very readable, and the scenarios are very well presented. The characters range from atheists to Christian Fundamentalists, from the unemployed to senior Government figures, from a Chinese professional online gamer to a doctor in India. The views expressed by these characters come across as very believable, especially when woven with a narrow group of adults and children who had been unable to hear the voice. Ultimately, it is the thread of arguments about whether such a voice would or should be accepted as the voice of God, and what that would mean for mankind, which was at the core of this book. As someone who likes a philosophical discussion, I really enjoyed this

This is a very engaging book, and one I would recommend. It's a book which takes ordinary life, and then asks why.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars dull, 8 Oct 2013
This review is from: The Testimony (Paperback)
i did hear it and was not that impressed ...a bit of a dull book it takes a long time to go somewhere not that interesting some of the characters are interesting most are not
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual style for the Win, 10 May 2013
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This review is from: The Testimony (Kindle Edition)
To begin with, The Testimony is ... thorough, shall we say. The "talking heads" style narrative feels slow to get going, but the fault for this should be laid at the feet of the blurb - it takes 25% of the book to cover the receipt of the message.

However, once it gets going, it gets going. It's a proper One-More-Chapter read. I wasn't a great fan of the surface direction the storyline took - I can't be any more specific than mumbling "personal taste, just me" - but I enjoyed it very much and will certainly be looking out more of the authors work.

One other thing, less a criticism, more an observation: this is a story which concerns itself with the individual human accounts of the events it covers, from a highup in the American Government to a professional gamer in China, and yet 2/3s of them are male.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and engrossing, 2 May 2013
By 
June Doll "June" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Testimony (Hardcover)
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I don't normally read apocalyptic fiction such as this but I was pleasantly surprised by this novel.

The novel starts with sounds which are heard simultaneously right across the world by (almost) everyone. At first the sound is like static, like a tv or radio which has not been tuned. Then words are heard - "My children do not be afraid". Who is speaking? Some people believe it is God speaking to the world - but whose God? As the voice speaks in English does this mean that it is the Christian God? If you are not a Christian what does this mean as far as your religion is concerned? The scientists and the non-believers look for a more rational explanation. Governments across the world suspect each other. Could it be terrorists? Could it even be aliens? In the absence of an answer, panic spreads across the world. Terrorist activity increases although no-one knows if this is directly related to the voice. Friction between the western world and the east intensifies and some governments respond by deploying weapons of war. The world rapidly spirals out of control. Is this the end of the world?

The story is told through the voices of twenty six people scattered throughout the world. Some we hear of only occasionally, others appear again and again. At first I found the lack of a central character disconcerting but after a while you get to know most of the characters and you develop an empathy with them. The author succeeds in developing the distinct personalities of the main characters surprisingly well, given that there are so many of them.

The novel is very thought provoking and the reader will inevitably relate events in the world today with events in the not-too-distant future portrayed in the novel. The conflict between the Christian world and the Muslim world is especially relevant. The way the world spirals rapidly into war is frighteningly believable. However, I found the conclusion of the novel to be less successsful than the rest of it. The author spends the largest part of the novel successfully showing how rapidly the world can move towards possible apocalypse but then writes an ending which is too quick and too simplistic. The author raises a lot of questions which remain unanswered. I found this frustrating but with hindsight I appreciate that maybe that actually makes it more realistic. Perhaps it is best that the reader is left wondering. Sometimes there are no answers.

Overall I enjoyed the novel and I am happy to recommend it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Apocalyptic fiction with a difference, 4 Jan 2013
By 
Bakey (Suffolk, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Testimony (Kindle Edition)
Around the world people hear static followed by the words "My Children, do not be afraid", some believe this is the voice of God. It's difficult to explain what happens next without giving away spoilers so all I'll say is there's death and destruction on a major scale.

The story is told through the accounts of 26 people (not all of whom heard the voice) and starts from when the static was first heard. Considering the subject matter I found the characters and what transpired completely believable and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. As a big fan of apocalyptic fiction it lived up to my expectations which not all books in the genre have done in the past and if James Smythe's future novels are almost as good as this one then I'll be happy.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brooding and compelling, 4 Dec 2012
This review is from: The Testimony (Hardcover)
A dark, brooding novel which was difficult to put down until I'd finished it. It invites all sorts of questions about religious belief, morality and politics, for believers and non-believers alike. The psychological cameos of the participants are well-drawn and credible. The book felt a bit like something from Cormac McCarthy: every bit as well written, but more optimistic and uplifting.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful dystopian vision of the future, 17 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Testimony (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
One of the most fascinating aspects of our modern society is how secure we all are, and yet how close we are to complete chaos (various aspects of this proximity to chaos include being 'five meals from anarchy' in terms of our food production, and our dependence on technology for our lives to function).

The Testimony explores, in a brilliant way, what might happen when things do go wrong. How will we react? What role will faith play when science can't explain an event? And, crucially, how will the world's most powerful use situations like this? Will they protect the rest of us? Can they protect us?

Thought-provoking stuff, and thankfully The Testimony is well enough written to do such a weighty subject justice. We follow 26 characters, their reactions to 'The Broadcast' at the centre of the novel, but also details about their daily lives. The characters are by and large well drawn, and the whole novel has a gritty, realistic feel that is essential for something like this to work.

Enjoyable, well readable, and recommended.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping and striking debut, 17 July 2012
This review is from: The Testimony (Kindle Edition)
The Testimony is a striking debut from James Smythe. He encapsulates perfectly the sense of confusion, fear and wonder surrounding an unexplainable global event. The use of 26 narratives is a great style choice and it allows Smythe to explore the many different reactions; from religious figures who begin questioning or reaffirming their faith, to the non-believers, to those who just try to carry on like nothing out of the ordinary has happened. The gradual descent into fear and pandemonium, particularly around the Final Broadcast, is where the novel excels and, on several occasions, I found myself literally gasping out loud in surprise.

The problem, however, with so many narratives is that there some that fall through the cracks. There were times where I forgot that I'd even been introduced to a character before and some that I simply was unable to connect to. In those cases, I found myself struggling to care about their experiences and skimming - or entirely skipping - their narratives.

However, those characters you do connect to? You're in for a treat. There were about nine or ten characters in particular that I enjoyed following; the White House Chief-of-Staff who has shades of The West Wing's Josh Lyman, the sales exec tasked with caring for his daughter, and those who did not hear the Broadcast are just some of the most compelling. These are the narratives that hold the novel together and once you begin to learn about the characters, the more their voices seep through the page and come alive.

While the end was ambiguous, which I don't mind, it ended far too abruptly to be entirely satisfying, and I would have definitely liked a little more substance as I closed the book on these characters. That, along with the less compelling narratives, are really the only quibbles I have with the novel. Overall, The Testimony is a gripping insight into how quickly society crashes and fanaticism spreads when both religion and science struggle to understand something beyond their grasp.
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The Testimony
The Testimony by James Smythe (Hardcover - 26 April 2012)
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