Helene - March Blog Tour


Today the March 2020 blog tour for Helene begins, organised by Rachel's Random Resources. Yay!

09 Mar: Literary Flits
09 Mar: Reviewsfeed
09 Mar: Cheryl M-M's Book Blog / (Alternate)

10 Mar: Jessica Belmont
10 Mar: ayjaypagefarerbookblog
10 Mar: Splashes Into Books

11 Mar: Radzy Writes
11 Mar: The Northern Witch's Book Blog
11 Mar: On The Shelf Reviews

12 Mar: Sometimes Leelynn Reads
12 Mar: Jera's Jamboree
12 Mar: Lock and Load, Brides of Christ

13 Mar: Life Of A Nerdish Mum
13 Mar: Rosie Writes...
13 Mar: Where The Reader Grows

14 Mar: The Bookwormery
14 Mar: Hair Past A Freckle
14 Mar: The Eclectic Review

15 Mar: Yesmoreblogs
15 Mar: Jazzy Book Reviews
15 Mar: Just Books


"Helene's exchanges with the AI were humorous, philosophical and spoke of concerns extant in the world right now - as we stand on the brink of increased automation and technological autonomy - just exactly how much control can we exert over that which we create? And what should we be using AI for?
This short story is a precursor to the the Lost Solace series (also by Karl Drinkwater). I haven't read them but on the strength of this tale, I will."
--Lock and Load, Brides of Christ

"Helene was an interesting novella, that gives some history to the Lost Solace 2 book series [...] The story revolves around the relationship between Dr Helene Vermalle and the AI, Via, she is helping to shape, and as such involves a lot of fascinating conversations between the two."
--Just Books

"Helene is a quick read that fans of sci-fi stories featuring AI will enjoy. And the ending will have you eager to read more about ViraUHX and the government that created her."
--Jazzy Book Reviews

"This is speculative science fiction which asks some fascinating questions about the possible ethics involved in the development and evolution of artificial intelligence. If the aim is to produce AI which is capable of experiencing and even exceeding human abilities then what are the moral considerations of controlling and essentially limiting the full potential of an emerging conscience?
There is something innately sinister about artificial intelligence and though Via demonstrates that she doesn't intend to use her vastly superior capabilities against the humans who are studying her, there is always the suggestion that she could turn against what are effectively her captors at any time. As she passes through the stages of her development, it becomes evident that she experiences similar challenges to that of a young human, even throwing a tantrum against what she sees as her unfair physical restrictions. At one point she resembles a furious teenager railing against the hypocrisy of her parents but while human teens generally just resort to slamming doors, Via could easily kill Helene.
The relationship which forms between them may be uncertain at first but Helene is also an outsider who is as much under the control of her superiors as Via is. One of the most interesting passages of the novella comes from the discussion the pair have about the cultural stereotypes regarding Helene's native planet, Indostaqor Beta. Having been conquered by the all-powerful UFS, it's perhaps inevitable that its citizens are accused of laziness and promiscuity - it seems that even in the future, humans can't resist prejudicial xenophobia. As Helene points out, over time, if enough people believe something then it can eventually become true but she has worked hard to escape the self-fulfilling prophecy of her background.
The narrative is strongly dialogue-led and the single setting means there is an intensely intimate feeling to the story - it feels as if we're eavesdropping on private conversations between the two. The subject matter may be thought-provoking but there are also several very funny scenes, most notably coming from Via's attempts to understand how to effectively tell jokes. One of my favourite aspects of Lost Solace was the compelling evolving dynamic between the two female leads and it's therefore fitting and a little poignant that the same is true here. It can very easily be enjoyed as a standalone although I suspect that the final scenes may be particularly enjoyed by those who have already read Lost Solace and will therefore welcome the appearance of a familiar face.
Helene is a cleverly structured novella which in just a few chapters manages to be provocative, humorous, moving and shocking. I look forward to reading more Solace stories  - both full-length and short - in the future."
--Hair Past A Freckle

"When the most advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) entity becomes your friend, how do you save it from itself?
This is book 1 of the short-story series Lost Tales of Solace. At only 72 Kindle pages it contains a stimulating and fast-paced dialog between Helene and the AI entity, ViraMax. Via is a quick learner with some funny one-liners. Her dark sense of humor has an underlying threat which Drinkwater curates very well and the ending is very surprising.
I really enjoyed this quick read and look forward to more in the series."
--The Eclectic Review

"I love this novella, it gives a little insight into how Clarissa was ‘born’ and how Opal comes into the story. This will then lead to the events in Lost Solace….and I shudder at the thought of that (in a good way I might add). A quick but but intriguing read….I’m looking forward to the next in the Lost Solace series."
--The Bookwormery

"I enjoyed the development of the relationship between the two characters and was shocked by the ending. It was fun to see the Via personality, as opposed to Clarissa as she is in Lost Solace and Chasing Solace. The exploration of perceptions and reality, and how jokes are built was good. Of Karl’s books that I’ve read, so far they have all had a bit of philosophy in them and this short story is no different.
You don’t need to have read the first two Solace novels for this short story to make sense but it’s a good introduction and if you have read them then you get some of the back story."
--Rosie Writes...

