Blood and Iron — Tony Ballantyne

I got halfway through this in March then put it in my hand luggage to read on the plane and finish here. The fact that I only finished it in mid-May is not because I didn’t like it, but because I’ve been running around, distracted, knackered and generally not in the right frame of mind for reading. However, every time I did sit down and read a bit more I enjoyed it thoroughly. This is an excellent follow-on from Twisted Metal and I could not help but think how simply it read but how brilliant it actually was.* You have a philosophical look at the human condition by allegory – taken from the perspective of robots – questions being posed about nature and nurture, reasons for existence, about the best political ‘solutions’ for a society and for individuals, in fact all the questions and quandaries that have always faced humans. And now you have actual humans here as contrast, which highlights the philosophical points being made. This is all wrapped up in a thumping good story with a central mystery still to be unravelled. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one and the denouement, whenever that comes. Nice one Mr Ballantyne!

*Just to continue on that point about apparent simplicity: I’m of the view that the best writing is the most transparent – writing that creates the illusion that an author doesn’t actually exist and that the words effortlessly lift of the page and insert their images and story straight into the reader’s brain. Struggling to read a book because some critical appraisal deems it ‘worthy’ is an exercise in pointlessness akin to flagellating yourself with a knotted rope to try and become more virtuous.

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