Cover Image: The Phantom Circuit

The Phantom Circuit

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Member Reviews

Firstly, thank you to both Netgalley and Austin Farmer for giving me the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review!  

Erica has just received the sudden news that her famous sister Dianne has died via social media, an unknown hacker contacting Erica via her sister's Facebook profile promises to fulfill Erica's final wish in seeing her sister one last time.

Growing up Erica and Dianne did what most curious kids in the 90's and 00's did, they innocently played the infamous mirror game "Bloody Mary", unbeknownst to them they accidentally summoned the spirit of Bloody Mary who lurks on the other side of the mirror throughout Erica and Dianne's life.  As the two sisters grow up, they slowly drift apart due to mental health issues and Dianne's struggle with drug addiction and popstar fame, causing tension between the two.  

After another night of Lyft and Uber driving to try and make ends meet, Erica receives the sudden news of her the death of Dianne.  Erica wishes into the void that she could see her sister one more time, only to have her wish granted by a hacker contacting her via Dianne's Facebook account...  However, the hacker is not a normal person, it claims to be the spirit of a young girl who died on the Oregon Trail many years before hand named Macy Abigayle and she needs Erica's help to escape from Bloody Mary's shadow void behind the mirrors...

I won't lie, at first I was very sceptical of this book based off of the other reviews on Goodreads but I was intrigued by the storyline and wanted to give it a go, I can definitely see why a few people have found the book to be confusing and hard to read, the storyline itself is easy to follow and the author's writing style is very descriptive but repetitive in some parts which can easily leave a reader confused, however if you're a fan of an emotional read that is in depth and really sets an atmospheric scene as Erica flashes between her shared memories with her sister Dianne, desperately trying to save her from the clutches of drug addiction.  

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed "The Phantom Circuit" and I'm eager to read more from Austin Farmer in the future.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Austin Farmer for a free advanced copy of this book to read and review. 

I'm in two minds about The Phantom Circuit, on the one hand there were parts I really enjoyed and though omg this is so COOL, but then on the flipside I just found it a slog to read at points. 

To brief you about the story... The Phantom Circuit is a modern day retelling of Bloody Mary, and instead of mirrors she uses ~other~ methods shall I say (don't want to give too much away!) and as someone who was obsessed with urban legends as a child/teenager this was definitely something I thought I would love. 

The idea of this book was incredible, the author had taken quite a traditional legend and injected something new to the story. However, it just wasn't executed in the best way.

Character wise they were kind of a focus of the book, but they also weren't - it was pretty mixed and therefore hard to form a real opinion on them. 

And I don't think the delivery of the book helped with matters. The execution of the story is what lacked for me, it was all over the place and I felt like I was wading through treacle to read it. Some parts lacked relevance to the story and would have been better left out and as such would probably have helped with the flow of the story.

Overall, it definitely has potential! The premise is super cool and the idea of a modern touch on an old legend is interesting, it just needed some work on the execution of the story. 

ALSO, a warning that it was going to discuss the pandemic would have been nice haha, I try and avoid that while I'm reading and it just suddenly got sprung on us!
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This review maybe it's not the best because I DNF this book at 75% since I wasn't understanding ANYTHING. So...Let's get into it.

The Phantom Circuit by Austin Farmer presents a story about grief, memories, sisterhood, depression, and loss. It shows in a very reflexive manner a complex story that intertwines three different hurt characters, technology, a reinvented bloody mary, and ¿the afterlife? 
I mean, I didn't get what was going on, so bear with me, please.

First things first, the main premise of this book is this: Erica is a young woman with an unfulfilling life that had 0 contact with his beloved big sister since she became a star (and also an addict). Sadly, that relationship would never get on the good track again, because the news has reported the death of her sister. 
Not knowing how to feel or what to do (she was ghosting her sister) she post on Facebook how much she would like to see her sister one more time.
What she was not expecting was her sister's account popping up, sending her a message. 
What she suppose to be a hacker turns out to be Macy, a girl locked on the other side of the mirror by  Bloody Mary.
She warns her, Mary is going for her and her sister's spirit and she may be the only one who can stop this evil spirit.

