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Skywake Invasion-Jamie Russell

What a great can tell author Jamie Russell has experience of the cinema and screen in this absolute blockbuster of a sci-fi thriller!

Plasma-rifle firefights with invading aliens in a shopping centre, spaceship corridor chases, escapes through air vent systems and out of lifts...the action is absolute classic film action scenes (think Alien, with bits of Diehard and Mission Imposdible thrown in for good measure, but for kids!) and non-stop in this fab new series, as main character Casey realises that the game she has been playing has suddenly become a real life battle she needs to use all her wits to survive!

This is no longer a game. It's an invasion.

The story itself is fast-moving and pacy...a real page-turner once it gets started, and the team of gamers, led by strong female character Casey, go from encounter to encounter with the vicious 'Red-Eyes' in a battle to save her brother Pete from being captured and taken (along with others) by the evil Arcturians.

Set against the backdrop of a computer game tournament for smash-hit team player shoot-em up 'Skywake' the book has enough game references, tech appeal, action and drama to suit the most discerning of gamers, with lots of references to past classic games like Space Invaders and Pacman sprinkled through as well.

It will appeal to fans of Alex Rider and similar for the gadgets and action of the plot, but also to fans of recent hits like Crater Lake with the sinister invaders, too. There's also a serious side to the book alongside the aliens, spaceships and lasers, though. Casey's dad was a soldier, killed in Afghanistan, and the theme of loss and grief is sensitively addressed through flashbacks to her time with him, and her refusal and determination not to lose her brother too.

The theme of acceptance is also addressed as the online gaming team that Casey leads ('The Ghost Reapers') have to deal with meeting each other in real life for the first time, and not quite being what each other expected, before coming together and showing the power of teamwork as the story progresses.

I'm thrilled to have been asked to be involve with the blogtour for this exciting debut, and to host this brilliant guest piece from Jamie about why video games are so important.

Why Videogames Are Good For You

(and can help you read more!) – Blog Post

by Jamie Russell

My generation was the first to grow up with videogames.

In 1979 I saw a Space Invaders arcade cabinet and it blew my five-year-old mind. That game – so prehistoric by today’s standards – seemed like a machine from the future.

Ever since, I have measured out my life in Ataris, ZX Spectrums (48K and then 128K), Commodore 64s and Amigas, Nintendos, Segas and, more recently, Xboxes and PlayStations.

This is what my bedroom looked like when I was 13.

Yes, I was a total nerd.

There’s a Commodore Amiga on the desk and a ZX Spectrum 128K hidden on the far left. The books on the shelves are a mix of sci-fi novels (Isaac Asimov, Robert Sheckley, Arthur C. Clarke), Fighting Fantasy books and role playing game manuals.

Did I mention I was a nerd?

While I was growing I heard a constant refrain from parents, teachers and assorted other grown-ups: ‘Videogames aren’t good for you, Jamie. They’ll rot your brain; make you violent; stop you reading books; and keep you indoors when you should be in the sunshine getting vitamin D.’

Videogames, I was told, were The Worst.

After forty plus years of gaming, I beg to disagree. Videogames are actually The Best (OK, not quite as brilliant as books, I admit, but a close second imho).

It’s not just my opinion, either. Studies have shown that playing videogames (in moderation, of course!) is really good for you.

In 2017, scientists asked a group of adults to play Super Mario 64 for half an hour a day for two months and then stuck them in an MRI machine to scan their brains before and after the experiment. Fun times!

After two months of playing Mario, the gamers’ brain volume increased, with growth in the areas responsible for decision-making, information processing and motor control. Take that, Bowser!

Gaming is great for your emotional health too. Playing games can help people with depression and immersing yourself in online worlds with others can boost social connections and mental well-being.

When I was recovering from spinal cancer back in 2012, games kept me sane. I may have been struggling to walk more than a few steps on my own, but I could run and jump through the ethereal desert landscapes of Journey or blast aliens as the super-powered Masterchief in Halo 4 without pain. Escaping into virtual worlds – where physical limitations are banished – kept me sane.

In my novel SKYWAKE: INVASION I talk a lot about ‘flow’. It’s a psychological term for a state of mind where you become totally focussed on what you’re doing. It’s that feeling of being ‘in the zone’. Musicians and athletes experience this a lot, and so do gamers.

Videogames encourage this sharpening of our minds, often increasing our attention spans in ways that are useful even after we quit the game.

‘Useful how?’ you might ask.

Well, one of biggest wins from playing games – the one I always like to talk about when I do school visits – is that videogames can encourage you to READ MORE! Every time I say this, people look at me funny, but it’s true… Gaming encourages literacy.

One of my favourite games ever is Overwatch, a fast-paced team shooter. It has a whole library of tie-in books – comics, novels, non-fiction books on the making of the game, and reams of fan fiction.

If you’re an Overwatch fan, you don’t just play the game. You read it too.

In 2020 research from the UK’s National Literacy Trust found that 79% of young people who play videogames also read material related to their favourite games, from blog posts to wikis to deep dives into a given game’s lore.

Better still, 63% of gamers in the survey said they were encouraged to write about games after playing them – from gaming scripts to fan fiction to advice blogs for others.

As a writer who loves games, this makes me REALLY happy!

When I penned SKYWAKE: INVASION, I wanted to write a love letter to gaming culture. Playing SkyWake, Casey and her friends learn how to work as a team, how to solve complex problems, and even how to survive an alien invasion when it happens in real life.

And you can bet that, after they’ve defeated the evil Red Eyes, they’ll go and pick up a book too.

Jamie is on Twitter as @jamieRussell_74

Follow @WalkerBooksUk to find out more, or visit their website: Walker Books - SkyWake Invasion

Thanks as always to Kirsten and Walker for the advance copy and the blogtour stop.

Review by Rich Simpson (@richreadalot) June 2021.

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