Reviews of the Ephemeral

Posts Tagged ‘Jason Rolfe’

‘Synthetic Saints’ by Jason Rolfe

In Novella, Saboteur Awards on April 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm

-Reviewed by Charlotte Barnes

If my reading career has taught me anything, it is that for a book to survive in the current publishing climate, it needs to bring something extraordinary and unique to the reading audience. Jason Rolfe’s bold and experimental novella, Synthetic Saints, certainly caters to this industry requirement. The futuristic text catapults you into a somewhat terrifying version of our future both as a planet and a civilisation in which humans are accompanied by their synthetics, a term used to describe a simulated human, if you will.

The short text follows the journey of protagonist Alex Hargreaves, who is a security specialist for the ISA. After losing communication with a Deep Space Observatory, Alex and his synthetic partner Persephone are sent to investigate what happened to the data analyst, Amanda Hayes, that was in charge of this particular station. We are informed before the novella begins that each data analyst within this kind of position runs their respective observatories alone and that they work on a six-month rotation period. Naturally, the feelings of isolation and depression are over-whelming in such a unique situation thus, Alex makes no secret of the fact that accidental death and suicide are common amongst those who adopt the role. With this startling reality in mind, Alex and Persephone are on a journey to identify which of the above options has occurred this time.

Jason Rolfe Synthetic Saints

Alongside the difficulties faced in his professional life, Alex is also burdened by his personal one. We learn that he once had a wife and a daughter, both of whom are now deceased; due to a memory manipulation program that is mandatory for Alex’s line of work, these are not memories that fade over time but rather stay as fresh now as they were on the days they were made.

To begin with I felt a slight apprehension at reading what appeared to be yet another generic science fiction novella, in which the world has dramatically changed for the worse. However as I delved deeper into the tale I slowly found myself drawn into a truly fascinating scenario which is made all the more enjoyable thanks to the brilliant character of Alex Hargreaves. The emotion that is weaved throughout the consciousness of this individual is over-powering; his thoughts frequently return to the loss of his wife and daughter, memories which he fails to escape, ultimately meaning that we also fail to escape them. As Alex returns to his daughter’s accident and his wife’s suicide, we inevitably feel the pain with him, making this a much more forceful story than I initially anticipated it being.

In addition to his role as the emotionally tortured widower, Alex also adopts the role of detective. Throughout the duration of the novella Alex is constantly discovering clues and deciphering information that ultimately leads us to the complex resolution to the text. After finishing the text, I did feel somewhat inclined to conclude that it what a hybrid of both science fiction and detective fiction; the futuristic nature of the text is integral to our reading of it, therefore it cannot be simply overlooked, but the ‘Whodunit’ principle is also prominent within this text. While on paper the genres may not seem to be soul mates, Rolfe has combined them to create something truly entertaining.

Overall I felt that Synthetic Saints was a thoroughly interesting read and I would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for something that offers a more unique take on literary genres.


Saboteur Awards 2013: The Shortlist

In All of the Above, Saboteur Awards on April 1, 2013 at 12:09 am

Your Pick of this Year’s Best Indie Lit!


Once a year, to mark our birthday, we at Sabotage like to give out some awards to the publications we’ve most enjoyed during the year. This year, we want YOU to vote for the winners in twelve different categories.

After over 2000 votes, voting is now closed! Winners will be announced on 29th May at the Book Club, London. It’s going to be a big celebration of indie lit in all its glory and we’d love it if you could attend. There’ll also be performances, a mini-book fair, music from LiTTLe MACHINe and our very own critique booth.

Here’s what happens next:

  1. Voting is now closed!
  2. Buy a ticket to the awards ceremony/birthday bash.

Please find the shortlist below, which consists of the top 5 nominations in each of the 12 categories, with links to their reviews in Sabotage.*

*Reviewing or featuring all of these works (through interviews for instance) is a work-in-progress which we hope to achieve by the time of the event. Obviously, it is quite a monumental task in a short time, so we appreciate any help from past, present and future reviewers in achieving this, as well as the cooperation of nominees!

Many congratulations to all those who made the shortlist!

In no particular order:

Best Novella

Synthetic Saints by Jason Rolfe (Vagabondage Press)
Holophin by Luke Kennard (Penned in the Margins)
Count from Zero to One Hundred by Alan Cunningham (Penned in the Margins)
The Middle by Django Wylie (
Controller by Sally Ashton (Dead Ink)

Best spoken word performer

Raymond Antrobus
Dan Cockrill
Emma Jones
Vanessa Kisuule
Fay Roberts

Most innovative publisher

Burning Eye
Unthank Books
Sidekick Books
Knives, Forks, and Spoons Press
Penned in the Margins

Best short story collection

 The Syllabus of Errors by Ashley Stokes (Unthank Books)
My Mother Was An Upright Piano by Tania Hershman (Tangent Books)
Fog and Other Stories by Laury A. Egan (Stone Garden)
All the Bananas I’ve Never Eaten by Tony Williams (Salt Publishing)
The Flood by Superbard (Tea Fuelled)

Best poetry pamphlet

Selected Poems by Charlotte Newman (Annexe Magazine)
Body Voices by Kevin Reid (Crisis Chronicles Press)
Lune by Sarah Hymas (self-published)
Songs of Steelyard Sue by J.S.Watts (Lapwing Publications)
Lowlifes, Fast Times & Occasionally Love by Lawrence Gladeview (Erbacce Press)

Best ‘one-off’

Penning Perfumes
Shake the Dust
Binders full of Women
Poetry Polaroid (Inky Fingers Collective)
Poetry Parnassus

Best Spoken Word show

‘Whistle’ by Martin Figura
‘Dirty Great Love Story’ by Katie Bonna and Richard Marsh
Wandering Word Stage
Emergency Poet
‘Lullabies to Make your Children Cry’ by Lucy Ayrton

Best magazine

Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts

Best regular Spoken Word night
Bang said the Gun (London)
Hammer and Tongue (Oxford)
Jibba Jabba (Newcastle)
Inky Fingers (Edinburgh)
Come Rhyme with Me (London)

Best poetry anthology

The Centrifugal Eye’s 5th Anniversary Anthology (ed. E.A. Hanninen)
Rhyming Thunder – the Alternative Book of Young Poets (Burning Eye)
Sculpted: Poetry of the North West (ed. L. Holland and A. Topping)
Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot (English PEN)
Adventures in Form (Penned in the Margins)

Best fiction anthology
Unthology, volume 3 (Unthank Books)
Post-Experimentalism (Bartleby Snopes)
Best European Fiction 2013 (Dalkey Archive)
Front lines (Valley Press)
Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud (Salt Publishing)

Best mixed anthology

Estuary: a Confluence of Art & Poetry (Moon and Mountain)
Pressed by Unseen Feet (Stairwell Books)
Still (Negative Press)
Silver Anthology (Silver Birch Press)
Second Lives (Cargo Press)