Flash Back: reviewsEllison Blackburn’s protagonist is eminently relatable, and the mess of issues Charley faces in trying to make peace between her desires and her responsibilities will be shockingly familiar to many readers.Click To Tweet
In Flash Back, by Ellison Blackburn, we meet Charlotte Rhys Fenn, a successful editor and writer for a health magazine. Charley is in her fifties, has been married for nearly twenty years, has plenty of income - and is bored out of her mind by her life. Held in a relationship that has long since become more of a habit than a marriage for both partners, with a repetitive job, Charley makes periodic tries to strike some chord of interest in her partner, and to find some way to alleviate the humdrum of daily life. In desperation, she finally begins to research a cutting-edge surgery, known only as Renovation.
Ellison Blackburn’s protagonist is eminently relatable, and the mess of issues Charley faces in trying to make peace between her desires and her responsibilities will be shockingly familiar to many readers. Set in the near future, the story explores cutting-edge theories in both prosthetics and biology, while the level of psychological detail brings a realistic edge to the narrative and the characters spring vividly to life. Flash Back is well-written, with an analytical, laser-focus on the workings of inter-personal connections. If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and thought that there must be something better in life, then this book is definitely for you.
J.C. Steel January 31, 2016
One thing that I appreciate about writers is when they demonstrate a true command of the language of their story. I enjoyed the descriptive nature of this author's tale, and the way she used such a large vocabulary to describe the thoughts and actions of her characters.
I had some trouble getting into the actual story itself, though. It seemed like it took a long time to get down to the meat of the book itself. Told from the perspective of Charley, a 54 year old married woman who had fallen into a life of settling for what had become comfortable over the years, Flash back is relayed through the thoughts and diary entries of someone who wants more from life but feels that she no longer has control to choose what she feels is best for her.
When she begins seeking out therapy, she learns in her sessions that her lack of control is just an illusion she has created and so she starts to assert herself and make major life-changing decisions that could potentially either strengthen or destroy her marriage. She decides to undergo a procedure called regeneration. From that point on, her life changes dramatically.
For this reader, the story was interesting but not captivating. Well-written, but needed just a little more punch to engage me as Charley's life unfolded.
M.R. Holloway Jr. January 24, 2016
Thought provoking sci-fi read...a definite read it yourself book. "All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts."—William Shakespeare, As You Like It
This Shakespearean quote aptly describes Ellison Blackburn's Flash Back. Some time in 2024, man has discovered how to stop cell degeneration, reverse aging up to a certain point and physically take your body back in time through gene splicing and cell regeneration. Could undergoing Renovation, the above process, be the proverbial golden fleece for longevity? In the chronicled life of Charley, Blackburn makes a real attempt to address the real problems people face if Regeneration/Renovation was even remotely possible. Every good thing comes with a sacrifice.
Charley, at 52 years old, finds herself depressed and unhappy. She finds herself in a circular day in/ day out existence and she begins asking herself the question of "Is this It?" She also finds herself looking at her husband and marriage and comes to a disheartening conclusion that even though she loves her husband and he her, they are living a life of coexistence. Through the help of a psychiatrist, Charley decides that she will go through the process of Renovation as a means to give herself the chance to make different choices that would lead her to a different existence. Even though Charley goes through all the processes to make sure that she was doing the procedure for the right reason. Charley does not foresee trouble in certain fundamental aspects of her life namely: Michael and how she would be viewed by society/how society would view her. Charley comes face to face with the ramifications of the procedure and finds that life as she knew it would never be the same. She would become someone else and so would he.
While Blackburn makes an avid attempt of a true science fiction masterpiece, her story does not fulfill its true potential. Not in the fact that the scientific or writing aspect wasn't down, it was in the deliverance of the story. While Blackburn does put in the prologue that the story you are about to read was a chronicled life of a Regeneration Xer, Blackburn lost me with the journal within a journal format, flashbacks, and dream within a dream. At some points of the book, I found I had to read the section twice/thrice to have a full understanding of what was going on and who was talking. Secondly, there were certain topics in the book, I thought did not lend anything to the main idea of Regeneration. While some of Charley's self analysis was relatable, I could not say that most people would even have any of the thoughts she had. Thus, some of the relatabilty I once had in the beginning chapters died as I got further into the story.
