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The Outer Spheres: Volume 2 (Diamond Roads) Paperback – 29 Jan 2017
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About the Author
A professional scriptwriter for many years, Andrew completed two feature film commissions, one of them an adaptation. He also wrote for TV shows like ‘The Bill’ and ‘Space Island One’. His radio play ‘Burn Your Phone’ was very well reviewed by the Independent, nominated for a Writers’ Guild Award and made into a BBC film. He has had shows performed at the Edinburgh Festival and wrote and starred in ‘Wonderworld’ for BBC7. The first novel of his ‘Diamond Roads’ science fiction series, ‘Sons of the Crystal Mind’ is out now.
Top customer reviews
The world is intricate and extremely well thought-out, with a lot of attention to the detail of how a society that essentially can create anything it needs would actually work. This makes the universe feel very real and textured, and I found myself thinking about it long after I'd finished reading the novel. It's probably quite hard SF, in fact, but Wallace writes with a very a light touch and as a result I didn't find myself caught in any moments of techno-babbly or wading through various mcguffins - everything made sense within the setting. Little touches like the the ways names equate to a person's status are wonderful, and highlight the amount of thought that has gone into creating the world.
Next, where the first novel felt somewhat like a road movie, this is very much a war novel. Charity has grown up a lot since book one, but I still get the sense that she is evolving and learning, which makes this a very fascinating character to follow. Charity isn't perfect, nor is she trying to be. She is doing the best she can in the situation she finds herself. So it is that Charity is a fantastic heroine for a modern SF reader; I found myself at different moments in the novel cheering her on and screaming at her for her stupidity! I don't know about you, but for me any character that can both inspire and frustrate is always a win!
If you like SF which is both well thought-out and character driven, you will love this book! I am very much looking forward to the next instalment, and I can easily see myself reading these again back-to-back once the series has finished. I suspect there is a lot of detail and foreshadowing which I have missed on the first read through. Great stuff!
‘The Outer Spheres’ is a very different book, not least because Charity Freestone has changed so much. Gone is the confused, repressed young woman who narrates ‘Sons of the Crystal Mind’. Instead, she has spent a year separated from her beloved Harlan training with a sci-fi version of the SAS. There are glimpses of how tough this training is (very tough – actually horrific in places), without it derailing the story. Suffice to say that when Charity comes up against unreasonable odds, we believe she can stand her ground.
It’s just as well. The enemies she finds in this novel make the ones in the first seem a bit part-time. Granted, the Sons of the Crystal Mind were awful, but they were mainly idiots and losers and Charity was eventually able to outwit them. The antagonists in ‘The Outer Spheres’ are far more dangerous; indeed, for the first part of the novel Charity does not even know who they are.
It’s one of a number of mysteries that pull you even deeper into the strange world of Diamond Roads than before. Another is the ‘Hex’, a curse that has fallen on Diamond City and which seems to involve Charity personally. There was something of this blend of high-tech and supernatural in ‘Sons of the Crystal Mind’, when Charity, confronted with sudden and devastating horror, wonders if the Crystal Mind God is actually real. The Hex is in a different league though; there appears to be physical evidence of it, although finding that presents Charity with a whole new set of nightmares.
One of the most upsetting is how much her family has changed. The central relationship in ‘Sons of the Crystal Mind’ was between Charity and her adoptive older sister Ursula, closely followed by that with Harlan, who in true dystopian fashion is the lover who awakes feelings of rebellion and release. Here, though, sister and lover are much more ambiguous; indeed, they quickly emerge as antagonists, with Ursula in particular a dark, driven woman whose experiences in the first book have made her ferocious and reckless in equal measure. Meanwhile, Charity’s dad is still missing and her agreement to join the SAS guys at all is predicated on them helping her save him. As for Charity’s mum, well… suffice to say there is another massive twist that I really want to tell you about but won’t, because you’ll never get it.
It’s been a while since I read ‘Sons of the Crystal Mind’, so I’m pretty certain that you can read ‘The Outer Spheres’ without having read the first one. Certainly, events from the earlier novel are included in an informative way that never feels intrusive. It builds on the mythology of the world and the characters, taking them into new worlds and levels of awareness. One of these is sexual; and if ‘Sons of the Crystal Mind’ felt like a story about repression then ‘The Outer Spheres’ is the exact opposite. Again, none of these feel gratuitous because there are reasons for everything that happens, described in ways that are understandable no matter how strange or fearsome the characters. Indeed, one of the most frightening characters is Charity herself, who goes from struggling with who she is to questioning her entire humanity.
Despite that evolution, and the fact that ‘The Outer Spheres’ is on one level a war story, there is not the wholesale slaughter that takes place in ‘Sons of the Crystal Mind.’ The war is a backdrop, rearing up from time to time to make things even harder for the heroine. Instead, it feels like a book about Charity’s relationship with three other women, all of whom have at one point been her enemy. Indeed, it’s only at the end you realise there are hardly any male characters at all. Not that they get on, mind you, although one line that stuck with me was when Charity describes herself and the other three as ‘four angry women made harsh by a world that does not care about us’. Beautiful.
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Most recent customer reviews
‘Sons of the Crystal Mind’ set the bar pretty high with its dazzling concept, supercharged, eroticised plot and truly...Read more