If anyone knows how to write a page-turner, it’s A.G. Riddle. The second book, The Solar War, in what’s turned out (frustratingly, as I thought I was coming to the end of the story at 2am only to discover that wasn’t the case!) to be a three-book series (there’s a third book, a novella, coming out in November which should conclude the tale), is thrilling, gripping and a very satisfying follow-up to the first book, Winter World.
Commencing a short time after Winter World finished, The Solar War opens with our erstwhile heroes, James and Emma now parents, and while the earth they fought to save has gone, its geo-political boundaries and the power bases forever altered, and the decimated population packed into camps in order to survive, the war with the Grid isn’t over.
Struggling with their altered reality and what it signifies for the future, the survivors search for others. But, it’s not until the discovery of three huge asteroids on a collision course for earth, that James, Emma and the team at Camp Seven understand that they’ll never be safe. The Grid and the entity draining power from the solar system won’t stop until humanity is utterly annihilated.
Just when it looks as though they might have a chance for a different kind of future, an old threat returns which may yet prove greater than anything an alien species can throw at them.
Once again, the writing in this eschatological narrative is taut and paced tightly. The themes of catastrophic climate change (even if induced by an outside force) resonate, as does the “enemy within” trope – how humanity can be its own worst enemy – and that there’s no accounting for what people will do to ensure their own survival, as well as love, loyalty and the strong bonds of friendship and family. The characters, while sometimes bordering on cartoon-eseque in their villainy (I’m thinking of James’ nemesis) or superhero-ish in their valour (the appropriately named “James” who is Dr Marvel, James Bond and Iron Man rolled into one borders on impossibly amazing), they also manage to be relatable most of the time. As a consequence, you root for them and their worries or despair, as well as their joy when things turn out right. You ache for their grief and their growing awareness of how fast the solar clock is ticking. The book is a terrific escapist read and yes, you have to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride, but isn’t that the point of this type of fiction, if not all?
For anyone who enjoys science fiction, thrillers, escapism and end-of-the-world narratives, this is series is for you.