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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Veteran Reviewer Recommends Sci-Fi Thriller

Blue Gold 
By David Barker
Paperback: 360 pages
Publisher: Urbane Publications (June 1, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1911331655
ISBN-13: 978-1911331650

Reviewed by: Dr. Wesley Britton originally for Book Pleasures 

Blue Gold is one of those fast-paced thrillers that demand focused reader attention. That’s because there are so many moving parts including changing global settings and Barker introducing a wide cast of important characters.

Set in the not-so-distant future, as they say, this addition to the “cli-fi” (climate fiction) genre revolves around two major protagonists, British agents Sim Atkins and his partner, Freda Brightwell. Atkins is a relative rookie whom the experienced Brightwell doesn’t accept with much enthusiasm. She’s distinguished by an ornate walking stick which doesn’t discourage Sim from an ongoing study of his “boss’s” legs. Sim is doubtful this pair can accomplish what is asked of them; Freda believes just a few brave souls can do what inactive masses won’t, even preventing World War III. 
Their investigations begin by looking into the projects of very sophisticated worldwide terrorists and rogue governments who destroy satellites over Iceland, blow up airships, and infiltrate the most sensitive of governmental military computers all over the world.  In fact, side stories and parallel plot lines occur in England, America, Ethiopia, Egypt, Israel, India, Pakistan, Japan, Canada, and China, among other locations. All the events and back-stories in these places aren’t presented in a linear flow but do establish just how turbulent the world order has become. 

Easily speculative fiction if not overtly sci fi, Blue Gold occurs in a world with acute water shortages due to global climate changes.  Most of the international conflicts are responses to the growing crisis. There are also riots and terrorism based on economic inequality, especially the workers of the world unhappy about corporations not paying their fair share of taxes.   The rich are leaving behind their land based citizenships to live on the sea where they owe no taxes to anyone.

Futuristic elements include a reliance on AI (artificial intelligence), hyper-sonic surveillance drones, and a moon base mining for minerals. Through it all, the author says the point of the book is to expand awareness of what might happen to our planet’s water supply if we don’t address the growing problems of global warming.  In addition, the author says he is using Blue Gold to help raise awareness for the charity, WaterAid, one of the organizations he describes in one of his lengthy appendices.

I highly recommend Blue Gold to pretty much every reader who likes intelligent fiction.     It can be classified, if you need labels to determine your reading list, as an espionage thriller, speculative fiction, science fiction, a mystery, sometimes a political thriller, certainly “cli-fi.” Happily, while the book has a polemic point to make, Barker doesn’t preach to us and doesn’t hit us over the head with his themes. This is an entertaining, action-packed, vividly descriptive tale with memorable characters and, sadly, a more than plausible future for us to worry about. Speaking of the future, while I wasn’t crazy about the final scene on the last page of the main text, I was delighted to see Blue Gold is the first volume of a new trilogy. In the teaser chapter for book 2, I see why Blue Gold ended the way it did. So I have two more books to look forward to.


Dr. Wesley Britton is the author of Beta-Earth Chronicles


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