All this said, Ms. Blackburn does have tremendous writing potential and this book I would say is the stepping stone of a brilliant science fiction story. I would read her work again.
Ab Fab Book Blog December 5, 2015
This novel really got me thinking....would I do it? Honestly I wouldn't go back to under 21 at least....I gotta have my wine. But the premise it puts forth is one so many people wonder on a daily basis, if I could go back and start again what would I do, what would I do differently? Ellison Blackburn puts together a really interesting novel that gives you insight in how this would change a person's life. I enjoyed reading and would recommend to any lovers of insightful stories.
5 Wine Glasses = Didn't need any wine to enjoy it. It was amazing!
A. Meyer December 4, 2015
Very different. Interesting read. Very intriguing as to what very well could be possible in the not-so-distant future! Ms. Blackburn writes in such a way with great detail making regeneration very believable! This was a quick read & I look forward to seeing what happens in the next book.
An ARC of this ebook was given in exchange for an honest review and as part of a blog tour. Opinions in this review are my own.
Maari December 1, 2015
I am a huge fan of diversity within established genres, especially sci-fi. Flash Back is a subtle yet welcome deviation from the realm of space ships, robots, and laser guns.
Set in the very near future, I do admit to raising an eyebrow at some of the author's predictions. I can accept that in ten years we might have the technology to regenerate ourselves on a cellular level and cybernetic implants are already in use as treatment for medical conditions, but I am not quite convinced that we as a nation will end poverty within the next century, let alone the next decade.
Charley was a fascinating character. On many levels, I related to her thoughts and concerns about growing complacent with life as middle age sets in and I've often had the same worries about making memories vs simply existing. I have to wonder which path I would choose if the option of regeneration was open to me. Honestly, I'd likely go for the cybernetics, and I think that's what I loved most about this story: it made me think.
I read often and I read almost exclusively for pleasure. While there are many intelligent sci-fi and fantasy books that have given me reason to pause and consider my worldviews, few have given me the same level of introspection as this tale. In a way, the ending (which I will not spoil) is brilliant in the manner in which it addresses the reader. Highly recommended to readers of any genre.
C. McMullen November 7, 2015
This is a novel about the choices a person makes in their life and dealing with the consequences of those choices. I’ve never read a book like this and I was really fascinated by it. It is set in the not too distant future where it’s possible for a person to be ‘regenerated’, having your very cells de-aged to any age you choose.
I really liked the main character Charlotte ‘Charley’ as she tries to make sense of what she wants. She thinks she’s depressed but that’s not the case, she’s just convinced herself she could be. Her misgivings and struggles are so real. The description of the technology of 2026 was interesting and detailed in-depth.
A thought provoking read for anyone!
B. Swafford November 6, 2015
I was drawn into this story line right away. I can see where Charley is coming from. I am not sure if I would do this Cell Regeneration but it makes for a great book. I loved it and I would love to see where else this story can go. This was a great book for me that I finished rather quickly.
Alysia October 4, 2015
The first in a seriously ambitious trilogy—is not what you might expect. Set in the year 2025, this tale of a professional married woman who undergoes a relatively new “re-aging” procedure that will alter the course of her marriage, and her life, is presented as science fiction. But it would be a shame if readers disinterested in the sci-fi genre were to bypass the book for that reason; while Flash Back has the accouterments of sci-fi, it reads and feels a lot like serious literary fiction.
Read the full editorial / review here.
R. Margolis October 2, 2015
Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it. An insightful novel about the lonely darkness that nostalgia can bring upon us. In our longing to know where things went wrong, we often hide our self-doubt and failures with rose colored glasses. And sometimes what we consider to be a failure wasn't a failure at all, it simply did not meet our contrived and specifically rigid definition of success. When we narrow our vision of what we are, what we should be, what we can be, and what we could have been, we often trap ourselves in a cage that can be nearly unbreakable. And when drastic measures are taken to shatter the bars, we often find ourselves in a lonelier, stranger place than before, where we realize that we weren't trapped at all.
