Fiction Reviews

Winter World

(2019) A. G. Riddle, Head of Zeus, 18.99, hrdbk, 389pp, ISBN 978-1-789-54320-9


Global warming concerns cast aside, the Earth is cooling for some unknown reason!  What is known is that the crops are failing, the glaciers advancing and nations migrating. A probe is sent to monitor the Sun to ascertain why it seems to be dimming but, just as the data is being relayed via the International Space Station, the probe and the station are destroyed.  Fortunately, one astronaut, Emma, survives...

James Sinclair is a prisoner in a penitentiary amidst a revolt.  He is also a brilliant scientist cum engineer, which is what caused him to be imprisoned for crimes we the reader do not get to learn (until close to the book's end).

Sinclair is recruited in a bid by the US authorities to get to the bottom of the global cooling problem.  Eventually this takes him to space and, with Emma, he discerns the agency at work.  Somehow, humanity has to fight back if it is to survive.

A. G. Riddle is the author of the 'Atlantis' trilogy as well as the 'Extinction' duology.  Winter World is the start of his 'Solar War' sequence.

It is a rollercoaster of a novel with more SF tropes in it from space travel and (Brian Aldiss') 'cosy catastrophes' and extinction events to artificial intelligence and the singularity than you can shake a stick at.  It is one of those books which is great to switch off to and be carried along by the author's writing brio and verve.

By the way, I say 'cosy catastrophe' as while the entirety of Earth's population has to migrate and billions die, the suffering is simply referred to and not actually experienced by the novel's main characters: they seem to almost have a comfortable time.

Having said that the reader 'switching off' is arguably essential especially if you are into science fiction and have a knowledge of science.  From early on it is clear that orbital mechanics let alone space craft propulsion is not Riddle's forte and as things progressed I gave up on the basic science errors that modern SF writers normally deal with in their stride. This together with issues as to the plot and character development meant that I soon gave up taking Winter World seriously: I could not suspend my disbelief and buy into the premise.  Readers simply need to accept things and allow themselves to be swept along.  If you can do this, then you are in for quite a ride.

Jonathan Cowie


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