Monthly Archives: December 2012

Review: The Sacrifice, Charlie Higson

5/5

Everyone over the age of 14 has been consumed by a virus that essentially turns them into zombies. Only the children are immune…for now, maybe.

This is number four in what Charlie Higson is now planning to make a seven book epic, and there’s a sense of things being set up for the later books, especially in the later chapters. There’s a change in the behaviour of the adults, for good and bad – the good guys get an ally, and the bad guys get a leader.

This is a book without fault. There isn’t a single wasted character or event, no matter how minor, and all the strands of plot tie up at the end and then leave room for more books (apart from DogNut, who I’m sure will appear in Book Five or somewhere down the line…).

What’s getting hard after four books and a gap of a few years between them, is to get the timeline sorted out. Events in this book overlap events in the other three, and it’s hard to remember who all the characters are in the previous books and their ‘status’ in this one. But that’s a minor niggle.

Higson goes to lengths to point out that the monsters inside – the children who decide to lead the children – are as dangerous as those outside. There are shades of Lord of The Flies in Ed and Little Sam and the situations they find themselves in, and I think the comparison is a worthy one.

This is not a book for the squeamish. A nine year old boy gets flogged, anyone can die (and they do), and the fights against the adults are long, bloody and vicious. It doesn’t go into extravagant details, but it doesn’t shy away from them either. Be warned: This is the book Stephen King would write if he wrote YA.

The real star of the show are Little Sam and the delightfully batty (or is he?) The Kid, who talks like Alex from A Clockwork Orange but is sharp as a sat-on-box-of-pins. Sam’s grim determination to find his sister and then The Kid is one of the underlying themes of the book – and there are so many: dictatorships, loyalty, sacrifice, friendship, not judging people by their appearances, rebuilding society. Everything is packed in there, but nothing feels rushed or thrown in. This is a book carefully constructed to make you think and reconsider, and I’m already hungry for the next three sequels.

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Getting blood out of a stone. Or worse, a Federal bureaucracy.

This week, I got a bee in my bonnet about getting some tax back from the IRS (The US tax service). I’ve looked into it before, but it’s always been such a labyrinthine procedure, I’ve thrown my hands in the air and said “Keep the money, life is too short!”

The thing is, Amazon and Smashwords are required to keep 30% of UK royalties and send them to the IRS, even though I don’t work or earn money in the US, unless I fill out some forms.

In short, I need a US tax code so I can claim exemption against that tax code.

The research I did for this suggested I’d have to do something horrendous, like get my passport notarised or send my driving licence to Texas for eight weeks. Ugh. This is why I haven’t bothered with it before!

On Sunday, I asked around a few online friends, and I found my way to a link: (http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/02/24/non-us-self-publisher-tax-issues-dont-need-to-be-taxing/).

I followed the ONE page of instructions last night…and Bingo! Twenty minutes on hold and falling asleep at the kitchen table and I was about to give up and re-dial when CLICK, the hold music changed and I heard a surly and bored voice say,

“HellothisisDanielmyoperatornumberis1000131717711, IRS.”

There was much creaking of his chair, sighing into the phone – I could hear every breath he took, and it wasn’t attractive. When it comes to customer service, I’d say every call centre I’ve ever been through has the edge on the IRS. He definitely gave me the impression I was taking him away from something important, like what Beyonce was tweeting or maybe picking his nose.

Anyway, he went through some basic details, mis-pronounced “Leicestershire”, then went off and got my EIN (tax) code. That was the scariest part…waiting for him to come back for ten minutes, expecting the phone to die on me or for the line to go dead and I’d have to sit there for another hour and do it all again. At least the hold music wasn’t that bad.

But, he came back on, and I have a US tax code! Result!

Next, I have to fill in another two (possibly three) forms and send them to Amazon and Smashwords. That will take a few months to sort out, but then my royalties will be tax free!

Now all I have to do is sell some books…