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Posted September 30, 2013
Dystopian Fans Will Love It!
When author Roland Hughes asked if I'd be interested in reviewing "John Smith" I had no idea what I was in for. The title was intriguing and the blurb hooked me even more, so I started reading. I only put it down once to scan through the pages to look at the story format and structure.
When reporter Susan Krowley is assigned to interview John Smith, one of the last known survivors of the Microsoft Wars, she discovered a history that could only have been told in the format Hughes selected to present in this imaginative and intriguing dystopian story. The entire novel is an interview between Krowley and Smith.
While Krowley wants to document a history of what happened during the rumored Microsoft Wars, Smith wants to impart an important idea and drives the point home with pages of historical back story that span centuries. His point is that if not known or understood, history will repeat itself, over and over.
This novel is not for everyone. Readers who absolutely cannot stand the "All Tell but No Show" style of prose, might want to steer clear. However, for those who can look beyond and into an alternate future based on some history and today's reality, this story is guaranteed to grab you. You'll want to hold on for the entire ride.
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Posted June 30, 2014
-So much gets lost over time,- John Smith states in author Roland Hughes’ John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars. -So many people think things are such common knowledge that they do not need to be written down. Everything needs to be written down.-
What Hughes has written down in this fictional work is a colorful and engaging futuristic dystopian tale that also doubles as an allegorical reflection upon, chiding of, and metaphorical roadmap for modern society.
The story unfolds as an interview. Susan Krowley is a reporter who has been assigned to write about Smith, an intelligent, opinionated and hardened survivor of great societal upheaval. The book is done in a sort of double flashback style; Krowley informs readers through the book’s introduction that the text is simply the recounting of Smith’s interview. The story progresses as exactly that; it’s a look at the ancient past by someone in her recent past.
This unusual method of telling a sci-fi fantasy tale works, allowing Smith’s ruminations to serve as exposition to the reader while addressing Krowley’s follow-up questions. Such a device runs the risk of seeming cheap; Hughes avoids that problem with the Socratic dialogue method Smith employs to spin his yarn of historic fact and theory - and it’s all backed up by his collection of such arcane data storage devices as DVDs and books. Smith lives in a future where a physically perverted Earth now has twelve continents and a drastically reduced population due to a polar shift. There are pockets of irradiated lands; ‘dead zones’ afflicted with a man-made disease. There is a mysterious doomsday device orbiting above a nascent global society, a people just starting towards re-modernization yet continuing to carry many of the flaws that brought the planet to its present state.
Despite the ominous backdrop of the book details emerge that make John Smith charming. At one point the reporter complains to Smith that she doesn't dare enter a radiation-steeped "forbidden region". It is an oft- used trope: the dreaded ‘forbidden zone’. True to the trope, real danger lurks there, but Hughes additionally turns the cliché on its head. Krowley considers the practical concern that, should she enter such a region, she might lose her job.
There are topical references aplenty that readers will relate to and hidden nods to other fantasy works. Fans of Star Trek, Jules Verne, or Arthurian legend get literary winks in their direction. As a document examining the loss of mankind’s knowledge and history John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars paints a philosophical picture of our present from the viewpoint of a future survivor of modernity. It offers brain fuel for those readers who simply want to be entertained by an alternative-history story as well as for those who are interested in taking a more philosophical glimpse into our “future” via a critique of our "now”.
Posted March 6, 2014
Interesting take on history
*Book source ~ A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the author.
Susan Krowley is a reporter in the town of Fieldspring (population approx. 5,500) and she goes out in search of a story. Two days on horseback bring her to 79-yr-old John Smith, the last known survivor of the Microsoft Wars. She asks him what seems a fairly straight forward question: “Can you tell us why they were called the Microsoft Wars and were there really more than one?” John’s answer? “You don’t have any frame of reference to ask that question.” And thus begins a long and detailed explanation going back to 20,200 B.C.
Written in interview form between Susan and John there is no simple explanation John can give to Susan since she has no frame of reference. After the polar shift and subsequent apocalypse where the majority of the population and human knowledge was lost Susan’s question, while seemingly simple, is actually extremely complex. At first I had no idea what the Ice Age in 20,200 B.C. had to do with a modern war, but it slowly came together with John’s explanations. The information is diverse and interesting and the journey to the answer kept the plot flowing inexorably to the end. Oh, and the very end? It came as a surprise, but really it shouldn't have. Overall, a fascinating read.
