Paul Samael


Paul Samael lives in the UK. He is the author of a novel ("In the future this will not be necessary") and several short stories, all of which are available free of charge on Smashwords and various other platforms. He also reviews free fiction by other self-published authors here: (see also my reviews of other Smashwords authors below).

For more information, see my website (

Smashwords Interview

What motivated you to become an indie author?
I didn't set out to be an indie author - like many would-be writers, I had tried the conventional route to publication but the response wasn't encouraging. I then thought "well, what have I got to lose?" and put up some excerpts on a peer review site in the UK called Youwriteon. I was a lot more encouraged by the response from there and that gave me the confidence to self-publish, mainly on Smashwords and Feedbooks. I really like the fact that I'm in control of the whole process. It also means that I'm not under any pressure to write the kind of books that publishers think people want (there are already too many of those).
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Exeter, which is in the bottom left pointy bit of the UK, before you hit Cornwall and fall off into the sea. It was a nice place to grow up and I would love to say that it had a really profound influence on my writing, but that wouldn't be true. I think the main influence Exeter had on me is that if you come from there, you tend not to think that you are the best thing that's happened to literature since it was first invented - so it may explain why I was a bit of a late starter in trying to get my stuff published.
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Paul Samael online

Paul Samael's favorite authors on Smashwords

Julia Russell
Latest book: Pedalling Backwards.
Published November 1, 2012. (5.00 from 2 reviews)
Judy B.
Latest book: Stories for Airports.
Published February 19, 2009. (5.00 from 4 reviews)
Neil Hetzner
Latest book: Job's New Job.
Published May 15, 2023.
Sean Boling
Latest book: The Current Mr. Orr.
Published April 7, 2024.
Susan Wickstrom
Latest book: Stumps of Mystery: Stories from the End of an Era.
Published November 11, 2015. (5.00 from 1 review)
Jesse Tandler
Latest book: Bad Faith.
Published March 25, 2017. (5.00 from 1 review)
Steven Jon Halasz
Latest book: Our Unfaithful Friend.
Published December 7, 2019.
Spike Evans
Latest book: Single To Morden.
Published April 11, 2015. (5.00 from 2 reviews)
...and 10 more

Smashwords book reviews by Paul Samael

  • Stories for Airports on July 15, 2012

    The title of this excellent series of short stories recalls Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports”; the stories are all about finding something unusual or out of the ordinary in the “background muzak” of everyday life that we would normally ignore. Taken as a whole, the collection reminded me somewhat of “Short Cuts” (the Robert Altman film rather than the Raymond Carver stories on which it was based); I had a similar “privileged” sense of dipping in and out of the everyday lives of a whole series of unconnected characters across the same city. This gave the book an unusual sense of coherence (despite the impressive diversity of styles and subject matter on display in the individual stories). An undiscovered Smashwords gem. Click here for a longer review:
  • Falling on Aug. 25, 2012

    As noted by one of the previous reviewers, this is not a conventional “who dunnit” - the focus is more on the emotions of the detective who dealt with the case. The facts of the murder and the subsequent investigation are conveyed briefly, leaving most of the detail to your imagination – but the emotional impact is clear from the effect it has on the central character. The result (for this reader at least) is that you end up reconstructing aspects of the more conventional “who dunnit?” narrative in your head - so that by the time you’ve finished, the overall impact is closer to what you’d get from reading a much longer piece. Good work!
  • The End of the Circus on Aug. 25, 2012

    I agree with the other reviews here, but felt that this story was more than "just" a romance - it's also about the transient nature of existence as a source of both intense pleasure “in the moment” and sorrow/regret once that moment has gone, a theme which is handled with considerable delicacy and skill here.
  • Ledman Pickup on Sep. 21, 2012

    In a world of personal devices, how personal is too personal? Zoey Bridges makes her living testing gadgets – but on this occasion, the gadget she’s been sent doesn’t seem to do anything. She sends it back, only to discover (to her horror) that it’s got lost in transit. She and the gizmo’s obsessively secretive designers then try to track it down - but it seems to have developed a mind of its own. Aside from the gadget (and one or two other details), the world of the story is recognisably our own – and there is some enjoyable satire of high-powered corporate types and their more lowly minions. A well written, entertaining and thought-provoking story – well worth a read even if sci-fi is not usually your thing. For a longer review, see:
  • The Ant Farm on Feb. 02, 2013

