August 24

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi


Ever so slowly I am working through the backlog of books I have been sent to review. Have you ever hear the phrase ‘So may books, so little time’? That is certainly true of Lowly’s life. I will admit that ‘hard SF’ is often left until later, simply because most of the time I read to relax rather than to be stimulated into thinking. This book will definitely demand serious thinking from any reader.

Set far, far in the future, long after humans have evolved into the next level, Jean is in prison for theft. Prisons have also evolved, and his punishment is pretty horrific. So when Mieli offers him the chance of escape, he eagerly accepts even if she demands a favour in return. She wants him to go to Mars and steal something. The problem is that Jean once lived on Mars, and he is remembered, especially by the woman he left behind.

OK so the plot resembles an action crime novel. But the beauty of SF is in the ideas, and there were ideas galore in this read. Wealth is measured in time. Humanity is immortal – becoming Quiet for a time before resurrecting. The Quiet maintain consciousness and even perform services for those ‘alive’. And the whole punishment in prison is incredible. Any one of these ideas would be enough for a lesser SF author. Or an unskilled author would spend so much time exploring these fascinating ideas that the plot would get lost. Whether the reader can thank the writer or the editor, this book left the original ‘out there’ ideas for pondering and got on with telling the story.

This book is now out in paperback, and Rajaniemi has a second novel out. If you are a SciFi fan, get it, get both of them, and enjoy. If futuristic SciFi is not your thing, give this one a miss.

August 24

Watching You by Michael Robotham


9781847445278I know that many of you out there are passionate about Robotham’s writing. Many friends are continually promoting his books to each other, and beyond. But I had never taken the time to read one of his books. And generally I don’t like picking up a series in the middle. But sometimes one has to make an exception to the rule.

I don’t think it will be a spoiler if I let everyone know that Watching You is about a stalker. If you didn’t pick it up from the title, the blurb makes it very clear. Stalking is threatening, scary and tense. Fortunately most of us go through life never needing to deal with a stalker. Not so Marnie Logan. She has the feeling that someone is always looking over her shoulder. Once her husband disappears, this feeling gets stronger, but can she convince anyone to believe her.

The reader knows the truth. We occasionally get a chapter written from the stalker’s viewpoint. The police don’t have that advantage. One detective in particular seems determined to put Marnie behind bars for murder. Her friend Joe doesn’t know what to think, the evidence seems to be with the detective, but as a psychologist, somehow Marnie is a very unlikely murder. Then her childhood friend Malcolm enters the scene, and Joe is even more confused.

This is a book that you won’t want to put down. Yes you can predict the end safely, but there are some wonderful twists on the way the the final solution. Some are telegraphed, but there is certainly at least one I never saw. Best advice? Start this book on a wet and boring weekend.

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