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Beautiful Shining People: The extraordinary, EPIC speculative masterpiece…

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The scene then changes repeatedly between Ezra's audition, Ezra taking a selfie with two girls, a young boy showcasing some possible Ezra album cover ideas and two young boys dressing Ezra with a man bag. It was released as a digital download on 2 March 2019, as the first promotional single from Ezra's second studio album Staying at Tamara's.

In a review for NME, Nick Reilly said, "Opener 'Happy Smiling [sic] People' sees Ezra anchoring an infectious chorus around dark and world-weary lyrics: "What a terrible time to be alive if you're prone to overthinking", he croons, before offering a message of upbeat and hearty resilience ("Hey pretty smiling people, we're alright together"). A café run by a disgraced sumo wrestler, where a peculiar dog with a spherical head lives, alongside its owner, enigmatic waitress Neotnia. All of it creates a beautifully woven book on what it means to be human, relationships, the potential consequences of technological advances, and dreams of a better world. The world-building is amazing, Beautiful Shining People is steeped in Japanese culture and Japan a few decades from now is utterly believable and feels very real and authentic, as is the ongoing conflict between the world’s superpowers.

There were so many delicately intimate moments for a non-romance book, that I, a romance-reader, completely feel in love with their love. Set in a spell-binding, atmospheric, and strikingly realised near-future Japan - in a world full of technology, AI, and a digital cold war - we are taken on a mesmerising journey through Tokyo’s shimmering neon-lit streets, into the secluded peacefulness of temples and shrines, and plunged into a multi-layered, thought-provoking story of conflict, acceptance, trust, technology, love, and the human condition. Therefore, we readers could easily take the extra leap to where all cars are being self-driven, info bots, artificial intelligence, robots with hamburger heads, a world which now fights wars on the internet with fake information and more scaringly deep fakes. But with this, he’d also realise things about himself, and humanity as a whole, that he needed to hear.

Before she learns about the exact nature of her final code, which essentially gives her free will, this leads Neotnia to question whether she volunteered in the care home because she wanted to, or because she was pre-programmed to, and whether being created with a specific purpose in mind is the one big thing that sets her apart from humans. I almost didn't read it as, when I read the synopsis I, wrongly as it turns out, assumed it was a romance. The crafting of the novel is masterful, with each revelation Grothaus gives us the words and the time to settle into this change or that, whether it is a different setting or concept or character, before turning everything we know on its head, introducing layers of depth to the story that enrich our reading experience. We see the world through the eyes of seventeen-year-old John, who is an American tech genius flown to Japan to sign a deal that will change his life. This book explores these themes, about how the actions of one person can change the course of history.

It’s a hard book to describe in terms of genre, if I had to put a label on it, I might say Beautiful Shining People is a sci-fi love story for people who don’t particularly enjoy sci-fi or romance (a. Neotnia is worried about, misses, and has questions for the man who created her, leading to a road trip with John and Goeido to track him down, courting danger from those who would use Neotnia's codebase for espionage and warfare.

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