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Dining out around the Solar System: Clare O'Beara

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Jano View Drop Down
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alias author Jan Hawke

Joined: 27 Dec 2008
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  Quote Jano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Dining out around the Solar System: Clare O'Beara
    Posted: 04 Jan 2014 at 10:07pm
... including Pluto!

Yes, Plutonian cuisine is also covered, with suitable delicacies from an ice-bound dwarf planet. However, if you're expecting futuristic fare and retrograde SF literary recipes, there's lots of pleasant surprises in store for you in this thoughtful, at times ultra-cynical, fantasy excursion into the not so very far into the future dystopian society of the UK and Eire.


In fact, at first you'll think nothing too much has changed for most Londoners, who struggle to find just the one job that'll cover the rent, utilities and luxuries like food or a new chair-bed at mum's. Most people are faced with a stark choice between several lowly paid part-time roles, or risking their terrestrial health and peace of mind, working 6 month stints in faux gravity, mining in the asteroid belt. However, one plus of Earth's industrial exploration of the planetary system is that sentient life has been found on the other seven planets (and titchy Pluto), and guess what? They all have marketable resources, including migrant labour. And all of them want in on Terra's solo mastery of interplanetary travel.

We see snapshots of everyday life through the eyes of cub reporters, Donal and Myron, who forge an enduring professional partnership that takes them away from their past as geeky, bookworm children of the off-planet mining culture that has probably claimed both Donal's parents' lives, and subjected Myron and his mother to violent abuse for half the year, while his father, suffering an excruciating couch-bound malaise in full gravity, catches up on an enforced 6 month alcohol ban in the mining stations. Being based on e-zine London's Eye on the Isle of Dogs in the East End, the two young lads earn their reporter spurs under the watchful eyes of their boss, ex-soldier, local news editor George, urbane former civil servant, sports editor Jeremy and the savvy features writer Pietr. Making unexpected friends along the way, Myron and Donal begin a more minute exploration of the 'little things' life is made of, navigating their way around future London, Stansted, now a spaceport, and collegiate Dublin; writing book reviews in coffee shops where they meet silent, poverty-stricken Martians; business-minded Venusians in the 'burbs, who're finding lucrative gaps in the IT market, despite having little metal on their acid-ocean world; and Shakespeare-loving, caffeine-intolerant Mercurians at Cambridge University, where Donal samples a star-crossed love affair with the daughter of the ambassador to Earth, only to lose her to her home planet.

After taking a sabbatical from journalism to take his Phd in Eire, ace hacker Donal gradually mends his broken heart and goes on a voyage of self-discovery over his optical deficiencies that blight his urban life with migraines and curtail socialising since he's totally allergic to vid-culture. Recharged, he returns to smellier, stressful London where Myron and he plunge back into current affairs with a series of scoops on the sum of all human and interplanetary life: with affable Neptunian divers helping to salvage an explosive-laden sunken vessel in the Thames; exposing illicit tobacco-pushing on Mars; murky Jovian land deals; eternally self-exiled Saturnian dancers; and why Uranians are so snooty in their dealings with their tiny, impoverished 'neighbours' on Pluto. Things in England's capital are hardly progressive either, with slum landlords and amoral big business making ordinary folks lives a miserable slog of woefully inadequate, or non-housing, in rapidly eroding sink estates and condemned Tube stations. There are few long-term job prospects and social inequities from the top to the lowest echelons of the population, as the rich get richer; the government, local and central, veers from corruption to ineptitude in effortless leaps and bounds; and the press and police have a wary trade-off on natural justice and maintaining the nebulous status quo. Donal and Myron run a teetering gauntlet between drug traffickers, offending the great and the not so good, and running through their true life investigations and the criminal subversion of labour regulations by British Space Mining, as the intrepid reporters gradually uncover the awful truth about the fate of Donal's mother's fatal illness and his father's 'disappearance'.

Despite the title, this is high concept fantasy that does science in an holistic and well-researched manner that takes you to unexpected places in the human spirit, whether that resides in the breast of a native of London, or Dublin, or Mercury, or Mars, or Saturn. For good or ill. Well-written and observed, Claire O'Beara brings her considerable experience as a journalist to bear in conjuring a totally believable future multicultural society with bells (and knobs) on, and without hammering on the pathos and hysterics. This is a subtle meandering burn of a book with a gentle but inexorable stranglehold on the suspense that pulls no punches for realism, whether or not that's politically incorrect. The A-word causes a world of pain for both our heroes, but they stick at it, and so should you, because the rewards are all threaded through the whole and, most definitely, there in the ending.

Highly recommended for all those who don't need ray guns (or any guns much) at regular intervals in their intellectual fantasy thrillers.
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one
will do ~ Thomas Jefferson
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  Quote Clare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Jan 2014 at 7:29pm
Ooo, thank you for the great review!

Amazon had this novel listed as 175 pages for some time but I have now got them to list a more accurate count, saying that a novella length was too short and might impact sales. The new Kindle page count is 1200.
Clare O'Beara
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alias author Jan Hawke

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  Quote Jano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Jan 2014 at 9:50pm
You're welcome Clare! Clap I've been doing a fair number of reviews these past  few months and I have to say it was lovely to have a good beefy and very literate book to get my teeth into. I'm afraid I'm not impressed with novellas - it always seems like they're not trying hard enough...? Tongue
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one
will do ~ Thomas Jefferson
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  Quote Saranna Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Mar 2014 at 11:09am
I think of novellas as long short stories, if you see what I mean.  This sounds great Clare, I love a good dystopia!  And literate too - must hunt it down.  Sabre Rattler
Death comes to all
But great achievements raise a monument
Which shall endure until the sun grows cold.
- George Fabricius, 'In Praise of Georgius Agricola'
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