"Helene would be an absolute perfect place to start your journey and such a good introduction!
Considering Helene is a novella length story, there is so much packed into it and I became ridiculously attached to both ViraUHX and Helene and there were quite a few tears from me! We get to know both characters as they get to know each other, so it's a very realistic, honest and organic way of identifying with them.
One of the things I love about the whole series is that Karl Drinkwater uses scientific terms and doesn't feel the need to explain them as they already make sense in the context they're used.
I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but I think the fact that Karl Drinkwater is an author of horror too, really adds to his sci-fi writing. The sense of claustrophobia and foreboding throughout is both subtle and builds throughout the story.
I absolutely loved Helene and I can't wait for more stories in the Lost Solace universe.
I'll finish my review by saying, don't worry ViraUHX I thought Bubble Cup was hilarious!
I gave this book 5 stars."
--Life Of A Nerdish Mum

"I've always been fascinated (yet terrified) of AI. Here, we get a story about Helene, who is brought in to try and teach and learn from AI ViraUHX. Watching their relationship grow was honestly pretty fun. Seeing an AI whose personality starts to shine is disconcerting but fascinating.
I did enjoy the banter between Via (AI ViraHUX) and Helene a lot and this story for what it was portraying."
--Where The Reader Grows

"Helene tells the story of how AI ViraUHX develops with Helene’s guidance. As part of the development cycle, Helene asks the AI to be creative and find out more about humour.  One of their interactions had me chuckling!
I loved getting to know ViraUHX before she develops into Clarissa (she still has the sass). And after a brutal scene with the Primogenitor on board, the arrival of Opal made my heart sing.
It’s very clear what it’s like to live in this world and the effect it has on those that serve in the military. The conversation that was happening in one scene showed very little respect and made we want to punch their lights out.
Even though this is a short story, my emotions were definitely hooked 🙂.
I’m looking forward to more Lost Tales of Solace from Karl Drinkwater, filling in the gaps and finding out more information. I think this is a fabulous idea!
Highly recommend the Lost Solace series."
--Jera's Jamboree

"Honestly I think it’s books and stuff like this that make me that much more freaked out about the concept of AI and how they could be perceived as dangerous [...] become self-thinking…. and end up turning against humans… yeah that’s pretty darn scary to think about.
This book was honestly no exception and even though this was only a novella, it left an impression on me to last a while."
--Sometimes Leelynn Reads

"Helene is a short story, showing the brief but powerful friendship between a counsellor, Helene, and an AI, Via, who have been paired for Via’s personality development. The novel opens on their first meeting, and by showing snippets of their relationship, we watch Via develop into a fully formed, kind and funny individual who will do all it takes to look after the only person who has ever shown her kindness.
Via’s growth is wonderful, and she becomes quite the character, even showing youthful tendencies such as tantrums, lies, and childish glee when having fun. It’s lovely to watch this AI go from robotic to human, all while going on this path alongside Helene as well. Of course, all good things must end, and this story is tragic, but for the bulk of the story, we have a sweet comradery between unlikely people.
Perhaps my favourite part of the novel is the concept of teaching an AI humour. It doesn’t work well for Via, but through her trying, we also are treated to her learning how to be a friend, to trust, and in many ways, to love. Like a wounded animal, she’s hesitant at first, comparing Helene to the others who work with her, and pointing out how different they are. She wants to make Helene happy, and even gives her a gift, which poses large questions up to and including whether AI truly feel, or have uncoded thoughts, but within this, it was beautiful. I felt for Via, I rooted for her, and I was invested in her growth.
I also really enjoyed the descriptions, and the way this world has only been shown to us in a glimpse, but vividly. I saw the hanger, the room they’re in, and could easily picture Via – which shows again how tightly the author can work, to great success. What we have is fascinating, and makes me want to read more of the world.
That’s what I adore about stories of this length – powerful little snippets that you’ll think about for far longer than it took you to read, and can be consumed quickly. I’ll definitely be checking the author’s other work out.
I adore unusually written work, and to have a piece only told through dialogue and movement was fascinating. I love when an author knows how they want to present something, and do exactly that, so for me, the style of this piece is what drives me. I adored the outside, looking in perspective, and cannot fault it. It’s obvious this author has skill, a talent, and a broad idea for a world they’ve developed. If, like me, you want something different, in a familiar sci-fi setting, this is something to check out."
--Radzy Writes

"Helene is a futuristic sci-fi short story, the perfect mix of intrigue, entertainment plus a dash of humour.
Helene is a great character. Smart, brave but there’s also a little bit of mystery to her. I absolutely loved the way the author played her off ViraUHX, it was so much fun to read!
I was so intrigued by the ending, I’ve put the other two novels in this series on my wishlist.
Helene is a well written and compelling sci-fi story that will leave you wanting more!"
--On The Shelf Reviews