I would recommend this book to anyone, the reason being that we are all miserable, hamstrung, joyless creatures for no other reason than we believe we are, and quite often through our own faults or perceptions. And this book exemplifies the adage, Look Before You Leap.
C. Hash September 19, 2015
Absolutely stunning book! Blackburn is an amazing writer, so eloquent, so thought-provoking. It's rare (if ever!) that I can say a book changed my life - this one did. It's a speculative/scifi book that explores the concept of being able to "regenerate" one's self back in age. What if you could reverse your age and return to a younger you? What if you could return to your teen years, having a young body all over again, but keeping your current knowledge and experience? Would you do it? What would be the consequences? Ellison Blackburn explores this idea in thoughtful, measured, poetic deliberation with an amazing set of vivid characters. I highly recommend this book!! It's one of a kind.
A. Wilson September 3, 2015
When it comes to books, I’m caught by two things: prose style and intelligent, complex, believable and somewhat quirky characters. Quotes by Shakespeare in the chapter heads is a big plus, too. Flash Back offers all three. The author has put a great deal of thought into her characters and setting, honing the details to perfection. Better yet (in my opinion), she writes with the incisiveness of a clinician deeply informed by the sensibilities of a poet. This is rare and personally, I would place Flash Back among the top ranks of the literature with which I am acquainted.
Read the full editorial / review here.
O. O'Neill September 1, 2015
Fascinating look at life's choices and overall good read. Although I am at a very different place in my life than Charley, I was able to partially grasp and understand what she was going through in her life. I could empathize with her decisions and rationale with de-aging.
The world of the book felt like a believable future, with being mostly similar but with some sci-fi esque aspects. We don't get that much of a look at it because of the narrator, though. Which is okay, but I wish there was more detail.
The plot, or well, personal journey of Charley felt a little slow and tiresome at points, but her character is very wishy washy, so that makes sense in context. I was frustrated by her and happy for her at various moments in the novel.
I do not feel entirely satisfied by the ending, but once again that has to do with the personal nature of the story. Charley changed in subtle ways, rather than more epic ones.
Overall, it is a very interesting read and was insightful to how and why we make choices.
Sarah S. August 28, 2015
Fantastic journey! Flash Back is a fascinating, technologically forward read. It's an intriguing journey about looking forward, thinking back and the emotional divide that is created when the rare chance to have a re-do in life presents itself. Feeling apathetic toward her job, relationship and life in general, the protagonist, Charley, questions her past decisions and how they are affecting her present. Full of "what ifs", Charley goes in search of answers. With the help of her therapist, she discovers a way to do it all again through a new cell-altering procedure. Now she is faced with a life-changing decision: regeneration. Should she transform her cell composition in order to go back to her younger self and create a new, more appealing future? Or should she stay in her complacent situation and accept her already chosen destiny? This brings a multitude of questions and emotions in to play, which pulls Charley in many directions. Is she being selfish? How will it affect her friends and loved ones? Will she get the desired outcome? The author does an impeccable job of leading Charley through this process and helping her discover what's right for her. The characters are well developed and the story line is solid. With some twists and turns along the way, this book is a real page-turner. It leaves you asking yourself whether or not you would take the chance to change what you thought you couldn't. Well done!
Jennifer T. August 11, 2015
I was blown away by the subject and the content. Even if you’ve never experienced these feelings, you will be able to understand and relate to them because of Ms. Blackburn’s ability to write exactly what the character thinks and feels; you are inside her head and connected to her heart.
The story is told from the point of view of the protagonist, Charley. The mid-life crisis that she describes is both fascinating, familiar and a bit fear inducing. Being the same age as the character, I can completely understand her thoughts on her life. The story takes you through her journey to find her happiness in the years 2024-2025.
Charley is able, through the use of technology, to relive her life on different terms. Along the way she realizes that this choice has extreme consequences, both good and bad. She analyzes everything and in so doing, gives you an honest and vivid look at the reality that has become her life. Charley realizes that parts of her analysis were missing in her decision making. Those missing components have caused her reality to be a bit off from her expectations. As a reader you will agree, disagree, and find her choices both fascinating and thought provoking. This book makes you re-evaluate all of your own feelings on the subject as you’re taken on Charley’s journey of reinvention.
