Who Reads my Books? Joerg Mosthaf

My name is Joerg Mosthaf and I work as physicist and team lead in the accelerator control system team of the Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Center HIT in Heidelberg, Germany (https://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/interdisziplinaere-zentren/heidelberger-ionenstrahl-therapiezentrum-hit or https://www.heidelberg-university-hospital.com/diseases-treatments/cancer-and-tumor-diseases/proton-therapy-and-carbon-ion-therapy ).

I did my “Wehrersatzdienst” (which used to be an alternative to mandatory military service in the late 20th century in Germany) as a paramedic for the red cross and afterwards studied physics with a minor in neurophysiology at the Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg. During my final years there, I worked as a scientific assistant at the institute of medical informatics and did my thesis on real time temperature measurements via T1 relaxation times variation in MRI during RF ablation therapy. After a few years of working in IT/web project management and first level support I got the job in the accelerator control system team for the then newly built (partly still in construction) synchrotron accelerator at the Heidelberg university hospital.

The Heidelberg Ion Therapy Centre (HIT) is a dedicated hadron accelerator facility for radio-therapeutical treatment of tumour patients. The two horizontally fixed treatment places, the 360° gantry, as well as the experimental area can be served with proton and carbon beams with qualified beam parameters, helium is available for the experimental area and soon for treatment, and oxygen is being tested.

The achieved energy range of 88-430 MeV/u for carbon ions and 48-221 MeV/u for protons is sufficient to reach a penetration depth of 20-300 mm in water. We use virtual accelerators (VAccs) to model all the different possible beamlines and used beam parameters (MEFI – Mass, Energy, Focus, Intensity). The MEFI consist of 4 ion types (M), 255 energy steps (E), 4 beam widths (F) and 10 ion flux steps (I). The beam is then applied with fast scanning magnets in a raster scan application to the tumor in the patient.

I work as team lead for the accelerator control system. My job is to keep the server system running that maintains all the different parameters for all the devices in the accelerator and sends them to the device control units (DCU) that control magnets, rf systems and so on. We use redundant host servers and a redundant SAN storage for our database and main control servers running in a virtual environment. The accelerator control room houses 18 acs clients on which our acs software clients run and is manned 24/7 by at least two people. We work 8 hour rotating shifts with 24h on call status thrown in. Therapy runs for about 10-12 hours a day for 5 days (mon-sat) with the rest of the time used for QA, beam conditioning and research. The research time is used by several institutes for anything from treatment research to material and electronics research.

I am also part of the beam conditioning team, that is responsible for correcting beam position, intensity and width in night shifts to get verified and validated beam parameter sets for use in therapy plans.

I also read Neals books and other science fiction and fantasy books. I specially like military science fiction books and books about first contact. My favorite authors (besides Neal of course) are Alastair Reynolds, James S.A. Corey, John Scalzi, Ian Banks, Evan Currie, Marco Kloos, Dennis E. Taylor, Jay Allen, Jodi Taylor, Mary Robinette Kowal but also Fantasy authors like Seanan McGuire, Terry Pratchet, Jim Butcher, Steven Brust and the classics like Robert Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, Isaac Asimov and so on.

Other hobbies are RPGs – I play and DM mainly Pathfinder, Starfinder, Traveller, Cyberpunk 2020 and german RPG systems like Das Schwarze Auge (the dark eye in English), Die SchwarzeKatze and Hexxen 1733 – and computer games (Cyberpunk 2077, Division 1 and 2, Deep Rock Galactic AC Valhalla…) and watching tv series (Expanse, Star Trek, Enchanted, Bridgerton…)

I try to keep active but with my work schedule it is hard to get any organised sport in and I usually am to lazy after 10 hours of night shift to do anything else than read, play or watch tv )

Here a few pictures of HIT:

Figure 1 Accelerator overview

1. Ion sources (2 ECR ion sources for carbon/oxygen, hydrogen/protons and helium)

2. Linear accelerator up to ~0.10 c

3. Synchrotron accelerator up to ~0.75 c

4. High energy beam line to the patient treatment rooms

5. Nozzle in patient treatment room

6. Patient position control with digital x-ray system

7. 360° rotating ion gantry with sub millimetre precision

8. Gantry patient treatment room with rotating x-ray systems

9. Experimental room for research

Figure 2 External view of the HIT facility

Figure 3 Gantry treatment room with nozzle at 0°

Figure 4 Gantry back room with the rotating part of the gantry visible, nozzle at 90°

Who Reads my Books? Doug Whipple

Hi Neal,

I hope this doesn’t end up being too boring. I am 71, been reading since I can remember. I bought my first book, Gunner Cade, in the late 1950’s with money I earned berry picking. And I’ve never looked back. I think I own somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 hardback books. Most would be split between Science Fiction/Fantasy and History, mostly military. But, I do read religion, philosophy, detective stories, and just about anything else.

