For a country whose modern (western) history is based on the now discredited legal concept of ‘terra nullius’ the idea of invasion must be a deep rooted cultural threat, with a twist of ironic karma.

‘Tomorrow, when the war began’ is an Aussie movie which examines just such an invasion.

Mixed in with some teenage coming of age and a decent nod to American 80s cold war paranoia fuelled movie ‘Red Dawn’.

With the invasion happening on Australia Day the overtures to the previous invasion of the continent are strong shadows throughout the film.

The film starts as a teenage adventure in the wild, but quickly becomes a tale of teenagers finding how far they will go to battle the invaders.

The movie is well crafted, balancing action with character progression.

It fits into the history of Australian cinema which is edgy, questioning and watchable – think ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’, ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, ”Walkabout’ or even ‘Two Hands or ‘Strange Planet’.

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In celebration of the life and work of Douglas Adams, writer of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, today is Towel Day.

His works of fiction are enjoyed across the world and it is fitting to his sense of irreverent fun the world remembers him in this way.

More: towelday.org

I am writing another novel, my fourth.

This one is a departure from my previous books (buy books from my back catalouge here), as it is science fiction set in the near (ish) future, rather than a contemporary setting.

I am about halfway through the first draft.

For now I am only going to say a few things about it:

  • It is mostly set in Australia
  • It is provisionally titled “Cubes”
  • The main character is currently called Cordelia

That is all…. for now.

To say Reynolds latest novel is a procedural detective novel is, while technically true, a vast under selling of Elysium Fire.

The novel is set in a cluster of habitats known as the Glitter Band and follows a number of Panoply operatives who are entrusted with protecting the participatory democracy which sees every citizen voting on every issue which faces their society.

Each habitat, it turns out, can leave the democratic union if they choose. And a rabble rouser, who is not exactly open about how much a part of the establishment he is, is stirring up dissent and encouraging breakaways.

So the set up feels a lot like brexit – Glit-xit, in this scenario. I was worried about where this was going to take us.

On the plus side, after the set up Reynolds leaves the Brexit analogy alone (unless he continues it and i am too uninformed / he is too subtle, for me to know it’s there).

In parallel to the politics is a story about brain implants going wrong and melting their hosts. This is starting to reach the levels where citizens might panic if the media made the links between the deaths.

Reynolds creates a narrative which is at once compelling and totally immersive.

His creation has shadows of the Culture novels of Iain M Banks. But any well written future set society is bound to have parallels with the Culture. And observing the similarities should be seen as a compliment to Reynolds.

There follows an imaginative narrative as the operatives unravel the deaths and find links to the politics of their age.

This is a great read for any sci fi lovers and if you have enjoyed any of Reynolds work before, this will in no way disappoint.

For some reason no one has made movies of the following sci fi source material (books or graphic novels) and in my humble opinion they really should as the material has hit movie written all over it.

Special effects have moved on so far, the difficulties of any of these could be overcome to make a spectacular film:

Tiger, Tiger by Alfred Bester – one of my favourite sci fi books of all time. A rip roaring rampage of revenge. Gully Foyle is left for dead in the opening salvos of a war between the inner and outer planets of the solar system. Oh and people can self teleport, which is a genius idea well used in this narrative. His path for revenge takes him across the solar system.

On the Flip Side by Nicholas Fisk – a story about people being able to step across to another dimension by the power of thought – and what the world left behind is like.

Neuromancer by Gibson – the novel which launched cyber punk is a delightful read from start to finish. And a cracking thriller which would make an epic cinematic experience.

Look to Windward by Iain M Banks – a simply beautiful novel with so much scope for some beautiful cinematography as the broad canvas of the Culture painted by Banks is played out across this enigmatic book. There is also a fabulous thriller plot which bounds along at a perfect pace for the narrative.

The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore – if you could skip over most of book one in the intro (like the first harry potter film skips half the book in about the opening 10 mins) and then cover book 2 and 3 in the actual movie. Book 2 of this graphic novel series is an interstellar cruise from the point of view of the waiting staff while book 3 is a sad tale of life in a universe where the only way to make money is join the army and wage war across the stars, a severally depressing view of war (which in the closing chapters borrows significantly from The Forever War by Joe Haldeman). Halo is also a feminist icon and a trailblazer in the representation of women in comic books.

If you can think of any other sci fi novels or graphic novels which should become movies please comment.

Literature literally loves lovers.

Of all ages – from those first flushes of Romeo and Juliet to middle aged lovers such as Antony and Cleopatra – love across human life has always been a focus of plays, poetry and novels.

There is an entire genre of, in my opinion, trashy romantic novels which seem to still sell.

At the more literary end of this genre is Bridgett Jones and her diary (I only made it about 2/3 of the way through the first one before I had to put it down) which appeal to so many.

There is also the slightly darker end of the market, popularised by 50 Shades of Grey.

There is love in many areas of literature, including unrequited love, The Great Gatsby being a tour de force in the lengths some will go to for their unrequited love.

Well, whatever type of literary love you love, today is the annual day of love, so think about those literary lovers and show your real lover just how you feel about them (maybe with the gift of a book about love)…

How do you follow up one of the greatest sci fi debuts in recent years?

Andy Weir’s debut The Martian was originally self published, before going on to be picked up by a major publisher and later turned into a movie starring Matt Damon.

His follow up, Artemis, was released late in 2017.

So how did he approach what could have been a difficult second novel in the shadow of such previous success?

Weir has produced Artemis, which more than stands up as a good novel in its own right and is not overshadowed by its predecessor.

Artemis is set on the moon, in and around the city of that name, the only city on the moon.

The main character, Jazz, is a young woman. But she shares enough personality traits with Mark Watney, the hero of The Martian, to keep things interesting.

Watney was alone on Mars for several hundred pages so he needed a bucket load of personality.

Jazz is not alone, but has enough of Watney’s brand of humour to keep the plot running along while interacting with a host of other characters.

Sample line: “on a scale of one to ‘invade Russia in winter’ how stupid is this plan?.”

The only area I felt The Martian could have been improved was through more descriptive sections around the plot.

Artemis has more descriptive parts than The Martian and this works well.

While The Martian didn’t lend itself to an obvious sequel, Artemis could easily be the first in a series.

Whether this is what Weir has in mind, or not, I have no idea.

Whether he chooses to visit Jazz again or do something else with his next novel, I will certainly be happy to read it.

This is a solid novel, with enough twists and turns to keep you interested. There is enough world building going on for the novel to work in its own logic, without the back story being overbearing.

I had hoped for a knowing reference to The Martian somewhere in the narrative, but didn’t spot one (please use the comments to tell me if there is one I haven’t picked up on).

Expect to see a big Hollywood movie version in the near future.

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