Cipher review by: Mandy Tyra

Cipher is Keane’s 2nd super scary customized tale for his All Tied Up With String collection and it’s allll about the mad love for the video game ~ VR style ~ a virtual in your face/out-of-body experience.

And next up for the Total Annihilation catered mistreatment is another long time personal mate of his named Jamie Stow. Yea, he really puts him ‘threw’ the gamut.

Ya know, I do believe our Mr. Keane is getting quite the therapeutic benefit from this rather personal approach/execution.                                                                                                 Hate to see how he’d, uhhhh…transcribe his enemies ~ EEECK shudders.                            Just kidding, I’D SO LOVE THAT!!

Very charming ~ on the level ~ and frank little intro, yes, gaming is very popular, more so now than ever and I just love how Stuart unabashedly admits to his own profound gamer geekdom. That’s so awesome! Both my sons are voracious little gamers. I wasn’t bit by the bug as an adult but I do understand it’s appeal. It’s all just too damn complex and interactive for me though. Give me old school Mario or Zelda…oh yeaaa, I blazingly 1-up soared through those…collecting princesses, swords, and squirrel suits.                       “Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!”. That was riveting pulse pounding ‘the right stuff’ gaming right there!

Cipher clocks in at about 30 pages:

“Computer games are amazing. You never know where you’re going to travel to or what you’re going to find and feel playing them. Each one is different, and I just love the joy of the story at the beginning, middle, and end.” ~ Jamie Stow ~ final<<glitching//lagging>> fantasy words of…

Jamie is a hardcore, no holds barred, obsessive/compulsive type of gamer. Lives and breathes for his video games, this story even up at a hospital, Jamie having suffered a….a game related incident. With a doctor’s warning to ‘take it easy’, he gets home to a gamers delight delivery, something he’s been waiting ages for. The newest state of the art cutting edge virtual reality headgear game-set called Cipher and being the proud and devout beta gamer that he is, he is super stoked to be one of the first lucky ones to check it out. His covert objective is just to play around looking for any kinks, ginks, or bugs.                       He’s game, aaaalways brings his A game.                                                                                                 With no instructions or game guide included, he just dives in blind.                                      Take it easy ~ nah, it’s not in his gamer coded DNA. And he ain’t no n00b but this particular game is a ‘bit‘ more interactive than anything he has ever experienced before. It’s terrifyingly realistic, messes with his senses, and seems to have a handle on him. A real…rough touch.                                                                                                                       And then, there is Charlotte, his long time live in lady-love, she adores Jamie dearly but she’s afraid they are growing apart due to his infatuation with the video game. His consoles are the perpetual ‘other woman’ and she’s tired of competing for his affections.   And holy living hell, that ending was a, well…..gamers beware, this is a virtualistic cautionary tale!!

Prepare for unforeseen consequences ~ Half Life

OK, not saying anymore!!! I’ve set it up, Keane and Jamie will role play it out.

Video game horror is pretty rare on the page, a lot of writers have difficulty adapting their sights into description, but Keane manages it with aplomb. It’s obviously due in no small part to him being such a passionate gamer back in the day, pair that alongside his passionate (level:expert) writing skills and…aplomb ~ it’s the bomb!!                           Flawless Victory.                                                                                                                                           Ah the visuals he created of this innovative, all-encompassing, creepy as all get out game play were vivid and high def graphic. You have no problem immersing yourself in Jamie’s experience, can sense it, feel it, and….unfortunately, smell it. Actually, I should rephrase that; Stuart has NO problem ~ or issue ~ immersing you into his story. I only wish it was longer, he could do so so much more with a full-sized, whole book on par with the excellent Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. He could and should do that! Now.

And HA, I am HIS proud and devout beta. Ohhhh, the parallels, they forebode.     Thankfully, my beta gigging is not quite as combative as poor Jamie’s, especially when Stu accepts my feedback, sans backtalk.

And now for the Q&A portion of my review, where I sit down with Mr. Stow, a bottle of red, and proceed to pick his brain a little, Barbara Walters style, ya know, the ones with the flattering filters.

1.) How do you know the author?

Hi, Mandy. Yeah, I know Stuart from our time together at an insurance call centre. Once we got to know one another, we talked about games, movies etc. and discovered we shared many things in common.

2.) What is your first and/or favorite Keane book?                                                                            My first read was The Customer Is Always…, his debut novella. It’s based in a call centre, and I believe it was inspired by from his time in that environment. It was good to see so many similarities between the page and the actual setting itself, and having worked in it, I connected with the story immediately. I’ve read more books since, and my favourites to this day are Grin and Cine. Both are so gruesome but yet so satisfying when it comes to the characters and the stories etc.. I do have all of Stuart’s books, I just need to get round to reading the next one.

3.) Tell me a little bit about the treasured topic you chose for Keane to utterly desecrate with little or no regard for?                                                                                                                            I love gaming; I’ve been a gamer since I was 4-5 years of age and I’ve been in touch with all the different consoles and games since then. Like movies, they take you away from reality, which is always the charm of such a hobby. My girlfriend actually brought me a VR headset for Xmas and I’m now looking forward to playing loads of new games this year. At the moment, I’m currently playing Resident Evil 7, which is a horror first person game, but I’d love to see some of Stuart’s books turned into video games. That would be awesome!

4.) Are you equal parts disturbed and delighted with your tailor-made tale?                           Yes, Stuart did justice with my story. I loved it;  I was hooked from the second I started reading and couldn’t put it down. Awesome book, and I’d love to be a victim again in any future novels. I was shocked by the ending, and I didn’t expect it but still, it was such a brilliant book. Thanks for picking me for your collection, Stuart.

Cheers to Mr. Stow for playing along and indulging my nosy inquiries. I’m sure your story gave you chills and felt oooh sooo real! And hey, uh, best of luck with your new VR setup, I’m sure you’ll…knock em dead!! 😛                                                                                              I do agree, Cine was brilliant, I feel it’s pretty underrated compared to his other well know titles, deserves more word of mouth. Aaaand I’m pretty mouthy, but all too often….and far too easily ~ tuned out.                                                                                                                                 Pfft tut tut

Up next is B Side bout that good time old time rock and roll, the kind that…soothes the soul (Oh, I’m quite sure….), starring Lorraine Sadler and is due out the end of March!                So, till then. 😉


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