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Books Editorial

gallowglass.jpg Gallowglass by Simon Morden

Discussing one of the various risky manoeuvres by which a mineral-rich asteroid is to be shifted for purposes of terrestrial exploitation, a character comments without much confidence that the physics of the plan is sound. The physics of Morden’s gritty (literally – expect lots of grit) plots is always sound, while the technological detail is based not on flights of fancy but on extrapolation from current practice and theory. If you like your science fiction complete with nuts, bolts, carabiners and deeply uncomfortable space suits, you’ll feel immediately at home in the functional, unromanticised environment he creates. The novel also operates, however, as a sharply observed study of personality under stress, as runaway rich boy Jack realises that escape into a dodgy world of space-based land claims (huge rewards, gigantic risks) enmeshes him in the clashing ambitions of crew and backers, and there can’t be an easy way out. With each chapter chillingly headed by “expert” opinions on climate change, larger issues about guilt, responsibility, personal freedom and sacrifice resonate beyond the tale told. It’s the tale, though, that will keep you reading, as Jack pitches himself into an unwelcoming, unhealthy situation where neither stakes nor players are what they seem. Grit, ore, tension and suspense informed by some really big ideas – go for the spaceships but stay for the joined-up thinking.

Publ. Gollancz, 2020-12-29