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on 4 September 2013
I recently read Smythe's The Machine and thought it was so brilliant that I immediately wanted to read everything else he's ever written. This has the same intriguing intelligence about it, and a wonderful originality combined with fluent writing but doesn't have the technical mastery or emotional grip of the latest book.

Set in a world a few years in our future (9/11 was 20 years ago), this has a gripping set-up: one day, out of the blue, a burst of static is heard around the world and then a voice speaks. Is it god, and, if so, whose? Aliens? Technology?

The book is written as a series of short revolving testimonies from a range of characters from out of work Russians, to an MP, to the Chief of Staff at the White House. Not all of them are interesting, and the voices are mostly the same: everyone speaks with an educated, English cadence - even the Americans.

This isn't a book to read if you like to have all your ends tied up, as the narrative doesn't offer any answers to what happened. What is does do with frightening intensity is show how fragile our conceptions of culture and civilisation are, and how quickly our world can spiral out of control.

The constantly shifting narrators means that I never felt emotionally attached to any of the characters, and this has none of the atmosphere of The Machine which makes that book so compelling.

So this is intelligent, probing and original - but the good news is that Smythe's got even better since. If you haven't read The Machine I strongly recommend it.
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on 5 December 2013
I'm only half way through this book but I choose to write the review now before the ending inevitably disappoints me, since the build up has been so epic.

Set in the not so distant future, the whole world hears what can only be the voice of God saying "My Children... do not be afraid..." And of course rather than heeding His word everyone freaks the hell out. It's a great idea and different reactions of individuals around the world, especially the governments, are probably how it would play out if we were to hear this voice tomorrow. Giving testimonies from the different perspectives is a good touch, however I must agree that there could have been more character development and clear definition between the narrators, since there is little difference in the prose of an African who has recently learned English and an educated Indian doctor.

This is an apocalyptic novel, so I'm guessing there's no way it can end neatly. I would love for the voice to be explained in the end, however I think the story really relates to how people behave when they are in a perplexing situation, rather than the existence or non-existence of God.

Well worth reading.
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on 26 February 2016
A very good story. It is slow and a bit annoying at first with the way it is written in the style of news from different places. It does just fade out towards the end too.
It's a difficult book to review without giving anything away about story or style.
I do recommend it to those that want something a bit different and new. It does build up well, it gets better and better but, intentionally so, it fizzles out. That is not a huge problem as you will see if you buy this book, which I think you should.
Well worth the few pounds it costs to buy.
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on 3 January 2017
Having read and enjoyed The Explorer and The Echo I was expecting a similar style but this differed. Reminded me of World War Z but with less of the satire. Was it the voice of a supreme being or was there a scientific process? And why did some hear nothing? Whatever caused the message this novel explores how individuals deal with the fallout.

Ray Smillie
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on 8 April 2014
I started this book and I finished this book. It's already been said but I will repeat, if you did not like World War Z you will not like this. The book, set in the near future, is a series of accounts (testimonies) from people around the world that hear something. This leads to a chain of events that cause religious conflict, war, evacuations, disease and death. Through this series of accounts Smythe somehow weaves it all together. It gave an interesting global perspective on the breakdown of society and an underlying sense of desperation from your perspective as a witness to the accounts. There are some some lead characters that give just enough to the plot to keep the interest going as events hop around the world. For me it did finish without being rushed or philosophical and it needed that as there is, due to the account style, a lack of detail in the narrative.

Some of the accounts were long in certain places and became boring and some accounts that drifted through the book just ended up being irrelevant which was is why I have given 4 stars.
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on 5 December 2016
If, like me, you prefer your science-fiction to be a metaphysical head-messing rather than technological fetish, then this is a must read. An engrossing, original end of the world style plot, about what happens when people all across the world apparently hear the word of God. Or not, depending on your viewpoint.
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on 14 December 2013
I like this story, it certainly filled by requirement of quirky, however I felt that there could have been a real explanation for the voice being heard by most but not everyone.
The story is about the nature of man, and mankind's need to believe in Something.
I was waiting to find that it was all a broadcast game play engineered by one of the serial gamers, and that the person (persons) responsible were unaware of what they had done.
An interesting idea and one that made me think.
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on 5 March 2013
As a debut novel, with an original idea, and a pretty original format for presenting the story, then it is good. I was initially intrigued by the voice out of nowhere saying "My children, do not be afraid", which is what made me decide to read it in the first place. The story is told in the voices of 26 diverse characters, from their point of view, in small snapshot segments. This gives it originality and allows the author to show many facets of human thinking, behaviour and character progression in a worldwide crisis. It makes you think. It makes you keep turning the pages, because you want to know who/how/why. But in the end, for me, there were a few too many loose ends. Maybe that was the point, to make you think a bit more, but I found it a little unsatisfying. Others may (and from other reviews do) disagree and that is their prerogative. For me, that mild un-satisfaction made it a three star not a four.
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on 3 July 2014
Overall I liked "The Testimony". It got me thinking.
There were some parts I found a bit too repetitive and I could never really connect with the characters.
I would have really liked more of a conclusion, as this it only hinted and may explain some of the phenomena. Maybe a spin-off book without the POV writing would work.
I also found it a bit too predictable when
[Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler]

... most of the characters meet towards the end and 2 become an instant item. Well, needs must, got to re-populate, eh?
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on 12 November 2013
I am drawn to apocalyptic, the world ends type books, so was keen to try this book. The diary style account is a different slant on presenting the story which I enjoyed, as it offers different views of the same story.
The story starts quickly and had me hooked straight away. It covers both side of the 'is there a God?' Question and how people react. Is it a bit far fetched? Possibly. But isn't that what fiction is all about?
Other reviews mentioned the ending and how they were disappointed in it, but if you consider that it is written in diary format, then life does just go on, and this is represented in the book.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book and would recommend you give it a whirl.
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