    “The Ant Farm” is a quirky, engaging and very well-observed tragi-comic novel about statistics in the poultry industry and knitting. Hmmm, I sense that I may not be doing the book any favours with the second half of that sentence. OK, let’s try again: this tale of a high-powered sales exec who struggles to adapt to retirement and the demands of looking after his grand-daughter reminded me a little of the George Clooney film “Up in the Air” – both feature a self-centred protagonist whose identity is closely bound up with his work and both have a similar line in wry, humorous observation. But that’s largely where the parallels end, because ultimately “The Ant Farm” ends up exploring much darker territory – and as the previous reviewer has noted, the ending gives us all a very un-Hollywood dose of reality. For a longer review, see:
  • Taken on May 03, 2013

    At first, I thought this was going to be in much the same vein as "The End of the Circus" or "A Pond in the Middle of Nowhere", two other short stories from this author (which I would also recommend). There is a similar gentleness of tone and focus on a particular moment in adolescence, which is skilfully conveyed and helps to draw the reader in. But without wishing to give too much away, that gentleness of tone is deployed to rather different effect here, so that by the end, the writing has taken on a much harder edge. A highly effective short story.
  • The Third Person on May 20, 2013

    This is a very impressive and unsettling literary novel. Lizzie, the narrator, is 14. Her father has left home and her mother doesn’t seem to be coping too well in his absence. Lizzie spends an unhealthy amount of time holed up in her bedroom, practising her calligraphy, tending her Victorian bottle collection and making devious and elaborate plans. These generally involve eloping with Mr Phillips, the shopkeeper (if only he would stop being so obtuse and realise that he and Lizzie are destined to be together), or exacting revenge upon people who have displeased her (there is no shortage of candidates, although her younger sister provides a particular focus for Lizzie’s ire). But things don’t turn out quite as Lizzie hopes – and although the novel contains a fair amount of humour, it ends up exploring some fairly dark territory (which I won’t say any more about for fear of spoiling the plot). What really made this novel work for me was Lizzie’s narration - which I found utterly compelling, in spite of the fact that she is hardly sympathetic, being both highly manipulative and at times vindictive. Overall, the novel reminded me of a cross between Zoe Heller’s “Notes on a Scandal” and Iain Banks’ “The Wasp Factory.” For a slightly longer review which (among other things) explains this possibly slightly bizarre comparison in more detail, see:
  • Trade (A Novelette) on May 26, 2013

    “Trade” is narrated from a point in the not too distant future when an internet platform (a sort of cross between Facebook and Ebay) has radically changed the way that people approach sex. Sometimes you have a feeling from the first page that something is going to be worth reading - and for me, “Trade” delivered on that initial promise. The premise was sufficiently intriguing and enough happened in terms of plot to justify the label “novelette,” with its implication that the story will deliver some of the things you would normally expect from a longer work. A gripping and thought-provoking read. For a longer review, see:
  • Shen on June 12, 2013

    "Shen" is an engagingly offbeat science fiction novel which the author describes (slightly tongue-in-cheek) as “space opera for the unprepared”. I particularly enjoyed Part 1 which manages to combine elements of popular realist literary fiction (e.g. the main character is having an extra-marital affair etc) with an intriguing sci-fi premise (the main character keeps finding himself on an alien spaceship, but it’s not clear why – and the other people/beings on board don’t seem too clear about it either). Part 2 sees the action move to a different planet and the focus of the novel shifts to more conventional sci-fi/fantasy territory. However, it is still quite ambitious in its attempt to depict the interplay between different racial/cultural/religious groups (Part 2 reminded me of the late Iain Banks’ “Culture” novels and Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series). For a longer review, see:
  • Red Hotel On The Strand on June 12, 2013

    Is it too lazy to say "I agree with Bernard Fancher'"? Probably, but as I've just done a longer review of Heather Douglass' novel, "Shen", I hope she can forgive the total lack of effort that has gone into this review....
  • Corpus Callosum on Aug. 01, 2013

    This is an excellent literary novel with a sci-fi element (but if you are not a big fan of sci-fi, don’t let that put you off, because the focus is much more on the characters than the science). Joey and Jeannette are twin sisters. When Joey is fatally injured in a fire, Jeannette can’t face the thought of life without her – so she pays the good folk at LifeMedia to have Joey’s mind uploaded into a “BrightBox” (this is the main sci-fi element – but in most other respects, the world of the story is very similar to our own and the focus is very much on the characters rather than the science). At first it seems to have worked – but as time goes on, Joey starts to wonder if she now has more in common with other BrightBox “uploadees” than with “breathers” like her sister. On top of which, it seems that the technology may not be entirely bug-free. Although it starts off relatively gently and appears to be primarily character-driven, the plot soon gathers momentum and I found it hard to put down. It also gave me a lot to think about – for example, to what extent do our bodies dictate the way we think and behave? Would we start to become different people if we no longer had human bodies, like the uploadees? An intriguing and very thought-provoking novel. For a longer review, see: Oh and one more thing – for what it’s worth, I’m not the only person who enjoyed this novel. It has attracted a clutch of similarly positive reviews on Amazon too. See:
  • In Durleston Wood on Oct. 19, 2013