If you were given the same opportunity, would you take it? Could you be brave enough, desperate enough or disengaged enough with your current situation? If you could be given a drink from the fountain of youth, would you accept it? I have my answer.
Jill C. August 6, 2015
If you could - would you? This book was really intriguing. It was a unique idea and really made you think about what you have in life and what you want in life. If you had a chance to go back and change your past to effect your future - would you?
Ellison Blackburn has woven an imaginative, thought provoking story. Imagining what could be and asking questions of what the world is becoming and what technology is leading to, along with personal questions of where we are in our life, where our pasts have lead us, and what would happen to our future if that changed. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone. It's an enjoyable read!
Rebecca L. May 26, 2015
Scientific Excellence! This story is so unlike the novels that I usually read. I automatically signed up to review this before even reading the synopsis because the cover is so interesting and attractive. Sometimes, you just can’t help but prejudge a book by its cover! Flash Back begins with Charlotte Rhys, Charley for short ...
My favorite character in this story is Charley. Her personality is a little ill-perceived at first due to the way she feels. When she starts visiting a psychologist, thinking that depression may have bottomed her out, she finds out that she still has the opportunity to make her own decisions. A light sparks and Charley is no longer the same as before she stepped into Dr. Baum’s office. I really enjoy reading about her self-doubts and the plans that she makes for herself, all for happiness. These situations and issues the Charley must face are real and I am able to relate to some of them.
In my opinion, this book really opens up possibilities of a futurist world, where technological advances make things unimaginable...very possible. While some of the information scares me, I really enjoyed the general concept of this book. I recommend this story to an adult audience; those who enjoy science and women’s fiction primarily since this story is about Charley’s life. I enjoy the pace of the story and the author was able to hold my attention throughout it’s entirety. I found that some of the issues saddened me, but others were enlightening and very much hopeful. I rated this with five stars because it is well-written, creative and interesting.
Lauren J. May 16, 2015
A great career and fur babies Charley seems to have all that anyone can want out of life; a loving husband, a great career and fur babies, what more could a girl ask for? Yet she finds herself increasingly questioning her choices through to her life and longing for the old ways of doing things before technology got its grip on our lives and changed it all. Working for a magazine that specializes in letting everyone know about the newest technological and medical advances being made Charley finds that she often fears what these advancements herald for our future. Bombarded by fears and doubts Charley seeks out the help of a psychiatrist. With Dr. Baum’s help she finds things out and puts things into a perspective she wouldn’t have attained before. When it becomes clear that even at her age and given the resources available now will Charley finally make a change in her life? Or will she continue down the comfortable yet unfulfilling road she is on? Can someone who has grown to fear these scientific advances actually manage to take advantage of them instead?
Samaris C. May 15, 2015
Second Nature: reviewsThis story takes good twist and turns and makes me rethink my ideas around the first book Flash Back. What will you think?Click To Tweet
This writer achieves a pleasant balance between story, world-building, ideas and philosophy with some good old romance for added zest. Most enjoyable.
Heidi B. September 7, 2016
After the human population on Earth was ravaged by a disease that targeted anyone with genetic modification, the survivors have banded together in small communities linked by geo-portals, and in a small underground community near what used to be Seattle, the descendants of Charlotte Rhys Avery still live. Second Nature is the story of Emery Kidd, 68 years old with the appearance of a 17-year-old, and she’s illicitly researching her connection to the mother of regeneration. Someone in power has no interest in her knowing who she’s related to, and the mediators are taking an interest in her work – especially Aiden Brodie, newly arrived in Podular 17.
Second Nature is the sequel to Flash Back, showing us the aftermath of Charley’s decision to experiment with the new process of regeneration, and it showcases Ellison Blackburn’s talent for writing characters that get inside your head. Emery is eminently relatable, a human being with problems and wants – and a burning curiosity to know who her parents are. Where Flash back in many ways studied the dissolution of a long-term relationship as its back story, Second Nature deals with love, commitment, and how the urge to reproduce could be affected by effective immortality. This series is sci-fi that will make you think, its concepts framed in very human stories. Definitely well-worth the read.
