As a voracious reader of books, I generally read faster than my favorite authors can write, meaning I’m constantly on the lookout for new books to consume. So when I came across Winter World by A.G. Riddle, I figured I’d give it a shot. I’d already read his Atlantis Gene books, which were entertaining. But this was a whole new animal. Let’s dive into this (spoiler-free) review.
In this novel, it’s modern day or the very near future. But instead of the global warming we’ve been warned about, the Earth is cooling. Rapidly. For some reason, the solar energy the planet normally receives is diminishing. The polar ice caps are growing and nations are frantically trying to stake out the last habitable parts of the planet.
We meet our two main characters. One is Dr. Emma Matthews, an astronaut who is relaying vital information back to Earth that she received from probes sent to determine the reasons for the lack of solar radiation. And immediately after transmitting the information, the International Space Station on which she’s stationed is torn apart. (Coincidence? I think not.) She survives through a combination of quick thinking and luck.
Our other main character, James Sinclair, is in prison. A very smart inventor, he’s been put in prison for underestimating the backlash his last invention would have. As the ice comes closer to his prison, the other prisoners riot and take over, demanding a chance to live. As he is not one of the “in crowd” (I can relate), he is actually in more danger from his fellow prisoners.
These two heroes are joined together with a team of other very smart people on a mission to save the Earth. How they get out of their predicaments… is in the book. And what spurs this mission is the discovery that the reduction in solar radiation is most likely caused by an artificial object found in orbit around the sun. Or is it? Could this object be from an alien race trying to help?
Overall, the story is gripping. It is occasionally confusing as it is written in first person point of view, but switches between the two main characters. Not in mid-paragraph, obviously, but as these two characters are sometimes in the same room, the next section might be describing the scene from the other person’s viewpoint, but it might take a paragraph or two to figure out which person it is. Despite this, it kept me engaged, even when there were things like meetings and discussions, building devices and the like. And of course there’s a romantic subplot, but it doesn’t seem forced.
A.G. Riddle does well with… some of the science. He definitely pays attention to the effects of prolonged weightlessness on a human body. Loss of muscle mass and bone density are real issues for those who escape Earth’s gravity. He also has what I assume are realistic time frames for space travel in the near future. It’s not a day trip. These people spend months in space.
Where the science falls short is the space travel itself. Two space missions, one to scout out the mysterious object and one later, seem to be lacking in some of the physics. The crafts seem to be traveling under thrust the entire way, which would be prohibitive in fuel consumption and would also provide a measure of “gravity” for the crew. There was also no mention of turnover or slowing down when approaching destinations. I’ve provided a fuller explanation, but feel free to skip it if you’re not that interested.
THE SCIENCE STUFF
Here’s the scoop… simplified. A spacecraft going to say, Jupiter, has a couple of ways to travel. One is to accelerate to a certain speed, then coast through space until it approaches the area Jupiter will be in when it gets there. Then it begins to use thrust in the opposite direction to slow down or approaches the planet in such a way as to be captured in orbit by gravity. In this novel, the engines were on continuously. In space, this would mean the spacecraft would continue to accelerate. Without gravity to slow the ship down and air to cause friction, the longer you use thrust, the faster you go. Which is great if you want to get somewhere in a hurry. But to get to your destination in this manner, you have to slow down at some point or you’ll zoom right past it. Which is why you’ll often hear about “turnover” as a ship flips to point its engines at the destination spot and activates thrust in order to slow down. This also involves a lot of math. Math is good in space.
So, the ships in this novel don’t seem to have to obey these laws of physics. Points have been deducted for this. However, the story is still enjoyable despite this oversight (and since most people don’t nitpick the way I do, a lot of people didn’t notice).
Despite some scientific oversights, this is a fun book. The characters are interesting, the situation is dire and there are real stakes. While not a perfect book, it was a fun read.
In the book, the “crime” that landed James Sinclair in jail is kept mysterious until the end, which does add some motivation to read on. When revealed, though, it doesn’t seem to me to be something that would necessarily land him in prison. I’m not sure what crime he was supposed to have committed with his invention (yes, I’m being vague. Spoiler-free, remember?), but I suppose if someone really objected to it, they could figure out some charge. Still, a little weak on the legal aspects here.
It’s still worth reading and is a page-turner (or a screen-swiper). And if, like me, you get to the end of a book and want more… you’re in luck. A sequel will be coming out soon which continues the saga.
My rating on this would be 7.5/10. It would be higher, but I did deduct for scientific and legal reasons. Who knows? Maybe things will be explained more in the next book.
Where to Buy It
This book is available in local book shops, but also is in print and electronic format here: https://amzn.to/2MtmZoO
If you are a Kindle Unlimited Member, you can borrow this book and many others for free. Try a free 1 month trial here: