The Malaise

The Malaise

by David Turton

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781785359026
Publisher: Cosmic Egg Books
Publication date: 12/14/2018
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.73(d)

About the Author

David Turton has completed several short stories, thirteen of which have been published or are scheduled for publication. 'The Malaise', is his debut full-length novel and he is already immersed in his next, inspired by a visit to a German concentration camp and the real-life horrors of human evil. He lives in Sunderland, UK.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Professor Mike Pilkington stepped into the RazorShower unit and allowed the water, specially mixed with all the vitamins and minerals suited to his skin type, to wash his body. It was a good job the washing and drying process only took fifteen seconds. Mike was running late.

Clean and refreshed, he dressed himself and grabbed his packed lunch from the kitchen bench. As he opened the front door he heard a loud and throaty "Ah-hem" from behind him.

"You forgetting something, Professor P?" It was Charlotte, holding their baby, Zara. They were both peering at him, two sets of large and lovely brown eyes. Mike grinned, walked over to his wife and child and gave them big, exaggerated kisses on the lips.

"My two favorite girls," he said. "Of course I didn't forget. I'll see you tonight, Charlie."

"Don't stay too late," she called after him, but Mike had left the cottage and was heading down the path, expanding his RazorBike and setting off on his three-mile trip to work.

Cycling was a refreshing way to dust off the haze after a sleep interrupted by a baby's cries, and the off-road route to Windermere University was a scenic one, untroubled by the noise and smog that used to plague his London commute. London, Mike's mind considered the word as he gazed across Lake Windermere, whose ripples were glimmering with the light of the morning sun. The shades of blue and green from the water moved delicately against the green and grey backdrops of the hills and mountains, giving the impression of a deliberate work of art. No, I don't miss London at all.

As part of his daily routine, Mike used the morning commute to organize his thoughts and prepare for the coming day. Today, he had three lectures and a seminar to deliver. The first lecture was to a group of around 200 undergraduates, studying various courses relating to digital technology, marketing and media.

His calves throbbed as he pushed his way up a steep hill. The first time he cycled the route from his house to the campus, he had to dismount halfway up, covered in sweat with burning legs, and push the bike the rest of the way. He saw two versions of his adult self. The first, the fun-loving and hard drinking London scholar who pioneered several studies and had groundbreaking papers published, receiving praise and building a brilliant reputation. He viewed this version, in his early 20s, as a romantic version, leading a life-style that could not be sustained. The first version was extremely unhealthy; with bad skin, the beginnings of a paunch and the inability to carry out even the most basic physical exercise, Mike 1.0 was a flawed genius.

The new Mike, the one who found himself effortlessly pedaling across the rolling green hills of the Lake District on a sunny day in May, was version two. At 32 he was older but healthier, with a flat stomach and muscular arms. He had a fulfilling job, a beautiful wife and a baby daughter, the most precious thing that had ever entered his life. But deep down he knew there was a payoff. He had dulled his genius. Although he was still seen as a leader in his field, his choice of a quieter life had slowed down his output. His role was now purely in the teaching of others and the occasional opportunity to give his opinion via national news broadcasts. Maybe he could have been Rick Razor, an ultra-rich entrepreneur using his talents to push the boundaries of digital technology. Maybe a family life and a dynamic career are mutually exclusive, he wondered. With another breezy blast that blew his hair right back against the top of his head, he shook away the thought. His life in the Lake District had delivered his daughter to him and this was a better reward than any work could have given him. And as he looked to his right at the shimmering lake and then to his left at the distant snow-topped peaks, he confirmed to himself that he certainly didn't miss London. He breathed in deeply; the air was cool and fragrant with nature. He could feel the moisture of the lake, the crisp and sharp oxygen-rich output of the luscious green trees and plants.

He arrived at the campus and his RazorVision glasses flashed a big 'thumbs up" in the right-hand corner of his vision. He'd beaten his average speed by 47 seconds and it was his fastest time of the month. He'd burned 278 calories in the process, too.

The campus buildings were all made of reflective glass, which gave a strange watery quality to the area, with Lake Windermere's ripples visible on some of the walls when viewed from the campus entrance. The buildings were not tall, but they had a curved appearance, looking like space-age igloos. The paths around each building were beautifully landscaped with borders of shrubs and trees. Several benches dotted the path, with students reading and using RazorVision before their classes.

He gazed at the campus with pride. Windermere University would never be Oxford or Cambridge. Most of its courses were vocational in nature and the University was outside the top 50 in the UK in all the respectable league tables. But it would be bottom of the league tables if Mike wasn't there. His presence ensured that Digital Technology Studies was the best course of its kind in the United Kingdom, something he was immensely proud of.

He pushed the "fold" button on his bike and it reduced to a carry-case for him to take into the University. Walking through the door he was greeted by the RazorCom in its mellow, female tone.

"Welcome Professor Pilkington. Please enjoy your day. Your lecture room is ready."

"Thank you," he told the invisible voice and headed to the theatre, his RazorVision reminding him that it was 8.25 a.m., 35 minutes before his lecture was due to start.

"Where would we be without technology?" he thought to himself and grinned.

CHAPTER 2

Mike found his lecture room and walked in. It was a large, circular room, the biggest lecture hall in the university. All seats were made from translucent glass, making the room feel even bigger than it was. The automatic lights illuminated the room and he was welcomed by the RazorCom voice once more.

"Project file please. Digital Sociology 117 – the History of Social Media," he told the system.

"Presentation loaded, Professor Pilkington," replied the voice.

Mike stood in the center of the room and looked at the shimmer of the holographic projection. He recalled his own University experience and the days of whiteboards, chalkboards and slide-based presentations. He had to pinch himself at times at the progression of technology. He still appreciated it. Not like many of his students who would barely remember the days without Razor's magical touch on the world. For that reason, this was a lecture Mike most enjoyed delivering. Students were wowed about the early versions of social media and the various stages of internet communications. The disparate, disconnected technologies seemed more laughable the more time passed on.

Mike looked up to see the first few dozen of his students streaming in to the seats, each one engrossed in their RazorVision glasses. This was going to be a receptive audience indeed. As the auditorium filled and his own RazorVision told him the time had passed 9.00 a.m., he looked to the back to see Simon Churchill closing the door and taking his seat.

Simon was Mike's best student. Not just out of the current crop but over his entire academic career. Although Simon's quiet, unconfident manner gave him an unassuming presence, his passion, enthusiasm and drive were awe-inspiring but even more impressive was the genuine decency and belief that his talents would make the world a better place. Simon was a year into his PhD, studying how the effect of the Western advances in technology could have an impact on aid work, charity donations and healthcare provision, and could eventually benefit the Third World. With the average life expectancy in the West over 100, the life expectancy in the Third World could be as low as 40 and was worsening. The question of how to push the wealth to the Third World had been a topic for many years. Maybe Simon, Mike's very own protégé, would be the one to crack it. Certainly, Rick Razor himself had publicly declared his intentions to fix this particular issue, although things had gone quiet on that front in the last few months.

The lecture began with rudimentary social media experiments in the 1980s: instant messaging, discussion forums and message boards. The explosion of dating sites and how they actually progressed social networking sites in the early 2000s. The use of social media by world leaders to influence public opinion and wield more power.

"Power. Power is an operative word when we talk about this form of communication. Barack Obama realized that when he became president. The power of social media can make someone a king amongst men. It can help groups of people rise. It can make institutions fall. It can bring down governments and destroy individuals. And it has. History shows us that the media aspect of social media is transient. It can change. Platforms can come and go in a short space of time. Some can dominate, plateau, change or disappear. But social? Social never changes. Social is society. A society of human beings who have been communicating since man learned to make fire and draw paintings on cavern walls."