...Sounds kind of cool. I guess it was. The fact that the plot was so weird and fast and...I don't know...didn't help at all. 
I didn't understand how exactly the bloody mary thing work. I would like to blame the fact that English is not my first language, but at the end of the day, I believe it wasn't well explained and developed. She was supposed to be this neutral being related with time and memories that eventually turn evil and do...¿things? 
You see, this is problem number one: I don't even understand the worldbuilding and the main villain. I didn't get her story, nor the space where it was happening.

¿Macy character?¿Erica going through her memories and fighting Mary? Same story. What was happening? I DON'T KNOW 

Yet there's something positive about it. I liked Dianne's chapters. Her perspective was enchanting. Easy to follow, full of pain for the lost relationship with her sister, the letter format recalling her memories...Chef kiss. Well done and captivating. The writing style shine on those pages.
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"It’s just a game, Erica. Everyone knows that."

Austin Farmer’s debut novel is a richly atmospheric exploration of grief, adulthood, and sisterhood. It is set during the pandemic and kicks off with Erica, a young woman who lives from gig to gig driving for Lyft and Uber and any similar apps that will approve her. She is caught up in the middle of trying to figure out where the next paycheck is coming from in a world where everyone looks like they’ve got everything figured out, at least on social media. That’s when she learns she’s lost her sister, Dianne, who used to be her best friend. They haven’t talked properly in a long time, so how can Erica be getting messages from her now, seemingly from beyond the grave? And if the messages are being sent by a cruel hacker, how does the hacker know the name the sisters called three times in front of a mirror when they were children?

The urban legend of Bloody Mary is recognizable across many cultures, and in this novel it gets a clever technological twist. Two very recognizable things are efficiently welded together, and the supernatural element allows Farmer to explore the relationship between the sisters by showing us flashes and scenes from their past.

"What if all we had was this moment? What if the only thing that mattered was right now, before it goes away?"

Whether it’s a friend or a sibling, we can all relate to the experience of drifting apart from someone. But the memories we share with them are undeniable, and they can become a powerful currency that can make or break us.

The themes of isolation and feeling disconnected in an age of technology and social media are tackled really powerfully in the first part of the novel, which is particularly strong. Another great strength of the novel are the passages that detail moments from Erica’s and Dianne’s past, as well as the descriptions of Macy’s journey along the trail. There are moments in the book that read somewhat like a creepypasta or a reddit/nosleep story, but definitely like the better and more literary ones that end up as published short stories or novels. There are definitely places that recall recognizable elements from urban and folk horror alike.

One possible downside of the novel is that the descriptions may come across as a little repetitive, and so lose the more impatient readers or those who expect relentless, non-stop action. The rules of the world the characters inhabit could also be made just a little bit clearer. There are also very few sentences that could use another round of editing (which probably happened before the final version was released).

What could have worked really well in this kind of novel would have been bits visually designed as Facebook posts or Messenger messages, or at least graphically more separated from the rest of the text (maybe this has already been done in the final version, or the author simply didn’t want to go that way, which is also understandable). However, Farmer already manages to give the three first-person narrators three distinct voices, which is a huge success, especially with such an ambitious novel. The bond between the three women is strengthened by the subtle and not so subtle parallels and keywords that are skillfully planted across their narratives and very fun to spot. There is a delicate balance between keeping the three voices distinct and pointing out how they are connected, which is another strength to consider.

All in all, “The Phantom Circuit” is a praiseworthy effort and an enjoyable read that reflects (pun intended) many relatable themes and represents a satisfying whole.
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The Phantom circuit by Austin Farmer.
After twenty-eight-year-old Lyft driver Erica Westfield learns her popstar sister is dead, the last thing she wants to deal with is a stupid hacker threatening to delete her sister’s Facebook profile. Let alone a hacker who brings up Bloody Mary.
A good read. Likeable story and characters.  I did like the cover.  It was different.  4*.
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I always enjoy a modern spin on an old story. So I loved how Phantom Circuit takes on the Bloody Mary legend using computers as a medium. This happens within a stream of consciousness narrative that deals with the questions of what happens when a loved one with a social media presence dies. 