Posted December 19, 2013
Once you read the description of this novel it’s impossible not to pick it up immediately. The Mayans knew about the end of the world because they survived it before? And that puzzle made of pieces we can find in classic science-fiction writing and TV shows sounds way too intriguing. Oh, and the Microsoft Wars… let’s not forget about the Microsoft Wars. What can they possibly be? This being my initial reaction, you can imagine that when I started reading “John Smith – Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars” my expectations were pretty high. I finished the book half an hour ago, and I can say that, overall, my expectations were met.
At first, it might seem just another dystopian novel about a bunch of survivors who are trying to rebuild their society. In truth, it is much more than that. We meet Susan Krowley, a reporter for The Times, who was sent to interview John Smith, thought to be the last survivor of the Microsoft Wars. Smith lives in a house he built all by himself above the bunker where he and his grandfather took refuge right before the world as we know it ended on November 13, 2013. The action takes place 70 years after the tragic event, which didn’t only almost destroy the planet, but also destroyed its history. Being part of the newest generation, Susan has no idea what the Earth was like before the Microsoft Wars. This is why Smith takes it upon himself to provide her with a frame of reference before he tells her what she wants to know.
Roland Hughes managed to create an impressive history of the world by combining real, well-known facts with science-fiction details. Sometimes, you might find yourself so engrossed in the story, that you must stop and think which aspects are real and possible, and which are pure fiction. The fact that everything began with Atlantis was no surprise, but the way things evolved was really unexpected. The author developed an original theory about how the Atlanteans discovered a method of surviving thousands of years, thus getting to influence the new people that repopulated Earth after each end of a cycle. And this is just one of the many ideas that turn this book into such an exciting and thought-provoking read.
However, there were some things that made it impossible for me to read it faster. No matter how surprising everything John Smith described was, I couldn’t read more than a couple of pages at a time. From beginning to end, the novel is structured as an interview. Susan asks the questions, and Smith gives her an entire course in history, geography, technology, and so on, trying to make her understand how it all started and why it ended with the Microsoft Wars. At first, this interview-like structure was ok, but it soon got very tiring. I found it a bit limiting, especially because there’s no room for “show” when the structure itself requires “tell”. And reading pages after pages of “telling” can take away the joy and excitement. I understand that the main focus was to invite the readers to consider the ideas presented and the reasons why humans evolve only to destroy everything they have built, but a bit of action wouldn’t have hurt.
Aside from that, I truly enjoyed “John Smith – Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars”, and I can easily say it’s one of the most original novels I’ve read lately. I would recommend it to those who love science-fiction and speculative stories about Atlantis, the beginning of the world and, of course, the end of it.
Posted December 3, 2013
John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars
When I started reading John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars I had a really, really vague idea about what I’ll find in this book. John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars is a post-apocalyptic novel, but the style chosen by the author makes it different from any other similar books that I’ve read. The story is told as an interview, the frame being a new world, built over the ruins of the world we know today. The entire history of the past and of the moments before and after the ending of the world as we know it today is told by John Smith, the last survivor of the Microsoft Wars. The author starts from the present global situation, covering a wide palette of domains, only to return in the past, at the mysteries of Atlantis and the fate of her inhabitants, with an eye also on the influence they had over many civilizations during the time. Matter-of-fact, the most important aspects of humanity in the last thousands of years are brought into focus, and the post-apocalyptic genre starts to blend with the fantasy, thriller and conspiratorial genres. The author’s ability to make you believe what you read it was really interesting. Starting with the real aspects, he then passes on to some fantastic things in such a subtle way that you don’t even feel the change and the information that gets to you later seems to be as truthfully as the pieces from the beginning, which are undoubtedly true.
