Category Archives: science fiction

Sunday Post – 19th May, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Last week my sister and I spent the weekend at the Chewton Glen hotel having a series of spa treatments to celebrate her 60th birthday. And yes… it was every bit as fabulous as it sounds!

This week, I didn’t have much time to muse on my wonderful experience as Monday and Tuesday was taken up with teaching at Northbrook and catching up with admin, while on Tuesday night, writing buddy Mhairi made the five-hour drive up from Lincolnshire to stay over until Thursday. Once again, it was lovely seeing her and catching up on her writing progress – and I was pleased to be able to mention that so far this month I have written over 18,000 words towards Mantivore Prey and am now working on the penultimate chapter. The days flew by so that no sooner had I hugged her hello, then I seemed to be hugging her good-bye again. However, it is only temporary as she will soon be coming down again – and in July I will be travelling up to stay with her as we fill in our tax returns together.

I attended a funeral on Friday – a terribly sad affair where a sudden death out of the blue leaves two young sons without a father and a wife suddenly widowed. On Saturday, I was asked along as a number of my sister’s friends arranged a surprise birthday party for her. It was a lovely, relaxed affair, full of jokes, laughter and affection. I’m so glad and proud of her for battling through her serious illness and a long, unhappy relationship, to be able to get to this stage – she is a star!

I keep waiting for the boring middle age I was promised – surely Life is supposed to slow down and get more tedious as I get older, rather than ever more varied and demanding?

 

 

Last week I read:
Cleon Moon – Book 5 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Now that she’s retrieved the Staff of Lore, Captain Alisa Marchenko can finally dedicate herself and her ship to finding her kidnapped daughter. Her scant clues lead her to Cleon Moon. Unfortunately, since the fall of the empire, mafia clans have taken over the domed cities on the harsh moon, and exploring there isn’t easy. Even with the cyborg Leonidas at her side, Alisa struggles to survive vengeful mafia clans, rogue Starseers, and genetically engineered predators. If Alisa can’t navigate the moon’s chaos, she may lose her only chance to catch up with her daughter.
This is yet another entertaining episode in this enjoyable, action-packed space opera series. I’m looking forward to getting hold of the next book in the series… Review to follow.

 

Across the Void by S.K. Vaughn
It’s Christmas Day, 2067. Silent Night drifts across the ruins of a wrecked spaceship, listing helplessly in the black. A sole woman, May, stirs within – the last person left alive of a disastrous first manned mission to Europe, a moon of Saturn.There is only one person who can help her – her ex-husband Stephen, a NASA scientist who was heading up the mission back on Earth. Until, that is, she broke his heart and he left both her and the mission.
Rarely has a book reduced me to such fury – and yes, I completed it and have written a thoroughly ranty review as a result.

 

 

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd
Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too. But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.
In stark contrast to the previous book, this one turned out to be a delightful surprise – both at the quality of the writing and the effective way in which Rudd evokes the 70s and 80s. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Porpoise by Mark Haddon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Poison Song – Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams

Friday Faceoff featuring The Red Knight – Book 1 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

 

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

Trees and Insecurity
https://chechewinnie.com/forests-and-insecurity/ This apparently innocuous title hides a gripping and shocking tale of survival because of trees – please read it. It will put your own problems into perspective…

Why Read Women Writers? An Interview with Bill Wolfe https://www.janefriedman.com/why-read-women-writers-bill-wolfe/ I thoroughly enjoyed this thoughtful review by the great Jane Friedman…

The Best Examples of Metaphysical Poetry in English Literature https://interestingliterature.com/2019/05/15/the-best-examples-of-metaphysical-poetry-in-english-literature/ Once more, this enjoyable information site delivers the goods…

The Power of Writerly Kindness https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/15/the-power-of-writerly-kindness/ We so often hear of writers being envious of each other – it’s always a tonic to hear the other side of the story…

Top 5 Wednesday – BFFs in Fantasy (plus musings about intimacy, society expectations, and friendships in western vs eastern media) https://pagesbelowvaultedsky.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/top-5-wednedsay-bffs-in-fantasy-plus-musings-about-intimacy-societal-expectations-and-friendships-in-western-vs-eastern-media/ And yes… this excellent article is every bit as interesting as it sounds.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

Advertisements

Teaser Tuesday – 23rd April, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

2% Where the desert met the mountains, the winds were strong; they’d had the run of the place, after all, and now these rising shelves of rock came to thwart them. The remote recorded gusting clouds of brown-red grit, dust devils, a great complex of thermals whirling upwards and carrying all sorts of fine debris into the higher atmosphere.

The camera had lost sight of the plastic bag; now it veered back into view, far closer. The remote was rising, above the peaks now, looking down. The thing – the indisputably living thing – lazily undulated its way along the line of the mountains.

BLURB: Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time. Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth. But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed.

And it’s been waiting for them.

As anyone who has visited my blog more than once or twice will know – I’m a huge fan of Tchaikovsky’s writing and his science fiction book, Children of Time, is a solid favourite, so I was thrilled to get the chance to read the sequel. And so far, I have no idea where this one is going – what fun!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman #Brainfluffbookreview #AtlasAlonebookreview

Standard

I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read and review this one – After Atlas was my outstanding book of 2017. In order to get the best out of this book, you don’t have to have read all four books of this fabulous series, but my firm advice is to at least get hold of After Atlas, given that Atlas Alone takes up the story after that amazing ending and features at least a couple of the main characters who appear in After Atlas.

Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who perpetrated a terrible crime on Earth as they were leaving. She’s trying to find those responsible, and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone. A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time…

I have tweaked and truncated the rather chatty blurb, but you get the idea… This is one of those atmospheric, twitchy narratives where the main character in first person viewpoint is driven by a sense of wrongness after witnessing a terrible crime. Seeing such horror has taken its toll on her and her two closest friends – Travis and Carl. What now drives her is a desire to discover who was responsible, because she knows they are on the ship.

What Newman excels at is writing difficult characters who don’t immediately appeal. I am aware that if I encountered Dee in real life, I would be repelled by her formidable reserve and the social mask she hides behind. That said, it’s made very clear exactly why she is as she is – to her fury. Because while immersed in a game, she finds herself confronted with aspects of her terrible past – and a scarily powerful entity she calls ‘the beast’ is intent on getting her to come to terms with what happened to her. While Dee is equally determined that she’ll do no such thing – over the years as an indentured employee (more like a slave) she has managed to throw up mental defences which she is reluctant to drop. Particularly when feeling so threatened…

And with good reason. When a sudden death in a game is mirrored in real life and Carl’s remarkable investigative skills are let loose on the case, Dee realises she is at risk of being arrested for murder with only the beast’s assurance that she won’t be caught. I found Dee a compelling protagonist, who I loved. So that ending… well – I can’t say much about it – but I didn’t see THAT one coming!

Yet another amazing climactic cliffhanger that leaves me desperate for the next slice in this amazing adventure. This is one of my favourite series at present and Atlas Alone is every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. Very highly recommended for fans of well-written, character-driven science fiction. The ebook arc copy of Atlas Alone was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Knight: A Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War – Book 2 by Timothy Zahn #Brainfluffbookreview #Knightbookreview

Standard

I thoroughly enjoy Zahn’s writing – see my review of The Cobra Trilogy – so scooped this one up when I saw it on Netgalley. Once again, it appears that I had got hold of the second book of a series where I haven’t read the first – and in fairness to me, it isn’t apparent from either the title or the subtitle that it is the second book, either. Though this time around, I would recommend that you get hold of the first one, The Sibyl’s War, before diving into Knight as initially I found it a tad challenging to work out what exactly was going on – and I regularly crash midway into series.

Nicole Hammond was just trying to survive on the streets of Philadelphia, then she and her partner Bungie were abducted by a race of mysterious moth-like aliens and taken to a strange ship called the Fyrantha. Now she is a Sibyl, a special human that has the ability to communicate with the aliens and their ship, and no one is happy. Competing factions control different parts of the Fyrantha with the humans and other sentient aliens caught in the middle. But Nicole is done being bullied, and now she has a plan to take control of the ship. She just has to outsmart war profiteers and slavers to do it.

I really enjoyed this one. Nicole is accustomed to living by her wits and it’s this attribute that keeps her alive and relatively unscathed. That, and her stubbornness in refusing to lie down and accept the fate that awaits herself, her companions and the rest of Earth… The stakes in this story couldn’t be higher – Earth is at the mercy of a ruthless, technologically advanced race of aliens who are looking to cash in on whatever humanity has to offer in the way of bankable commodities. Up to now, the abducted slaves on the vast ship that has snatched them up, have managed to persuade their masters that humans are useless at fighting, so they have concluded that selling off humans as slave armies to the highest bidder is pointless.

Nicole’s skills at communicating with some of the odd, alien components of the ship, such as the moth creatures, give her some vital advantages, but I think Zahn has successfully avoided making her too much of a Mary Sue. I also like the fact that the humans on board don’t all think the same way – some are simply intent on surviving at the expense of everyone else; others think the strategy that Nicole and her companions adopt is simply wrong and yet at least one key character believes that if she betrays her fellow conspirators, she will be rewarded by being freed to return to her family.

All in all, the desperate skirmishes and adventures aboard this extraordinary, vast ship make for gripping reading and I will be backtracking to discover how Nicole came to be aboard the Fyrantha and looking forward to the next slice of the adventure. The ebook arc copy of Knight: A Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 16th April, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Atlas Alone – Book 4 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman

35% Nothing has changed in the bedroom. His body is still there, which jars me. In zero-gore games it would have faded out by now. I study his face, wondering if I knew him a long time ago and have forgotten him, but he seems just as much a stranger. Surely there is a statement in that fact? In a game populated purely by people I have known – or even just seen regularly – in my life on Earth, the fact that he is the only exception feels important.

BLURB: Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who ordered the nuclear strike that destroyed the world. She’s trying to find those responsible, and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone.

A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time…

This is a fabulous series – After Atlas was my outstanding read of 2017 – so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read an arc copy of this one. Many, many thanks to Lynn of Lynn’s Book Blog for talking me through how to negotiate the Netgalley thicket to make this possible😊. So far, I’m loving this one – though I have no idea where it’s going…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Day 115 on an Alien Planet – Book 1 of the Settler Chronicles series by Jeanette Bedard #Brainfluffbookreview #Day115onanAlienPlanetbookreview

Standard

It was the cover that caught my eye on this one – and the very nifty title. It didn’t hurt that the author is an indie writer, as I know what a struggle it is to gain sufficient reviews to garner any kind of attention in the ocean that is Amazon.

A dishonourable discharge left Margo unable to find honest work on Earth. Signing onto a colonizing mission heading to a new world promised a fresh start. Or at least that’s what she’d thought. Strapped into a crashing colony ship, she realized how wrong she’d been. They hit the ground and the straight forward colonizing mission becomes a scramble for survival.

As you gather from the slightly shortened blurb, this is a colony world adventure where said colonisation plans have gone very badly wrong from the word go. I’m a sucker for these kinds of tales of survival – basically because it gives the author so much scope to take the story in all sorts of interesting directions. Bedard doesn’t disappoint with her vivid evocation of this bleak, airless environment, which nonetheless has been selected as suitable for this plucky group of pioneers to establish a foothold for humanity. The description and world building is believable and effective in producing a strong sense of reality without holding up the pace.

I really liked Margo as a protagonist. While having a troubled and eventful background, she is not too full of angst to be able to respond effectively in the challenging circumstances around her. There was a particular event that happened about a third of the way into the book that absolutely floored me – to the extent that I nearly stopped reading. However, I had an instinct that if I did, so I’d always wonder what happened next and I’m glad I continued. In the interests of providing a spoiler-free review. I’m not going to say more than that, but if you do happen to pick this one up, do be mindful that this is not the place to stop reading in disgust.

Any niggles? Well, there is just one. Part of the story is told through Margo’s journals, which I found more than a bit confusing because at no time did the viewpoint switch to 1st person and she isn’t the sort of character who would talk or think of herself in the third person. This did bother me for a while but as the tale was so genuinely engrossing and the stakes continued to become ever higher, it wasn’t a dealbreaker.

Of course, the difficulty in raising said stakes is that the climax has to give the reader sufficient reward or having stuck by the story in the expectation that the denouement is going to be worth it. I’m glad to say that Bedard managed to pull it off. This one has stayed with me since I finished reading it and I am keen to return to this isolated outpost of humanity to find out what happens next. So I shall certainly be tracking down the second book in the series. Recommended for fans of science fiction murder mysteries in dangerous settings. While I obtained an arc of Day 115 on an Alien Planet from the author via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe – Book 1 of The Salvagers series by Alex White – #Brainfluffbookreview #ABigShipattheEdgeoftheUniverse

Standard

Well this one is a lot of fun! Himself recommended it, as he was drawn in by the unusual cover and then by the book itself…

Boots Elsworth was a famous treasure hunter in another life, but now she’s washed up. She makes her meager living faking salvage legends and selling them to the highest bidder, but this time she might have stumbled on something real–the story of the Harrow, a famous warship, capable of untold destruction. Nilah Brio is the top driver in the Pan Galactic Racing Federation and the darling of the racing world–until she witnesses the murder of a fellow racer. Framed for the murder and on the hunt to clear her name, Nilah only has one lead: the killer also hunts a woman named Boots.

Both of these characters are not particularly likeable – you get the sense that Boots would sell her own grandmother if it would get her a solid fortune, while Nilah, young, cossetted and completely absorbed in her quest to win the Championship, is inevitably self absorbed, with a huge sense of her own importance.

As this book hits the ground running, whipping us along at a breathless pace that doesn’t ever let up, what I particularly enjoyed was that along the way, they both change for the better. Or, particularly in Boots’ case, we get to know exactly why she behaves as she does. While the terrible war that saw worlds die is now over, those caught up in the horrors don’t ever really get over it. However, I don’t want you to get the impression that this is one of those grim, post-apocalyptic adventures dripping with ruin, rust and a miasma of despair. It’s nothing of the sort – far more full-on with gung-ho adventurers who still hold life cheaply, including their own, and are capable of being amusingly snarky in between dodging fire from lethal robots, magically enhanced weaponry and overwhelming odds.

In fact, there was a point about halfway through the book when I had to take a break from the foot-to-the-floor action, as I was just too exhausted to keep up… Fortunately, after a night’s sleep, I was all set to plunge back in again – there was no risk that I wouldn’t finish this one as I cared too much for the protagonists.

Will I be diving into the next instalment? Oh yes, I’ve become far too fond of these characters not to discover what happens next… Recommended for fans of action-packed space opera.
8/10

Review of INDIE Ebook Ichor Well – Book 3 of the Free Wrench series by Joseph R. Lallo #Brainfluffbookreview #IchorWellbookreview

Standard

Himself recommended this series as an enjoyable steampunk romp – however, I picked up the third book by mistake!

Ever since Nita Graus left her homeland and joined the crew of the Wind Breaker, the reputation of the airship and its crew has been growing. The destruction of the mighty dreadnought, the escape from the legendary Skykeep, and the inexplicable ability to remain hidden from the ever-watchful eye of the Fug Folk have combined to make her and her fellow crew the stuff of legend. Alas, legendary heroes cannot exist for long without attracting a worthy villain. Luscious P. Alabaster strives to be just that foe.

Although I crashed mid-way into this series, I can report that not only did I manage to pick up all the relevant plotpoints without any undue floundering – I also finished this book with a firm resolve to go back and read the first two books. This is a world riven by political conflict since a catastrophic pollution event covered part of the planet’s surface with the fug – a purple-tinged smog that changes all who first came into contact with it. Those who live within the fug regard everyone else with contempt and arrogance as their own intellectual abilities have been boosted – not that it makes them any more likeable or wiser…

Unchanged humanity still manages to survive. Some eke out a living below ground in subterranean communities and others live above the pollution in airships, plying trade and destroying those who come looking for them. Those on the Wind Breaker are hardily accustomed to the continual freezing winds and the cold conditions the accompany high altitudes, but they are confronted with another major problem – it is becoming increasingly impossible to get hold of the fuel that powers the airship. I enjoyed the relationship amongst the crew – there were friction points and the Captain, in particular, makes a point of being grumpy. But then he regularly has to helm for several days and nights in a row without any sleep as no one else has his instincts when the going gets tough. However, there is also plenty of enjoyable snark and some unexpressed feelings that make the mix of strong characters entertaining and readable.

Meanwhile, Luscious P. Alabaster is determined to make a name for himself. Blessed with untold wealth and great family connections, he is convinced that destiny has chosen him to become the most famous man, ever. The man who destroys the infamous Wind Breaker – so he puts in place a cunning plan to snare the airship and her despicable crew. I loved this outrageously pompous antagonist, which is unusual, because generally anti-heroes and antagonist-based stories aren’t my thing. However, Lallo’s depiction of this character is a mixture of pantomime villain and a real drive to be remembered for this daring deed that certainly worked for me.

The denouement was an exciting page-turner as the plan took several unexpected twists, with some lovely reveals about the world, turning some of the previous information on its head – I love it when that happens… I’m looking forward to reading the other books in this entertaining series, which is highly recommended for fans of enjoyable steampunk adventure.
8/10

Review of PAPERBACK Nimbus – Book 3 of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford #Brainfluffbookreview #Nimbusbookreview

Standard

This is the third book in the Psi-Tech series, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. See my review of Empire of Dust and Crossways.

In a galaxy where the super-powers are the megacorporations, and ambitious executives play fast and loose with ethics in order to secure resources, where can good people turn for help? The megacorps control the jump gates and trade routes. They use psi-techs, implant-enhanced operatives with psionic abilities, who are bound by unbreakable contracts.

But something alien is stirring in the depths of foldspace. Something bigger than the squabbles between megacorporations and independents. Foldspace visions are supposed to be a figment of the imagination. At least, that’s what they teach in flight school. Ben Benjamin knows it’s not true. Meeting a void dragon was bad enough, but now there’s the Nimbus to contend with. Are the two connected? Why do some ships transit the Folds safely and others disappear without a trace?

Space opera needs some kind of faster-than-light propulsion system to make it work – something that makes all those huge distances workable. Many fans will give authors a pass if they choose not to focus on that aspect – after all, how many air passengers actually know the engineering theory behind the jet engines that carry them around the world? But there are a group of writers in the genre who meet the problem of ftl travel head-on and create a world where the manner of travel is actually part of the story. I very much enjoyed this aspect of Bedford’s world. The existence of foldspace, where pilots navigate by their implant-enhanced visualisation of access points via jump gates, such as the one close to Space Station Crossways, makes vast distances and interstellar trading feasible.

The two main protagonists in this story – Cara and Ben, are once again confronting what happens in foldspace. Ben’s whole life has been shaped by this issue, as he was a young boy when his parents disappeared without a trace on a passenger liner – while his older brother vowed never to go into space and stayed dirtside as a farmer, Ben resolved to face down his fears and go into space. Perhaps there might even be a chance that he might discover what happened to his parents… However the steady stream of mysterious disappearances are sharply increasing to a point that the megacorps can no longer keep it quiet. While Ben is constantly plagued by terrible nightmares after his encounter with the Nimbus.

I very much enjoyed this final slice in Cara and Ben’s adventures. There is the usual action and adventure I’ve come to expect from Bedford, featuring her likeable, sympathetic protagonists, while I also appreciated the ongoing changes in the cast of characters. I particularly liked that people who have been through harrowing experiences go on struggling – no Teflon-coated heroes here. The denouement and climax satisfactorily wraps up not only this book, but also the whole series.

Highly recommended for fans of character-led space opera.
8/10

Review of PAPERBACK Satellite by Nick Lake #Brainfluffbookreview #Satellitebookreview

Standard

This is another book I hauled last summer with my birthday money – and yes… I can’t lie, it was allll about that stunning cover.

He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.

That’s part of the blurb. But what is interesting is that if blurbs are supposed to be a taster for what is inside the book, then this back-book matter should be written in text-speak because Lake has taken the brave decision to write this near-future adventure in this format, complete with no capitals except for names. It took me a couple of pages to get comfortable with this format, but I’ve read a string of reviews from indignant readers who simply couldn’t cope. That’s a real shame, because they missed a cracking story as a result. And to be honest, I’m not sure this step was worth it, given it certainly posed an additional barrier to accessing the story.

Leo is a rather self-contained character, who is always an outsider – he’s bound to be given he is raised in a space station alongside a set of twins. When he sees his mother, which is infrequently, she never shows him any affection – not so much as a hug, let alone playing games and reading to him like Orion and Libra’s mother during her visits. At fifteen, Leo tells himself that he has become used to her attitude, while readying himself for his return to Earth. I loved his personality, which is important as this tale is told in first person viewpoint. Lake managed to denote his emotions, while we are also aware he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. Given the nature of his upbringing, he is wary of people and their motives, which stands him in good stead once he finds himself back on Earth.

Leo’s wonder at the beauty he encounters is wonderfully conveyed as he begins to acclimatise to gravity while living on his grandfather’s cattle ranch. But all too soon, his life there becomes disrupted. Earth is in trouble. Water and food are running out as global warming is drying up farmland and turning swathes of the landmass into desert. There are dangerous factions abroad who would like to get their hands on one of the famous space-born children…

As events stack up and the story turns a whole lot darker, I found it hard to put this one down. The scenario portrayed is chillingly plausible, which sharpened the sense of distress at the children’s plight. However, after carefully building up a realistic sense of the near-future, this adventure suddenly takes a sharp left-turn into a plotpoint more suited to Hollywood silliness. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but I could easily visualise an alternative scenario that wouldn’t have entailed all that nonsense and still given more or less the same ending.

So while I coped with the text-prose, I have marked this down from a five-star rating to a four-star novel, because I strongly felt that one final action scene at the end was entirely unnecessary and distracted from some of the hard ethical questions this thoughtful story raises. But don’t that discourage you from reading this one – it’s a gripping story with a hard-hitting message and left me with a lump in my throat, notwithstanding that final act.
8/10