    This is an impressive and intriguing psychological novel, whose undercurrent of violence/threat and sexual tension reminded me of some of Ian McEwan’s work. Although he may sound like a hopeless case, Richard, the central character, proves to be an engaging and sympathetic narrator, with a keen observational sense and a high degree of self-awareness. This prevents him from wallowing in self-pity and allows him to see the occasionally humorous side of his own predicament. And then there is the question of how much of what we are reading is actually real. After all, here we have a central character who spends quite a lot of his time wandering around Durleston Wood, sometimes holding imaginary conversations with previous girlfriends from long ago - so who’s to say that certain parts of the novel presented as “reality” aren’t in fact an elaborate fantasy on his part? Come to that, who’s to say that the entire novel isn’t essentially a symbolic representation of competing impulses battling it out in Richard’s head ? For me, this ambiguity made “In Durleston Wood” all the more complex and intriguing. But you can just as easily take it at face value and read it as a more straightforward mystery/romance. For a longer review, see:
  • 3 on Nov. 03, 2013

    3 is a collection of three gripping short stories – which almost feel like mini-novellas. My personal favourites were "Home Movie" and "Fake." I think one of the common themes linking them all is an interest in what's real and what's fictional (and how the fictional can have an impact on real life). That might sound like we are heading off into rather tricksy, ultra-ironic, post-modernist territory - but although there are a few nods in that direction, the focus is on the story-telling (and this author can really tell a good story). For a slightly longer review, see:
  • The Hole in the Wall on Feb. 05, 2014

    This is a very good short read. Caroline and Michael are middle class academics with a young son, Oscar. They live in a house with a hole in the wall – the mysterious contents of which are at the centre of this story. Oscar meets a girl called Treasure, of whom both his parents are rather wary, since she appears to come from a much more deprived background. Those concerns appear to be justified when Oscar starts having nightmares and goes missing from school. But the real mystery has to do with Treasure’s past and the reason she has been hanging around Caroline and Michael’s house. Cleverly told from 5 different perspectives but with a dark undertone to it, this reminded me in some respects of Ian McEwan's "The Cement Garden." For a longer review, see:
  • Abraham the Anchor Baby Terrorist on March 08, 2014

    This is an interesting and well written novel. It's about an attempt by Islamic terrorists to insert a “sleeper” agent into the US by smuggling a pregnant Algerian woman into the country; her son, Abraham, is to be raised as a terrorist. The author skilfully keeps you guessing as to whether Abraham will turn out as intended by his terrorist mentors and after a slightly slow start, I found it hard to put down. It has interesting things to say about terrorism, immigration and racism – but it can be read on a number of different levels (for example, you could see it as being about free will versus fate or nature versus nurture). Although a gripping story, it’s not really a thriller; instead, try to imagine the writers of “The Wire” doing with terrorism what they did with drug crime (but minus the law enforcement angle). Then re-imagine that as a literary novel with shades of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid. If (as is entirely possible) you're not sure what I'm driving at with these slightly convoluted comparisons, you can read a longer review here:
  • Pedalling Backwards on Sep. 28, 2014

    This is a very well written literary novel. Based on the blurb, you could be forgiven for thinking that it might be a teeny bit hard going – and be warned that Lizzie, the narrator, can be infuriating at times. But finding out why she was behaving that way was one of the reasons I kept reading. The other main reason was the quality of the writing - for instance, I found myself nodding in recognition at the depictions of the awkwardness of group and family behaviour in the various “set pieces” on the island (the novel weaves between these and Lizzie reflecting on various events in her past – not just the loss of her baby, but her relationship with her sister as well). It may not be to everyone’s taste, but I really enjoyed it - for a longer review, which may help you decide if this is your cup of tea, see:
  • The Inelegant Universe on Jan. 31, 2015

    A thought-provoking, varied and beautifully written collection of short stories. I particularly liked the way that many of the stories manage to combine fairly everyday incidents (e.g. dinner parties, two friends on a hike, visiting an elderly parent in a nursing home) with larger, more abstract ideas – ranging from string theory through to evolution and the conflict between order and chaos. The marrying up of these ideas with the subject matter is elegantly done and never feels artificial. And there was always enough in the way of plot/character to draw the reader in and no shortage of humour. For a longer review, see:
  • A Burned-Over District on Jan. 31, 2015