Another important aspect is the fact that unlike other books based on post-apocalyptic worlds, in John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars, the attention is not centered on a single character which is observed during the story. Of course, in a way, you could say that John Smith and Susan Krowley are the main characters, but this is not completely true. Because their actual role is to deliver the story. The actual protagonist is a collective one, from which no figures can be identified as being more important than others. Moreover, we are not given any individual names, portraits or actions, because absolutely all the events have a pretty large group as a main character, represented by the privileged families of Atlantis and the auxiliary personnel.
One thing that annoyed me during several pages is Susan Krowley’s attitude, the woman who interviews John Smith. I understand that once the world was destroyed, the survivors were forced to practically start all over again, considering that the civilization degree and the technological development had a sudden decay. I also understand that stories tend to lose their value and their credibility during the years and also, that when you hear things that don’t correspond with the real situation of your world, you tend not to believe them. Susan Krowley lives at more than six decades after almost the whole world was destroyed. Considering the fact that the people who survived had to go back to a simple life, deprived of the advanced technology from our present and that the next generations don’t even have the memory of it, seeing it more like a myth, it’s obvious why in the beginning, Susan inclines not to believe a single word from John’s story. However, having a job like that, being a journalist, I really think she should have been more open-minded and more capable to sustain a more complex dialogue. Unfortunately, during the first half of the book, we basically get only a John Smith monologue, which is sometimes interrupted by Susan’s amazed exclamations and even more frustrating, by her accusations that he is lying, inventing everything he’s telling her. Only later, the conversation begins to look like a normal interview and Susan finally starts asking the right questions, seeing the clues, getting some of the conclusions and engaging as a real journalist should.
Although not very long, the story is not one you devour in a few hours. Because it covers countless themes, it should be read in a moderate rhythm, with breaks that allow you to “digest” what you’ve read, to give enough time to the newly discovered things to connect and take their place in the vast puzzle created by the author. Roland Hughes is not only discussing a lot of major issues of the present and of the history, but he is also overthrowing most of them, creating them new origins, offering them different faces and unexpected explications. The religion, the wars, the myths, the lost civilizations, the evolution of science, the mysteries kept until today, the whole course of the history, everything is changed in Roland Hughes’ story, everything is exposed in a different light. And the most impressing fact is that no matter how incredible those interpretations are, the author manages to deliver them in such a realistic way that you start to doubt the truths you know and start asking “What if…?”
The ending offers a huge surprise that will bring a large smile on your lips and the epilogue is just growing your amazement, creating more bonds that begin to suddenly mix together.
- The real side of the story is so well documented that the transfer to the imaginary side is unnoticeable. Furthermore, during the story, the truth and the fiction keep blending together, giving you the feeling that you are actually reading an alternative history of the world.
- The balance between the personal tone and the general one. Although most of the story covers issues about the humanity and its evolution, there are a few paragraphs that allow us to suddenly see the real John Smith. And we get to see him in both the current state, as a survivor of a lost world, finally at peace with his destiny, but also as his old self, a teenager surrounded by drama, forever marked by the fall of his entire universe, by the traumatizing solitude and by the huge responsibility that fell on his shoulders.
Susan Krowley’s attitude during the first half of the book.
Posted November 24, 2013
The Jobs vs. Gates debate may be the spark that comes to your reader’s mind when you first glance at the title of this book. However, the particular realm of computers and the digital industry does take a backseat when it comes to this well-written, yet sometimes extremely haunting tale.
Here we have an interview of mammoth proportions. A young woman sits down to speak with our lead character. This woman’s mother is the mayor of a city, and her father runs the newspaper in said city ... on Earth. Her basic job throughout the book is to question and learn from John Smith. Smith is a man who will feel a lot like the people you know and see each and every day. Smith complains, reviles, applauds, honors and debates our past - the things humanity did wrong that led to our eventual demise that took place on November 13, 2013.
This reporter goes into the interview with only one basic question on her mind: Why was it called the Microsoft Wars? But her interviewee can not simply state the answer. After all, the actual end came about from a history of errors and misjudgments occurring in everything, from religion to technology to the handling of diseases and healthcare. Therefore, John Smith takes our interviewer back through the old days to explain the foundation of humanity and how it disintegrated.
