David Hofmeyr’s ‘Stone Rider’

Stone RiderLife on Earth is tough and fraught with violence. Pollution has destroyed the quality of the air people breathe and there’s an ever-present threat of radiation. For those on the ground, the only options are to live their life working in the mines or to become a rider, risking their lives as they take to their bykes and compete, racing to win a one way ticket to the mysterious Sky Base.

When fifteen year old Adam enters the Blackwater Trail, he knows that the majority of the riders won’t return. The landscape is unforgiving, the obstacle courses are booby-trapped and people will do absolutely anything to win, including taking out their fellow competitors. Soon enough, he’s teamed up with the dark, enigmatic outsider Kane and Sadie Blood, daughter of one of the most powerful families in town. Together, the three of them take on the course and battle every impediment hurled in their way, hoping to escape their lives for something better. Continue reading

‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’ by Claire North

first 15livesofharryaugustIn the First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, author Claire North plays with our concept of time. In her vision, time runs over and over on a constant loop. Some people have the ability to retain their consciousness from one life to the next, and are born again and again – always in the same time, in the same place and to the same parents, but with the knowledge of the lives lived before.

Here, being reborn isn’t reincarnation, it’s more like doing endless laps around a track. People like Harry cross paths with the same acquaintances every life, and develop relationships that span more lifetimes than they can remember. Major events and landmarks pass by again and again, and even with their extensive knowledge, there’s nothing they can do to stop or change them.

For Harry and those like him, life is both a constant experiment and a bit of a bore. Childhood is a chore to get through. Death isn’t final and is sometimes, in extreme cases, welcomed. But then news of a disaster starts to filter through from the future. The end of the world is coming, and it’s getting closer with every generation. Someone is disrupting the balance, inventing technology far before its time with devastating consequences. When people start disappearing, murdered in the womb before they can be born and breaking the cycle for good, it becomes obvious that this threat is very real. Continue reading

Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’

the martianFollowing an aborted Mars mission, NASA astronaut Mark Watney is left behind. His team think he’s dead. He has no way of communicating with them or with Earth The next mission to Mars is over 4 years away. Its proposed landing site is thousands of kilometres away. But all of that pales in significance beside the more immediate problem – Mark will run out of food long before the next mission arrives and will starve to death.

He has a limited amount of supplies and has to figure out how he can use them in a way that will sustain his life, taking each day as it comes and hoping that a solution to what seems like a completely impossible, hopeless task. He seems doomed to fail and die alone on Mars. But the ways that he finds to survive in such a bleak and inhospitable environment are ingenious. He continues to defy expectations and relies pretty much entirely on his own logic and common sense to carry on.

Be warned, there is a lot of technical detail about the systems for life support in Mark’s makeshift home, and a lot of maths and scientific detail as he attempts to work out how he can survive! I didn’t understand a fair few of the finer points, but it didn’t take anything away from the reading – as long as Mark understood it, that’s all that matters! Continue reading

‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ by M. R. Carey

The girl with the giftsTen-year-old Melanie’s world consists of the four walls of her room, the corridor and the schoolroom. She loves school, and even more so if it’s Miss Justineau’s day to teach. To all extents and purposes, Melanie seems just like any other little girl, but it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems. Every time Melanie leaves her room, she’s strapped into a wheelchair, unable to move or even turn her head. Her classmates have a habit or disappearing and never coming back, and the guards never relinquish their grip on their guns.

It’s hard to go much further without giving away spoilers, but we soon find out that Melanie and her classmates are anything but normal children. In the wake of an unexpected and deadly event, society is struggling to survive. Melanie’s schoolroom is on a scientific army base, where people are desperately searching for solutions, whatever the cost. Continue reading

A futuristic thriller

Tomorrow and tomorrowThomas Sweterlitsch’s ‘Tomorrow and Tomorrow’ is set in the not-to-distant future, when technology has advanced. In the place of smartphones, people have software installed directly into their heads which is connected to the internet and connected to retinal display screens. People’s social media profiles are displayed automatically as they walk past, advertisements are videos that stream directly into your hear when you glance their way, instead of business cards people can just push their details straight into your address book and news streams offer constant real time updates in the corner of your vision.

Another new feature of this world is a virtual archive of the city of Pittsburgh, which has been completely destroyed by a dirty bomb that obliterated the city’s entire population. The archive is made up of video footage, taken from personal streams, social media sites as well as traffic, surveillance and security cameras. People are able to visit the archive, going to any time, any place and anyone and reliving the past through augmented reality software.

Dominic was one of Pittsburgh’s survivors, out of the city when the deadly bomb struck, but lost his wife and unborn child. He works in the archive, tracking down people and reliving their last hours to help settle insurance claims. He also spends a huge amount of his time living in the past – reliving the same memories of his wife, following her final moments and hearing her speak to him again and again. Continue reading