The near future. Climate change and geopolitical tension have given rise to a new international threat – a world war for water. This most vital of resources has become a precious commodity and some will stop at nothing to control its flow. When a satellite disappears over Iceland, Sim Atkins thinks he knows why. He is given the chance to join the hallowed Overseas Division and hunt for the terrorists responsible. But his new partner Freda Brightwell is aggrieved to be stuck with a rookie on such a deadly mission. Freda’s misgivings are well founded when their first assignment ends in disaster – a bomb destroys a valuable airship and those responsible evade capture. Seeking redemption, the British agents follow the trail to a billionaires’ tax haven in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and uncover a web of deceit that threatens global war. Whom can they trust? As the world edges ever closer to destruction Sim and Freda must put their lives on the line to prevent Armageddon – and protect the future of ‘blue gold’. David Barker’s gripping debut will thrill fans of Richard North Patterson, Scott Mariani and Steve Berry.
Thanks to David for a copy of this book, and to Kelly of Love Books Tours for organising the tour.
You may remember that earlier in the year I reviewed the third book in this series, White Gold. I enjoyed that novel, so I jumped at the chance to go back to the beginning to find out how Sim, Freda, Rabtan and Gopal met. I was not disappointed.
Sim is a satellites expert living in an out of the way part of Scotland when he gets a call from a colleague that something is wrong with one of OFWATs satellites. Quickly diagnosing the situation, Sim sends a report to his superiors in England and before he knows it he’s thrown into an adventure he wasn’t expecting. He thinks his dream of working for OFWATs Overseas Division – as an agent – has come true, but finds reality isn’t as fun and glamorous as his dreams. After an airship is bombed, he and Freda chase down the terrorists as part of the investigation into the satellite disappearance. The threat is more complex than he realises and a group of terrorists from the US, the Terror Formers, seem to be involved somehow. Freda and Sim head across the world to chase down the leads. All leads end in the Himalayas and the source of some of the worlds most important rivers.
Sim is stabbed, shot at, raped, thrown into shark-infested waters, falls down a glacial crevice, spends 6 hours in a tiny aircraft’s hold, captured several times, gets an unrequited crush on his boss, Freda, and generally has adventures all over the world, in an effort to protect water resources.
I couldn’t stop reading this book and only put it down because I desperately needed to sleep. The pages were getting blurry.
I like Sim and Freda, they feel realistic and are fairly rounded characters, with their own histories and problems. They were individuals, with some obnoxious characteristics as well as decent natures. They make mistakes and bad jokes, they have urges and deal with situations with as much aplomb as they can manage.
The descriptions of equipment was suitably sci-fi for a speculative thriller, there’s a James Bond-esque feeling about the autographs and the Hydras. The landscapes through which the characters move, especially the events in Nepal and Tibet seem realistic, especially the cold and avalanches. The political tension buzzes in the Chinese held areas. I wonder if the author has been to the region?
The deliberate mixing of chapters in the past and present, the parallel plot lines of the Nepalese/Tibetan team and British agents that meet in the finale, brings multiple views of the same events, providing a background to the story without exposition. It keeps the story moving forward, even when in the past.
I didn’t like the way the trans woman who survived the airship disaster was written about but I’m assuming that’s a reflection of the character’s ignorance, rather than a transphobic author, or at least I very much hope so.
This book is a rollicking adventure with an important message at its heart. As climate change and population growth continues to change water use and distribution, shortages are a problem that we are seeing and will continue to see unless some way of fairly distributing the available water can be found, especially in places that rely on underground aquifers, heavy rain in wet seasons or glacial meltwaters for their water supply. Humans aren’t too bright and going to war over water isn’t an unlikely event.
About the author
David lives in Berkshire and is married to an author of children’s picture books, with a daughter who loves stories. His working life has been spent in the City, first for the Bank of England and now as Chief Economist for an international fund. So his job entails trying to predict the future all the time. David’s writing ambitions received a major boost after he attended the Faber Academy six-month course in 2014 and he still meets up with his inspirational fellow students. He loves reading, especially adventure stories, sci-fi and military history. Outside of family life, his other interests include tennis, golf and surfing.