He was only eleven-years-old when Earth turned into the Earth That Was. When this ‘ending’ happened, John Smith watched the world change and split into a twelve-continent globe. He watched as the history, information and all that we were, did and said over time was completely lost. The new generation - the new Earth - would never understand who we were and what we were about because that data was now long gone. So taking on the huge weight of explanation, John Smith delves into everything from nuclear power to our War on Terror, throwing in things like Atlantis and King Arthur references as well.
This novel remains in an interview format throughout, which can become a little slow at times without a change of scenery or movement. Yet the dialogue given by John Smith will have readers nodding their heads at times, smiling at others, and most definitely feeling a bit chilled, as if they’re leading up to a Stephen King-type closure.
John Smith is a regular, average-Joe. He is not a democrat nor a republican and does not wish to express the views of any certain ‘side.’ In fact, he remains just like the rest of us at his core. We are a people who wonder if we will be annihilated. Is there a nuclear war on the horizon that’s yet to be seen? Will terror, or climate change; finance, or the basic greediness of our culture destroy us? There is no answer to that question as of yet, but this character and his views will certainly have you thinking about the many wrong avenues we’re walking down long after the book has come to an end.
Quill says: Part historical, part sci-fi, this story is definitely realistic and covers all debatable subjects when it comes to our people and our planet.
Posted November 20, 2013
John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars
Do you ever reflect about how your life could have been different if you had made different choices twenty, thirty, forty years ago? Imagine yourself sixty-eight years now in the future. What choices should you have made now on November 13, 2013? How could these affect your life and every living creature on the planet?
On November 13, 2013, the world ceased to exist as we know it. Now, sixty-eight years later, John Smith attempts to explain life before this time. He wonders if finally people are ready to understand the history that created the world of today.
Now, people live at a basic survival level without the use of our established means of transportation, communication, health care, and food service. How do you prevent the catastrophe of the past from ever happening again. In the hopes that this history will never occur again, John Smith has left his isolated world to communicate the mistakes of the past to a world that has no memory. He is the only known survivor from this event sixty-eight years ago.
John Smith was only eleven years old at this time making his age of seventy-nine the oldest known person alive today on the planet. On that fated day, John's family had built a bunker when the Microsoft Wars started where he was trapped for ten years.
Susan Krowley is a newspaper reporter for The Times which is published twice a month with the widest circulation of 5500. Reading newspapers is not a common activity and only for the few and the privileged. She is thrilled to be able to conduct this interview for her newspaper. This is her story of a lifetime interviewing John Smith who is the only known living person who actually experienced the Microsoft Wars.
The world is much different now. People travel on horseback. Schools of the past no longer exist, including colleges. Everyone learns from their home. Jobs that formerly required college degrees now are filled within families. Technology as we know it does not exist. Knowledge and books are limited. Life is at a simplistic level. Even access to books is extremely limited. Without the widespread usage of computers, telephones, and nuclear energy, life is very different.
The seven continents are now twelve. There is no way to travel or communicate from one continent to the next with an ocean covering much of the center of the United States. John was very fortunate that his bunker was in an area that had not been covered by an ocean.
"John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars" is thought provoking. The author reviews much of our technological advances throughout the years, while also demonstrating the uneven advances and questionable uses and obvious abuses with the ethical practices. This book is a warning of what could happen if we continue without a complete understanding of our societal choices.
This entire book is written as an interview between John Smith and Susan Krowley, as a question and answer format. Within the responses are the elements of action usually in a novel. This is definitely a different perspective of a novel and the message within the story.
Who is the intended audience? Everyone who inhabits this planet. The relevance of this novel is a perfect example of cause and effect and even goes beyond that concept. This is required reading for everyone.
Posted October 25, 2013
John Smith is the last known survivor of the Microsoft Wars, which are not directly related to the Microsoft company we all know today. This book really makes you think about the future, but also makes you re-examine what we know of the past, for example, is Atlantis really a myth, or is it simply spoken history that has been distorted by time.
The story begins with a young reporter interviewing a man who lives in the bunker, which allowed him to survive the Microsoft Wars. One of the first things said to this young woman is that she has no frame of reference to ask any questions of the Microsoft Wars. This leads into a discussion of many things including nuclear power and subsequently, warfare. Religion is explained to Susan Krowley, the reporter, as well as many other things that no longer exist. She experiences a computer and telescope, first hand and becomes intrigued at the International Space Station.
