Folktale evening… and another novel review

Personal: On Thursday 9th June, Kathryn Starnes and I will deliver another evening of Peak District folktales and discussions in the small upstairs room of the Labour Club, 11 Chapel Street, Glossop, 7.30-9.30 pm. This time our theme will be local tales of faerie – the tragic, the witty and the downright strange… and we’ll include the only version ever collected in the UK of an ancient, widespread and well-known fairy-tale. Yes, it was collected in the Peak District!

Book Review: James Vigor’s The Reality Exchange isn’t the kind of story I’d normally read – it could easily be adapted to the script for a Hollywood action film – but once I started I couldn’t put it down (forgive the cliche). James Vigor knows how to keep the reader engaged, not least by ending each chapter on a cliffhanger. And he isn’t afraid to kill off a lot of the good guys during the carnage. This is brave and committed writing for a debut novel.

The setting is futuristic, with interstellar travel and trade and an intergalactic war, but the war only forms the background; the core of the story is a hostage situation driven purely by greed. The protagonist, Winter Starling, has character and courage (she’s a smuggler by trade), but almost throughout the novel her actions are controlled by others and only intermittently does she show agency. This is unusual for an all-action story but, unexpectedly, it works.

The beleaguered spaceship captain, Orson, is forced by circumstances to make concessions incompatible with his principles and he gradually loses control of his crew and passengers and, ultimately, himself. The deterioration of his authority is very well drawn. The pirate captain, Grim, is motivated only by desire for money and she’s a pragmatist, adapting to changes in the situation in order to ensure that she’ll profit in the end. Mr Vigor has portrayed the ultimate cynic.

At the end of the novel we learn something that opens the door to a sequel. If the sequel appears then despite my usual avoidance of this kind of sci-fi I shall read it. This is an author with a distinctive voice and a fine ability to control an intricate plot without letting the pace drop.

James Vigor, The Reality Exchange, Fantastic Books publishing, 1991; ISBN: ‎ 978-1912053339

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