J.C. Steel May 1, 2016
The second book (Second Nature) continues this fascinating story. In a post apocalyptic world we see a different world than those living in it. Mostly because we see it through the eyes of a Regen and her years of experience. It's definitely got a fun twist to imagine knowing what the world was like, and what it is. To know that you have age and experience on your side that others don't know about. It was fun. The main character was informative and descriptive so you could see what she saw and experience what she experienced throughout the book. It's a new idea and worth picking up!!
Rebecca L. December 6, 2015
This story, much like the first, is so unlike the novels that I usually read. Since I read the first installment and loved it, I figured that I would really enjoy reading the second installment as well. This story begins with a teenager named Emery–well not really a teenager, but she is known as a regenerated individual (regen for short). Emery is a chronicler for her somewhat subdivision and lives with her “mother” named Julia. But Julia is not really Emery’s mother even though Julia doesn’t know any different due to implanted memories. Emery knows that the past has many faults, but yet she cannot escape from the desire to learn more. With excitement and certain determination, she knows that she must find some type of proof that Charlotte Avery is her biological mother. After countless videos and journals that Charlotte left behind after her death, Emery’s interest consumes her entire existence. Can she learn the truth and will it change the only thing that she has ever known about the world that she lives in now?
My favorite character is Emery because she is much like myself. She is very independent, smart and filled with curiosity as well as a desire for knowledge. Her research is in-depth and some of the technological theories and ideas that surround her research are astounding. I enjoyed reading about Emery and Julia’s banter as well as Liam and Aiden’s characters. The interest that Emery has with Charlotte and Parker is fascinating and I liked reading about them from a different perspective. The one thing that I enjoyed the most about Emery’s character is the fact that she portrayed Earth as being one of vast wonder…in essence. She has knowledge of Earth and its billions of people as they faded, eventually leaving the survivors to form pods in certain areas or little minute collections of people after the Rapture took hold. Her view of the previous lives that were lost is one of perplexed bliss. She is content to have the knowledge, but the cities in which were populated are still somewhat confusing and undesirable.
Overall, this story is written well with complex character development and an elaborate new futuristic world. I rate this book with five stars because it is not only highly creative and original, but the pace is steady and everything flows properly from scene to scene. This author likes to take her mind to another level when she writes and her ideas and advancements are absolutely stunning to read about. Some things were a little difficult to wrap my head around, but an open mind is definitely needed when reading these two installments because both stories make you think about the differences between what is and what could become. I really enjoyed reading this story. I would definitely recommend this to lovers of science fiction and I look forward to more books from this author in the future!
Lauren J. December 3, 2015
Yes!! If you read Flash Back, you must read Second Nature! It is a great sequel, that reads just as, if not faster, than the first. You will reevaluate what you thought was going on and what you thought you understood in Flash Back. Very good read, I look forward to the next in the series.
Maari December 1, 2015
The sequel to Flash Back is set over two hundred years after the first book. The world has changed a great deal since Charley, the most famous ‘regen’. It’s possible to generate multiple times, to have multiple lifetimes, and doing so has consequences that are felt worldwide.
Second Nature focus on Emery Kidd, who just happens to be Charley’s daughter. Her journey to save the world is fast paced and engaging. This book made me rethink everything I thought I understood from the first book, and I enjoyed it more than Flash Back. It will be interesting to see where the author takes the rest of the series in the books to come.
Bethany S. November 8, 2015
If you enjoyed Flash Back, then Second Nature is a MUST read. This is a fast paced read without being rushed. The character development and plot development are superb. The descriptions of time and place are fully developed without bogging down the pace of the read. The subject matter is intriguing and very thought provoking, causing you to question your beliefs about life and what it should and could become. As a reader, you will contemplate the choice you made for yourself based on Flash Back and whether or not you would change your mind given the issues brought to light in Second Nature.