Mike went on to discuss the Internet of Things. He enjoyed the laughter that burst across the room like a wave. The Internet of Things. That rudimentary phrase that was coined in the 2010s to describe the connectivity that was possible across devices and appliances. What began with simple exercising wristbands developed at breakneck speed to include self-ordering fridges, self-driving cars and devices that measured every element of body health to the point that an "obesity crisis" in Western countries was effectively flattened within a year. The fact that the audience found the phrase hilarious was symptomatic of how much the students took this technology for granted. They had no word for it because it existed beyond their knowledge. Much how an unscientific mind can process the logistics of a simple telephone call or the chain of events that led to television being broadcast across homes in the 20th century. You don't question how; you just know it works.

Then Mike came to the final third of his lecture, the part that the students had been waiting for. The rise of Razor Incorporated and the enigmatic founder, Rick Razor. The company that took the Internet of Things to the next level. The pioneer of the first mass market driverless car. The first company to make wearable technology a practical, useful and now essential element of daily life with RazorVision. The revelation by the company that, due to an amazing and ground-breaking deal with advertising companies who bought the resulting customer data, the technology was completely free to users. Soon all major buildings and streets were fitted with RazorCom technology, an artificial intelligence solution that interacted with people's own Razor Technologies. It could immediately identify someone within its walls and know their health, history, purpose and needs.

"And where can we go now?" he asked his awe-struck audience. "What possibly could be invented that could be useful now? What new strides could we make in technology that haven't yet been made? Well – I'll leave you with this quote that will make you think about the exponential progression of technology."

The quote, projected in the center of the room in a heavy, dramatic 3D font simply read: "Everything that can be invented has been invented."

"Ladies and gentleman, that quote is from the year 1899." The audience gasped and then giggled as Mike let it sink in. As always, Mike finished by asking for questions.

There were a few standard questions from the students that Mike expected. But then he spotted Simon Churchill's name flashing on his RazorVision. He enabled Simon's microphone via RazorCom.

"Dr. Pilkington, I was wondering what you thought of the anti-movement to Razor Incorporated. Those who think that the technology has led to a huge decrease in privacy. That the "Big Brother Nanny State" fears have steadily increased since social technology and huge corporations got their hands on it. The fact that RazorVision is capable of reading the very thoughts of users. The underground group who refuse to use the technology, as the price paid is too high. Those who recognize that the power, a word you yourself use throughout this lecture, and quite rightly, is something so dangerous in the wrong hands that they don't trust any one corporation with it. And what does anyone really know about Rick Razor? What are his intentions?"

You bastard, thought Mike. He had blindsided him in his own lecture, after everything Mike had done to help him. Simon's research must have taken a new turn.

"Well ..." said Mike, unsteadily. "That's quite a set of questions, Simon." There was more laughter and Mike sensed a small element of disdain in the room towards Simon, which pleased him. This was Mike's stage, not Simon's. He could have any manner of heated discussions in seminars or small groups but there were a lot of people here, including several academic colleagues and even some students from other Universities. This had put Mike under pressure that he could have done without.

"There are measures that Razor is under. Strict measures employed by the government. Measures that I personally sat on an advisory committee to pass. And in that respect, I can whole-heartedly say that there is nothing untoward. Advertisers get data to advertise to exactly the right people and people get exactly the right adverts. No one uses their data for anything but advertising and research. There are strict protocols in place to ensure that personal data can never get in the wrong hands. It is completely impossible. These rebel groups would rise up against oppression on a desert island if they could!"

Mike's earlier feeling that the room was in his favor was correct. The whole auditorium stood and applauded. They whooped and they grinned. He could see several live reactions on his RazorVision, with dozens of people posting on their public network how it was the best lecture they'd seen.

He looked at the back of the room and Simon's seat was empty.

CHAPTER 3

Wrapping up the lecture, Mike spotted a group of excited Malaysian students heading towards him. Feeling buoyed by his handling of Simon's questions, if slightly disturbed by the way his protégé had tried to trip him up, Mike welcomed the opportunity to bask in his popularity.

"Hello. Hope you enjoyed the lecture. What w —," he was cut short by the group all trying to talk at once.

"Have you seen it, Professor? Have you watched it yet? What do you think, Dr. P? What does it mean?"