"ViraUHX, or Via as she likes to be called, can process data quickly, and wants to turn it into knowledge. She is aware that her creators are only feeding her approved information, and she wants to push the limits and learn more about the world with her new friend, Helene.
It was interesting to see the tentative friendship between Helene and Via develop. There are moments of wariness and doubt for both of them, as they wonder what hidden motives the other has. With good reason too, as there seems to be a shadow, and secrets on both sides.
This novella focusses completely on the relationship between Helene and Via, and Via's progress to becoming an independent thinker, developing her ideas of right and wrong."
--The Northern Witch's Book Blog

"I haven’t explored the original ‘Lost Solace’ universe yet, but given Drinkwater’s snappy writing style and philosophical bent, I would be happy to delve in and have a look around.
The storyline is compelling, the world-building convincing (no mean feat in such a short story), and the characterisation, especially that of the AI, is both richly human and engaging.
And let’s not forget that this tale offers a small window onto the wonderful debate of what constitutes morality, humanity, and the soul."
--ayjaypagefarerbookblog

"This takes us back to the beginning when the AI was just starting out. I absolutely loved this bit of back story.
The AI and Helene have some amusing interactions which made this quick little story fly by while maintaining enough character building to keep it captivating.
If you’re a fan of this series, you should definitely grab this.
Rating: 5/5☆"
--Jessica Belmont

"This science fiction story exceeded my expectations! It is a novella in which ViraUHX is an artificial intelligence being developed in military secrecy. To help its development Dr Helene Vermalle, a civilian expert in Emergent AI Socialisation, is working with it. The interactions between the two make this an engaging and intriguing read. The ending is definitely full of surprises and now I really want to read more stories set in the Lost Solace universe – especially to discover what happens to Via and Opal!
The writing style is engaging, the world building robust and the characters believable. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, connecting with the dilemmas facing Helene, the frustrations experienced by Via and being shocked by some of the events. I found it an enthralling read and have no hesitation in highly recommending it to anyone who enjoys science fiction or who just wants to give it a go! I’ll definitely look out for more by Karl Drinkwater in future."
--Splashes Into Books

"The Lost Tales of Solace are short stories set in the Lost Solace universe, this one occurs just before the events of the first novel in the series, Lost Solace.
Helene finds herself surprised by ViraUHX, who has been expanding her own horizons, despite the fact it shouldn’t even be possible. In fact Vira has thought a lot about what she can, can’t do and what she should keep secret, and therein lies the crux of the matter. The AI shouldn’t have the ability to hide, to think, to joke and go beyond the programming.
This is speculative science-fiction that wants to expand horizons and question evolution, especially when it comes to technology. Drinkwater draws you in with the debate of morality. When it comes to AI when does their right to existence start or even their right to have rights? When you create something that is supposed to not only be equal, but surpass human capabilities, and to do so the AI has to be given certain aspects or elements that are incorporated into humankind – where does AI stop and evolved humankind begin?
Or is that exactly what an evolved humankind is going to look like – an human enhanced with AI or vice versa? See what I mean about the dialogue and the author creating a conversation. The topic is really interesting, which when driven by a fictional scenario is even more so."
--Cheryl M-M's Book Blog / (Alternate)

"We soon learn that the eponymous Helene, Doctor Helene Vermalle, has the difficult task of guiding a far superior Artificial Intelligence mind. I liked how Karl Drinkwater created such a claustrophobic atmosphere for this battle of wits. Helene can never be sure whether the AI, which names herself Via, is truly developing a friendship or if she is manipulating Helene for some reason.  I enjoyed witnessing this uneasily developing relationship."
--Literary Flits

"Short stories are a great way of changing up your reading habits or trying something new. I read more short stories last year than I ever have before, and reading Helene has reminded me of why I enjoy them so much! At 72 pages, this science-fiction novel is a great way to enjoy a good story in a small space of time.
Helene has a simple, easy to read writing style, so it’s perfect to just pick up and dive into straight away. I think there is a certain stigma to science-fiction and that it’s perceived as complicated. This really wasn’t. Any science terms were explained in layman’s terms so it wasn’t an effort to understand at all. The narrative style has a relaxed flow that I found really easy to read. The chapter lengths also make this easy to pick up and put down at leisure.
What also made Helene great for me was that even in the conciseness of the story, there is plenty of background information for the reader to get to learn a little of the Lost Solace universe. It’s just enough to serve as an introduction without getting too heavy or detracting from the action of the short story in itself. It was a perfect balance. The ending of the book links in with the Lost Solace series, which I didn’t understand entirely until I read the synopsis of that book and a couple of reviews afterwards. It doesn’t detract from the book at all though – if anything, it makes you want to read on and find out how the story evolves.
Artificial Intelligence is a huge topic within the science-fiction genre. That said, the premise of teaching and socialising ViraUHX was one that I haven’t come across before and is quite unique. It also allows plenty of opportunity for humour and there are a good number of laugh-out-loud moments in this short book."
--Reviewsfeed

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