I started out working construction, then put myself through college, although I admit that my degree didn’t fit me for any real work (Political Science), but I thoroughly enjoyed my years of college, 1967-1971. I have worked as a greenskeeper, a logger, a laborer on construction sites, a medical records manager and finally as a Data Base Administrator for 35 years. I know being a DBA sounds exciting and adventurous, but mostly it wasn’t except when something went really wrong, which was more sphincter tightening than exciting, although it usually involved copious amounts of yelling, panicking, hand wringing and finger pointing by management.

I have been retired for the last 4 years, doing my hobbies of reading, shooting and being outdoors whenever possible.

I have been married for 23 years and we have 1 daughter who is smarter and better looking than either one of us.

My first book of yours was GRIDLINKED. I was hooked. One thing I would live to see some more of, is the hornet hive minds. What a great concept. The whole Polity universe is so complex and dense, it seems real, like it exists just out of reach, and I love that the books deal with big ideas, and are so well written that 100 pages can go by before I notice I have been reading for awhile. And, your names and slang are absolutely spot on, they seem natural and authentic. And, NO ONE, can write a combat scenario that is breathtaking, vivid and page turning as you. To me, you rank with the masters, Heinlein, Asimov, Clark, Van Vogt and others from the Golden Age of Sci-Fi.

And, just as an aside, I really like being able to vicariously enjoy your adventures both in Essex and Crete.


Doug Whipple

Take care Neal, you have brought a lot of joy and thought to my life.

Who Reads my Books? Jenny Rodgers

Hi, I’m Jenny.

Growing up I read everything available, devouring all the usual school-suitable books by Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton etc, but by 10 I was reading my mum’s Catherine Cooksons’ and historical fictions for the challenge. (I also loved my dad’s ancient copy of ‘Just William!’) By senior school I had found Dennis Wheatley and westerns (not usual for an 11 year old girl apparently). Through my school years I read P D James, Dorothy L Sayers, Barry Sadler ( I still love those!) and just about anything else, including text books when absolutely desperate, but never abandoning my westerns – which I think gave me a strong stomach useful in my later reading. I read at school, at home, on the bus, in bed and, probably to my detriment, all Saturday afternoon in the library when I should’ve been doing my homework.

When I met my husband Rod (27 years ago) it was amazing to find someone who would sit and read with me in silence. He completely understands my love of reading because he has it too. Some of my friends are jealous (in a nice way) of our relationship. I think I’ve achieved what many people aim for – I’m happy and content. It’s not money in the bank that matters; it’s how satisfied you are with what you have. Being brought up in a low income but secure and loving family has made me a very low maintenance girl. We live in a shallow age where we are judged on looks / money / possessions and not by the person inside. It’s honestly depressing at times.

Not really an edit, but having seen other ‘Who Reads My Books’ and how NOT boring they are, I just wanted you to know:
1. I was on a cooking show called ‘Granny’s Kitchen when I was five (1975)

2. For my 34th birthday I got a Mark 1 limited edition MX5 import (black with red leather and wheels).

3. I zip wired the longest zip line (at the time) in the uk at 118 mph

4. Lots of great music out there but rock music and concerts are the best!

5. I love console games and watch a gaming station called Twitch

6. Husband is a train driver!

7. I have a pet shrimp called ‘Clint’

Rod has always been a true scifi reader and so, on gaining him, I also gained access to a huge selection of books. But I pretty much ignored them for years, much to my shame – I had no idea what I was missing! My first foray away from crime thrillers, westerns and cookbooks, was ‘East of Eden’ by Harry Harrison (I had no idea who he was) but it was a real eye-opener for me. I read Iain Banks’ Wasp Factory, the Brentford ‘trilogy’ (7 in the series I think) by Robert Rankin. I loved having my mind opened by the fantastical! Every now and again over the years I would hear “the new Neal Asher is out on…‘date” and I had no idea what was to come. I had read more scifi by then, on and off, but was finally convinced to try reading ‘The Skinner’ about 18 months ago. And I haven’t stopped reading Neal Asher since – I had a lot to catch up on. My mind has become wider, more violent, angry and brutal than before, but evolution does that to humans.

I’m currently reading ‘The Thursday Murder Club’….just for a break.

Hope I didn’t bore you as much as I think I did.


Loved Africa Zero by the way.



Who Reads my Books? Mark Hardy

Nothing very interesting I’m afraid. I’m 50, been reading scfi and fantasy since I was around 10 or so? The first scfi book I remember reading was Galactic Warlord by Douglas Hill I think. The Hobbit for fantasy. I have worked for HM Prison Service and currently HM Passport Service. Been with you since Gridlinked, so a while. Picked that up browsing in Waterstones I seem to remember. Apart from reading, I love movies and Heavy music.