"One at a time, please!" Mike pleaded. "What on earth are you talking about?"

He had, as he always did, turned off all notifications on RazorVision that didn't concern his lecture. He switched them on and saw that several people had shared the same video to his network.

"Okay, I think I've got it," he told the excited students and turned away to watch it without distraction.

It was the strangest thing Mike had ever seen, and in all the years of analyzing content shared over digital platforms, he had seen plenty of unfathomable, strange stuff, ranging from the downright weird to the truly sickening.

But something about this was different. The video was 94 seconds long. It started with a black screen and had a strange humming sound. The humming sounded like nothing he'd heard before. It sounded alive, like a throbbing that had begun as a hum on the video and then reverberated around his head, in his body, even through his own bloodstream.

But that wasn't even the strangest thing, and it wasn't the most disturbing thing. The visuals seemed to match what he was hearing, what he was feeling. Patterns swirled in front of his eyes. Flowers morphed into buildings, buildings morphed into cats, cats morphed into birds, birds morphed into knives, knives into eyeballs and it went on seemingly forever. The colors morphed from green and purple to yellow and red to deep red to bright pink. The screen seemed to pulse and swell as the changes occurred. The changes themselves were like liquid. Just as Mike's brain was trying to process the visual and auditory experience of the video, a high-pitched scream entered his head. He felt the scream at the base of his spine as a tingle which built and progressed up his backbone towards his head. The scream seemed to whoosh past both his ears, like a train rushing past a platform. Then it reached its peak around his brain before he felt it leaving his body with a sharp, sickening pain. Darkness followed, which made Mike feel like he was staring into an horrific abyss, a void of unlimited nothingness. The video ended.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Malaise"
by .
Copyright © 2017 David Turton.
Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Malaise 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
JuliW 12 hours ago
In 2038, technology runs nearly everything in the world -- from smart houses and self-driving cars to emails sent by thought and RazorVision VR glasses -- the modern world runs with technology invented by Rick Razor, Then one day the tech mogul barricades himself in his fortified glass tower and a strange video is released that goes viral. Soon the video has been watched billions of times....literally everyone with access to RazorVision has seen it. More than once. Then the killing starts..... Within 24 hours, there are very few people left alive. Can the survivors start over? Will they ever understand what happened? For the most part, I enjoyed this story. It some exciting and gruesome moments, plus the concept of the apocalypse coming via technology is an interesting one. Although the concept of a corporation or madman ending life on earth isn't a new plot in dystopian/science fiction, I liked the fact that in this case the weapon of mass destruction was technology itself. The survivors make for interesting characters.....the group is a rag tag bunch from nearly all walks of life. They are all thrown together to start civilization all over again from the basics, while looking for answers to what caused the destruction of modern society. Strong people in a very tough time. There were some parts of the plot I found to be a bit too easy/coincidental to be realistic....but it wasn't enough cheese to pull me out of the story entirely. The plot moved along at a nice pace with good suspense. It definitely kept my interest. The ending was a bit fast for me.....I wanted the final boss fight/altercation to be a little more in-depth. But,overall, the book was an enjoyable read for me. I love apocalyptic/dystopian stories. The Malaise is definitely worth a read! The story has me re-thinking my curiosity about VR and complex, adaptable AI software! The cover art for this book is awesome! Very eye catching. I wanted to read this story the minute I saw the cover! **I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from John Hunt Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
P-Lopez 3 days ago
The Malaise by David Turton is a gripping dystopian mystery that weaves a story about technology, human interactions, and people's reliance on that technology and creating a world before and a world after. It truly has the reader questioning if technology has helped or hurt society. When one man is granted too much power and technology takes over, the fate of the world is at play. The story focused more on the characters that survived and rebuilding a society rather than on the "zombies," which is different from the more traditional dystopian novels. I liked the characters and their storylines. The plot had me wanting to read and turn the pages faster to find out what would happen or why the event took place. The story is creepy in parts, but yet hopeful. The ending was a little too quick, but still very good and leaves it open to a possible sequel. I also love the spooky cover. Good book overall.