Roland Hughes spins a very diverse tale, which makes you think about the world around you in a new way. You will find yourself questioning just how many times humans have began what he calls a cycle. Our history shows proof of things like aqueducts in history, and then they vanished only to be re-invented decades later. Hughes suggests that this is more common than we realize, the point is driven home by many small things that we no longer know who created. Hughes points out many times how history is lost through the character of John Smith. Smith has spent most of his life in a bunker surrounded by knowledge, which is practically useless. The technology to read many of the devices is gone and the books are slowly being destroyed by time. Other factors can destroy said books much faster, such as a fire. Stone is portrayed as the best way to retain knowledge, but even then, it can be rendered useless as it has been in the Pyramids in Egypt due to the languages used being erased from the Earth.
This is a publication that makes you think, it is a very enjoyable read for those that enjoy science fiction and tales of things that may just be true. As I began the book I thought I would find the interview style annoying to read, but I was sucked in within a few pages. There are points in the story that are slow to progress while John Smith repeats a history lesson, but this is needed for those that may not know it. My favorite part of the book is one of the last statements in which John Smith once again points out the difference between a reporter and journalist by telling Susan Krowley “A journalist would have asked who my grandfather was, where he came from and why he was so proud of his bloodline”. It is one line that tells you the story is just a myth, however as John Smith says many times “Myth that became legend that became reality.” just because it is a myth now does not mean it will never be reality.
Posted October 14, 2013
This is a dystopian novel about life after a pair of worldwide catastrophes, one of which was man-made.
Near-future Earth now has 12 continents. America is gone. The vast majority of Earth's population has perished, along with a similar percentage of human knowledge. If a machine stops working, for any reason, it is not used any longer. That is because no one alive knows how to fix the machines, along with having no facilities to make new parts to fix those machines. As far as those still alive are concerned, recorded history began about 60 years previously.
Susan Krowley, a reporter for The Times (printed twice a month, with a circulation of 5,500), interviews Smith to ask about the Microsoft Wars. Smith feels that she does not have the right frame of reference; it's like Susan was asking to read the last chapter of a mystery novel without reading the rest of the novel. Smith starts by spending a lot of time talking about Atlantis.
It was a very advanced society, the superpower of its day. The elite lived in complete luxury, while lower-class workers kept everything working. As the centuries went on, it became necessary to leave Atlantis before it was destroyed (nuclear explosion?). They took to the water in city-sized submarines (when Smith mentions computers, submarines or the Internet, Susan has no idea what he is talking about). They had mastered the science of human cloning, so a person could live for thousands of years. Their overall influence on very early humanity was huge.
More recently, as the world fell apart, Smith's family built a shelter out of a bank vault. His parents died before they could join him in the shelter, so Smith and his grandfather used it. Grandpa did not survive (there was no possibility of going outside to bury him), so Smith spent his puberty years alone in the shelter with a dead body. His shelter contains racks and racks of DVDs, filled with human knowledge. When his computer stops working, all those DVDs will become worthless, as there will be no way to read them. At the end of the book, Smith finally tells Susan all about the Microsoft Wars (no, they did not try to take over the world).
This may be rather dry reading, because it is all in interview format, but don't let that be an obstacle. This book is very interesting and well-done, it's plausible, it's a bit spooky, and it is highly recommended.
Posted September 12, 2013
John Smith- Last Known Survivor of The Microsoft
This story was an amazing read. It was nothing what I had expected it to be. About computers or about Microsoft itself.
Boy was I wrong.
Starts off with an reporter of the "Times" named Susan Krowley and she is referred in the book as SK. She went to find answers of the Microsoft wars, I am sure you are saying what war? I said the same thing in my head. It had me intrigued to continue reading on. This will peek your interest whether you know it or not.
The book reads as an interview between SK and JS (John Smith). What really had me blown away was the time frame. The world was in the future, it was 68 yrs into the future, saying that the world as we know it ended in November 13, 2013. I had to continue reading to know, what had happened. As JS being the one of last known survivors of the war that man kind had brought upon itself to self destruct the world we know today. Example without giving too much away. We currently have 7 continents, well after 9/13/13 war, the yrs has gone by and we winding up with 12 continents. We no longer have the USA as whole, millions had died to viruses, of all sorts, some US states are underwater. Go figure we have more continents and states with names that are not the same as we know it today.
