Eric Michael Craig

Eric Michael Craig

One of my favourite authors, I can recommend these books to anyone who enjoys good writing in the science-fiction genre – and the Atlas and the Winds books are going to appeal to those who enjoy a thundering good thriller too! From the same stable as Michael Crichton, Eric has the science background and the human insight to bring that extra convincing depth to his stories.

Find out more about Eric and his projects here.

The world is about to end – but no one is telling

“Several years ago, Carter and I circulated a plan to deflect large asteroids by using a series of timed nuclear detonations.”

Stormhaven Rising is a fascinating book. It is billed as science-fiction – and it is, superb and hard ‘real’ science fiction where the physics stands out for being fully feasible – but it could also be quite happy sitting on a shelf next to political thrillers or even near future dystopia novels. In fact anyone who enjoys a well written, tense plot will find themselves well rewarded if they pick up this book. The book is the first in a series called ‘Atlas and the Winds’ – a nod, perhaps to Ayn Rand, whose John Galt may bear a passing resemblance Eric Michael Craig’s Colton Taylor, but for my money this is more like Robert Heinlein meets ‘House of Cards’.

The basic premise is of a meteor heading for the earth and predicted to impact smack-bang in the middle of North America. At the point where it is spotted it is still two years away. But only one observatory has spotted it and the US government moves to clamp down on the news. But one of the people from the observatory escapes to Stormhaven – a kind of futuresque city owned and run by tech magnate Colton Taylor. Stormhaven has developed incredibly high levels of science – even a space capable vessel – but no one really knows it is anything other than a corporate HQ.

There is then a massive standoff between the US government and Colton Taylor which forms the main conflict of the book. Taylor wants to launch into space believing he should be better off trying to save a handful of humanity, rather than try to get the world to join forces fast enough to find a way to defeat the meteor and the US government wants to stop him taking off. Meanwhile the world governments try to come up with a way to deal with the incoming meteor.

There is no doubt about it – this is a very well written book. The use of language is fluent and appropriate throughout. It is very easy to read and attains that essential threshold at which the words almost slip from conscious awareness leaving only the story they are telling in their wake.

The plot leaps into life from the first page – an opening scene with one of the astronomers fleeing to Stormhaven and seeking to avoid being stopped on the way. This same thriller-like pace is maintained well throughout, with some quieter moments to review the science or for a little bit of character building.

“Mr. Taylor achieved financial success through the deployment of a technology colloquially known as the Broadcast Power System. Although not widely known, this device is a miniaturized generator that directly converts inertial field energy to electricity.”

The world is our own, but in the near future with a few technological advances like Colton Taylor’s own. The depth of characterization varies a lot – some are here and gone so fast you barely have time to get to learn their names, some are fairly stereotypical, others are developed very deeply and well.

So what is not to like? The answer for me is ‘Not a lot’. Only one thing, in fact, and that is purely a matter of personal taste. I was not a fan of the immense cast of characters through whose many eyes we get to view events. It was a bit of a distraction for me to have to shift point of view so many times – often to a character we only met that once and for a couple of pages. But there was still plenty enough time spent on those who become main characters, for me to successfully bond with the story on its human level.

Even as I write this, I have already starting on ‘Prometheus and the Dragon’  as I could not wait to find out the impact (pun intended) of the cliff-hanger ending and I am delighted to see the series is planned to include at least another three after that.

All in all, this is a book that is going to be enjoyed by most science-fiction enthusiasts. It is also a book for everyone who loves well-written, taut, action thrillers and political drama. It is not a book for those who want to sleep easy and not think about the possibility that a lump of rock somewhere in deep space could even now be heading our way….

 

A Book With Maximum Impact

“Does anybody else feel like we’ve just been made responsible for the entire future?”

‘Prometheus and the Dragon’ is the aptly named second book in the ‘Atlas and the Winds’ series and follows up on ‘Stormhaven Rising’ with a powerful continuation of the story.

Antu is coming – a lump of rock which will destroy human life on earth. Instead of co-operating to meet the challenge, the world has fragmented and there are various nations attempting individual projects to deflect it. But some seem to think the chance of those efforts failing is high and prefer to invest in lunar colonies – or in repositories of genetic material, human, animal and vegetable.

The technology exists to deflect Antu and is already doing its job. Given just a reasonable modicum of good fortune the world will be saved. But a string of accidents and disasters could still seal the fate of Planet Earth and bring disaster instead of survival.

“If it weren’t for you, we’d have no hope at all”

The people most at home on the moon are Colton Taylor’s future-tech company. They already have solutions to many of the problems the other lunar colonies have yet to even think about. I liked it that in this book that we get to know their people (and AI) in a bit more depth and start to see the reality of the man behind them. They are the real heroes of this story and it is their people we shadow most closely and come to care most about – except possibly the US President whose ‘pink fuzzy slippers’ moment is one I cherish.

This book has insight and insanity, humour and horror, courageous feats and catastrophic fiascos, it shows humanity at its finest and its most feral. And as with all good literature, it turns the mirror back on those who are its readers, challenging them to consider where they would stand or how they would fall.

“We’ve still got work to do out here. Suck it up for now, and let’s get through what we’ve got in front of us. We can both fall apart later.”

So what is not like? Not much – very little in fact. I still struggled a bit with what I felt was an overlarge cast of characters, leading to frequent shifts in viewpoint and all too often it seemed we only met someone so they could die horribly a few pages later. I also found the description of the logistical detail a little overwhelming – but I do recognise that this is something another reader could find adds verisimilitude and solid foundations to the story. But these minor issues were not enough for me to be taken away from the roller-coaster ride of immersion in a storyline which put a bit extra into ‘existential’.

This is a very well written and compelling book and if you enjoy political thrillers, near future dystopias, apocalyptic sci-fi – or seek a thought provoking and plausible insight into one way humanity could react in the face of such an extreme crisis, I would recommend this book wholeheartedly. But I would also recommend reading ‘Stormhaven Rising’ first or you will miss out on some valuable scene setting and a thundering good tale.

For myself, I am looking forward to seeing how the story continues and develops in the next book which I hope will be out in the not too distant future


Ghost Out Of The Machine

He’d discovered that getting money for science, was tougher than getting it for a three headed leper who wanted to have sex in public and call it art.

Alan Steele is a scientist with a crazy idea and no money, then an angel investor turns up who is also an attractive woman with whom he falls in love. Life is perfect, he develops his dream. But then things – of course – have to go wrong…

Naturally, considering who the author is, the science is futuristic and well founded. If you want to know how it might one day be theoretically possible to transmit matter – and people – directly over distance, this will tell you the kind of basis such science would need.

Every short story needs a twist and this one twists like a knife in the guts – you don’t really see it coming until it impacts.

“So you’re chasing Heisenberg uncertainly through the corridors of quantum indeterminacy?”

So what is not to like? Nothing for me, but those who read this author for his hard sci-fi might prefer to stay clear, this is definitely science fantasy not hard sci-fi.

I would totally recommend this short as a brilliant introduction to the writing of Eric Michael Craig, Although it is very different from his main ‘Atlas and the Winds’ series, it showcases the typically Craig narrative style and his command of language to tell a thundering good story.

Published by

E.M. Swift-Hook

In the words that Robert Heinlein put into the mouth of Lazarus Long: 'Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.' Having tried a number of different careers, before settling in the North-East of England with family, three dogs, cats and a small flock of rescued chickens, I now spend a lot of time in private and have very clean hands.

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