The main characters internal dialogue reads as a beautiful meditation on the nature of issues and grief. There are not a lot of stories that deal with the nature of losing someone who still has an internet footprint so it is refreshing that this book ventures into this direction.

The story maintains a good balance between being reflective and using supernatural horror to entertain. I would definitely recommend it to fans of horror and dark fantasy!

Thank you Netgalley for my advanced reader's copy.

I am also posting my review on Goodreads.
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<b>3.5 Stars</b>
I love horror that incorporates technology so I was very excited for this novel. I really enjoyed how the story took the idea of the Bloody Mary urban myth into a modern world. Likewise, I enjoy stories that incorporate grief, so that aspect also really appealed to me.

In terms of execution, I liked but did not love this one. Despite the intimate perspective we got of a woman mourning her sister, I just failed to become emotionally attached to the narrative which made it hard to be invested in the overall story.

Depsite my reservations, I would recommend this one to readers look for a unique modern take on the tale of Bloody Mary.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
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Thank you NetGalley for letting me read this arc!

I loved the story - a modern day Bloody Mary tgat can see everything through any reflective surface, not just a mirror. I did how ever not finish this book but not by account of the story.

I read half the book before I realised that I was reading it because I HAD to and not because I wanted to so I didn't finish it. It just happens to be written in a way that I do not enjoy. Like I said its a good story, I just happen to not like the way the author writes. But if you have any interest in the Bloody Mary legend you should totally give this a read!
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This book had a great concept and some beautifully built characters/relationships, but ultimately it let me down. 

Erica is processing the death of her sister Dianne when she receives a message from someone who has hacked her account, sending her messages using Dianne's name. Except it isn't a hacker, but a young woman named Macy who lived over a century ago. Macy has been trapped in the realm belonging to Bloody Mary on the other side of the mirror, and needs Erica's help to escape. 

This story had so much potential, but I think it was a little ambitious. Much of the dialogue is in the form of online correspondence, and contains so much exposition that it feels like the characters are telling you a story directly instead of having any sort of natural interaction, written or not. The world building needed for the concept is certainly intensive, but so much of it felt forced into Macy's initial pleas to Erica that it took me out of the book, never to find myself fully immersed in the narrative again. 

There were some definite positives that would like to mention, though. The relationship between Erica and Dianne was done well, with a lot of Erica's grief and internal conflict about her sister's death (and life) feeling very convincing and natural. The story itself was imaginative and interesting, based on one of those ideas that could be a real jaw-dropper if the author had written it a few years later. 

I think if the exposition had been toned down in the initial chapters, the book would have really grabbed me rather than kicked me out of the narrative. The concepts here lend themselves to so much mystery, but needed to be teased out a little more to keep them compelling. 

Despite my complaints about The Phantom Circuit, I would still like to see more from this author thanks to the great concept and characters.
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As someone who has gone through similar situations with my sister, being the best of friends then having falling outs and not speaking for months at a time, this book was so relatable as well as so insanely heartbreaking to read. The story is so original and I do not know the last time I enjoyed reading a book this much.
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The story captured me from the first paragraph! Can seem to be confusing at times - then quickly comes together in a jaw dropping, breath-taking way!
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DNF @ 20%

I really wanted to love this - I thought the premise sounded really interesting but I struggled from the beginning with the writing style, and then the plot was weird and confusing and I literally just couldn't keep reading it.
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The Phantom Circuit is a psychological horror tale that left me terrified to use my electronic devices during and after devouring this book. The author has a unique and intriguing ability to pull the reader into the story, much like his character, Bloody Mary’s ability to pull her victims into her horrifying realm beyond the grave. I’ll be following this author, for sure!
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Thank you Netgalley and Author Austin Farmer for this ARC. 

I so wanted to like this book, however, the writing was all over the place and I was too confused to follow along with what was going on.
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This was honestly really really great. The concepts within the book were super interesting and of course this is now an author I’ll definitely keep an eye out for!
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