People living in the new world are future babies that had no idea of the past. The interview between them is very interesting and I myself learned a few things I wasn't aware of. Even Susan is blown away at some of the stories he tells her, but she seek him out for the truth, so the truth is what he told her.
It has a great storyline that makes you wonder can this happen, truly? Can we honestly do what he tells Susan in his interview. I was amazing at some of the history he told her, ranging from all time era's. I laughed when she had no idea what a computer was, or a microwave. It makes you think about how one with no knowledge of the past can truly affect the future. Microsoft Wars is a great read, a good page turner. Once I started it I had to finish it. Roland Hughes has a great story that will have you thinking and guessing about the facts and fiction stories that are told. Some things I could believe some are just myths to some, but I will leave that up to you. I gave enough information, but there is so much, much more I am leaving out.
This is a must read.
I look forward to more of his stories, once you start you won't put it down. I know I will be wondering what will happen 9/13/13.
Five Stars ***** by Ana Torres
Posted September 12, 2013
John Smith: The last known survivor of the Microsoft Wars by Roland Hughes is not your typical post-apocalyptic piece of fiction but also a well written piece of philosophy. There are no AI programs, killer robots, zombies, mutants, alien invasions or even nuclear war. It is a quick reading book that teaches use lessons of how that current events, human greed and not paying attention to our past can be the downfall of civilization. The story follows John Smith as Susan Krowley interviews him, about the Mixcrosoft Wars, after his bunker is discovered. At times you might not fully grasp what is being conveyed in the answers that Mr. Smith gives but as you read it will become more clear urging you to read on to discover what other lesson are to be learned in the pages of this book. As you read on you will also find yourself questioning some of the things you have always taken at face value in today’s society.
Mr. Hughes' book reminds me of reading Plato's books Phaedo and Meno. When you first start it is not what you are expecting and you kind of question why you are reading it. Just like those books once you do read a few pages you realize that you are getting much more out of the page than you though possible. Just as Plato sometimes confused his students before they would gleam the lessons he was teaching them, John Smith would some times confuse Susan Krowley with the answers to her questions.
One of my favorite aspects of the book how it ties in what many of us just consider totally made up fiction and points out how that many of them were based on some kernel of truth. One example of this is when John Smith mentions how that the submarine in the book 20,000 leagues under the Sea is based on stories of submarines that the people of Atlantis built thousand of years earlier.
I would recommend to anyone to enjoys philosophy, history, fiction or just studying human nature. No matter which one of these genres you prefer there are valuable nuggets that you will be able to gleam from this book.
Posted July 23, 2013
Microsoft Wars is a fun book set in the future and done in the perspective of a journalist interviewing one person, a survivor named John Smith. The entire book is the interview and, although one might think that it would drag, it actually is interesting enough to keep the reader involved and reading until the last page.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 27, 2013
Intriguing style of writing. Microsoft Wars is written from the point of view of a reporter interviewing an individual who is supposed to be the last known survivor from a war or series of wars that involved Microsoft. The book is set in the future - although I certainly hope the future painted in this book is not one that we follow after.
I was very entertained as this fictional "history" unfolded. The story is not overly complicated but still done in a way that draws a reader into the setting. Definitely worth five stars in my opinion.
Posted June 27, 2013
Very interesting style of book. It was a little confusing at first, which is why I gave it four stars. Once you start getting into it, however, Mr. Hughes really starts weaving an entertaining and intricate story done in a way that I haven't seen before in any other book that I've read. The entire book is written as an interview between a reporter named Susan Krowley and the last survivor of the fictional Microsoft Wars, John Smith. Susan Krowley is on a mission to gather this history of the wars from a less than forthcoming
interviewee. John Smith does give Susan information and answers, but not always in a way that Susan wanted. I really enjoyed the interaction between the two characters as John was basically looking down at the reporter throughout the book. In all, this book was fascinating and worth a read.