In this story we are following the life of Emery. She lives in a very different world, a world in which humans may become extinct. She is a chronicler, a historian of what Earth has become. She is also trying to find herself; her roots. That journey takes many twists and turns. Emery is finding the new information to be quite disturbing. She and her friends begin to question the historic information, the role of science in the current plight of human procreation and what would happen if they let nature take the prominent role in human survival. Read, reflect and know that whichever way you chose at the end of Flash Back, you will now question that choice. Will you change your mind? You will only know the answer to that question once you’ve read Second Nature. Enjoy!
Jill C. November 5, 2015
I enjoyed this book very much. I have read other books by Ellison Blackburn and this is an author I enjoy reading. I think this book was great. This book got me thinking and I loved the story line as much as the first book. I like the character of Emery and all her friends. This story takes good twist and turns and makes me rethink my ideas around the first book Flash Back. What will you think?
Alysia October 22, 2015
Being Human: Destined to live reviewsThis is the final book in a series that is a literary masterpiece of thought-provoking and soul-scaring discoveries.Click To Tweet
Being Human continues the story of Emery Kidd, newly engaged to Aiden Brodie, and living in the community of Tymony, a bubble outside time modelled on a project run by Charley Rhys Fenn, the mother of regeneration – where Emery’s slowly driving herself crazy with boredom. Eaten by fears that the bucolic lifestyle will break her relationship, and suffering doubts about herself and her role in life, Emery is almost relieved when Sera Strong blows into town and proposes a project to save the future of humanity – again. However, Sera’s headstrong approach to teamwork, not to mention to Emery’s relationship, look fair to cause almost more trouble than the project itself...
With a star cast of Ellison Blackburn’s incredibly well-written, deep characters, Being Human is the third in the Fountain of Life series, tracing the history immediately after the start of the Progeny Project. While the underlying fascination of the plot is time, mortality, paradox, and sexual fidelity, the story frames it in a rich tapestry of events and realistic characters, sliding the serious concepts in via sleight of hand amid the emotional drama between the characters. Being Human can be read simply as a romance story, or the reader has the option to enjoy the concepts that the author has woven into the storyline for us to think about – this is a book that can be enjoyed and thought about on many levels.
J. C. Steel June 17, 2016
Ellison Blackburn flaunts her writing skills in her third novel of the Fountain of Life, Being Human. The Fountain of Life are a series of literary science fiction novels that center around a futuristic world where humans can medically regenerate the physical body back to youth. Being Human picks up where Second Nature left off in that society decided to stop regeneration as a normal health care procedure due to the disastrous effect it had on the world's population growth.
Our tale begins with Emery on the eve of her marriage to Aiden. Emery’s pending nuptial bliss is put on hold when a blast from Aiden's past, Sera, literally transports in with an urgent mission: they must break the laws of their time and go back in history to stop the discovery of modular cell regeneration from happening. As Emery and her friends push forward to help their world adjust to life without regeneration, Emery must also deal with the buxom, blonde Sera who tries to seduce Aiden in ways that would even give Mae West pause.
As an avid reader of literary works, I immediately fell in love with this book by the end of the first paragraph. There is no disputing it; Ellison Blackburn is a master of prose and I will gladly follow her writing anywhere she wants to take me. In addition to wooing me with her words, Blackburn manages to expertly peel back the layers of Emery’s psychology.
I loved this book. I loved it so much that I immediately went back and bought the first two books in the series, Flash Back and Second Nature. I cannot wait to read them!
Amazon Customer March 5, 2016
This is an exceptional story that outlines the effects caused by Flash back and Second Nature. Consequence cannot be avoided; it exists for every action without regard to the analytical aptitude used in the decision-making process.
Ms. Blackburn creates a world where nothing is as it seems. There are gaps in the decision-making processes causing things to go awry in some very serious ways and the consequences cannot be out-run.
This is the final book in a series that is a literary masterpiece of thought-provoking and soul-scaring discoveries. Can they right their wrongs? Should they even try?
Read the books and make your decisions. Remember the After Effect – all decisions have one.
Jill C. March 5, 2016