Who Reads my Books? Malcolm Murdock

Hey Neal! Figured I’d bite on the Who Reads My Books. My name is Malcolm Murdock, a 37 year-old husband, proud father of two, product developer and software engineer by day, and sci-fi writer by night. I grew up the son of a physicist, so sci-fi featured prominently in our house from a young age, and I was weaned on a diet of Star Trek and David Weber. After many years of writing projects on the side, I finally published my first novel, The Quantum Price, back in 2019, and the sequel, The Hidden Price this past December. I’ve got a long ways to go and much to learn, but as first books go I’m quite proud of them. Here’s the Amazon link.

I started reading your books a few years back when a friend mentioned “some series with sentient spaceships that are intentionally sociopathic to be better killers.” But then I promptly forgot which friend told me, or which series it was. Some internet sleuthing brought me to your books, and I was hooked. The Polity novels were the first time I’d ever read something with sentient ships (at least as I recall?) and I absolutely loved the idea and the execution. (I also loved how you didn’t bow to preachy, in vogue politics in your books, as so many others do). I’ve now made my way through some polity, some Ian Cormac, and with every one I finish I’m delighted to remember that there are about 200 left to go. So make sure you keep the supply topped off, sir :). Thanks for creating such memorable stories and characters, and I look forward to all the many I have yet to read!

Who Reads my Books? Gavin Cook

I’m 49 married with three grown up daughters two grandchildren and one teenager still living at home. I was born in and still live in Devon UK – currently East Devon with my wife Sonia.

I served my apprenticeship as a glassblower, when I left school, working for Dartington Crystal among others, but poor wages and my first marriage breaking up led me in to driving for a living, and I’ve been driving hgv class 1&2 for over twenty years now.

I’ve always been fascinated by sci-fi since being given the book ‘Spacecraft 2000-2100ad by Stuart Cowley’, which I still own My favourite authors are Neal Asher, Peter F Hamilton, Greg Bear, Ian M Banks and Gerald Seymour.

I’ve read all Neal’s books, my favourite being the transformation series with the greatest character in SF: Penny Royal.

When I’m not reading I’m gardening, working on project cars or walking. I’m also a PS4 gamer, playing Elite Dangerous, No Man’s Sky and GTA regularly.

I’m also absolutely fascinated by the 60’s and 70’s space race, project Apollo and the technology of the Cold War era.

That’s my life.

Who Reads my Books? William Bertram

My name is William Bertram, and I read your books. I read the Agent Cormac series in 2019, and the Transformation series is on my “to-read” list for 2021, including “The Technician.”

I’ve lived most of my life in Wichita, KS, with short stints in San Diego, CA, and Grand Junction, CO. My hobbies include reading, cooking, board games, watching NBA basketball, pet maintenance, and yoga. I have recently started a blog and submitted a short story to a local contest. It’s my first time submitting anything, so wish me luck! I have a son who lives in Montana, and I cohabitate with two maltepoos.

Love your books, and keep up the great work!


Who Reads my Books? Chris Papworth

I read your books! I’m a partner in a wealth management business. Formerly a high school teacher. Father of two great kids (now adults). Married to high school sweetheart for almost 25 years. Avid table top roleplaying game enthusiast. Love riding motorcycles, especially on twisty roads. I sing tenor, play the trumpet, enjoy books on economics from Chicago and Austrian schools of thought. Appreciated the Owner series even more because of this non-fiction reading. Read Frank Herbert’s Dune at around 10 years old and have been enthralled with science fiction ever since. First Asher book was Gridlinked.

Who Reads my Books? Zak Ferguson

Hello Neal, so I thought I’d give this a go, the “Who Reads my Books” submission and as a pretty much unheard of, unread writer – like an ever opportunist shartist (shit artist)- I’ll take great advantage of plugging my “work” in anyway possible, and no less, in this awesome Blog space you give to many people.

Yes, I am a cheeky git, but also to be anyway in association with Neal Asher himself, is an honour. Truly it is.

I started reading very late. Aged 9 years old. My affinity was with films. But, Fantasy was a gateway into the realm of my eventual deep delve into Sci-Fi/Fantasy… be it, M. BANKS, CLARKE, BALLARD, BURROUGHS, HAMILTON, STRUGATSKY Brothers, and many more, it was the Sussex-based writer and illustrator collaborators, Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, who got me into reading. I have autism – high functioning – and I’ve never ever been as engaged than when watching films, but as soon as I discovered the works of Paul and Chris, it opened up a new way of expression and escape to me.

BEYOND THE DEEP WOODS, part of the The Edge Chronicles book series got me into genre and reading in general. Those two are the reason I write and have tempered my unease in my own skin, and why I am here today. Dramatic but true. Same with every writer I have read. Now a wide variety of worlds are ever accessible to me, in books and films, and through my own writing.

Down the rabbit hole of books, books, books, Terry Pratchett became a personal hero and from there on, as ever, I discovered many different writers and genres.

But I’d always struggled with Sci-Fi, it just wasn’t holding my attention. A lot of people believe if you read or write in a niche, alternative scene, or are party to anything usually assigned as mildly highfalutin, you are assumed to be, lofty, toft pretentious types. Far from it. I LEFT SCHOOL AND COLLEGE WITH NO GRADES. No uni background and such. Genre and writers and creators have been my only education.

We are assumed to not be the types to enjoy genre or populist fare. This is an oversimplification and a lie. I am as pop culturally entrenched as anyone else. And love Heinlein and other pulp sci-fi masters more than anyone else.

But, the first Sci-Fi author I got hooked on, was Asher.

You wrote stories that captured my attention, held me, something so vast, expansive, filmic. That encouraged me to stay with the ruthlessness of some other science fiction writers and have benefited from it. But, my go to is always your work.

I would be lying if I didn’t say those covers by John Sullivan were the starting block, but as soon as I opened one of your works, I knew I’d become a devotee, a devoted fan.

Your worlds and its scale, detail, action, ever relatable form and rhythm was up there for me as the greatest most entertaining form of science fiction I had yet so far experiences through films and TV. It was up there with any Space Opera Television series or film; and that book was, The Departure, book one of your OWNER SERIES, and from there I have become hooked to all your works, especially your long running book series, The Polity. My favourites so far being Brass Man, Line of Polity, Gridlinked and Line War.

The scope, the detail, the ever prescient pivotal and ever relevant commentary on current events, technology, AI, consciousness, had/has me truly inspired, entertained and never, ever bored.

I love them. And you’re a writer who knows how to grip, entertain, push the envelope in the field you are writing within. Superb stuff. And I have always stated I want to write Science fiction or Space Opera novels. But, though I wish to do this, most of my own works are filled to the brim with memoir, autofiction, experimentation, irrelevance, irreverence, lunacy where I pull apart and play with every kind of genre. A mad mixed bag, my own works deal very heavily with art and its relation to my autism.

I am an experimentalist. Plain and simple.

I work with many mediums – video, collage, prose – and have been lucky enough to be recognised by such writers such as Dennis Cooper, who featured me on his own famous blog a few years ago.

My work is about destruction, expansion, corruption. About the irrelevance of structure and rules. Satire. Mess. Madness. Heavily influenced by the Cut Up Method, all except mine is Cut Up Consciousness. A means to expose my inner most anxieties and autistically inbued problems. I have re gently been experimenting with the Digital means of extrapolation and distortion – where I break into the format, the typography, and apply visual elements, where I take awful antiquarian devices, like paint, and try to imbue it with a new sense and purpose.

My recent release, Interiors for ? (A four book series) was written during the first lockdown where emotions and confusion came to a boil. Part autofiction, fiction, memoir, essay, journal, and a manic, extremely hectic scrapbook of artistically autistic breakdowns put onto page. My therapy and my full being in these exposures.

And I just splurged/continue to splurge everything from within onto that digital page. To cope and better align what it is I am feeling. As my writing is very much in relation to my autism, my struggles, my behaviour, my hyper attenuated awareness of it, my “art” and work is always, always relevant to my daily life, my inner most mind and my id flow. And I try to capture this in my stories and way of writing/creating. To give over an experience rather than a narrative.

I live in the seaside town of Brighton and I also Co-Found my own publication house, with my girlfriend Laura (I know right, someone on the autism spectrum with a girlfriend) – Sweat Drenched Press, where we have published 5 chap books and two novels since its genesis last January, including my own work.

Thank you for letting me have this opportunity. As always, write them, release them, I’ll always be returning to buy them.

Apologies for my rattling on and on

Who Reads my Books? Scott Steensma

Hello Neal, I saw your post about who reads your books, and seeing as I just finished The Soldier… Anyway, I’m Scott Steensma, Australian Librarian living in Melbourne, and I started with Prador Moon, then on to the Cormac novels, and now I’m working though your other works. I’m a big SF fan (Both books and tv/films), a keen hiker, and I occasionally dabble in writing a bit of SF too. I review everything I read at https://goodreads.com/user/show/36819318-scott and as you can see there I’ve really enjoyed your work. The Soldier was a hell of a lot of fun btw 🙂

I will send a pic through this evening when I get home. Otherwise, I’m a big boardgamer- Terraforming Mars played over steam pretty much got me though the six month lockdown we had here in Melbourne.