    I liked the colourful collection of characters and sense of place, which reminded me (a little) of Garrison Keillor (only minus lots of Lutherans and the Mid-West location). Not entirely convinced that the plot quite delivered in the end, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of it (and it's the only reason for giving it four stars, not five - would've given it 4.5 if I'd been able to). I also highly recommend "The Inelegant Universe" by the same author.
  • Retirement Projects on Jan. 31, 2015

    An enjoyable comedy - well written and sharply observed. Almost but not quite as good as "The Inelegant Universe" (by the same author).
  • Day Gazing: Weird Shorts on May 27, 2015

    It’s a thoroughly lazy approach to reviewing on my part, but if you want to know what I think in a few lines, I pretty much agree with Tom Lichtenberg (see below). If, on the other hand, you’re up for a reading a slightly longer review, see:
  • Stumps of Mystery: Stories from the End of an Era on Oct. 31, 2016

    This is a well written literary novel with an unconventional narrative structure, consisting of a series of linked stories about the inhabitants of a small town in Oregon called Woodhill around 2007-8. For much of the novel, each chapter takes the point of view of a particular character – such as a PR consultant who’s just moved to Woodhill from NewYork, a park ranger, a Mexican immigrant, the sister of a tree-sitting environmental activist or a 13 year old whose older big brother is fighting in Iraq. Until the last section, there is not much linking them all together. But two things keep you reading. Firstly, there are subtle links between the chapters – so watch out for them. Secondly, the characterisation is very well done and very engaging – so much so that the lack of plot didn’t bother me. It is no mean feat to take you right into a particular character’s world in just one short chapter but Susan Wickstrom manages it very effectively. And readers hungry for plot will be rewarded in the final section, which centres on a tragic event and is much more plot-driven, bringing together many of the characters and themes from earlier on. For a longer review, see:
  • Single To Morden on Feb. 27, 2017

    This is a very well written and consistently funny comic novel. I agree with the blurb that it has a "Nick Hornby-ish flavour" - in fact, I would go further and say that comparisons with Nick Hornby are entirely justified here. For a slightly longer review, including a discussion of the role of the London Underground network as a topological paradigm in urban meta-fictional psycho-geography (sorry, I don't know what happened there, I must have momentarily turned into Will Self - mercifully it didn't last long), see:
  • Bad Faith on April 30, 2018

    This is an excellent literary novel about various characters trying to get in touch with their "authentic" selves - but it's also a genuine page-turner. It took a little while to really get going, but once it had hit its stride, I found it hard to put down. It also made me think about the slipperiness of “authenticity” as a guide to what we really value in life. For a longer review, see:
  • The Prancing Jacana on Nov. 10, 2018

    The Prancing Jacana is (for me at any rate) what Graham Greene liked to call “an entertainment”: it doesn’t take itself too seriously, its thriller-style plot ticks along at a nice pace, but it’s also written with a literary sensibility and manages to deal with some serious issues along the way. The blurb provides a good description of what to expect, but for a longer review, see:
  • Show Them What They Won on March 11, 2019

    Ever wondered how many people have to die before gun-enthusiasts in the States start to question whether the easy availability and widespread ownership of fire-arms in their country might be part of the problem? What if someone got so frustrated with this state of affairs that he decided to give the gun community a taste of their own medicine? And what if that someone were a retired police officer, so he knew not only how to handle guns but also how to cover his tracks? This is what Sean Boling imagines in this gripping and highly provocative novel - for a longer review, see:
  • Court Out on April 29, 2019

    A well-written comic novel combining a racy, legal thriller-type plot with chick lit-style romantic comedy. For a (slightly) longer review, see:
  • Yard Sale on Dec. 27, 2021

    Yard Sale depicts various episodes in the life of a single character, Ruth. We first meet her in (late) middle age, having gone on a solo road trip to escape marital difficulties. Subsequent chapters provide “snapshots” of her world at different times in her life (childhood, marriage, old age etc), from the perspective of characters including her father, a childhood friend, her husband and various others. Each episode is so well crafted that it could equally well stand alone, without needing to be part of a bigger whole (and as the author admits, some of the stories have already appeared in another collection - The Inelegant Universe, also on Smashwords - and also well worth reading). Although you could call it a novel, overall, the effect is more like a collection of connected short stories. For a longer review, which may give you a better idea of what to expect (and why I'm giving it 5 stars), see: