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.

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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.

As usual I have read quite a few books this year.

Here are some highlights of books I read this year:

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham – love this author (The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos are two of my all time favourite sci fi books) and this book, while taking a while to get going, ended up un-put down able. A great exploration of unfounded intolerance, and relevant today as when it was written.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – which I wrote about before, is a tour de force in modern teen fiction. Better than SE Hinton – and my teenage self is properly upset I have written that statement. Highly recommended.

Archangel by Robert Harris – any novel which can make me interested in post WW2 Russian history must be doing something right. This is a real page turner from the opening right up to its fabulous, if ambiguous, conclusion. Some of Harris other works I have found slow, or the world building more attention grabbing than the plot (Fatherland), but this has it all going on.

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds – in a future where faster than light travel is impossible a house of long living clones travel the galaxy in cycles, spending vast aeons of time in suspended animation, holding reunions every few millennia. The scope of this novel is breathtaking and while it feels like it wanders off from the plot towards the end, maybe the real point of the novel is how even hideous events lose their horror after 17,000 years or so. Up for debate, which only adds to the positive feelings I have towards the book – still deciphering meaning long after reading is always a good sign about a book.

Please feel free to share your views on these books in the comments and also any novels you read this year, either ones published this year or otherwise.

Happy reading in 2018.

If you own a Kindle (which, along with the Apple iPad) is the future of publishing, you can now own a digital copy of my first novel for much less than the paperback RRP of £7.

Depending on the conversion rate of the dollar (the Kindle store is driven from the US at present) the UK price should be about £2.

In my opinion the future of books is digital, but to survive this format should cost much less than buying a physical book.

Bearing in mind there is no cost for printing, distribution from printer to store, no storage cost, no cost of owning the store, paying the staff to  stock the shelves and man the tills – there is no justifiable business model (apart from excessive greed, which I guess isn’t actually justifiable) which would allow publishers to charge the same for their eBooks as for the physical versions.

My new (ish) novel has been published.
This is a re-working of the novel I had a go at writing when I was 16.
Probably 65% of the content is from 1993 and the rest a bit of a re-write in 1999 and a further re-write to pull it all together in 2009.

The back page blurb says:
“When you are 16 the adult world is a great wide open space full of possibilities. Or at least it should be.
The grunge-fuelled early 1990s, saw the last of Generation X reach adulthood.
Will and his friends are among the last born to this desolate, degenerate generation.
They are full of hormones, full of alcohol and full of fears about the grown up world.”

I am trying a new appreoach to publishing for this book, so it is available from:

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1222989

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